If you’re a twenty-something year old with a will to do good in the world, then volunteering overseas is a bucket list must. Now is the time to put your philanthropic dream into action! The only hard part is deciding where to go.
If you’re struggling to choose, let me make that decision a little bit easier for you. Vietnam. Seriously, go to Vietnam. You won’t regret it. And here’s why.
1. Vietnam is a development powerhouse
According to the World Bank, Vietnam’s development record over the past 30 years has been “remarkable.” During the 1980s, Vietnam underwent a period of economic reform. These reforms, known as the “Đổi Mới” reforms, reinvigorated the struggling Vietnamese economy and allowed 40 million people to escape poverty. Since then, GDP has grown at a steady average of 6.4% a year.
Despite this success, Vietnam still has a way to go. Currently, 3% of the population lives in poverty and much of the rural population is at risk of falling into poverty.
However, the United Nations and the World Bank remain positive that Vietnam can reach its development goals. Why not be a part of Vietnam’s story?
2. Learn about a rich history and a vibrant culture
Vietnam has one of the oldest cultures in Asia. According to legend, the Vietnamese people descended from a dragon and a fairy. The dragon is a proud symbol of prosperity in Vietnamese tradition- while you’re there you may see a few of the winged creatures depicted in artwork!
The Vietnamese have long maintained a strong sense of cultural individuality. At various points in history, Vietnam has been under the control or influence of other cultures. In the first century BCE, Vietnam came under Chinese occupation with their rule lasting for almost a millennium. After this, Vietnam was intermittently a target for colonisation by the European Empires.
At every point, ruling empires came under fierce resistance from the Vietnamese people who saw themselves as culturally and ethnically distinct. However, these ruling empire inevitably left their marks of Vietnamese culture, language and customs.
3. The incredible people
Vietnam has a wonderfully diverse population, with as many as 54 ethnic groups. Most people speak Vietnamese although some groups have their own language. Be sure to research the part of Vietnam you are visiting!
Vietnamese customs and etiquette are rooted in Confucian philosophy, which was introduced under Chinese occupation. This philosophy stresses the importance of family and regard for elders. Respect and polite behaviour are also fundamental to the Vietnamese people.
4. Vietnamese women are a force to be reckoned with
As of 2013, 73.2% of Vietnamese women actively participate in the labour force. The number of female farmers parallels that of male farmers, making them an integral part of the Vietnamese economy.
During the Vietnam War women played crucial roles. It is believed that as many as 7,500 women formally served in the war, although other estimates put forward much higher numbers. It is also known that women actually served in combat, despite the fact that this would not have been authorised.
However, women still face variety of obstacles in the journey gender equality. Prejudice and traditional gender roles often inhibit women from accessing the same opportunities as their male counterparts. Currently, the wage gap sits at an astounding 80% between men and women. Violence against women and girls is also a persistent issue, particularly in rural areas.
5. See one of Asia’s most beautiful countries
Why not explore on your weekends off? Vietnam has some truly beautiful and unique sites. Whether you’re in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City or Trường Tây, you’ll be sure to find plenty of day trip options.
Some recommendations include:
Halong Bay, for the gorgeous view.
My Son, if you’re a history geeks who love archaeology.
Hoa Lu, the original ancient capital of Vietnam.
Sa Pa, a beautiful mountain top village. Bring your hiking boots!
Hoi An, a hub of traditional Vietnamese culture in a city that is 2,000 years old! They also have a lantern festival every month!
This only scratches the surface. Vietnam is a truly unique and inspiring place to visit for a myriad of reasons. For those who want to get out of their comfort zone and help Vietnam reach its development potential, I have some good news! AIESEC has a number of amazing Global Volunteer projects for you to apply and have direct and tangible impact on the lives of those you will work with. And, if our volunteer’s testimonials are anything to go by, it is a life changing experience.
To check out our current Vietnam projects, go to: https://www.aiesecaustralia.org/explore/vietnam