The Youth Ambassadors with Youth Group member Nga in Vietnam. Photo by Lucy Aulich, World Vision
2015 Youth Ambassadors Kate, Niccy, Jamie and Steph share their biggest lessons from visiting World Vision’s work in Vietnam.
When travelling to see the work of World Vision you learn a lot. You’re confronted by a huge variety of things – some devastating, some joyful and some you cant really explain. As Youth Ambassadors we met many people and participated in a huge range of things during our time in Vietnam as we were given a glimpse of the work World Vision is doing in some of the poorest communities there. We wanted to share some of the things we learnt with you here.
Kate learnt about the importance of community participation:
Someone once told met that poverty may be defined as a series of broken relationships. This I found to be true where the majority of the initiatives we saw in Vietnam involved encouraging members to participate in the community for the development of the community. Children and parents were encouraged to participate in anti-trafficking training sessions increasing awareness of child protection risks; women establish women’s unions to promote issues of concern for them; parents participate in nutrition clubs and community savings and credit groups, and all community members encouraged to work in community development initiatives building roads, pathways, clubhouses etc. Therefore where poverty may be defined as broken relationships, development may be defined as ‘mending’ or creating new relationships, to fill the gaps that otherwise may make them vulnerable.
Jamie learnt about the challenges of development:
There is so much to learn and understand about development. We shouldn’t grow ignorant but rather humble ourselves and take every opportunity to learn more about aid and development. Going to Vietnam I certainly had an ignorance that made me think I knew just about everything development related, but now I realise I definitely do not.
From visiting a number of communities where World Vision works a huge realization for me was that there was no magical method that will work in all developing projects to make them sustainable. There isn’t one method, there isn’t one answer and there isn’t one way.
Visiting Vietnam showed me that despite this, there is always hope! Whether it is language, traditions, religion, climate or landscape, every ADP has its differences and World Vision approaches these differences with an open mind, collaborating with the local community to work out the best way to help develop the community. It’s a bit strange, but after learning so much in Vietnam I actually feel like I know less.
Niccy learnt about the importance of education:
In my childhood I had always taken education for granted, that’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy learning but I didn’t understand how lucky I was to be able to go to school and have an education and to be taught how to be safe. I didn’t fully understand the importance of education until this trip to Vietnam where we saw that some children couldn’t go to school because their families couldn’t afford it and needed them to work.
But there’s good news. We also met a group of teenagers who through World Vision’s work in their community could participate in a Youth Club where they spent time every week learning how to protect themselves from strangers and how to take steps to prevent being trafficked. Hearing them talk, it was really uplifting to know that without this educational club, these teenagers would have been at real risks and now they can enjoy their lives with the knowledge that they can help themselves.
Steph learnt about the importance of long-term commitment to communities:
In Vietnam I saw two extremes, poverty and hope. We visited a community where World Vision had been working for just 4 years. While we saw some progress out of poverty, it felt like there was a dishearteningly long way to go. But then we visited another community in Central Vietnam, this one at the end of the period of World Vision support. The change was remarkable – the community was empowered to continue it’s own development and was working together to increase the livelihood of all the people in their community.
I learnt that while we want to see immediate change, any sort of band-aid solution is simply not how good development work happens. By investing in this one community for 15 years, World Vision was not only able to help them, they ensured that now as World Vision leaves, the community has leaders and groups that are willing and able to effectively sustain the development of this community.