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Lessons learnt: A Youth Ambassador trip to Vietnam

World Vision
3 June 2015 by Ruth Dearnley
Lessons learnt: A Youth Ambassador trip to Vietnam

Earlier this year Ruth travelled to Vietnam with four Australian Youth Ambassadors, to help them understand the issues of forced, trafficked and child labour. She's sharing her insights about how a trip like this can inspire people to make a difference. Photo by Lucy Aulich, World Vision

I recently returned from accompanying four of World Vision’s Youth Ambassadors on a 10 day trip to Vietnam. Those few weeks fluctuated between anxiety, excitement and awe.

I’ve worked in international development advocacy for over a decade – so not only did I feel very old surrounded by these sprightly, enthusiastic young people, I also had to remember that all the sights, sounds, challenges and triumphs that I was used to learning about on overseas visits, were completely new to them. And that really was the point.
As clichéd as it seems to say, these trips are life-changing for the Youth Ambassadors. They get catapulted into a whole new world, often experiencing a different culture for the first time and being confronted by some of the absolute best and worst aspects of this world.

My job was to help them learn about the complexities of poverty and the injustice of forced, child and trafficked labour. Training them to think critically about what they saw and experienced; to question these injustices without judgment, and to work together to find ways to take action. I had the easy task – they are the ones who were – and continue to be – challenged!

Before we even set out, I knew it would be overwhelming for them – it has been for every person who has ever preceded them. There is something about coming up close and personal with the impacts of poverty that makes the sheer extent of the issue seem insurmountable.

There were so many thoughts running through their heads at any one time. So many children out on the streets, seemingly alone during school hours. Poor housing conditions, without adequate protection from the elements. Dodging traffic in busy cities. Stray dogs. Pot holes, huge puddles, rubbish and all number of other hazards that you have to negotiate just to walk down the street. The generosity of spirit people with far less material wealth than us show when welcoming us into their homes for tea. All this and much more. These were some of the things that stuck with me from my first trip to a developing context when I was about their age.

“How can I possibly explain everything that I have experienced?!”.

And now they are back home and that’s exactly what they have to do! It’s going to be tough trying to explain the unexplainable of what they experienced to friends and family! More than that, they will be going out to other young people in schools and universities across the country to not only explain what they saw, but to encourage them to take action against these injustices and make the world a better place.

My job is to help try and make that a reality. To take hold of their passion, guide their ideas and channel them into meaningful action. And importantly, once they start to settle back into their normal lives, that they continue to find ways in which they can still make a difference every day. Because ultimately, it is the little things we do every day, that can have a real impact on the lives of children around the world.

They will be blogging about their experiences over the next few weeks – so you can follow their journey here.

Ruth Dearnley Ruth Dearnley

Ruth is the former Public Advocacy Manager at World Vision Australia and a passionate advocate for all the little things we can all do to make a more just world.


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