Let's explore REAL KOREA

Let’s listen to the journey of 4 Vietnamese members Tam, Yen, Trinh and Thao who joined the 2 week camp in Gangwon-do, Korea in last August, 2019

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Xin chào!

We are Tam - Maum, Yen - Norang, Trinh - Jin and Thao - Yoo Ri from Vietnam. Maum, Norang, Jin and Yoo Ri are Korean names which are given to us by Korean friends. We believe that everything happens for a reason and Korea Camp 2019 is for sure the best reason ever for us to meet each other and lots of friends from Korea, Indonesia and Myanmar and to have once in a lifetime experience in international work camp. At first, we signed up for Korea Camp with different stories about us and different purposes. But in the end, what we all crave for is to become better versions of ourselves, to feel our contribution to society and to make our youth memorable. The more we gave, the more we received and it is the spirit of “Paying it forward”, which is the true mission of every volunteer activity.

11 days passed by in Korea Camp 2019 with full of happiness and surprise will now always stay in our memories as one of the unforgettable moments in our lives.

Now let us share with you our experiences.

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The first week (from August 07 to August 11):

Korea Camp 2019 took place in a small village surrounding by mountains and green fields in Hwacheon - Gangwon of Korea. It took us more than 3 hours to get there by bus from Incheon Airport. The road was long, but the view is really worth it. You could just glance your eyes out of the bus windows to see mountains, lakes and forests along the road. The Camp had total 15 of us, 4 from Vietnam, 1 from Myanmar - a lovely girl named Phyosu who is so good at Korean, 1 from Indonesia - Edi and he likes taking photos a lot, and 9 friendly friends from Korea who are John - leader of the Camp, Minwook, Naeun, Kuyhyon, Jeonghwa, Jihye, Jinyoung, Hyonji and Joungmin, and who are all so friendly and enthusiastic. At first, it was not very easy for us to communicate because only Jin and Yoo Ri know Korean in Vietnamese team and the rest of us can only speak English. However, with the greatest effort, we still could speak to each other and share our stories.

We had the chance to walk around the central of Hwacheon with streets up the hill, going pass by big ginko, cherry and apple trees everywhere on the first day. We bought some food for dinner and cooked dinner by ourselves at the house. We had to admit that Jin and Maum were the best cooks of Vietnamese team, Norang and Yoo Ri only helped to wash the dishes and prepared everything ^^.

On the weekdays, we picked chilies in a farm of a farmer who lives near our house. This was such an interesting activity because we never did it before. The chillies were so big and had delicious red color. We could not forget to take a few photos before getting to work. After picking for 2 hours, we stopped for lunch and prepared for other activities in the afternoon. In the afternoons, we visited the orphanage and nursing home for the old. One afternoon, we played with children at the orphanage, made pizza and went for a karaoke with them, which was such a blast. Other afternoon at the nursing home, we helped the old make up and dress up, prepared to take lots of beautiful photos, listened to them and shared with them our stories.

We spent our weekend at Bungeoseom – a small beautiful island in Hwacheon. And then we went to Chuncheon - a city nearby Hwacheon to try eating Dakalbi and Makguksu. After lunch, we walked around the city and stopped by Chuncheon museum – an amazing museum we have ever visited. Although the weather was very hot, we had a really great time here thanks to John and Joungmin for their enthusiasm.

The first week ended so fast. And before the new week started, we heard on the news that there would be a typhoon coming on Monday.

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The second week (from August 12 to August 17):

The typhoon really came.

The weather was so bad that we had to stay in the house for the whole day. So instead of working in farm, we decided to cook Vietnamese food for other friends from other countries. We decided to make spring rolls and Vietnamese style milk coffee. We invited them to try fish sauce from Vietnam and luckily, they all seemed to enjoy them (so lucky lucky!!!).

After gloomy Monday, next days the sun came back with us, so the schedule was back to normal and we went to the corn field to work in the mornings. Some of us had to wear gloves to protect our hands when picking the corns while others brought machetes to cut down the corn trees which had been picked. We never thought we could ever do it in our life but we did it and we even finished the whole fields. Jin and Norang performed their duet while working on the corn field, which was so hilarious. We laughed a lot even though the hands of Maum became hurt because of picking too much corn and the sun burned directly above our heads :)). We still felt better than ever!!!

In the afternoons, we came back to the nursing home to massage for the old. Jin showed us how to do it by watching an online video and we taught the old to dance chicken dance. All the grandpas and the grandmas there are so strong and wise, they could repeat after just watching the video once. One evening, we prepared to introduce about Vietnam to other participants. Yoo Ri was in charge of doing powerpoint and she is excel at it. After our presentation about beautiful places and famous food in Vietnam, Phyosu introduced about Myanmar and Edi introduced about Indonesia, which helped us know more about their countries.

Some nights, we sat outside in the dark night, drinking cold coffee and played game with each other or shared with each other our stories. The moon was so bright and even there were not many stars in the sky, we still felt this scene was romantic enough to sing out lout the song “City of stars” from our favorite movie “La La Land”.

Time went so fast and the time to say goodbye had come on Saturday, August 17. We spent the morning to clean up the house, pack our luggage, sit down for the last sharing to summarize the Camp, say thank you to each other and went back to Seoul.

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And now, back to Ho Chi Minh City, back to our daily work, but we all miss Korea Camp 2019 with all the friends there a lot. We exchanged our contacts and promised to each other to be the tour guide if anyone visit Vietnam in the future.

The journey has ended now but we believe that other journeys are waiting ahead us. All we need to do is to find time, pack our luggage and GET SET GO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Thank you for spending your time to read until the very last words <3 <3 <3.

From Maum, Norang, Jin and Yoo Ri with LOVE

Written by Nguyen Thi Thanh Tam, Phan Hai Yen, Phan Ngoc Trinh and Vu Le Mai Thao.

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Our summer with Korea-Vietnam Camp 2019

“The Vietnam- Korea workcamp 2019 has ended and left us unforgettable memories. The two-week workcamp is not such a long or short time but it was enough for us to learn new things, gain more interesting experiences and bring more values to our society. Thanks to this program, we seem to grow up a lot by learning the way to sympathize, sharing and helping other people as well as gaining so much precious knowledge. All the things staying inside of us now are beautiful friendships, gratefulness and many valuable lessons to become a global citizen in the near future.”

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Let’s listen to the sharing of Thanh Hieu, Minh Thanh, Tieu Ngoc and Thuy Duong regarding their experience in joining STEP’s Korea -Vietnam Summer Camp 2019!

The reasons why we decide to join the camp

Korea is a country which has unique culture. We really wanted to have the chance to experience that culture in real life. And... Korea-Vietnam Summer Workcamp has appeared like a miracle to us. We believed this camp would be an ideal environment to improve ourselves, try out different things and discover new hobbies or passions. It would be not only a good opportunity for us to cultivate our mind but also give us favorable conditions to make friends with awesome people and understand more about the lifestyle and thoughts of Korean people.

Activities we did in order to preparing for the camp

To us, those time was really such the most exciting and nervous, as we had to prepare everything for the program so that it would run as smoothly as possible. Under the guideline from STEP, we spent a lot of time together making plans, creating the content for daily activities, managing the budget and planning the timetable for sustainable tours, as well as searching for restaurants and shopping malls in Ho Chi Minh city, … We also decorated 22 palm-leaf conical hats as gifts to welcome Korean volunteers at the airport. We believed that they would feel the closeness and hospitality when coming to our country.    

Our activities during the camp

Before starting volunteering in Thao Dan Center, each team had to discuss and make decision for each day working schedule. We had one week volunteering and working with small children with many interesting activities: ice breaking, teaching Korean language and K-pop dancing, making handmade stuffs and a small library for the kids, exchanging cuisine and performances.

Besides working at Thao Dan center, our volunteers also had some interesting activities at nights: cooking Korean dishes together, writing letters to each other, sharing each person’s thoughts and impressions after a hard working day or playing some exciting games to get closer to each other.

To get to know more about the Vietnamese people’ lifestyle, we organized some sustainable tours visiting famous destinations of Ho Chi Minh City such as: The War Museum, Saigon Central Post Office, Ben Thanh Market or Cu Chi Tunnel. The Korean volunteers also had opportunities to enjoy traditional cuisine of Vietnam such as: Pho, Banh Xeo (sizzling cake), Bun Cha,... We really had many interesting experiences and explored new things together through these tours.
 

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Of course, we also faced several challenges because of the different in cultures

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However, during the workcamp, we also faced with some difficulties due to the differences in culture between Vietnam and Korea. Vietnamese volunteers did not get accustomed to Korean food, or Korean people could not adjust to the tropical climate in Vietnam, as well as the diferences in daily routine. Moreover, because of the language barrier, we sometimes had difficulties in understanding each other thoughts. But as international volunteers, we could quickly adapted to the new environment, solve problems and work efficiently.

And here are what we have learned through the camp:

The two-week camp gave us valuable lessons, exciting experiences as well as precious memories. Working in such an international environment actually helped us enhance our foreign language skills, teamwork skills and inquire more about the working methods of Korean people. That was also a great chance for our volunteers from Korea and Vietnam to get to know deeply about each country’s cultural features. Moreover, we could also learn how to sympathize with each other so we can share and work effectively together. Those lessons were really meaningful to us that it boost our confidence while working in an international and professional environment.

Thanks again STEP for the great experience!

Written by Duong Tieu Ngoc, Nguyen Ngoc Thuy Duong, Tran Thi Minh Thanh and Bui Thanh Hieu - Vietnamese participant in STEP Korea-Vietnam Summer Camp 2019

PS: To know more about our experiences, let’s take a look in this video as well!:D

What I learnt from joining international volunteer activities

For the past year, I had two opportunities to participate in two “international volunteer trips”, both with STEP Forward Exchange, and experienced two sides of the spectrum: as a volunteer and as a host. You asked me the reason why, I, like any other young adults, was so lost with my life that I wanted an escape. And till this day I still think that I had made a wonderful choice.

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Let’s start with my first volunteer trip abroad as a regular participant in Sri Lanka.

Doesn’t the sound of the country so intriguing to you? At least it was to me. We spent about ten days in the countryside and did all kind of works, from mixing concrete to decorating temples. For God’s sake I did not know I was strong until I realized I was the only girl who could help carry a 50-kg concrete bag. But let’s put it aside and talk about what I learned during the trip.

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First of all, please know what you get yourself into. Do you know what kind of work you will be doing? Do you know anything about the team you will be working and technically living with? If your answers to both questions are No, you are staying home… I’m just kidding, please still go. You know what you should expect now, and when challenges come, they come with no surprises. Do not let it stop you!

Second, I wanted to talk about teamwork. I hated teamwork in college and I can imagine lots of you are nodding with me, but this is not the same. Living with strangers is hard, living with strangers while being tired is even harder. However, I learned how to live responsibly and how to look after others during that short time. Look at what kind of crowd you are going with. For Sri Lanka, my team was all working people. Therefore we all knew how to live with others in a calm and mature manner. I saw them waking up early, taking a cup of hot black tea, either helping with breakfast or simply just reading a book waiting for the time to come. Fortunately, they were the team I was looking for at that moment. I heard so many wise advices and life mottos from them and after the trip, we became good friends. We now still meet once in a while to catch up. Believe me, after days of living and working and seeing each other at the worst stages and still decide to be friends, you gained yourself long-time friends. Last but not least, I had time to take a look inside my mind.

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In Sri Lanka, I decided to not purchase a sim card and 3G. So my phone is literally a camera, no more no less. I think it did me wonders. I stepped away from the busy internet life in which talking face to face without looking down to phones is such a difficult thing. Instead, I took a walk around the huge yard that the host had, looked at trees and chickens and thought about my life. Sounds funny, doesn’t it? I realized the earth is truly really big, each of us has our own worries and I am not the most miserable girl in the world, even far from it considering what I had seen (such as living with a snake nest in the same house because they were so poor to afford a concrete floor). My mind was suddenly cleared out. If you asked me what lessons I got afterwards, I would suggest you to go find yours when you have a chance. All I can say is it is so worth it.

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That is why I decided to apply for a host volunteer with STEP for the second experience back in Vietnam - my home country.

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There were three Korean and two Portugal volunteers together with a Vietnamese coordinator and me this time. It was different from where I was and also the works we did. We played and organized activities for children so the timeline was not too tight and we got a lot of time for ourselves (maybe a little too much). Beside all the regular activities, we had to go to the market and cooked two meals a day.

As a host volunteer, I had to be both aggressive and considerate at the same time. I had to prepare more to be able to present myself and my country a little better. On the other side, I got to see the inside of a work camp such as how it was organized, how many people it took to take care of a group like this, how activities were hold, etc. and it inspired me. Being a host is a lot more challenging than simply taking the trip but it was a wonderful chance for me to see who I really am.  At the end of the week, I realized cooking was not my favorite part, I love playing with children, breaking the ice among strangers is my strength, but I judge people too fast, I tend to overthink and I give up trying to understand others too quickly (yes I know those are not good points but realizing those is progress, right?). Also, when I listened to the final thoughts of the others and realized how wonderful they thought of Vietnam, I kind of feel proud. Sort of :D

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The next time I see a volunteer trip that fits my time, I know I will jump on it. Will you?

Thank you STEP forward exchange for two of the mind-changing experiences and I hope you can continue doing what you are doing since it changes people for the better!

Tan Ngoc Thuy Linh

My first time being abroad, doing volunteer

Sitting on the plane to Poland, words are not enough to describe how happy I am now. My dream has come true. But this could have not happened if I weren’t given a chance by STEP and SCI Hong Kong to take part in this camping June 2018. It was also my first time going outside of Vietnam.

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I participated in this camp as a camp coordinator assistant. This was a great opportunity for me to learn from the camp coordinator the way they organize a camp as well as to improve myself. This camp took place for 7 days full of interesting activities. There were seven international volunteers (IVs) who were from Portugal, Poland, Czech, Hungary, Indonesia and me from Vietnam. The first day was organized for the IVs to move to the campsite, get to know each other, be informed about the detailed schedule, divide into teams, assign tasks and the most stimulating part was the Cantonese lesson. There was always a local volunteer joining us in every activity in order to support the IVs, as well as train him to become a capable leader for the future camps.

On the second day, we were taken on a city tour. I was really amazed how modern and well-organized Hong Kong was. You can easily go to almost everywhere in this country by various types of public transport such as MTR, tram, double-deck bus, coach, taxi, ferry. Hong Kong people also have a great sense of responsibility which is shown in very small things such as lining up neatly waiting for a bus. We visited two secondary schools on the third and fourth day. After a warm welcome from the students and teachers, the students presented to us confidently in English about the transportation, tourist attraction, culture, education system of Hong Kong prepared by themselves. The students took us on a tour around their school and the city where they located. The group of students who we worked with was going on a service trip in Singapore. So, the purpose of this activity was to help them become more confident and would be able to adapt to a multicultural environment better.

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The next three days, we did human library which I never had a chance to experience before. I was technically a human book and the students could “read” me and ask me questions. The book title I chose was “How small things lead to big change”. The students seemed to be interested in my volunteer experience I told them, how the life of the kids in Vietnam has been improved. I also asked some of them why they do volunteering and tell them about what they can gain through these activities.

On the last day, we and students from 3 different schools all moved to the Chinese University of Hong Kong. In 4 groups, the IVs organized 4 different workshops of yoga, art, card games, and scavenger hunt. Studying in Hong Kong gets more competitive related to how good the school is. Because of that, we wanted this to be a chance for them to enjoy every moment and feel themselves. I think all the IVs and students had a lot of fun together, I just wish it could last even longer.

Coming back from this camp, my friends said I have changed a lot. In the camp, I learned how to work effectively like Hong Kong people do. I could see how beautiful and interesting the world is and even more desire to explore it. I gained much more than I could ever expect in this trip.

Thank for the experience STEP and SCI,

By Pine - Vietnam

My volunteer in Vietnam

Last august I initiated  my first experience as a volunteer. I remember being a little bit apprehensive about  it, perhaps because my desire was to be everything for that children, everything they don´t have in theirs homes, give them all the affection that I could and I was afraid that I would not be at the level that I proposed to myself.

But, before the beginning, I saw all the coordinator’s strategies making sense and trusted that plan.

At my first contact with the children I remember I just wanted to embrace all together, asking them all of their personal details to get to know them better.

When we got to the shelter they looked at us with their eyes wide open, watching us and thinking “who are these people so different of us”. I have blonde hair and blues eyes, so I bet they just thought that, I really could feel it in their eyes.

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To get more involved I quickly remembered my Vietnamese class that I had had one day before, so I did my personal presentation in Vietnamese and I listened that “wooow” from kids, that made me laugh and them as well. I felt happy because all started like it supposed to be.

Next, me and my Portuguese partner Kika, introduced the kids to all Portuguese discoveries stories, representing on a world map all routes that we Portuguese made between years 1497 and 1500 in Asia, Africa and South American continents.

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After this, me and my three South Korean volunteer mates took with us games, histories and activities to share with the children and they all were very interactive. At the same time they were happy for our presence there because we were there for them, we brought different culture to their lives and they were excited to try it.

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It was a big surprise for me at the second day when we got to the shelter and they called by our names, they just did not forget and seeing their smiles was the best feeling I could wish for myself at all volunteer program.

At the afternoon we got to another shelter to start an handmade class to do some key-chains to sell on Sunday morning and with that money to buy things like clothes, notebooks and books to the children. At this second shelter all the kids were very enthusiastic with us, smiling and help us with our tasks all the time.

At the end of the afternoon I always spent some time playing football with kids at the street, and it was amazing, they smiled so so much, they really appreciated me.

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At night all the volunteers met together to talk about each experience and to create strategies for the next day.

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With my volunteer colleagues I spent really good moments at the shelters, visiting the city, trying local foods at the street or at the restaurants, cooking together, cleaning our house and shopping, everything was great.

At the end we had a presentation, showing something from our countries and it was beautiful to see their admired faces. Watching the presentations, listening music and dancing so differently was very exciting.

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Now, after returning home, I feel a part of me is there with them, because I saw the greatest smiles of the world in my direction for all I gave to them, and all of that was so small. For sure they gave me more to me. After all, I´m here at my work and I still listen “Hello Vietnam”.

By Filipe Coutinho - Portugal

Out of Comfort Zone, Into Life

Let’s listen to an inspirational story of Mint - a third year student from Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University Japan. Mint at first joined STEP Camp in Vietnam as a volunteer, then she became a representative leader of STEP Forward APU - an affiliate of STEP Forward Exchange. With the support from circle members, Mint decided to organize the workcamp in her home country Thailand.

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JOINING STEP SUMMER CAMP AS A VOLUNTEER

Going to Vietnam Camp with Step Forward APU in 2017 was my first time ever doing a volunteer. Back when I was a child, I was a very cautious kid who always be careful not to go out of my own comfort zone because it seemed ‘scary’ at that time. It’s not like I didn’t want to experience something new and exciting. I was just scared of the possibility of negative outcomes. Eighteen was the age when I started to take actions to change myself. Taking flight far across the globe to study at APU was probably the turning point of my life. I’ve met amazing people here who taught me how I can help improving other people’s lives, encourage me, inspiring me to do something I never thought I would.

Introduce about Thai Culture to Vietnamese kids - STEP Summer Camp 2017

Introduce about Thai Culture to Vietnamese kids - STEP Summer Camp 2017

ORGANIZING WORKCAMP IN PHRAE, THAILAND

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A week ago, I just said good-bye to all my camp members who have come all the way from their home countries to join an Educational volunteer camp in my hometown, Phrae, Thailand. Soon after the Vietnam camp ended last year, me and my good friend Anna was talking to each other about the possibility of making our camp here in Thailand. Both of us are very new to the whole volunteer community in terms of leadership, so we were very scared at first whether it will be successful or not. Despite our fear, with a determined mind and a strong intention to do something good for our community, we decided to just go with the idea and did our best in every steps of the way.

During the camp, we had fun teaching kids in the local elementary school, exchanging cultures with the kids in House of Mercy (an orphanage based in Phrae where all the talented gems are waiting to be found), cooking each country’s local food and sharing precious moments together. In a span of only 5 days, we have grown so much closer and learned many valuable life lessons through observing life and our own mistakes. It was an unforgettable lifetime experience that I would love to do it again next year.

Thank you Step Forward, for giving me inspiration and courage to actually do something for someone else who needed it.

By Thitikamon Modhuang (Mint), Thailand.

Sri Lanka Community Service Trip [Apr 25-May 2 2018]

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It was an amazing time at the Inspire Village! Instead of spending 9 official days off from April 24 to May 2 to relax after work, we decided to make the holidays meaningful by organizing a community service trip to Sri Lanka together with 10 other members, and it was beyond our expectation! The trip was incredibly amazing, fun and full of beautiful memory. We were hosted by Inspire Village located in Talawa, which is approximately 4 hours by car from Bandaranaike International Airport. All the people of Inspire Village welcomed us with their kindness and hospitality; what we did not expect was that the food was cooked by chef who has experienced working for a 5-star hotel in Hong Kong and Dubai! We were fed three times a day with delicious meals and it was totally such a motivation for us to work harder!

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For the first two days in the camp, what we mainly did were mixing concrete to help the people in the nearby village build their house. We had to mix sand, rocks and cement together with water to build the floor. It sounds easy right? Yet, the work was not that hard but requires so much physical strength, thus we needed to divided into three teams and each team have their own tasks. Our group consists of 9 female members and only 3 male members; despite of heavy objects and the heat under the sun, everyone was so enthusiastic and active in doing their own task. We were extremely happy to see the result after three days; even though the house still needs to be fixed but for most of the part we already completed it. We felt that our small contribution really did make an impact for the people there.

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In the evening we also boned over by learning some simple Sri Lanka language and traditional dance. We had so much fun dancing and singing with our wonderful teacher!!!

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The Vesak Festival was in two days so after completing the concrete we moved to the nearby temple to help them prepare for the festival. We again divided the group into 2 teams, team 1 did the cleaning and team 2 hang the flags up. In the next morning we had a chance to join in one of the temple main activity: stop the passenger on the street to offer them food. At first we had no idea why they wanted to do such a dangerous thing, but then we realized that they were teaching us how to give and receive and we learned a lot from that. The high school students were very cute, always smiling and helpful; we had such great time working together with them. In the afternoon, we helped to serve free food to the people coming to the temple. Again, another productive day really motivated us to do better.

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Next day, we had a really great time at the National Park with the elephants. For the first time ever we were able to see the elephants and other wildlife animals in the jungle, and this experience was really worth it! Sri Lanka has offered us the best nature ever!

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It was time to say goodbye to the people at Inspire Village; we would leave for Kandy for one day then head to the airport. We really appreciated what you have done for us and we also hope that we could make it back to Sri Lanka in the very near future!

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300 disabled people in Tam Binh, Vinh Long are now having the place!

Physical therapy is a dynamic treatment that aims to assist individuals with the achievement, maintenance, and restoration of maximal physical functioning and health throughout their life.

However, for around 300 disabled people in the 3 village Long My, Binh Ninh, Ngai Tu ( which consider a rural area in Mekong Delta area) , they need to travel about 2 hours in order to come to the rehabilitation center for the treatment.

Realizing the needs for having proper place and facility for these special groups, in the beginning of March 2017, we already visited the village in order to understand more about the situation and start the project plan. We believe that having the Rehabilitation Center in the village would be a long term "investment" because it will not only help to lessen the cost of transportation of these special people but also assists them in maximizing their physical functioning.

The total cost for building the center as well as for management is 107,003,806 VND ( nearly 5000 USD)
After 2 months of calling for donations from public, we received in total of 23,200,000 VND from individuals donating, 65,000,000 VND from Gia Nguyen Advertising Company, and the rest is supported by NPA Group ( the main design and building constructor )

We are really appreciated for all the contribution. The project was successfully implemented in August with the participation of different representative: Tam Binh - Ngai Tu Commune Local Authority, Ngai Tu Clinic Center, Gia Nguyen Advertising Company, NPA Group and Step team. 

 

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Rehabilitation Center - On the Go

Physical therapy is a dynamic treatment that aims to assist individuals with the achievement, maintenance, and restoration of maximal physical functioning and health throughout their life.

However, for around 300 disabled people in the 3 village Long My, Binh Ninh, Ngai Tu ( which consider a rural area in Mekong Delta area) , they need to travel about 2 hours in order to come to the rehabilitation center for the treatment.

Realizing the needs for having proper place and facility for these special groups, in the beginning of March 2017, we already visited the village in order to understand more about the situation and start the project plan. We believe that having the Rehabilitation Center in the village would be a long term "investment" because it will not only help to lessen the cost of transportation of these special people but also assists them in maximizing their physical functioning.

This kid- he intended to drop out of school to sell lottery in order to earn money for the family’s living expense as well as for his Dad’s medical treatment. After his Dad suffered from the cerebrovascular accident, his Mom decided to divorce and leave the house

This kid- he intended to drop out of school to sell lottery in order to earn money for the family’s living expense as well as for his Dad’s medical treatment. After his Dad suffered from the cerebrovascular accident, his Mom decided to divorce and leave the house

The total cost for building the center as well as for management is 107,003,806 VND ( nearly 5000 USD)
After 2 months of calling for donations from public, we received in total of 23,200,000 VND from individuals donating, 65,000,000 VND from Gia Nguyen Advertising Company, and the rest is supported by NPA Group ( the main design and building constructor )

This project was implemented from the beginning of June. Our team traveled to the village and had a small meeting with the local government and the head of the clinic to make agreement for processing the construction.

The construction of this rehabilitation center is expected to finish around August and ready to serve the community from that point forward. Once again, we would love to express our sincere gratitude to all of the people who helped to make this become the reality.

Once again, thank you very much for your support! 

New Year, New Project

GOOD NEWS FROM VIETNAM AS OUR LATEST HOUSING PROJECT HAS JUST BEGUN IN VINH LONG!

We first visited the family back in December whilst our team was finishing our last housing project. Mr and Mrs Bảy are already in their 60s and still working unskilled and labouring jobs day to day to support their family. Their son, Phong, is 40 and suffers from Cerebral Palsy and has been unable to work all his life. Hồng, 9, their granddaughter and Phong's niece also lives with them and is currently attending primary school. Her mother is currently working in Saigon and sending money back to the family in Vinh Long.
 

WE'LL BE SUPPORTING THE FAMILY THROUGH 3 ACTIONS. 

HOUSE RENOVATIONS

The current house is liveable but in a state of disrepair. It is in close proximity (about 4m) to the nearest river and not on raised ground. The roof is also in poor condition but there are two standing walls that can be renovated and built around to improve the living space and provide a cleaner, safer house.

DISABILITY SUPPORT

We will providing financial assistance the family to support Phong's medical care. Unfortunately the medication and doctor's fees are a fairly large expense to the family considering they still have a variety of other outgoings that need to be taken into account. At the moment they are unable to pay for hospital visits and have only been able to purchase medication sporadically which can have a difficult impact on Phong as well as the rest of the family. We are supporting for 1 year of medical care for Phong to ease this financial burden on the family and working with them to develop the means to be able to start supporting the fees themselves in the future

MICROFINANCE FOR NEW WORK EQUIPMENT


Currently, Mr and Mrs Bảy work at local rice fields and farms shearing grass and crops as well as clearing the natural waste left behind. We are providing them with a loan to purchase new equipment that will allow them to set up contracts for more consistent work as they can complete jobs more efficiently. Also, this will reduce the physicality of the work, a crucial impact as they are still supporting a family despite both being over 60 years old and should ideally be lessening their workload. 

IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO DONATE YOU CAN DO SO HERE.

THANKS FOR YOUR SUPPORT AND CHECK BACK HERE FOR THE LATEST UPDATES ON THE PROJECT!

Brick By Brick: A Step Forward

In early July of 2014 our team began raising funds in Australia and Japan for what would be our first sustainable housing project for a family living in sub par conditions in rural Vietnam.  At the same time, part of our team was on the ground in Vietnam planning the logistics of the project; sourcing builders, creating blueprints for the house, meeting local authorities and finalising budgets for building, transportation and accommodation. Our founder, Anh Thu, has ties within the local region and she helped connect us with the right people who all contributed to the success of the first project. This was a great advantage to us as we were able to locate the people who were in need the most and ensure the money we raised went directly to the people we set out to support.

In early February our entire team was on the ground in Vietnam to oversee and help with the project, and three local volunteers and two international volunteers joined us bringing our total to ten. Our project was a lot like Vietnam itself, organised chaos. To say that everything ran smoothly would be a blatant lie as it was our first project, but having a lot of experience from previous work in Vietnam and knowledge of the culture allowed us to expect the unexpected and get the job done. We knew what could have gone wrong and were able to prepare for it. Sure enough we hit a minor roadblock before the project began when our original accommodation fell through, but thankfully we were able to acquire homestay accommodation.

Our labour throughout the project consisted of carrying bricks, stones, and sand, mixing cement and bending and cutting wire. We were able to learn some bricklaying skills, but our attempts were below average at best. If our team had had a greater role in the bricklaying, the project would not be completed till 2022. Part of the project budget was allocated to local labourers and we felt satisfied to provide local people with work and avoid any mishaps that might take place when people who know nothing of building, try to build.

During our stay we visited many farms and rice paddies, held a cultural exchange day where we cooked some of our favourite foods for the locals, gave scholarships to thirteen children to continue attending school and held a rather untraditional ‘sports day’.

We slept on mats on the floor for the entire stay, woke up very early thanks to boats, roosters and geese, and cooked our own food everyday. Some of us didn’t shower enough out of laziness or not wanting to use a bucket, and at some stage we blocked a toilet.

It was an experience.

The house took shape remarkably quickly and we are very impressed by the final result. A year of planning had finally become something real, a milestone for us. It was hard work, it had its ups and downs, but we are very content with the finished result.

Thank you to everyone who supported us and donated, and a special thank you to Chris, Paul and Alix for their efforts and contributions that made the project possible.

Stay tuned for information on our next housing project that will take place in December!

Chúc Mừng Năm Mới!

Happy Lunar New Year from Vietnam!

We've had a busy couple of weeks in Vietnam in the run up to Tet Holiday, the Vietnamese new year. With Max, Tony and Chris arriving late January, even more of our team have arrived in-country with Thu returning from her studies in Japan and two more members of our Australia team arriving in Carmine and Alix.

For Carmine and Alix, this is their first time visiting Viet Nam so we were pretty excited to show them around and get them down to the project site to see the progress so far and the impact that their work back home has had on our operations here in Viet Nam.

Since we last posted, there has been massive progress at the project site both in terms of the build itself and the preparations for our first workcamp program which will begin in just over a week's time.

Last week, our builders went on hiatus for 10 days as they take a break to bring in the new year. Leading up to that, they completed a lot of key jobs, filling in the foundations of the house, levelling out the ground surrounding the house (which just used to be ditch that was left unused and flooded), raising the support pillars and covering with concrete as well as beginning to dig out the pit needed for the bathroom. We got involved too with Trung and the builders teaching us a few tricks of the trade, needless to say we definitely need a bit more practice! After Tet, we'll move forward by laying the concrete floor, start the brickwork and begin construction of the roof.

We also got to spend a bit more personal time with Trung and his family as well as our builders and people from the local community which was great. On Monday we had a little Tet celebration which involved way too much delicious food, a lot of karaoke and what felt like an endless supply of rice wine. New year celebrations don't change too much wherever you are!

With regards to the workcamp project, everything in Tam Binh is set. Accommodation, transport and working schedule is all ready to go, all that's left is buying the practical items but we'll wait till all the shops open up again after Tet to do that. We all got to spend some more time at Thu's house in Vinh Long where our volunteers will stay for one night before moving onto the project site. It's a beautiful old house tucked away down an alley in the city and it also has one of the nicest people in the world, in Thu's mother, living there.

The camp will start from Monday 2nd March with volunteers joining from Vietnam, Japan and Australia. We're itching to put everything into action, with more than a year of planning behind the camp it's a pretty exciting time for us here at StepForward!

That's it from us for now, keep updated with all the goings on at StepForward by following us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.  

Serenity Now!

At the crack of dawn on a cool Friday morning half of our team travelled to Tam Binh, Vinh Long, Vietnam to visit the building site for our first project 'Brick By Brick'. Anh Minh; our program coordinator in Vietnam, met with our director Max, assistant director Tony and secretary Chris for the journey. After a few reasonably pleasant bus and bike rides our team was buzzing to check on the progress of the build which had commenced 3 days earlier.

Vinh Long is a beautiful place and although this is something that can be said for all of Vietnams rural areas, having the multiple canals from the Mekong Delta close by makes this place all that more exciting. The house is located at the very front of one of these canals, so much so that the materials for building the house were transported by boat.

During the afternoon we were able to test the boat transportation that we will be using on a daily basis, and without embellishment, it was quite a scene. Tony and Chris were having their first visit to this area, and the issues of flooding sunk in very quickly. The existing foundations are soft, muddy and very impractical for housing.

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Trung and his team have made significant progress so far. The first task was to knock down Trung’s existing house (the family are staying with his mother in the meantime) and retain any materials that could be recycled and used again in the current build. They were able to salvage a relatively good haul of old wood and bamboo which will be used right away in the foundations of the new house. 

The new house will be built in the area behind where the original house sat. This was just muddy grassland before but the team are making the most of all the space available and have dug up the area. The process involves digging multiple holes in the places where the support pillars will stand. These are then filled with the recycled bamboo for support and then the inner iron for each pillar is fixed to each hole to be bricked around later on. Once each hole is complete, they will fill the entire area of the house with sand and foundation rock. This area will be raised about 50cm above the current level, which will prevent the issue of repetitive flooding in the future. Once this step is complete, brick work can begin.

Stay tuned for more updates and be sure to follow us on Instagram at @stepforwardexchange, twitter at @stepforwardex and on Facebook at STEP Forward Exchange.

If you would like to donate to 'Brick by Brick' you can do so here.

Donate

Brick by Brick Proposed Project

 

StepForward completed its first project “Brick by Brick” in March 2015. The project was a success and we are currently fundraising for our upcoming projects. Thanks for your continued support, without your help our work wouldn't be possible. To learn more about our upcoming projects, hover on the projects tab.

 

Beneficiaries

StepForward visited Anh Trung and his family in September 2014 and immediately saw their need for support. Trung, 34, works as an independent labourer in the local area, while providing some income the work is erratic and inconsistent. He often relies on others to source jobs for him and when he can find work, the jobs may last for 1-2 weeks but the same cycle then repeats and he may have to wait weeks, even months before new work opportunities become available. This is particularly difficult during the rainy season as work is often cut short due to monsoons and local companies prefer to rely on their fixed staff, ironically “drying up” chances for Trung to work. If he is unable to find labour work, he will look for other jobs but without a proper skill-set; these are menial, low paying jobs that don’t provide a concrete platform for his family. 

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In addition to this, Trung’s wife, Dao, travels away from home to work in a factory in another area of Vinh Long. While this may seem positive with the guarantee of a fixed income, the pay is low and due to the distance, Dao must stay in the area to work for weeks at a time. Once the cost of living at her worksite is discounted from her salary it is nowhere near enough to support the family on a monthly basis. Most of this income is used to support their nine year-old son, Nghia, who is currently attending primary school.

Nghia was recently in a serious motorbike accident and required four operations and a one-month stay in hospital. What funds the family did have were sapped by the unexpected but necessary expense and the family now find themselves in a particularly difficult situation. Despite this setback, Nghia is back at school where he has proven a good student, with the school often praising his achievement. However; with the cost of school tuition and equipment and a lack of sufficient income within the family, he could potentially be forced to give up his studies in the not too distant future to find work in the local area and provide for the family. We believe higher education and understanding to be key tools for economic and social development and Nghia leaving school would be a backward step for a student with promise. This is a regular occurrence and does not only apply to Nghia, as different generations find themselves stuck in the poverty cycle and are often forced to leave to school to find work. StepForward will work to break this cycle and improve the family’s quality of living through improved housing conditions and economic stability.

 

Project Aims

  • Improved housing conditions leading to a better quality of life
  • Microfinance loan to develop a small sustainable business encouraging economic stability and independence
  • Emphasis on the significance of education through the provision of scholarships and study initiatives

Improved Housing Conditions and a Better Quality of Life

StepForward will relocate the family to brand new accommodation built on the site of their current home. As of now, the family are living in a house constructed mainly of bamboo, dried leaves and tree branches, one side of the house is currently protected by a large tarp which in particular does not provide much protection from the elements. The house is built next to a stream and although it is slightly raised, is still at risk of flooding especially owing to the low quality of materials in use. The land is owned by the family, allowing us to make the most of the space available. We plan to comfortably accommodate the family in a large, two-roomed house comprising of a shared bedroom and a living space fit with kitchen area and potential to be utilised as a separate sleeping area if required. The house’ foundations will be raisied to prevent flooding and will be constructed from brick and metal providing proper protection from all weather conditions. There will also be a small bathroom built separately to the house, currently the family are without toilet facilities and are either using their neighbours’ or using the open area around their house which is extremely unsanitary in the long-term.

Improved housing provides countless benefits as the family have a comfortable living environment allowing them to focus on securing income. As well as this, the reduced risk of contracting illness and disease is paramount.  Parents can work steadily; able to provide food and other basic essentials whilst arguably most important, the child can focus on their education with less chance of a disrupted attendance and a clean and healthy environment to study at home.

Microfinance loan to develop a small sustainable business encouraging economic stability and independence

StepForward will invest in a small micro-finance loan for the family to set up and run their own sustainable business. We will invest 5 million VND ($236 USD) into a small chicken farming enterprise and vegetable garden for personal and business use. This initial investment will be repaid after one year by which time, the business should be in profit and beneficiaries can move forward independently with consistent, guaranteed income. 3 million VND will be utilised towards the construction of a chicken coop, 8-10 chicks and chicken feed to cover a 6-month period. Each chicken has a three-month cycle of growth before they are taken to market to be sold by the kilogram. This should allow for four cycles before the loan repayment with the family left in a strong position; able to continue buying and selling as well as having funds to clear their debts.

The remaining funds will be used to build a vegetable garden and provide equipment to support maintenance. This will provide a small, but steady income to run alongside the chicken enterprise with produce available to both neighbours and the local market. This will also reduce daily food expenses, as vegetables will be readily available if needed. Providing sustainable financial independence and stability is a key target for StepForward's beneficiaries, giving them freedom to improve their quality of life.

With low-maintenance businesses such as these, Trung can continue his regular work safe in the knowledge that the family has a consistent income to supplement his daily earnings. Slowly, previous issues become less important as food and other essentials are readily available to the family. As well as this, while we of course encourage children to remain in education, Nghia can help in the business, learning a new skill in farming and developing his business sense and understanding. Developing this business nous early can lead to many benefits later in life. 

 

Emphasis on the significance of education through the provision of scholarships and study initiatives

Whilst education is widely accepted and encouraged as a key part of life in Vietnam, the inaccessibility of further education can prove a massive road block to low-income families, let alone those living in and around the poverty line. StepForward believe that education should be available for everyone regardless of fees and costs. While it may not be the right route for everyone, StepForward work to develop this understanding in rural communities that despite knowing the benefits, see further education in particular as more of a financial burden than a positive investment. Through the provision of scholarships and study initiatives we hope to encourage more focus on the positive role of education in personal, as well as wider community development. This also serves to empower children as their continued participation in education leads to more specific areas of interest and study and as a result the desire to commit to further study to fulfill their potential.

StepForward will commit to a full one-year scholarship for Nghia, which will have the option to be renewed on a yearly basis depending on performance and attendance. The scholarship will cover all educational costs including tuition, uniform, text and notebooks and all other school equipment. This will also link in with our long-term microfinance objective as we encourage the family to become self-sufficient and be in a position to retake full financial responsibility for education having seen the benefits through unclouded eyes.

In an effort to encourage higher-reaching targets and ambition, we will also offer study initiatives that may include funding for extra-curricular activities, support in outside language classes and new school equipment amongst other smaller prizes. There will be no applied pressure to meet specific targets but by making education a rewarding experience, we hope to motivate our scholarship recipients into taking their education more seriously after seeing first-hand there can be benefits. 

Proposed Final Outcome

 

StepFoward’s target results are both immediate and long-term. Breaking from the cycle of poverty is a process that requires investment from both StepForward and project beneficiaries. We will see an immediate result upon completion of the house, as the family can relocate from sub-standard, high-risk housing to safe and comfortable accommodation. Adequate housing is a basic human right and its provision dramatically improves social well being. This development should allow beneficiaries to focus on the long-term goal of financial independence and security.

With the successful application of our microfinance loan, the family can achieve a sustainable and self-sufficient lifestyle, improving the quality of life and as result encourage the realisation of other opportunities in business and particularly, education. Education is a key tool for future development and by alleviating beneficiaries from poverty and encouraging further study, higher education can become a reality for those who previously thought it inaccessible. With the completion of ‘Brick by Brick’, beneficiaries will break from the poverty cycle, with the provision of quality housing as well as the confidence and resources to take a ‘Step Forward’ to financial stability and educational opportunity.
 

 

 

A Song of Fire and Lanterns (and Monsoons)

It’s been a busy time for us the past couple of weeks what with our Mid-Autumn festival event, meeting with other youth organisations in HCMC and travelling to Vinh Long to meet again with the local authorities and visit potential project sites and beneficiaries. Here’s a little update for everyone to know what we’ve been up to in a bit more detail.

We held our first Step Club event for the Mid-Autumn festival on the 8th September. Of course, as the first event, everyone was a little bit nervous to make sure it went well even though everything was well planned in advance. We’re happy to say it was a great success and should act as a great platform for our members to build from. Everyone gathered at Thai An church in Dong Nai around midday, with some travelling ahead by motorbike and the rest of the group by bus. Preparation began almost straight away and with the help of the local children we began packing the gift-bags, getting all the equipment ready for the lantern making and practicing performances. Before we knew it 4 hours had passed and the event was about to start!

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First up was the lantern making, it was a pretty intense couple of hours but well worth it. After splitting into groups, the children gave their all designing and colouring their lanterns. Some fantastic ideas and really great drawings, of course we were big fans of the "StepForward" lanterns some of the kids made up! :) We felt the pressure when all the children suddenly finished simultaneously and we had to put the lanterns together, 50 of them versus 6 of us, well you can imagine... But, we got there in the end and took a little break while the children had dinner. 

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After dinner, it was time for the street parade with the lanterns. Good news that the rain had cleared up as we got all the lanterns lit and the kids following the traditional lion dance. Lots of fun as we marched around the church grounds and out to the street to the sound of the martial drums. Moving back inside, we began various performances organised by our club members including the story of Mid-Autumn and a few different games. One highlight of the performances was an embarrassing moment for Max as a 'technical failure' left him dancing alone on the stage to no music but, all's well that ends well, right?! Children then received gifts which included school equipment and traditional "Mooncakes" amongst other things. We finished the evening gathering around the fire singing and playing traditional songs and games. We are sure Tony will be disappointed to have missed out on the classic Vietnamese children's chant he loves to get involved in!

Quynh Lan playing with some of the kids

Quynh Lan playing with some of the kids

All in all, a great event with plenty of positives! Firstly, a great night for the children who had a lot of fun joining in the different activities and were able to enjoy a happy Mid-Autumn. As well as that, it was great to see our first event run relatively smoothly (considering it was our group's first time) and have our club really take the initiative to build the event together and work constructively as a team.

Reflection activity after the event

Reflection activity after the event

It was great for Thu and Max to join with them and bond closely with everyone as well as get our members feedback on how they would like to move forward from this event too. Again, a massive thanks to Quynh Lan, one of our key StepForward members who took on a lot of responsibility in organising everything and doing a fantastic job!

So, back to Saigon and the focus shifted towards our housing projects in Vinh Long. We had a team meeting the following evening and it was decided we would travel to Vinh Long the following Monday to visit potential project sites and meet again with the local authorities. Our close friends and former colleagues, Thuy and Minh would also join Max and Thu as they are supporting our project and helping us to manage operations when we are not in country. 

In the meantime, Max and Thu connected with a Japanese social enterprise, Habataku Inc. They are focused on building interactive and open learning environments for young people and the promotion of multicultural understanding. Thu worked with Habataku previously and coincidentally, Max and Yoshi (the Habataku founder) met on a 'scavenger hunt' event in HCMC three years ago when they had both just arrived in Vietnam! After a good meeting, it was agreed we could start a small, basic partnership and see how things progress from there. Max had a lot of fun joining a Habataku workshop with Japanese students the following Friday, acting as a 'Vietnamese' team member, he showed them around the city, looking for different signs of Japanese culture while also failing in his attempts to learn Japanese! As well as this, Habataku will collaborate with us on our next workshop event "Step Out Of Your Boundaries". It will focus on the key issue of "intercultural communication" particularly for youth in developing countries. We are really looking forward to hosting the event and places are nearly full already! If you're interested in joining you can learn more about it here

Next up, Vinh Long. Arriving early Monday morning, we headed straight to Tam Binh to visit the project sites. It really is one of the most beautiful places in Vietnam, untouched, split with rivers and streams and covered in lush greenery and rice paddies.

We arrived to a pot of tea (which was much needed after a tough drive) and began to talk with the local community leaders. They shared their enthusiasm for our project and commitment to ensuring we have a long and successful partnership with the local community. Throughout the day we visited four potential project sites, all with different needs and reasons for support and development. For us at StepForward, this is where it becomes difficult; to select just one family to support at a time is an unwanted challenge but we plan to be in a position in the future where we are working consistently in the local area and can run multiple projects at any given time. Despite this, we are pleased to say we have selected our first project site!

StepForward met with Anh Trung, a labourer, living with his 9 year old son. He is married, but his wife travels away to work in a factory for weeks at a time. She has a fixed income but it is low and after the costs of living while she is away are discounted it is nowhere near enough to support the family. In contrast, Trung remains home to work and take care of their son but his work is inconsistent and he struggles for regular income to support himself and their child at home. As well as this, their son was recently in motorbike accident and required four operations and a one month stay in hospital. What little funds they did have were sapped by this unexpected but necessary expense and the family now finds themselves in a very difficult position. StepForward will support the family with a new house as well as a micro-finance loan to set up a small but sustainable business that is low maintenance but will provide a steady income to supplement their current earnings. We will have more specific details to share in our soon-to-be released project proposal but were super excited to give everyone an update about our first project!

It was great to have our team on the ground again in Vinh Long and meet with more local people and build further awareness of what we are doing there. The local authorities are very receptive to our plans and are keen to support us in our interaction with the local community as well which is fantastic. It was important for us to visit the local area to understand better the infrastructure there and see how life might be for a potential volunteer joining our projects in the future. It is very rural and undeveloped but definitely an experience and way of life we want to share with those keen to become involved in social and community development work. Life in this part of the world is extremely different to what most people know, with most of the world's population moving into urban areas, communities like Tam Binh are requiring increased support and understanding towards the issues affecting development there. Currently we have local builders working on a budget for the first project and we will travel back to Vinh Long in the coming weeks to work with them more closely as we look to build a strong working relationship with them and ensure everything is in place for our first project to begin next spring.

Everything is coming together at StepForward and we are looking forward to what the future holds for us. That's it from us now but keep watching for more updates and news as our work continues to grow here in Vietnam!

Respect if you've made it this far! More to come soon.

StepForward Team

Back In The Thick Of It

Hello again everybody! Things are getting quite exciting at STEPFoward right now and we want to give everyone a little post-summer update.

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Firstly, a big thank you to our team in Adelaide who hosted our first fundraising event back in July. They managed to raise over $1000 towards STEPForward's first housing project in March next year. Thanks to everyone for their support and donations on the day!

Back in Viet Nam and the wheels are really in motion now as Max arrived back in country on Sunday. It will be great to be back seeing all the old faces again but he wont have much time to relax as our work is beginning almost right away! This evening we'll be having a meeting with our STEPForward club members which we're very excited about as they have been doing some great work in our stead. We will discuss our upcoming Mid-Autumn event (more on that later) and most importantly our direction and how we can establish ourselves as a great development opportunity for Vietnamese youth. It's always been a key goal for us that our club becomes self-sufficient and we believe a crucial step towards that is understanding what our members want to reap from working with us. What kind of activities do they want to organise? What training would benefit them? How do they want the club to run? These are all questions we'll be discussing this evening and it'll be great to have this meeting in person and not on a questionable Skype connection!

That brings us to our upcoming event this weekend for the Mid-Autumn Festival, for those who don't know it is a type of ancient thanksgiving celebrated particularly by the Vietnamese and Chinese peoples. We will be travelling to Thai Hiep church in Dong Nai province, just north of Ho Chi Minh City. The church was recently built and most people living in the local area are immigrants from other provinces across Viet Nam who are struggling to make ends meet. The church works closely with local children of all ages in difficult circumstances; offering support to those with poor living conditions and as an outlet for youth struggling with social vices. Fifty local children of varying ages will join our event and we're especially looking forward to the lantern competition (Max can't win but it won't stop him trying). There will be other performances, apparently Max is going to perform a dance he learnt in his early days in Vietnam which should be interesting; as well as that we will finish by sharing the traditional Bánh Trung Thu (Mooncake) with the children. We have also led a call for donations of books and school equipment as well as practical items such as rice and other staples; it's been a great effort and we will share everything with the children at the event. Anh Binh, the church organiser is eager to get the kids aware of the importance of education and raise literacy levels in the area and hopes to generate interest into higher education for local youth. At STEPForward we completely support education as a tool for development and are happy to be a part of that. This has been a great effort by our team in Viet Nam to get everything organised and particularly want to thank and congratulate Quynh Lan who has been working on this event really hard with our other club members. We can't wait to join this Saturday!

As well as this, Thu is returning to Viet Nam in just a couple of days and she'll be able to join our Mid-Autumn event, after which we'll have another meeting with all our local club members. We want all the members to know who we are and why we're doing this and also want to be able to connect with them and have a bit of fun together too. After that, next stop - Vinh Long!

We'll be posting more detailed blogs when we're on the ground in Vinh Long but want to give everyone a little idea of what we'll be doing there now as this will be a key visit for us. We'll be meeting again with local officials to fully cement our partnership with them and the community and finalise the details of our first housing project next spring. We really want to get into the nuts and bolts of the community and understand how people are living here because the rural lifestyle is completely different to the intensity of Saigon and we as a team quite like that. For us, that's as important as all the practical things we'll be doing there. It will be interesting as most locals there have never seen, let alone met a foreigner and it can be a strange experience on both sides but that only emphasises the importance of this visit as we start to build a connection with the local people (Let's just hope Max's Vietnamese is up to scratch). It's rainy season here right now which will benefit us as we can see which houses are at risk of flooding and need development the most. We will also meet with the Vietnamese builders who will help us in our housing projects and use our time to organise other practical things such as the budget, area security and safety. We will also be exploring the area for things to do for our prospective international volunteers.

That's it from us for now, but keep checking for new posts as we'll be posting regularly and will definitely having something to share with you after the Mid-Autumn event this weekend. 

Peas & Love,

STEPForward 

Plans, Progress and Parties.

A little summer update for you with all the goings-on at Step Forward.

We can now say for sure that our first workcamp project and housing build will take place in March 2015! Max and Thu will be travelling to Vinh Long in September to meet again with the local authorities and finalise our first project-site. Once all the final details are worked out we will really appreciate all your support searching for volunteers and fundraising for the build so watch this space!

Whilst we are finalising our workcamp project and raising money, we are devoting our time to developing our STEP Forward Club. This is a group for Vietnamese youth who want to participate in social development activities as well as a working environment that encourages personal development and responsibility through leadership. This is a key area for us as our workcamp projects will not run continuously and we are eager to provide a platform for Vietnamese youth to empower themselves and raise awareness of social issues in Vietnam both inside and outside the country.

The wheels of the club are in motion and weve held our first orientation day for Vietnamese volunteers looking to join and become an integral part of our activities. It was a great success as everyone was able to meet, discuss their ambitions and visions for the club and really start to make inroads towards planning our first event for the Mid-Autumn Festival in September. Whilst our club members will have the opportunity to join our workcamp projects, we want to give them a chance develop themselves by encouraging regular events and activities organised and executed by the local volunteers themselves. Big thanks to our awesome friend and colleague Thuy for taking the time to help us put it all together!

We will continue to organise orientations and trainings, which will be open to all to all club members, on a regular basis; with our next orientation day coming in mid-July. 

Our first fundraising event will take place in two weeks in Adelaide, Australia. Organised by our program coordinator, Tony Haddad. Tony will host what will be the first of many events in the name of STEP to raise awareness amongst his friends and collect our first donations. The first event will be a classic house party. We hope to raise up to and above $200 to be utilised as part of the budget for our Mid-Autumn event in early September.  

That's all for now folks, thanks again for your support and please continue to help us raise awareness for our projects by sharing our website and facebook posts! Contact us via our website if you would like to learn more or have a deeper involvement with us!

STEPforward

Website power level, its over 9000!

Welcome to our website. Big thanks to our external designers for their advice and input.

At present our tasks at hand are to raise £5000 to be used for our Mid-Autumn Festival event in September and to make our first housing project a success; raising this amount also allows us to become eligible for official charity status.  As well as this we will be continuing to raise awareness for our cause. You can help us with this by donating directly to us through the donate buttons located throughout the website, any donations are greatly appreciated. Help us raise awareness by liking us on facebook, sharing our website and sharing our posts.

We'll be using this blog to keep you updated with absolutely everything so be sure to check it regularly.

Peace & love