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