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