Sixth Form students, Molly and Owen, have recently returned from a 2 week Round Square project in Vietnam with students from all over the world. Let’s find out what they have gained from the experience…
Molly, why did you want to go on a Round Square service project?
Since October 2016 when I attended the RS International Conference at Aiglon College, I have thrown myself into everything and anything Round Square. This includes founding and chairing our Round Square committee as well as leading the Bring Me Sunshine project which recently won a fantastic international award! I truly believe I have reaped every possible positive benefit I could from the organisation within such a small time period of becoming members; my only wish is that the opportunity to join arose sooner! In light of all this, when the Vietnam RSIS project was announced I was desperate to go, and thank goodness I did. It was the best thing I have ever done.
Owen, was it hard to leave England and travel alone to a new country?
2 weeks, halfway across the world with 50 people from all across the world, who I had never met before was quite daunting, as I knew I would have no contact with home. When I got to Vietnam it was crazy how quickly I got to know everyone and developed friendships. And before I knew it, any anxiety I had before was gone. When landing in Hanoi and meeting the team, I had to say goodbye to my phone. To be honest at the time this was harder than saying goodbye to my family! But little did I know, not having my phone made the trip so much better. After a few days, I realized I didn’t care if I knew what was happening back at home. This really allowed me to use and enjoy the time I had without constantly checking my phone.
Molly, how did the trip begin?
As soon as we arrived at Hanoi airport we were greeted with welcoming smiles and open arms to our new family for the next two weeks. For me the decision to come on the trip was easy, but it only sank in that I was actually there when I was surrounded on a bus with people from all over the world with no way to communicate with anyone back home. Our trip commenced with two days spent in the capital of Vietnam, Hanoi, where we visited the Temple of Literature and the Museum of Ethnology.
Owen, what service project did you both take part in?
On the project, we spent 4 days building one dam and 4 days building another. Doing this allowed the farmers of the village to harvest three times as much rice per year. This improved the agriculture and helped provided a sustainable increase of income to the village. During these days on the work site, it could get very difficult. Moving rocks or shoveling cement for hours was physically challenging. As I lived among the villagers and saw how little they have and how hard they work, it really did put into perspective how much I take for granted back home. It was nice to see a community living so happily with so little. So, all the cuts and bruises I picked up in the process of building the dams, they were worth it when I could see the difference we made to these people.
Molly, what was your favourite moment of the trip?
One of my favourite moments of the trip began on day 4 and continued for the rest of our time at the work site. Exhausted for the previous days of hard labour, our hard work began to feel useless. We regrouped and decided to work smarter, not harder, so we created a 20-person long sand-bucket chain. 5 minutes into the new strategy, we were working in perfect togetherness in a beautiful integration between teenagers from all over the world as well as a team of local men and women who despite being unable to communicate through language, very quickly became friends of ours; giving back to those in need by sharing smiles whilst volunteering provides a means of satisfaction that fills you with joy better than anything money can buy.
Owen, what was the best part about the trip for you?
What made the trip for me, were the people who went on it. As the trip progressed I naturally became closer with certain people, soon enough I had developed a group of friends. It was crazy how well we all got on considering we had only just met. Turns out, it was not where I was, but who I was with that made it so great. Two weeks away from the world I knew back home was good for me, it allowed me to think, relax, learn new skills I didn’t think I would ever need to know, throw me out of my comfort zone, meet new people, and be part of a great cause.
Molly, apart from building the dams, how else did you help the community?
By staying in the local’s homes, we were immersed into their life and into their family and most importantly into their community and culture. I felt welcomed by every person we met; every local in the village heard what work we were doing and how we were willing to help with anything we possible could. This led to volunteering in a local school, helping to carry firewood from the forest back to our homes and entertaining the locals with our many renditions of classic Christmas songs!
Honestly, I truly believe the local peopled helped me too! Spending evenings sitting on the floor of a wooden stilt house with a bowl of Pho and chopsticks, learning how to weave baskets out of grass whilst playing silly games and laughing with local children really does change your outlook on life and makes you realise just how easy it can be to become stuck in a bubble when at home. The people I met, the laughter we shared and the memories we made will truly stay with me forever.
Owen, would you recommend other students to go on a trip like this?
Yes!! 100%!! The trip is so unique and different to any opportunities available to us here, I would highly recommend anyone to get themselves on any future Big Build projects because as scary and as difficult as they can be, just like Molly and I, by the end you won’t want to leave.
Owen – Year 12, Molly – Year 13