Line Weydahl - General Business Projects in Vietnam
Hello everyone! New volunteers, old volunteers and those of you who haven’t quite decided yet, I hope this little story about my time with Projects Abroad will help you step out of your comfort zone and chase your travel dreams!
My name is Line Weydahl, I am 22 years old and I’m from Norway. Before my time in Vietnam, I had only been travelling with friends and family. This time I wanted to do something different. I wanted to experience a different culture with different people. I wanted to find places of pure beauty. However, if I was going to travel by myself to a continent I knew nothing about, I needed some help.
After spending some time on the internet, I found Projects Abroad. They offered me all that I wanted and more. They would be there if I needed anything at all hours of the day and night or if I just needed someone to talk to. At the same time, they offered me the opportunity to help others. Volunteering seemed like the perfect opportunity and on the same day that I found the Projects Abroad website, I booked my trip.
My Business placement
I volunteered in Mai Chau, Vietnam, for two months. I helped with marketing a small business called Hoa Ban. The business is a handicraft shop and homestay that supports disabled women. Before I left Norway, two months seemed like a long time. Now that I sit here at the airport on my way home, no time on earth would be enough to show the people of Mai Chau and Projects Abroad how much I appreciate and care for them. I didn’t just help promote Hoa Ban, I became a part of the family. Projects Abroad isn’t just a big organisation that shuffles people around, the staff are honest, good-hearted people who worked very hard for me to have the best experience possible. They were there for me any time I needed them. Even after I left the project to go travelling, they called me several times to ask how my travels were going.
Mai Chau is a beautiful mountain city four hours from Hanoi. Most of the people there work as rice, corn or peanut farmers and they live simple lives. Surrounded by untouched nature, life there is peaceful. They have a lot to do, but everyone seems to just go with the flow. If you are going to enjoy your time here, you need to be able to embrace this relaxed way of life. In Mai Chau, it is common to be on your way to finish up some work, meet someone you know on the way, and end up at their house eating food. It’s only after about two hours that you continue with what you were intending to do.
At the beginning of my trip, I found this annoying because there was so much I wanted to do. I also found it difficult to follow conversations as most people only speak Vietnamese or Thai. But at some point, you need to make a choice. I was there to learn about the culture and this is the culture. You need to decide for yourself, am I going to let the small things irritate me or am I going to enjoy myself and try my best to follow the conversation? My advice to future volunteers would be to step out of your comfort zone, ask questions, show interest and learn by observing. After some time in Mai Chau, you get invited to everything! You get to be a part of the family because you are making an effort. It’s as simple as that.
What I think made my time in Vietnam so lovely was that I got so much support from everyone. I was not afraid to say “yes”. It was scary sometimes, because I am a detail-oriented person and sometimes I got very little information about what I would be doing because conversations with locals are often very basic. I remember one particular episode as a turning point for me. Hanna, a Swedish volunteer, and I were walking back home from the village when Hoan, a good friend and co-worker at Hoa Ban, stopped next to us in a bus. He invited us to join him, and because his English isn’t very good, we had no idea where we would be going. Our conversation was basically pointing, body language and a mix between English, Vietnamese and Google Translate. Because we weren’t sure of the details, we didn’t really want to go, but I promised myself before I came to Vietnam that I was going to say yes to exciting opportunities. It turned out to be an amazing day. We had so much fun, met so many people and, after that, Hoan and I went on many tours together. After that experience, I am not as afraid anymore and my comfort zone has become three times as big. Hanna and I built a wonderful friendship too.
I guess what I am trying to say is, travelling with Projects Abroad, staying with the family in Mai Chau and having so many people wanting only the best for me really helped me to embrace this new experience. If you are a little scared of taking a trip on your own, volunteering abroad with Projects Abroad is a good option. I could always call them or my host mother and they would help with translations if I didn’t understand something.
Go visit the country you’ve always wanted to go to, help the local people, build many good relationships and grow as a person! Volunteering is such a good way to help others while also helping yourself. After this adventure of mine, I cannot just go back to my normal life in Norway. I want to travel more and I want to help more! The gratefulness my family in Mai Chau showed for the work I have done really lit a spark in me. To me, the work I did felt like so little, but for them it meant so much.
Thank you for reading and I hope this helps you chase your dreams! Take care everyone. I hope to see you in Mai Chau soon! I will be back in a few months.