What happens if one were to mix work, fun, and adventure with an overseas learning trip in Vietnam? The result would be Project Tam Giang 2014. It was a Mercy Overseas Volunteer Expeditions trip organised by Mercy Relief (MR) and Singapore Polytechnic. A total of twenty students from the Diploma-Plus Certificate in Humanitarian Affairs course, two ABE staff, as well as three MR staff left the comforts of home to travel to Tam Giang Commune in Quang Nam, Vietnam from 17 to 28 March 2014.
Every trip will possess some elements of work and Project Tam Giang is no exception. The students went there with the following three common objectives: - to teach basic hygiene and sanitary practices to a primary school (Thung An Primary School) as well as a kindergarten (Sao Mai Kindergarten), - to provide the primary school with a water point (so that they can utilize the hygiene and sanitary practices taught to them), and - to put in place and simulate a fire drill for both the primary school and the kindergarten in the unfortunate event of a fire.
The trip was not one of merely work and hard labour. The students were given the chance to visit several eye opening locations such as a traditional Vietnamese boat making workshop, a UNESCO world heritage site (Hoi An Ancient Town), and a village fishing port. In addition to these visits, they also engaged in unplanned fun activities during the free time such as entertaining the village kids, playing soccer, as well as incessantly petting the occasional cow that wanders by.
The trip was filled with adventure as the students were definitely out of their comfort zone. Students who have never cooked in their entire life were now tasked with cooking a meal for more than 20 people, students who have lived in (relatively) bug free Singapore had to experience nightly invasion of insects. Students who have never experienced public speaking had to teach a class. Everyone had to leave their comfort zone but in so doing they gained confidence.
When asked to sum up the trip, the following student gave their reflections:
Gideon Goh from the Diploma in Integrated Events and Project Management mentioned that “This trip definitely pushed me out of my comfort zone. While it made me uncomfortable, it gave me many valuable experiences. I spent most of my time in the construction team assisting in the refurbishment of the toilet. Through that I was taught how to point (filling the gaps in between tiles to give it a smoother, more aesthetically pleasing appearance), demolish certain parts of the toilet as well as how to remove old paint manually. These practical lessons taught me many values which has benefited me. Manually removing the paint (by scrubbing) taught me perseverance”.