Values in Action – Vietnam

Values in Action is a broad programme designed to foster a commitment to service to the community in each Melbourne Grammar School student.

Established in 2012, the programme enables the students to work with, and learn from, the communities in which they live. It also introduces students to experiences and people with which they might be unfamiliar, and encourages students to consider identity and place as it relates to others.

All students in the Senior School are expected to be involved in some form of service, whether it be through the local community, an international opportunity or charitable fundraising.

The Vietnam trip is one of these service learning experiences offered by the School. In this instance, Year 10 students travel to Vietnam during the Term I holidays, actively providing support for local communities and individuals. Fifteen boys chose to participate in the activity this year.

During their stay, the boys worked alongside villagers to build a dwelling for an impoverished family in a remote province. They visited centres that care for victims of chemical poisoning, a legacy of the American War in Vietnam, and spent time interacting with residents. The boys also visited a hospital supported by the Fred Hollows Foundation and witnessed the immediate impact of cataract surgery. The students devised and delivered a range of fundraising activities during Term I, thereby also providing direct financial support to the projects and initiatives in Vietnam.

My experience in Vietnam

Vietnam and the Vietnamese people can best be described as warm, open, and genuine. This made our experience unforgettable, with each day being a highlight in itself.

Whilst there was significant time spent admiring the culture, markets, architecture and people of Vietnam, emphasis was placed upon philanthropy and giving throughout the trip.

Travelling to the Mekong Delta, we stayed at a homestay for three nights from where we rode our bicycles, however dodgy they may have been, four times a day, between the homestay and the site of the house we were building for a family in need. The progress we made was immense and, with the aid of professional brick layers and the funds raised over numerous barbecues and fundraising activities during Term I, a house rose from the ground. This would normally have cost the family decades of income.

It provided a true perspective on the conditions some Vietnamese people face. The happiness expressed on their faces as we departed perfectly illustrated how much this meant to them. Similar experiences were provided on our trips to the War Remnants Museum, Agent Orange Orphanage, and the Vietnam Friendship Village. Here we saw the effects that Agent Orange, a chemical used during the American (Vietnam) War, has had, and is continuing to have, on people throughout Vietnam. Much of our funds went towards the latter two centres, with both taking care of Agent Orange victims. 

The remainder of our fundraising money went to the Danang Eye Hospital which we also visited.

Peumike Dissanayake Year 10

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