Day 9

July 9, 2008

today, the last event for the leadership component came to a close. the mentees, divided into 3 groups were tasked to come up with 3 different community service project proposals to benefit 15MAY School once SEALNet concludes its project here for 2008.

mentees doing their presentation

mentees doing their presentation

I must say, and I believe I speak for most of the team, that we were all very very impressed by most of the presentations. they were all of high quality and rather feasible and practical.

The presentations all displayed organization, good team work and also quite impressive public speaking. I personally feel a sense of satisfaction with the fact that we saw these mentees incorporate the skills obtained from our workshop and applying them so well, it exceeded my expectations; despite them being Vietnam’s brightest bunch. Shang and myself were most impressed with the group which we supervised today (Picture-Dictionary group). They took our critique and tips, and improved their final presentations so impressively. In addition, the feedback we got from them about our series of workshops was generally positive, with some very very encouraging remarks.

During the past week, there were many occasions where we as mentors had doubts about the commitment of the mentees towards working with MAY15 School once we leave, due to the fact that a number of them raised the issue of being able to relate to these ‘street’ children. That being said, I believe we have a new found confidence in their abilities and willingness to continue the work we’ve done and bring it to greater heights, after today’s presentations. some of them even mentioned embarking on their projects immediately after SEALNet PV08 comes to an end.

~ Jeremy


Today is the 5th day of the PV08, and unlike the past few days of the project, we got to visit Binh Loi shelter in the morning which is 30 minutes away from our Le Duy hotel. The regular leadership workshop hours were, instead,devoted to creating fundraising and awareness promotional materials for the shelter. And our mentees are the ones responsible for the task. 

Basically, the visit in the morning was an informational workshop for the mentees to collect  all relevant information and facts about the shelter, which is to be included into their brochure and postcards. And they had the afternoon to work on their information compilation and brochure and postcard designing.The brochures and postcards created would be used as a sample design that will be eventually got printed in large quantity to be presented to Binh Loi shelter to benefit them in term of fundraising and awareness promotion.

Talking about today morning, I need to give credits to our mentees for taking initiatives in interacting with the Binh Loi shelter children during the time when the team members were having a hard time finding the shelter. Obviously there were some confusion going on with taxi drivers about the shelter’s address, and thus led to the delayed arrival at the shelter. We, PV08 team members, just have to say sorry and thank you to the mentees here!!! 

Right after the visit to the Binh Loi shelter, our team members had asked the mentees to join us for lunch, a great social bonding between mentor-mentee as this is exactly what we need at this exact moment. ; ) and guess what ? Hung, my professional mentor from Cambodia SEANLet project 2007, arrived in Vietnam and were warmly welcomed by our team members and everybody else. It’s been a year since I last saw him, and he looks just as good and as intellectual as ever. 

The mentees were given time to work on their fundraising products in the afternoon, and they agreed on to turn in their finalized brochure and postcards 2 days from now. I will get the photos of the products uploaded when I have them available on hand. 

Will get back with brochure and postcards pictures, stay tune !!!

Sunny day

July 8, 2008

Get up at 7 am and found that I suffer from a sore throat. That’s not a problem but still makes me uncomfortable.

It’s really a sunny day because I have to go around the city from district 1 to district 5 for English championship’s stuff. Thank God, Thien gave me a ride and I don’t need to go alone. She knows where to buy things such as: roll of paper, streamers, a kind of sparkling powder for decoration,… just because she’s a student of architecture university.

In the afternoon, KMu, Azusa, Mov, Thien, Rongkun and I draw the painting for EC. It’s really interested. I’m not good at drawing at all. In my childhood, I always asked for help from my aunt. She’s a good painter and thanks to her I got good mark with drawing. But today, I do a good job. My painting looks colorful and funny. I admire Thien so much. How vivic her painting is. Mov teachs everybody how to dance. He’s a cool dancer and cute. I like him very much 😛 We all hope that EC will succeed and try our best to carry it out.

I also find something interesting in this afternoon. I can’t believe in my eyes: Jeremy is a good teacher. He’s so gentle to the kids. In some ways, he’s so patient with the kids, teaching them the color in English with color pencils.

Oh, I need to go now just because of the injury that Shang has this afternoon while he’s playing around with the kids. Poor my son!!!

Thao Viola

July 8

July 8, 2008

I took a shower to wash away my excitement, but failed.

Photos: Day 8

July 8, 2008

One World, One Dream

July 8, 2008

It turned out that today has gone a little bit air-condensed. So we needed to take a breath at intervals. 🙂

In the morning, we, computing group, were trying to prepare a proposal to have our website of PV08 introduced to the whole team. The website framework at the beginning ran into a words’ confusion where detail-oriented or grand blue print were on the stage.

However, we all came to an agreement to have the proposal discussed with mentees who actually would be the crucial knots to have the website connected. That was the thing that we had an kinda agreement that a facebook group was faire enough for the early phase. Though for the long-term structure, we are going to concrete it soon.

The mid-evaluation session in the afternoon somehow underwent a tough time. This was not expected at all out of the whole team’s mind. Taking deep breath and shaking body things were not that refreshing while it seemed just like another tough minute was on its way right after we breathed or shook away the previous one.

Certain “magnetic” voice was there trying to dig out something which turned out to be unnecessarily negative. People seemed to be undergoing huge emotional pressure which unconsciously blew us down.

It was just what I have been feeling through the session which I considered it miserable and it rendered me speechless as well as deparately mentally stressed out.

Hopefully enough that the de-briefing part tonight was quite successful and SEALNet PV08 proved itself again an unconquerable strong team ever, and full of fun, definitely!:D

One SEALNet World, One Love Dream~:)

Love you all,


July 7th

July 7, 2008

Today was a turning point in the trip. 

Our group is in charge of improving the English program at the 15 May School. We started out as the “English Championship group,” (EC group) in charge of directing an English Championship to motivate the children to learn English. However, upon arriving on site and analyzing the situation for ourselves, it became apparent that the problem was far bigger than originally thought. The problem is not so much a lack of motivation in the children but the way the English program is set up. The teachers are not native speakers, and are not able to engage the children in class (attendance had dropped from 80 to 30 since the program was started by PV07 last year). This is not to say that motivation isn’t an issue at all, just that the resources the children have are a far worse one. 

The situation had been bothering me since yesterday. The problem with the teachers is not one that can be easily rectified, since the school runs on limited funds. The ESL experts that came into the school had good intentions but were somewhat unequipped to deal with the cultural barriers that they faced. They offered to coach the teachers, but what else could we do? We came to Vietnam to bring about sustainable aid. How do we help the students to learn English?

And so, today, while the rest of the group went to the Binh Loi shelter, the EC group met to discuss possible solutions to the problem. We came up with the following:

-Lack of motivation on the part of the students 
-Lack of proper skills on the part of the teachers
-Lack of awareness of the learning resources available to students 

-Emphasizing to them how important it really is to learn English, to motivate them to learn outside the classroom, to use the internet, to read, to take that extra step in their education. 
-Having our high school mentees teach the kids, as their English is far better than that of the teacher’s
-Working with computing to figure out the options available in regards to software and learning on the internet 

We then split the EC group into 2 teams, one of which would be in charge of the actual event planning, and one of which would prepare daily English lessons for the kids while we were here, and help them prepare for the event. The situation is really frustrating. Like one of my team members described, “It’s like going to a village with the intention of purifying their water, only to realize that they have no water at all.” 

We proposed the ideas during our debriefing session (which went more smoothly than it ever had!) and they were approved by the group. Things are looking good. Now the EC Team finally has an end goal (motivating the kids to learn English) and solutions for the problems. I’m hoping that things will run a lot more smoothly from now on. 


P.S. My father’s advice to me (which I think is really good) is to listen to the kids. It seems really silly, but the only way to find out what people want is by asking them, and listening, with no preconceived notions or ideas of what you think they want. So I plan to have a good talk with some of the kids (with Hung as my translator!).


Photos: Day 7

July 7, 2008

By far the most rewarding and meaningful part of my experience with Project Vietnam has been my interactions with the students of 15 May— interactions which are as short and sweet as many of the children themselves.  Because I have been so focused on readying and finalizing the library for use as a computer classroom, I haven’t been able to interact with as many students (or mentees actually) as I would have liked; rather, everyday I encounter many of the same children who stumble into the lab hoping to wildly click the mice, to load up as many flash games as possible, and in general, to throw into chaos the orderly and efficient system that our whole team had created.  I don’t mind at all—in fact, I couldn’t ask for a better distraction.
Any resulting frustration is infinitesimal compared to the overwhelming joy I get from playing with the children, from seeing them take so quickly to technology and computer usage, and from their warm and happy smiles.  Two children in particular have been on my mind throughout the past few days; one girl (name withheld to protect the innocent…and prevent horrible misspelling) loves to antagonize and molest me in the gentlest way possible— telling me I look like a pig, making me lift her up into the air so she can feel taller than me, and shutting down any computer I dare to take my eyes off.  She’s definitely spunkier than many of the younger children, and loves to make the others laugh (often through acting up or using her incredibly sharp wit).  When no one else is around, however, she’ll simply some to my side, hold my hand, and watch intently as I work; today, we sang “We Will Rock You” together.  I have to admit: I’ve found its not really the tasks ahead that excite me most everyday, but rather, the chance to see my little buds again.
Another girl is slightly older— and far, far quieter.  From the first day we restored internet access in the library, many kids have flooded in hoping to IM, download music, play some incredibly violent flash games, and so on (as a side note, don’t worry: we can now control and prevent all of these things).  This girl, however, quietly finds a free computer, busts out her neatly-kept notebook, and proceeds to read short stories online.
At first I wasn’t quite sure what, exactly, she was doing; however, after peering over her shoulder and catching a warm smile several times, I’ve realized that she’s actually writing short stories of her own, in beautifully floral handwriting.  Quite honestly, she has continued to be an immense source of inspiration for me during the most frustrating moments of this project, reminding me that at the end of the day, I’m just lucky to be able to meet and help, even in a small way, kids like her.  When I look at this girl and watch her write intently, I see someone who deserves a bright and creative future; to have anything less await her would be an utter crime… so that, on a personal level, is what drives me.
Now, as a member and co-leader of the computing team, I have to be a bit descriptive and describe what exactly we accomplished today.  When it comes to business, I like to be concise, so here’s a nice bulleted list:
•    “Finished” readying the lab for class use:  I placed quotation marks around “finished” because in truth, the lab is still in many ways being underutilized.  We have not been able to install all of the software we wished to.  A small fraction of the machines are unusable, from hardware or software neglect.  Most seriously, however, I feel we have reached the point of diminishing returns with our lab.  I recognize that we’ve done wonderful work in restoring internet access and trying to make our computers as sustainable and operational as possible; but the perfectionist in me realizes that some of our mentees will be able to renovate the lab rapidly after we leave, without many of the same limitations our team has faced (such as being unable to create a standard, stable system image or perform necessary hardware maintenance).

Tomorrow, I will begin working with our mentees on a “handover” process and plan of action, to give them some ownership of this computing facility after we leave.  So to recap: we’ve made the computing facilities at 15 May good—from scratch really—and the mentees will make them even greater.
•    Reviewed our activity plans with the computing teacher.  Mad props to everyone on the activity team! 🙂
•    Observed our teacher conducting his first trial class:  We expected there may be challenges awaiting us when this day came, and surely there were.  However, we remain hopeful that we can give the computing teacher meaningful feedback to help him feel empowered.  His confidence is key to the success of this class, as is his dedication to our curriculum.  To that end we have a slightly radical idea: we want some of our mentees to actually teach the next trial class.  Needless to say, we need to execute this flawlessly, with minimal offense to the teacher (whom I personally respect and trust very much).
Well…that wasn’t concise at all.  Woops!

Photos: Day 6

July 6, 2008