As it’s getting fairly late into the night, especially since we’re supposed to get up at 5am or earlier tomorrow in order to start rolling at 6am, I reckon it’s not wise of me to stay up much longer. However, I was supposed to blog yesterday but found no time to do so until now. It’s definitely hard to function with 4 hours of sleep  so I apologize if this is not a sufficient post even though my head is filled with thoughts – pleasant and disturbing alike – that I actually do want to let out and share with everyone.

I wholeheartedly agree with Mov when he said in our evening discussion that before we start feeling frustrated about what we haven’t accomplished, we need to keep things in perspective and realize that SEALNet PV 08 has gone a very long way. For me personally, it has been amazing to see the level of enthusiasm in the our mentees and May 15 children. Once I caught my mentee coming in late after a break so I walked out of the workshop to talk to her just to find out that she just came up to the English classroom on her own to see how she can help after hearing about the challenges in the English program at May 15. Today we visited Binh Loi shelter where I got to see with my own eyes how one individual can make a big impact in the lives of many others. It was also such a pleasant surprise to see how well-behaved and motivated the kids at this shelter were. A lot of Vietnamese youngsters just like myself have once given hope in our government and our country; but after interacting with the 9x generation from privileged as well as underprivileged backgrounds I definitely feel a lot more optimistic.

Another highlight of SEALNet PV 08 so far is doubtlessly our participants. I was totally blown away by how incredible you all are; and we’ve gelled together so well ever since the first day too! Nonetheless it was a bit disappointing to see how dedicated and intelligent as all SEALNet PV 08 members are, we have not managed to fully focus on our tasks and be as efficient as we could be. I’m feeling a little bit shattered right now but I’m sure when I wake up in the morning I’ll gather all my energy back. Tomorrow will be a better day 🙂



Photos: Day 5

July 5, 2008

July 5: Hello World!

July 5, 2008

Hi guys, it’s time for some typing exercise!

Computing is one of the three components of PV08 and it’s time to let you know about what we’ve been doing so far.

To begin with, our vision is a fun and informative computing program for the lovely children from grade 1 to 5 of the 15 may school. What we do is create a customized curriculum with interesting modules such as Emailing, and Internet Primer, bring Internet access back to the library, or the computing lab if you like, not only for our target students but also for every kid at the school to come and enjoy it when the library is open, and design exciting activities to enhance the teaching and learning experience.

Component-wise, I think we’ve had a good time. We are pretty close to where we intended to be and are confident that we’re gonna make it. Along the way we’ve also encountered a lot of surprises. The kids are way smarter than we thought. Many of them already know how to use Internet Explorer and some even use Google to look for information. The “young and innocent” kids catch up very quickly. The mentees have shown a great deal of enthusiasm and asked to participate in a variety of activities including the Activities Handbook’s translation, the Internet Monitoring Taskforce (well, the phrase’s just “appeared” in my mind), and ideas contribution. The teacher ‘s been very nice and helpful. He’s shown genuine interest in teaching the kids and provided with many valuable feedbacks as well as recommendations.

For now, we feel very positive about what we’ve been doing but certainly obstacles are inevitable. We’ve had a challenging day trying to finish everything in the lab but 2-3 out of 13 computers are nearly rotten and the AC suddenly felt like it needed to emit some water in addition to cool air :(. Therefore, we decided to take a night off our schedule and have some fun. We went to a nearby restaurant and left roughly 15 minutes after that, which is not a usual thing that most Vietnamese would do. But we had a lot of fun out of doing this and I think this is something I should consider the next time I go to a restaurant ^ ^. We then came to Diamond Plaza, one of the most visible shopping malls in the city. We were there just to have a walk but Rongkun had another purpose. All of us’ve probably known how amazing he is as a person but I think the fact that he often goes to markets just to compare prices is simply so Rongkun. There, we encountered like 200 kids in a variety of the-weirdest-outfits-ever-seen. I was pretty good because it was the first time I really wanted to vomit (I could feel the food wanted to come out of my stomach!) when the weirdest of these weirdest kids passed. What a pity we could not take some pictures for you guys 😐

Next week, we will definitely have the computing lab ready for our two trial classes, which we are all very excited to observe, and we look forward to their success.

As for the whole team, we’ve tried our best and we should look ahead thinking about how we can maximize our remaining time helping the children.

Goodnight, World!

4th JULY

July 4, 2008

Today is the day 4 for our pv08. I was dragging myself out of the bed in the morning, feeling extremely sleepy and tired. I was hoping that i could just sleep for another 10 to 15 minutes, i would be very satisfied. But well, i need to face the fact.

Today’s schedule was pretty similar to the day before. There was one leadership workshop in the morning and another one in the afternoon. The topics covered for today were pretty easy yet interesting. At first I was scared that the workshops might not turn out as well, and the mentees might not give us the full attention. However, it turned out to be quite a great workshop. The workshop was very engaging and the mentees paid full attention despite the fact that they had to spend the whole day with us in the school. That was very encouraging for the leadership group.

At about 4pm, I, KMU, Shang, Thao, Azusa and Shane went the supermarket at the Citi Plaza. We were there to shop for some stuffs and food. But when we were about to go back the school, we got caught in the rain and we couldn’t make our way back to the school. SO……….. we were so bored that we started playing games at the entrance of the plaza, did some chest popping dance that was taught by Azusa. It was really amusing. The crowd was staring at us with a lot of question marks popped out of their heads.. But we didn’t give them a damn! LOL.

Here it comes, the Climax of the day–the karaoke outing! Though i was so tired and exhausted, I was quite high inside the karoke room. Overall, it was a fun outing. Everyone was SO HIGH! Ok, i guess i might need to pause here, need to go to 402 for debrief session again! 😦 hope it’s gonna be a short one because we are going to wake up super early tomorrow!


Photos: Day 4

July 4, 2008

Today was one of the first times we actually visited 15 May and played with the children, in many ways breathing fresh air into our project — giving us perspective and setting a human, personal face on kids for whose sake we had previously brainstormed and debated so extensively. So the task ahead of us was now increasingly tangible.

I shall tell the rest of the story in pictures 🙂

The morning workshops were introductory to Leadership basics — contextualizing leadership, conflict resolution etc. At this early stage where relationships were still fresh, new and untested, it was smiles and moments like this that gradually pulled the group together 🙂

The human knot game (Mov is actually cheating because he released KMu’s hand to take this picture). I think it was a crucial eye-opener for the mentees that in most cases standing still and giving blank looks isn’t always the best way to untangle a mess, especially messes that were brilliantly and astutely designed and further complicated by us remarkable mentors heh.

Chris and Annie tackling those giant omelette pancakes for lunch. Vietnamese cuisine does offer its fair bit of surprises, doesn’t it?

This picture is one of the many heart-warming snapshots of the 15 May kids that keep you going even when the road ahead is filled with obstacles beyond your control. That even rough street life and absent front teeth don’t dull their glow gives us an enduring inspiration that overcomes even the toughest language & cultural barriers.

Karla and George, ESL experts who came to cooperate with us on the English component. It was somewhat tricky to liaise with them at first given their entirely different approach to the various problems affecting the kids, but thankfully the rough start was more birth pains than a foreshadow of what was to come in our working with them. 

Nhung doing the hallmark Rongkun pose haha — I love spontaneous moments like this.

Chinese whispers (how racist hmph) — equivalent to the “passing the message” game. Statements like “I want to go the toilet” and “I have a pretty card” get twisted into the most horrific frightening ones. Ugh, my innocent, naive mind refuses to elaborate. *blushes and turns red*

Father-daughter-mother *sniggers* 
Azusa, Caroline and Mei at the vegetarian restaurant for dinner.

Personally, I was working in the computer lab/library once again, working on the cabling & networking and general computer maintenance. What remains a challenge is passing on our enthusiasm and passion over to the mentees to ensure sustainability of the project. Overall there was a general sense of fulfillment because the work we were doing was a mixture of the tangible and abstract — seeing a marked improvement in the functionality of the computer lab, and investing in human resources and having faith that the sowing will one day bring a hundred-fold harvest.

Much of what we aim to do here in Project Vietnam 2008 is a culmination of youthful idealism, the stuff of “changing the world”. Very often the pessimism within us cries out that our young passion and energy will be inadequate to achieve such sustainable impact, and that cry is indeed a realistic one. But we shall keep believing, that the little we do shall result in much. For if we aim for nothing, we shall achieve it; but if we indeed want to change the world, the world of the 15 May kids and our own world, we should never allow our dreams to remain in the realm of the possible.

Impossible is nothing 🙂


– Matteus Pan

July 3rd

July 3, 2008

Another long and intense, but very fruitful day. (Fruit-full too🙂 Fruits in Vietnam are so colorful, interesting-looking and delicious! Well, except the durians…;p)


Today was the first day to have the leadership workshop for our high school mentees. We covered topics such as what is a leader, service leadership, co-leadership, team building, and conflict resolution. I was pleased with the mentees’ participation in the discussion. They were also really engaged in our application activities which were human knots and strawbuilding. Personally, I found the strawbuilding activity very interesting. For this activity, we divided the students into three groups and the task for them was to build the tallest structure with drinking straws and tapes in 5 minutes. One of the groups immediately started to build, the other made a plan first and divided the tasks among the group members, some were not agreeing with each other’s ideas, one group had a smart idea to stick the tape to the floor… And the final artworks were all so different; a stable straw tent-looking building, a big Eiffel tower-pyramid (stability in doubt), and a skinny tower that corrupted in a second. This activity was not only fun and exciting (which is crucial as we all agree, because learning starts from fun and this kind of thing is what you remember the most later on), but perfect for exercising leadership and demonstrating team work.


It was also our first day to meet the street children. Their levels of English varied, but through fun games we overcame language barrier. Their genuine smiles are gems.


Today was a hectic and challenging day for everyone, but hey, we handled it very well with our problem solving skills and flexibility! I was impressed by how much leadership skills that we cover in our workshop were actually carried out in our meetings.


Lastly, what an ambitious bunch we have! I respect all the members in PV08. I am so lucky to be working with you all. Great job🙂


-Azusa Tagami



Getting corny

July 2, 2008

Today, July 2nd was our first day at the school. After a breakfast of sticky rice balls stuffed with pork (delicious to some, relatively unsettling to others), the day began at the school with a formal welcome from the school’s manager. Mr Chinh thanked Sealnet for its work last year, and outlined the problems that the school continues to face– among them marked decreases in attendance in the English program classes, the school’s inability to provide food and shelter to children in need, and the cancellation of internet service in the school due to security and cost issues. Mr Chinh spoke in Vietnamese, leaning on a podium surrounded with a relatively charming assortment of communist icons 🙂 and Hung, one of our Vietnamese team-members, translated. In spite of the language barrier, Mr. Chinh came accross to us as a kind, thoughtful man, and one who cares genuinely about the welfare of his charges.
As Kaitlin explained yesterday, the SEALNet team is divided up into three sub-groups, each working on a smaller project which aims to respond to the specific needs outlined by the school’s leadership. My own team’s goal is to restore safe internet access to the school, to design an effective but fun curriculum to teach the elementary-age children basic computing skills, and finally to set up a mentoring system which pairs the 15 May kids with local high school students, to help guide them through their computing work.
In order to get an idea of the school’s IT needs, we began by meeting with the computing teacher, a reserved but kind-hearted man by the name of Kha. The language barrier was a challenge, but with the help of our Vietnamese team-member we made it through the basics–and even managed to laugh a few times.
Then, we took a tour of the school’s computing facilities–which are actually surprisingly well equipped. There are almost two dozen computers in the school overall, with about half that number exclusively devoted to the children’s classroom and recreational use. Chris, Matt, and Hung–our more technical teammates–immediately got to work scanning, networking, installing, coding, plugging and generally just running around the machines in a wild computing frenzy. A moving sight indeed 🙂
At noon the team headed over to a traditional Pho restaurant, where we all enjoyed various exotic fruit juices, tasty broths, and questionable-looking meats. The conversation at this and every meal was lively. It is a weird and wonderful thing to witness ourselves molding from a eclectic mix of twenty strangers– who really are a bit unsure about what they actually have in common–, into a bonded, laughing group that begins to treasure everyone’s little idiosyncrasies and qualities. With kids hailing all the way from Malaysia, Singapore, Portugal, Australia, France, Japan, China and the US, our team offers more diversity in perspectives, manners, tastes than I have ever been exposed to, and it is wonderful to figure out, after a few days, that we really do all share something that runs deeper than culture. I guess maybe it’s laughter. This sounds corny. Anyway. I mean it.
In the afternoon, we met the high school students that we all–and in particular the “Leadership” sub-team–will be training in effective leadership techniques and in the more practical fundraising or organization work that community service requires. We hope to leave our “mentees” with the tools and the drive to continue SEALNet’s with the May 15 school.I found the group of high schoolers to be extraordinarily bright. In our group discussions, though, it was interesting to observe how little all of them sought out the spotlight. They prefer to listen than talk, and provide their (often excellent) opinions only asked directly. How different from my own education…and how relaxing 🙂
Anyway, after a long day of running around at the school, we sat down to a lovely dinner and then retreated to the cool depths of our team leaders’ hotel room, to discuss the past day and plan the next. And this is where the group’s true colors really show. Because even at 10PM when everyone is tired and ready to go do something mindless, people care a lot. Every little detail is examined and debated; inspirational talks are given; plans are revised…and amid the yawns there is excitement and drive.
All in all, a great day. But as this post has been skeetering uncontrollably towards the corny and embarassing for several paragraphs already, I will stop here in my praises of it.
Good night Vietnam!

~Caroline Pougnier