Development cooperation

•March 13, 2010 • 1 Comment

Here’s the last post concerning my weltwärts volunteering service. I’d like to give you an overview about development cooperation, the weltwärts program and weltwärts in Viet Nam.

I am often referred as a “good person” coz I’m involved in development cooperation. This is just partly correct. Let me clear this thing up, none of the organizations, nor do the individuals, operate without personal interest. That is fine as long as the participation serves a mutual purpose. I’ve given attention to a book lately written by Dambisa Moyo. Its title is “Dead Aid – Why Aid Is Not Working and How There Is a Better Way for Africa”. She argues that foreign aid has harmed Africa and that it should be phased out.

The book polarizes opinion. Her statements aren’t new; some of them are even outdated. However, large media coverage can raise the publics awareness. Public may reconsider development aid. Moyo is of the opinion that development aid creates a negative incentive system. Countries become dependent and aid conceivably promotes corruption. So she advances a view that the main reason of the countries misery is development aid. Instead of claiming cutting development aid, I suggest asking if there’s the possibility to give help which promotes self reliance.

However, it maintains the status quo instead eliminating the root cause of poverty. We might overestimate the impact of development aid. The Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development published a chart which shows three segments. The segments stand for good governance, politics of the developed countries and official development assistance the so called development cooperation. Interestingly, development cooperation is just in the position to support the two other segments.

Governmental and non-governmental organizations have been reforming projects to improve their service. There is a hope for change if national and international policies are harmonized. Good governance has to protect investors from official arbitrariness in economics. If governments of developing countries assure a reliable law and tax system, national and international businesses will increase.

Down to the present day developed countries grant subsidies to their business and economic sectors. Half of the European Union’s budget is used for the “Common Agricultural Policy” system. This makes domestic goods artificially competitive against imports from example developing countries. Subsidies distort markets and destroy poor countries’ opportunities. We keep those countries from economic growth with one hand, and donor a large amount as development aid with the other one. If we want, in the long term, a juster world and prosperity for everyone, we may not support such policies.

The weltwärts program contributes, at least in part, to development cooperation. “Global learning nurtures a new generation of development workers. It enhances inter-cultural understanding and helps increase awareness and acceptance within society of how development policy issues impact on our future.” Weltwärts will lead to success if the organizations constantly improve service.

Organizations should reconsider their projects and responsibilities. Most of the organizations don’t really know about their partner organizations projects. They send the volunteers abroad and blame the partner for all sorts of problems. German institutions have to ensure a proper work and a proper contract with the partner about hosting and liabilities in the forehand of sending.

Organizations should consider new ways for recruiting volunteers. German educational system is diverse. Many roads lead to success in career. Till this day most volunteers just graduated from high-school (German: Gymnasium). Many of those lack of seriousness of mind due to their little experience of life. Organizations should attract more people from in-company-training and part-time vocational schooling. The foreign language skills are competitive. Those recruits are well grounded in technical knowhow and/or commerce. It’s the mixture of people of different backgrounds that matters.

Inter-cultural exchange

Weltwärts-assignments can be to any of the countries in the OECD list of developing countries. Viet Nam is changing from a centrally planned economy to a socialist-oriented market economy since the economic reforms Đi mi (renovation) initiated in 1986. The economy is booming. However, transition economies often lead to increased inequality of incomes and wealth, dramatic and ongoing inflation, pervasive corruption in both the public and private sectors, and a fall in GDP.

We also need a change in peoples mind. The antisocial behavior must come to an end. Inter-cultural exchange can support this process. Young volunteers share live with Vietnamese. We can tell others about problems in our society and may show methods of resolution which people can apply to everyday life.

Most organizations, including mine, send volunteers to English training centers or Universities in Viet Nam for teaching the regular school’s curriculum. We support a system which gives money to privileged. Most likely foreign volunteers get even paid for it. The common salary for untrained volunteers far exceeds the wages of qualified Vietnamese teachers.

I have never accepted funds for my volunteer activities. I have never skipped any task. I just did as I consider volunteering best. I dedicated the past two years to inter-cultural exchange. I left my heart in Viet Nam. Thank all of you for your contribution to our good work. See you soon!

Vietnamese New Year Pt. II

•February 14, 2010 • 1 Comment

The Vietnamese New Year “Tết Nguyên Đán” is the ultimate festivity. Viet Nam equals a madhouse in the weeks before this occasion. Shops and supermarkets are crowded to overflowing. Goods for sell are gift wrapped in red over packaging. Houses are cleaned and decorated with plants and trees. Various trees such as the peach tree (Hoa đào), ochna integerrima (Hoa mai) or kumquat (Cây quất) can be purchased. Most of the trees are carried home on motorbikes which is really impressive.

We do have fireworks at selected public places. They are governmental run since private fireworks is outlawed for more than 15 years. However, they are pretty good! Unfortunately rain last night, so that I couldn’t see much of the fireworks from my friend’s house in which I stay over New Year.

Vietnamese New Year is also the time for family gatherings and traditions. It is a public holiday and the most sacred time of the year. So people won’t go to work for at least three days. The few people who do business raise the prices for services and goods. Especially hotels and restaurants are expensive at this time. Therefore we’ll cook more often at home and perhaps celebrate my birthday here, too.

The weather in January was cool and rainy. The grey sky let me feel less interest in teaching. Luckily most of my students went to military basic training. In Viet Nam all students, male and female, have to attend a military training of at least four weeks. So I decided going on holiday for two weeks. I asked another volunteer to take over my other classes for that time. He agreed and I left gloomy Ha Noi.

There are basically four different dialects in modern Vietnamese language: Northern Vietnamese (Ha Noi); North-central (Vinh); Central Vietnamese (Hue); and Southern Vietnamese (Saigon). The different dialects follow basically the same grammar but differ in their sound systems and some vocabulary.

A movement of people between North and South began in the mid-20th century. Due to that, and perhaps nationwide television consumption, people may understand different dialects. However, dialects are also a part of culture and the cultural differences are huge. The common stereotypes for the different regions are: the traditional North (home of the socialists?); tasty cuisine for the Central provinces; and the ambitious richer South.

Work the truth out for yourself

Well, I haven’t stayed in other provinces for long time yet. Therefore I shouldn’t really judge about it. I love my Ha Noi community; even though Ha Noi is not really famous for friendliness. The people are easy to temper! The more Southern I went the friendlier I was welcomed. People were more relaxed and warm hearted. Perhaps my view is wrong! If you have a different opinion let me know about it and leave a comment.

I went on holiday with two friends of mine. We first stopped in Da Nang, headed then to Ho Chi Minh City and finally to Phu Quoc Island. It was nice to see the South again which I haven’t visited for more than three years. Ho Chi Minh City, “the economic capital”, is modern compared to Ha Noi, the political capital. The city has many high buildings, wide streets, and plenty of shops and supermarkets. The traffic is less bad and the air is much cleaner.

I like the Vietnamese street food and drinking culture. People sit and gather on tiny plastic stools and tables. The people in Ha Noi drink much tea on the streets. The people in Ho Chi Minh City drink coffee with sweet condensed milk.

Live responsibly, and enjoy life

I was really happy that the Southern Vietnamese could understand my Northern dialect. So I could handle most matters in Vietnamese language and I didn’t have to use English much. The holiday was quite relaxed. We spent most of the time discovering places and trying the local specialties. We also hired motorbikes for off-road trips on Phu Quoc Island. The isle is mountainous and the mostly unpaved roads lead through green forests. Besides we often stopped at some nice beaches for a swim.

After a nice holiday we arrived safely back to our house in Ha Noi. The chilly rainy weather remained for two more weeks. Then, in February, the weather changed suddenly. The thermometer showed around 30°C. I spent much time outside for a walk and some drinks. Though cloudy sky most of the day but sunny about noon. The spring has come! On the other hand mattresses, clothes and wooden furniture started to go moldy on account of the high air humidity.

I should reconsider my training schedule! I have been running a bakery contest lately. There are roughly 30 different places on my list. I’ve been picking out one bakery each day. Perhaps I’ll change to daily workout instead of three times weekly. Meanwhile our house got more crowded. The current number of volunteers amounts to twelve. Since then more and more people gather to cook German dishes.

Trick or treat in Ha Noi

•January 13, 2010 • Leave a Comment

The year 2009 ended eventful. KUE’s executive manager paid a visit to us to get an idea about the state of things in Ha Noi. He came to ask after us, to see our house and to inspect the university. Above all he welcomed a new group of 17 weltwärts volunteers.

The visit of the manager provoked primarily confusion and bad blood. KUE occupies the moral high ground. They demand with might and main their requests what they think is written in the cooperation agreement. Perverse if you get look behind the scenes. I had a glance at the Vietnamese version of the cooperation agreement. I won’t give too many articles of the document away. However it lacks important details.

The basic conditions determined that 35 German-Volunteer-Students (whatever that’s supposed to mean) assist NTU in their matters, especially in aiding the students with their English- and German homework. Criticism goes to both sides. How can they focus on assisting the students’ homework, which is principally in Vietnamese language, in the fields of Finance and Banking, Accounting, Economics, Architecture and Industrial design!

Who's to blame?

I value KUE’s enthusiasm. However it has not much of a meaning if no one pays attention to weltwärts intention and especially to the legislation of sending and receiving country. No sending organization should attract a great number of volunteers to a new project which offers work for only a few. If so, it needs experience to provide quality service in finding a new project.

An organization must be familiar in dealing with volunteers. They must know the expatiations of partner organizations and projects. They need in essential the skill to implement the relevant guideline. KUE should link up with other organizations. It will quicken the learning process.

Let me give you an example of the latest chaotic planning. The new group of volunteers expected to volunteer in Ha Noi. Conversely they were told after their arrival at Ha Noi’s airport that they are going to volunteer in Hai Phong City, 100 km away from Ha Noi. What happened? Well, KUE unexpectedly concluded an agreement with another private university without informing the involved volunteers. The worst is yet to come. It doesn’t look like they will ever have a meaningful work to do there.

Perhaps a volunteer’s life

One of the substantial change is concerning to my accommodation. KUE rent a house without letting anyone of us know. They wanted to offer housing for the old and new volunteer group. They said they couldn’t withdraw from the contract. As a result, we left our house in My Dinh and moved to Vinh Phuc at the South-West end of Westlake.

The new area is cleaner and less noisy than the previous one. The house is just 5 minutes away from NTU by motorbike. It offers seven spacious rooms, a big living room and a kitchen. I even have a single room with balcony and a private bathroom. The cost of living, especially for dining outside is more expensive.

Nevertheless it is interesting to explore the area around, to check out shops and restaurants. Sometimes neighbors are interested in a little chat. One of my neighbors, he’s a professor, surprised me most. He just completed his contract at an international university in Germany. The interesting part of the story comes now. The university is not located in a major city. Nope, the university he taught at is in my little city Bruchsal in Baden-Württemberg. What a coincidence!

Unlike to others I am still happy with my work. Some volunteers are discontented with their projects. Instead of improving the situation they bore the situation or just stayed at home. Finally they will work soon in different projects or even for a different partner organization.

Half time of weltwärts in Viet Nam

•December 12, 2009 • 2 Comments

The German volunteer service “weltwärts” aims to send 10.000 young people each year in developing countries; successively the world’s biggest sending program. I’m entitled to take part in weltwärts for six months. Three months have passed already. The Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development sets the program goals as follows in this document. Here are some thoughts of mine to ponder.

I indicate ten-thousand is ambitious. I question if volunteer services are able to carry out the intended development-political dimension of weltwärts competently. Besides I wonder why we are planning to send so many abroad. Can we guarantee quality then? Or does quantity count more than quality? Are the projects sustainable? Volunteers come, stay and leave. Is there a handing over to the new generation of volunteers? How to monitor the success of the projects?

Is a sending program able to cultivate intercultural exchange? Wouldn’t it be nice to use money of the 70 million Euros public fund for receiving people from the host countries in return? Are we so proud of ourselves that we think we don’t need any help from people of developing countries? Isn’t the impact of intercultural exchange on both sides higher by doing so?

Source BMZ

The accessible volunteer services offered by the common organizations are pricey. The weltwärts- program wants to give young people of any social background the chance to participate in development work. It is financed by the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). However, the BMZ is not in charge for sending. Germany’s numerous aid and sending organizations send and call for funds.

The program attracted a good deal of attention in media. Thousands of people have applied for it yet. Most of the institutions complain about excessive demand. An even bigger problem is on side of the mostly poorer receiving organizations. As a matter of fact many have to hire staff to get on with the crowd of foreign volunteers.

The new centralized structure of financing also attracts organizations which have never sent volunteers before nor are experienced enough to implement the regulations. There are no clear criteria or quality requirements regarding the sending organization or the receiving partner organization.

Source BMZ

The sending organizations should reflect on a few points before agreeing to a cooperation contract. What benefit will my partner have of the volunteers? Is it about the money, about the employees, about intercultural exchange, the gate to the world, about recognition? What do you think is the reason why they co-operate with you? How do you plan project placements? In case they really need a partner, are you able to offer them a service according to their needs? Can you offer development cooperation and the needed resources?

weltwärts goal to get people of any social background into action hasn’t worked thus far. Most of the sent volunteers are from the middleclass. The large majority takes a gap year after high school before they begin their studies at University. Community service is in my opinion worthwhile to anyone. However, weltwärts made it also too simple to touch up ones curriculum. We perhaps run the risk that people misuse this service.

We shouldn’t forget that volunteers are also representatives of their home country. How can we avoid that volunteers cause harm in development cooperation? I have read, seen and listened to a lot of weltwärts-volunteers in the past two years. Gosh, I personally think that more culturally thick-skinned, spoiled and intolerant volunteers take part in weltwärts than in any other program. Several are demanding, complaining but show little initiative for self-help. Even worse is their double moral; argumentative about attitudes of others but also out of the question in their own matters. Perhaps a long vacation financed by public.

The way to success?

At last my midterm evaluation. The main reason why I applied at KUE, the German sending organization, is that it is run by Vietnamese. Their website gave a tempting outlook to the development work in Viet Nam. In the end it turned out to be much different.

They are inexperienced; so I turned a blind eye and remained patient. There have been many issues in the past. I believe in the process of learning. They have to improve in particular their communication and planning skills. Furthermore they need schooling in weltwärts-guideline. Their work routine needs to be longsighted to lead to success. At the current this organization is not certified enough for sending volunteers abroad.

Unfortunately they have been also unlucky in choosing their partner organization. They signed the cooperation contract with NTU, a Vietnamese private university founded in 2008, in Germany. They agreed on sending 35 volunteers to a university which they had never seen. They were convinced that the amount of students would increase from around twenty to a few hundred. What’s more they took it for granted that the volunteers will have an 8 hours working day by assisting the student’s in German and English homework.

NTU`s dealing behaviors on the other hand are questionable. Transparency is missing. All in all they couldn’t keep the contract.

"Can't see the forest for all the trees"

My project itself is satisfactory to me. Some volunteers and I run an English Club at NTU twice a week. We teach according to books, play games and make friends. I occasionally teach Finance and Banking focusing on improving listening and speaking skills of my students. Furthermore I train staff of NTU and Ladeco Group in English three times a week.

It is knowledge transfer, improving life skills and sharing life. Educational cooperation cannot be put into a fixed schedule of 40h a week. Nope, it happens 24h a day in daily life. I don’t know where and to what volunteering will lead me one day but I know that I am quite privileged.

My Ha Noi Volunteer Alphabet

•November 13, 2009 • 4 Comments

I live in the capital and second largest city of Viet Nam, Ha Noi. It was established almost 1000 years ago. The estimated population is 6.3 million. The city is located on the right bank of the Red River. Ha Noi’s metropolitan area under planning will have an area of 13,436 square kilometers with a population of 15 million by 2020.

Here’s my little very own Ha Noi alphabet:

Activities

If you’d like to meet me in my spare time, you perhaps find me in a food stall. Actually, I pretty much eat anything. However, I pay attention to a rather healthy well-balanced diet. I do sport three to four times a week. I often go out for billiards, karaoke or just a drink with friends. Moreover, I love to ride motorbike in the city or the countryside.

Bald, beard and big

As a matter of fact, I am just average and unremarkable in Germany. Conversely, it is true for me here in Viet Nam. In comparison to my volunteer’s colleagues as well as the average Vietnamese I am rather tall and big. (1,82m/81kg).

Chaos

Self-directed thinking is not encouraged. This can lead to a range of problems in everyday life. …traffic madness, inefficient work routine and antisocial behavior…

Dust

A recent survey run by the municipal Natural Resources and Environment Department showed dust concentrations were above allowable levels on about 60% of Ha Noi’s roads. Overloaded and uncovered lorries and tip trucks were blamed for 95 per cent of the dust. They also failed to meet hygiene regulations. Industrial activities, transportation, urban construction and residents’ activities were other contributors.

English-Lessons

Germany as Europe’s biggest economy plays an important role in world trade. It is also known for poetry, culture and research. On the contrary German is not a favorite language for foreign students. English, the universal language, attracts logically more people. My Vietnamese students are perhaps better educated in the use of English grammar than me. As a result I provide the main part of my volunteer activities in English. I mediate life skills and improve their pronunciation and communication skills.

Human capital

There are no stupid people on this planet. Anybody (!) can contribute something. We all have talents. We just have to discover our abilities. I preferably work in a self-determined employment with low hierarchy level.

Idealism

I don’t receive any reward and surely no money. A job that pays well…I am an idealist and follow pragmatic purposes. Pragmatism keeps my feet on the ground and lifts me up when I am down.

Joy

I appreciate each day, even the tough ones, in Ha Noi. Always look on the bright side of life.

KUE

My sending organization.

Language

Vietnamese grammar is rather simple. It is a tonal language and this makes it difficult to learn for western people. I am rarely forced using Vietnamese in my everyday life. Hence, I am good in small talks but lost in profound conversations. I am employed at the German Vietnamese vocational training center. My boss and my colleagues address me in German. My Vietnamese friends’ English is fluent. The students of NTU speak fair English.

Men

A men’s life is great in Viet Nam. The average Vietnamese is a prole and a strict ruler. Forget what you’ve heard about emancipation.  However, men and women have learnt to deal with it. They fled to a dream world of kitschy romanticism stuck between heart pain and the search for the everlasting love.

Nguyen Trai University

The university I volunteer at. It’s located at 266 Doi Can.

Oi gioi oi (Oi troi oi)

Oi gioi oi, often translated with “Oh my god “, is a common phrase when something goes wrong. I use it a couple of times each day.

Pronunciation

Vietnamese use a modified roman alphabet of 12 vowels and 17 consonants. The standard Vietnamese language has six tones. Each tone is a meaningful and integral part of the syllable with which it is associated; every syllable must have a tone. The tones are indicated in conventional Vietnamese spelling by marks over or under single or main stressed vowels in vowel clusters. Thus, it is really important to learn the word with the appropriate markers correctly.

Quality

My opinion abot Ha Noi’s livability is conflicting. Services are any time available and the costs are low. The city provides a sufficient assortment of international goods and cultural events. On the other hand prices for imported goods are high and Vietnamese products haven’t reached International standards. Furthermore I extremely dislike the dirt and desperately miss trees, flowers and parks.

Rumors

I have really been surprised, also very often depressed, with the loads of prejudices I am confronted each day. I have to fight against ignorance, racism and people’s closed minds.

Safety/Security/Crime

Vietnam is very safe. Violent crime is rare, at least for me as foreigner. However, regardless to national or no national, scam is very common in Viet Nam. Moreover corruption is a big problem.

Traffic

A glorious, deadly, mess! 1,000 new motorcycles and 200 automobiles are added to Hanoi’s traffic each day.

Useful fact

Starring at people is somehow socially accepted! (Perhaps to be discussed in a separate post.)

Weather

Ha Noi has four distinct seasons, with a comparatively chilly winter, a hot and wet summer and pleasant spring and autumn seasons. The smog covers Ha Noi all year around.

(E)xchange

I highly encourage people to get to know different cultures. Intercultural learning is mutual learning. It is exchange of knowledge and ideas. It is fun to make friends with people of a different cultural background.

Yummy

Vietnamese food and drinks are inexpensive and delicious. One of my favorite drinks is simply green tea. Meals aren’t prepared extravagantly. Everything is kept simple. Rice in any variation is a main part of most dishes. They also use a lot of vegetables (often mixed with meat) and fruits. Indeed, many dishes are oily, salty or really sweet. Meat and fish is often just chopped and served with the bone.

Zodiac

Vietnamese zodiac signs represent twelve different types of personalities. The zodiac traditionally begins with the sign of the Rat, then the Water buffalo, Tiger, Cat, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster and finally the Pig.

In Vietnamese/Chinese astrology the animal signs assigned by year represent what others perceive you as being or how you present yourself.

KUE – NTU – House in Phu My

•October 12, 2009 • 8 Comments

KUE left the decision to book a flight, whether by them or by myself, to me. Many of us chose the flight which was offered by KUE. But that flight was overprized and required stops in Bahrain and in Bangkok.

Hence I searched on Internet for a cheaper and more convenient one. I found the most suitable option after a few minutes. What’s more this preference granted me a free baggage allowance of 38 kg. That was good to have – coz I carried along two bags of German chocolate and candy.

I arrived on time after a trouble free short stop in Bangkok, obtained my Visa at the Immigration office desk and picked up my bags from the baggage claim. To my surprise I didn’t see any of the other volunteers who should have landed just a few minutes earlier than me. So I headed alone to the meeting area. I was warmly welcomed by a friendly young Vietnamese man. He drove me to Nguyen Trai University.

There I was introduced to my coordinator Lan. She explained that the other volunteers had missed their connection flight in Bahrain and stuck there for one day. Therefore we postponed the introduction day and I was unexpectedly free. That day I met my old Vietnamese friends.

University

The private university was founded in 2008. Its main office is in Ladeco Building, a high rise in the heart of Ba Dinh District. The sight from one of the teaching rooms points to Westlake. The lake is surrounded by traditional quarters and new modern Skyscrapers. Motorcycles dwarf from this height. The university is investing in the 340.000 m2 Nguyen Trai educational complex at Ha Dong District and will move to it after completion.

“Nguyen Trai University is striving to become one of the top universities in Viet Nam and the region by achieving international standards in education programs and delivery. It aims at all-round personal development of students with high moral, intellectual, professional standards and sound physical and aesthetic capability, dedicated to the service of the society.”

The schedule doesn’t keep me too busy with just four hours of Vietnamese lessons a day. But the timetable is rather inconvenient with a four hours lunch break. We additionally teach English at Ha Thanh High School. Further projects are in planning and will follow shortly.

"Der Führer der Union"

The new semester starts this week. Roughly 200 new students will begin their studies at NTU. We will guide and assist them.

Contrary to the original planning we don’t stay in host families yet. All volunteers live in a house 15 minutes afar My Dinh bus station. Either two or three people share a room. The furnishing is reduced to what is absolutely necessary; a thin small foam mattress. (It was worn out after a few days)

We are still young so I don’t complain. However I cannot even think of easy sleep. Our house is opposite the local cultural house. The squawking loudspeaker announcement starts every day at 5.30. At around 6 o’clock people come to play volleyball on the adjoining field.

View from my house

Therefore my day starts early. The neighboring village offers a sufficient number of delicious Vietnamese street food. We cover the distance to university on foot and by bus in approximately 60 minutes. Though, I prefer the motorbike instead. My aged but fast Honda Dream II takes me to my workplace in 15 minutes.

I am on good terms with the other volunteers. We also have close contact to the students of our university. We have invited them on occasion of mid-autumn festival to our house. We cooked Vietnamese and German specialties and had a great but short time.

The weather is typical for Ha Noi. Some days it is hot and humid other days rainy. The smog irritates the respiratory tract. Accordingly all of us got ill in no time.

New assignment

•September 5, 2009 • Leave a Comment

It’s been an absence of eight months; time to revive my blog. Here are a few lines to abstract the recent months since my return last winter. I was employed by my company for four months. But I left Germany for Viet Nam another time in April. I was warmly welcomed and quick settled in. I supported a few smaller projects and spent the remaining time with Vietnamese as well as International friends. I discovered Ha Long Bay and went to Cua Lo for bathing. My Visa expired after three months and I had to leave Viet Nam. I took the plane to Thailand, stayed there for one week, and then headed home.

The exchange year hasn’t changed, surprisingly, my German daily life. I remember well my recommencement. It is an undeniable fact that I feel great in my familiar environment. However I found myself thinking back about Viet Nam. Some German companions who also volunteered in Viet Nam experienced a similar sentiment. Hence we decided to meet again in Germany. It was easier said than done in a group of different regional provenance and crammed schedules. We finally agreed on a long weekend in March. We’ve had a cracking good time and we felt like in the good old VN-days. Moreover we even cooked Vietnamese dishes; Bun Cha and Nem. It is rather simple to shop for these ingredients in Germany on account of our migrants. What a coincidence! The owners of the next “Asia-Shop” were Vietnamese and open for a chat in Vietnamese with us, too.

Vietnamese dinner

Life is a succession of lessons, which must be lived to be understood. I grew up in a society where people let others live freely. Live and let live. However, my second home is Viet Nam. I was up for volunteering once more. Hence I sorted the wide range of opportunities and applied at some organizations. An important criterion of the nonpaid voluntary service is the coverage of board and lodging. The Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development of Germany launched the “weltwärts” development volunteers program in 2008. “Learning by serving” is the motto of the volunteers’ service. It promotes the exchange between North and South in this way.

“Encounters between North and South help to promote understanding for one another. And this is particularly true when participants have prepared well for these encounters. In Germany, there are several programs enabling young people to get involved in development activities and get to know other ways of life. These programs are not about giving adventurous globetrotters a travel grant. In seminars, program participants are prepared thoroughly for their encounter with the foreign country. They also look at the opportunities and limits of their own involvement and think about what they themselves and their partners abroad expect from the encounter. And even before the trip, plans are made for participants to share their experience with people in Germany after they return. The young people themselves thus become “multipliers”, sharing their experience and engaging in development education work.” (Source BMZ)

My group

Quite a few German organizations are assigned to run this service. I have signed the contract with the child and development aid association (KUE) for 6 months. I will assist at the Vietnamese-German vocational training center of Nguyen Trai University (NTU). Our volunteer group amounts to 18 boys and girls. Sixteen run services at NTU and two at a publishing company. Each of us will stay in a host family.

I’m already looking forward to my upcoming tasks. Particularly with regard to come up to one’s expectations. I booked the flight for the 13th of September and arrive one day later in Ha Noi. Henceforward my blog undergoes a change in the frequency of publishing new reports. I will post once a month instead of twice as in the past. I’m out of here, will pack my suitcase and see some of you in the coming days.

 
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