By Leow Hui Min, SMU Lee Kong Chian School of Business, Class of 2019
Project Triveria began with two SMU students who were driven by a budding passion to serve the community in Vietnam. Throughout the challenges encountered since its inception, Project Triveria has always been grounded in its founding principles. It aims to create an experience that allows its members to discover and develop themselves whilst working towards leaving positive and lasting contributions for the beneficiaries.
During the summer of 2016, in collaboration with Hearts for Hue—an NGO founded in 2007, Project Triveria III headed to Hue, Vietnam for close to a two-week mission. The objective was to impart basic English language and Mathematical skills to the kindergarten and primary school children, as well as to build a fence around a part of the kindergarten to provide a safer learning environment.
Presenting the Project Triveria III Team
My overseas community service project (OCSP) journey with Project Triveria III started as I was intrigued by the project’s emphasis on cultivating a sharing environment with the children in Hue. Admittedly, due to my limited experience in community service, I was slightly overwhelmed in the beginning. However, thanks to the strong teamwork forged between the members, a conducive platform for learning was quickly established. We also received great support from the organisations that the project was partnering with. An example would be Fei Yue Student Care Centre where we conducted our ‘Explore Phase’ prior to our trip to Hue.
Explore Phase at Fei Yue Student Care Centre
During the Explore Phase, we had the opportunity to interact with the children at the Centre and carry out our programmes in preparation for the actual implementation in Hue. This was extremely helpful in terms of aiding the team in improving our proposed activities and also for the members to understand how to work well with children.
Intense game of Captain’s Ball with the joyful children at Fei Yue Student Care Centre
Fast forward a few more meetings and brainstorming sessions later, the long-awaited day finally arrived as we gathered excitedly and full of anticipation at the departure hall of Changi Airport. The Experience Phase was officially in motion, as the team landed safely in Hue and was warmly welcomed by the staff and children from Hoa Mi 1 Kindergarten the next day.
Meeting the children for the first time at Hoa Mi 1 Kindergarten, Quang Vinh Commune, Quang Dien District
During the short but memorable period spent with the energetic 4 and 5-year-olds and eager grade 4 and 5 students, we worked with translators—students from the local universities—in our efforts to enhance the children’s grasp of the English language and Mathematics. We utilised worksheets and activities developed by our team to engage the children in the sharing process.
There were definitely times when my teammates and I felt discouraged at not being able to effectively communicate with the children. Fortunately, under the guidance of our leaders, we began to see beyond the practical objective of our time in Hue and started to foster a bond with the children. As a result, we managed to create priceless moments that have now become very cherished memories.
Demonstrating to the children proper handwashing practices
Having fun with the kids during break time
Our sizable team which consisted 24 SMU students, were tasked with rotational duties and every member had the chance to experience what it is like to be involved in a construction process. Under the relentless summer sun, we shovelled cement, lugged bricks, painted and assembled the fence alongside the indefatigable Vietnamese labourers, who were truly admirable as they worked harder and longer than us day in and day out.
Hard work does pay off!
Personally, another highlight of our 12-day trip in Hue would have to be the cultural exchange conducted with the Hue University’s College of Education. Both parties prepared entertaining performances and we were also introduced to and tried out several local games. Amidst much laughter shared with the Vietnamese university students, I once again felt the warmth of the hospitality which has been generously given to us by the locals since the day we landed in Hue.
Cultural Exchange with the students of Hue University’s College of Education
Upon returning to our Lion City and having had the time to reflect on this remarkable journey, I was hit by the realisation of how much I had learnt and gained—possibly even more than what I managed to contribute to the Hue community—from this experience. One example would be how the constant, easy smiles from the children had brought back to me a sense of optimism for the future, which I seemed to have lost over the years. There were multiple defining moments during the trip, and for someone who used to cower away from any interaction with children, the way I was able to step outside of my comfort zone and connect with the local kids was a personal milestone.
It is said that in times of adversity and change, we discover who we are and what we are made of. The process may not have been entirely smooth sailing but because of that, I truly realise the importance of perseverance. It has been a privilege to meet and work alongside the locals in Hue and my fellow team members, all of whom had exemplified the spirit of never giving up.
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