For someone who’s only travelled as far as Florida, Vietnam is a far cry from home. Yet Grade 10 EDSS student Emily Green is preparing to spend two weeks volunteering and sightseeing there through Global Volunteer Network.She said she’s wanted to do a volunteer trip for a long time, but because she doesn’t belong to a church, her opportunities were limited.
“I saw on Facebook that this trip was happening and I was like ‘I’m going to apply to this,’” she said. “It was really spur of the moment and I didn’t even tell my parents until after I got accepted.”
The 16-year-old applied for the program in April and found out she was accepted over the Easter holiday. She will be part of a group of nine girls, coming from places like Australia, New Zealand, and the UK. She will be the only Canadian.
She leaves on July 1 and comes back on the 15th. They start with orientation at the National Heritage Site of Ha Long Bay.
“It’s beautiful,” she said. “I’ve been looking at pictures and there are these huge limestone islands, and we get to spend the night on a boat and do a lot of touring in the beginning.”
They will spend the rest of the week at an orphanage in Ba Vi, with afternoon breaks for sightseeing.
“At the orphanage, a lot of kids are disabled there,” she said. “So there are a lot of kids with cerebral palsy and stuff. A lot of kids won’t be able to speak at all, let alone English.”
She said she’s excited to visit Vietnam because of the history, and the legends. Aside from packing, she’s been reading about the culture to prepare. She’s especially looking forward to the Hoan Kiem temple because of the golden turtle legend.
“Turtles are my favorite animal and the entire legend of that temple is there was an emperor and he won a war with the sword given to him by one of the gods,” she said. “After the war he went to the lake in the temple and then a turtle rose from the lake and took back the sword to the god of the golden turtle. That’s awesome.”
Green has volunteered locally through her school, which also offered up stints with drama teacher DJ Carroll’s Robin in the Hood Festival and his annual haunted house for the kids.
When she graduates high school she plans to go to university to study English literature, with a minor in psychology and linguistics, to fuel her desire to become an author.
“I’m looking at Brock University because they have a ringette team, but I’m also looking at anything around the Collingwood and Barrie area because my sister lives up there with her kids.”
As for her family, Green said they’ve all been supportive of the trip, both emotionally and financially. Her parents thought it was a good opportunity for her and were open to it. The generosity wasn’t just in her family.
“My ringette coach donated $100, which is fantastic,” she said. “The one that really meant the most to me was, a friend of mine, back in February passed away and his aunts and grandparents donated over $100 and that was very, very nice of them to do.”
So far, she’s raised the $2,000 for the program fees and has only made a slight dent in the $2,000 for flights, plus the cost of vaccines. She’s gone door-to-door fundraising in St. Clements and received a $300 donation from the Paradise & District Lions Club. After her trip she’s going to one of their meetings to give a presentation on her experience.
Green said she’s always liked the idea of helping people in other countries and can’t wait to see what Vietnam has to offer. But, as most people would, she has her concerns.
“There are a lot of worries with travelling alone anywhere, but the fact that I’m a 16-year-old girl travelling all the way across the world, I do worry about the big things, like am I going to get kidnapped?” she said.
She’s more worried, however, about missing her connecting flight, losing her luggage, or getting sick. But she’s focused on the positives, like Vietnamese cuisine, which she’s only heard good things about.
Anyone interested in donating can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“I’m really glad to have this opportunity. I think it will be a good experience for me.”