Retrospect Vietnam 2002, things we learnt from volunteering community service

Back in 2002, before I picked up photography (apologies for poor video quality and screenshots), there is this unforgettable experience, which helped shaped (20 of?) us with or without us knowing it, to be more sympathetic, self-less, giving, feeling, experiencing, learning. Back then I have limited computer processing power, so I stuffed all the footage I took with college’s camera in DVDs, together with an edited version presented in 2003. This is random, I just feel like sharing the whole experience, and to relive the moments, to remind us to be a better person.

The video edited within 3 months after returned from the trip. The friends we made during this time, we have no idea how close we got at the end of the day.


At Changi airport before we depart.


Our teacher in charge.

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Preparing the teaching material for the kids at the village.


Planning at Hanoi, buying can food to feed us for 20 days if I remember correctly.

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We took almost 12 hours of bus to get from the city to the destination. It was a long, tiring and dangerous ride pass the villages, ridges, cross river, almost got stuck in the mud.


Surprisingly, the locals were waiting for our grand arrival.


This little house have 23 of us (3 teachers) squeezed in the sleeping bag. We came backpacking style, the backpack I bought for this trip stayed with me till now for all my backpacking trips to the rest of South East Asia, Europe and many.


Stitched the screenshot together, our first breakfast.


Setting up the tent. The boys had boyscout experience lead us all on setting the shelter of our working space.

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Home stay and food. Learning to appreciate different life while we were teenage.


Our farmer life for 2 days during the home stay. Maybe this has something to do with how I was called by a European “farmer Joe” when we met at Nepal, maybe I was suitable for one.

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That’s my little adopted sister, which I carried her pass the river. Oh, did I mention her elder sister is VERY pretty? Too bad I only met her once and she was busy for school.

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During the home stay, we exchanged culture, singing, dancing.


I didn’t remember this photo actually… I was teaching them origami.


We returned to the ‘camp’, it was raining and cold.

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Our most important people in the team, the kitchen team! We were the 2nd batch sent by our school. The previous team had a hard time climatising to the living condition and lost 5kg. For us, we adapted pretty well and I gained 2 kg. I just eat everything!


2 of us fell sick.


Learnt not to be picky with food.

There was an incident which I did not video down; According to the official statement, a local was drunk with rice wine, and had a dispute with one of our liaison. The drunk man tried to ram him over with a motorcycle, while he dodge and tried to reason with him. This happened just outside our ‘bunk’, we were woke up by the noise of motorcycle, we stand by the door in case of any required immediate action. No one is injured at the end of the day.


At night, we were having debrief and national education. This is the pre-army college life, I remember we were asked how willing are we going to defend Singapore if there’s a war. The second question is what we wanted to do in life. I remember one of us wanted to become the president of Singapore. Good luck to him!


I wonder how the local feels when we digged trench and destroyed their land…


Birthday celebration with 17 pan cakes!


I was trying to impress the kids with magic tricks!

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We head to a meeting place to meet the authorities. We had some serious discussion although we were less than 20 years old. They asked something about how we felt about the Vietnam war. I didn’t know how to answer back then.


Laughter, smiles, the good old days, the time we have little knowledge about the world, and everything is a blessing everyday.


We got close with our teacher in-charge.

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There are many things I forgot when I look back the video. The way we interact with the kids, somehow has some influence in who we are becoming today.

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Our main tasks here are building of wooden furniture for the school.



Invited to local school.

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Washing the shelter after we finished the job. This is also the place we bath 🙂

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Job completed, the ones in blue are our translators. My adopted sister is here to support me!


We sang our collage ‘TJ cheer”.

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We’re not at our legal drinking age back then?



When we left, there were tears in our eyes, no kidding! To many of us, the first experience of such oversea volunteering job is very enriching and dramatic. Especially for kids, such enrichment experience has a life-long influence. The way we think, the way we act. Words can’t descript, not to mention I am really bad at writing. We learnt to be giving, to be responsible, to take more threshold of different living style, to be adaptive.

The world is a book, those who do not travel only read the first page.

I would like to thank the friends I made in this trip, one of them we became classmate again in our university study, I learnt alot from you all. Also the teachers, who have to take care of 20 teenagers, and holdback their curiosity-nature (which leaked sometimes) and trying to maintain a firm leadership/mentor role. We all enjoyed ourselves very much altogether. May we all pursue and reach for our goals and dreams.

Also thanks to the friendly translators who followed us all the way, Temasek Junior College and Youth Expedition Project who gave us the opportunity.

Also check out:

40 never seen before photographs of Manila slum in a day trip

A Singaporean’s visit to Fukushima Daini Nuclear Plant 2 years after the tsunami

Berlin -> Czech Republic -> Austria -> to see the goods in people


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