"Keep doing what you’re doing"
It’s been a long hiatus from the Sunflower Blog-o-sphere [two years to be exact] but I’m back! I remember my first SM work camp in 2008 fondly -- holla 2008! My fellow work camp mates have been up to a lot, their lives are unfolding beautifully. Major word of congratulations to my former roomie Quyen Ma on her wedding!
After summer 2008, I didn’t really have a chance to stay involved in SM, but it’s truly an organization that I hold near and dear to my heart. However, as luck [or...fate?] would have it, I was fortunate enough to join in on SM’s 2010 work camp in Phu Yen! Sigh of contentment.
By the way -- my name’s Ai and I participated in SM’s 2008 work camp with a great group of people whom I still consider my friends to this day. That work camp taught me a heck of a lot and eventually paved the path for me to go back to Vietnam and volunteer long-term. After I graduated from UT in 2009, I joined an organization called Volunteers in Asia [VIA] and jetted off to Hue, Vietnam to volunteer and live in a children’s shelter with 32 kids, 6 - 18 years old. That single decision resulted in an utmost transformative year, and as I’m wrapping up this first year in Hue, rejoining SM seems to make everything come full circle.
This summer, as part of my Ford Foundation Fellowship from VIA, I’m creating a Volunteer Club at the shelter in hopes of instilling in my
kids a spirit of volunteerism and giving back to the community, so when Chu Tuan asked whether or not I could meet up with the SM team this year, I thought this was a wonderful opportunity for both me and my kids to experience a service trip first-hand.
Not only did I really want to re-join SM and see some familiar faces, I knew this would be a great learning and training opportunity for my kids. After some pleading and cajoling, I was able to take 2 house-mothers and 4 kids [those leading the volunteer club this summer] to join SM in Phu Yen.
Initially, I didn’t really know what to expect. My goals in rejoining SM this year are completely different - and after all, after having such a great experience the first time around, would the 2nd try live up to expectations? Also this time, I’m responsible for not 2,3,4, or even 5, but SIX other people. Would they have a good time? How willing are they to step out of their comfort zones and put themselves out there? Would they be enthusiastic about the work, or find it meaningless?
My kids this year have been less than spectacular when it came to them willingly exerting themselves, hence the need for the volunteer club to inspire a sense of giving -- but after just one day, I’m absolutely speechless.
My kids [Quang, 19; MySa, 18; Loan, 17; Phap, 16] -- I couldn’t be more proud of them. This is their first trip doing anything of this sort, but they just threw themselves in whole-heartedly. The SM team this year also opened their arms to us [seeing as how we’re kind of just guests joining in for a few days].
Today is the first day, and as I sit here [opting out of “Fun time” to work =P] reflecting on how the day went, I can’t help but think it was just absolutely perfect. On a personal level, rejoining SM at the work camp is special for me, because I can say with 100% conviction that I believe in SM and its work. I’m back this time around, though only for a few days, with a different perspective, but nonetheless still awed but what SM does.
However, the best part about this day was witnessing the seamless merging of my two worlds. My kids [and housemothers] from the shelter,sporting proudly their SM shirts and caps, settled immediately into place and enthusiastically began work, without a single word of
complaint or winced face. They didn’t shy away from work, from making new friends, from new experiences. All of them just absorbed the experience and ran with it, and I’m so thoroughly impressed.
None of the kids nor housemothers have done anything of this sort before. They are outside their comfort zone. This past year, my kids have been less than enthusiastic about doing any type of work at the shelter, but here, with SM, maybe it’s the change of atmosphere, or perhaps it’s because they see a specific purpose in their work, but each of them picked up their paintbrush today with determination in their eyes and set to work from start til finish.
They were so full of energy, so full of life, so compelled by their work that it just absolutely astonished me. I had no idea they’d take to this work so readily! We’re only joining SM for two days of work, because unfortunately due to time and monetary constraints, two days is all we could afford, but each of them already knew they wanted to stay until the end of the trip.
I’m really sad we can’t stay and work with SM til the end. I love the process of service trips -- every single aspect of it. I would love for my kids to experience firsthand the awkward experience of meeting new people, but due to a wealth of shared experiences, the transition into becoming a family. I would love for my kids to tangibly see the fruits of their labor, the end result, and can look back and be proud that they were part of something bigger than themselves. I would love for my kids to recognize how truly blessed they really are, despite their situation, and that nothing feels better than making someone else smile.
They’re soaking up every minute of this experience -- I know it. My kids have truly impressed me, and as a big sister, I’m so, so proud of them. Even though we can’t stay til the end of the work camp, just being part of the team for a few days has already left an indelible mark in my kids’ lives. Their eyes are brighter, their smiles are wider, and their hearts are bigger.
I’d really like to thank SM for not only affecting my life so graciously, but also now affecting my kids’ lives. They’re going to bring back their experience and what they learned here and teach the other kids at the shelter. And the spirit of volunteerism, of giving back, of helping others, will hopefully spread. It’s about planting that seed in one person and watching it grow in others. Thanks, SM.
Keep doing what you’re doing.
I’m forever a supporter of SM and just as luck [fate] would have it,I’ll be there for work camp 2011 =]
Volunteers in Asia [VIA] Volunteer
FHF Trung Tâm Baỏ Trợ Trẻ Em Xuân Phú
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