Twenty-five employees and guests from Armanino LLP, a top 25 US accounting and consulting firm, joined Global Volunteers co-founder Michele Gran serving in Hanoi, Vietnam as the first team back since the beginning of the pandemic. Having been under Covid-19 restrictions for a long time, Vietnam is still recovering from the pandemic. On that matter, our community partner longs for the return of volunteers to offer their services. Two enthusiastic groups served at three work sites to help improve local people’s understanding and use of the English language.
Six volunteers from each group taught financial literacy in English to classes of 20-25 college students at the Foreign Trade University (FTU). Using their professional experience, the young professionals explained the best practices of conducting a financial audit, instructed students how to use English contract terms in international agreements, and spoke about their firsthand experiences choosing a career and starting businesses. Volunteers were delighted to discuss the student’s ideas and questions about class assignments. As the discussions flowed, the students were keen to learn about the volunteers’ lives, experiences, and culture. Volunteers optimized their service at the university shifting assignments among themselves according to their interests and specialties. As teachers learned their capabilities, more assignments were added to their schedules.
They also took turns teaching Advanced Speaking & Listening. While the volunteer teachers referred to a class syllabus, the lessons were free-form; again, capitalizing on volunteers’ strengths. Cecilia Lin shared that she took the opportunity to “pass down what I learned from the Toastmasters Club and public speaking to these students.” Being supported by a public speaking aficionado, students were introduced to the concept of an “Elevator Pitch” and how to make successful small talk as part of their advanced speaking lessons.
In addition, Professor Phuc engaged the volunteers in correcting English class papers between the morning and afternoon classes. This in turn created a personal connection between the volunteers and professors, who discovered they have much in common. The professors reported that they valued the volunteers’ input both in and outside of class.
“I was pretty much in awe for most of the day. It’s such a surreal experience to be in a different country doing what I love most, which is volunteering. The whole time during orientation, all I could think about was how lucky I am to be here at this moment having this fantastic experience.”-Bernard Tabing, Armanino volunteer at FTU
At the Vietnam Institute of Development Strategies (VIDS), the government planning agency, two volunteers from each group observed young professionals conduct presentations in English and coached them on improving their writing and English-speaking skills. In the mornings, the classes mainly included English speaking exercises, reading texts, and discussing business and finance topics. Volunteers, eager to learn about the local culture and traditions, assigned the students to prepare presentations on the history and traditions of Vietnam. Thanks to this creative idea, students practiced their presentation and English skills while answering questions about their homeland.
When Dr. Nguyet Nguyen learned that volunteer Eric Spiegel’s brother, Don, a Ph.D. Economist and professor in the United States specialized in the same research areas as Dr. Nguyen, and he was thrilled. Don offered his assistance by email and, within a day, provided additional research on two crucial points. Eric worked for a week alongside Dr. Nguyen on grammar and composition for his 42-page economics research report.
“I feel that I have learned so much in so little time and grown so much. I have to appreciate mainly the students because they made it so enjoyable. I can definitely repeat this experience.”-Darien Camacho, volunteer at VIDS
The rest of the team served at Blind-Link, an innovative nonprofit social enterprise that operates spas in Hanoi employing visually impaired people from rural impoverished communities. Ms. Huong Nguyen, the owner and manager of Blind-Link, invited Global Volunteers to help her staff, who are in training to become professional massage therapists, develop their basic conversational English skills. Armanino volunteers practiced English pronunciation with the massage therapists and demonstrated how to improve their customer relations skills. Volunteers also provided a workshop on financial literacy. Volunteers Michelle Fagella and Rene Siegel offered their marketing expertise to help position the spa competitively while teaching conversational English to newly employed massage therapists.Volunteers worked exclusively on English pronunciation at the Old Town spa location with the receptionist and students. Huong prepared lessons daily for the volunteers and students to work on together.
Volunteers enjoyed immensely bun cha, banh tom -a fried doughy shrimp cracker, and other tasteful Vietnamese dishes. Cecilia Lin also commented on being surprised to have her favorite fruit-dragon fruit and Vietnamese black coffee for breakfast. At the end of each week, Global Volunteers team members from the first and second teams held a dinner at Thuy Ta – a restaurant on the iconic Hoan Kiem Lake in the Old Quarter, which was well-attended by community partners from all three work sites.
One Armanino employee reflected, “New friendships and cultural perspectives abound. Our full hearts grow even larger each day.” Another volunteer said to his Armanino colleagues, “I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything in the world. I never expected to ever interact with all of you.” This is precisely what a Global Volunteers corporate partnership collaboration offers: employees from around the globe meet each other in person, participate in meaningful and effective team-building activities, learn about another culture, and provide meaningful service to local people.
New lodging at the modern L’Heritage hotel, located within the Old Quarter
Volunteer in Vietnam as an individual or with companions during four service programs in 2023. One- and two-week programs begin on February 25, March 11, September 16, and November 11, 2023. Enjoy the splendor of Hanoi and the warmth of the Vietnamese people. And when you volunteer, bring a friend.