Community Partner since 1994.

volunteering abroad comforts the soul

Jeff started volunteering abroad after a personal loss. His journey of healing lead him to a new journey – as a Team Leader for Global Volunteers. This is Jeff’s story – about how volunteering abroad comforts the soul. 

Jeff admits his story is deeply personal. When he lost his wife to breast cancer, he also lost his sense of direction. Depression filled the void and he knew he had to regain his life’s purpose.  But how?  His compassionate employer recommended a sabbatical. But, Jeff knew that sitting around a pool wouldn’t give him the centering focus he needed.  He sought something more meaningful. So he started looking for an organization that would give him the opportunity to volunteer and work oversees.  He quickly found Global Volunteers online and selected a program teaching conversational English in Italy.  He surrendered himself to the experience, to the challenge, the culture and the gratitude of his students.  In this small southern Italian town, he felt the comfort his soul longed for.

“The experience was everything I had hoped for: rewarding, fulfilling…”

Fifteen years later Jeff yearned to recapture this feeling of optimism and possibility as a volunteer. Knowing Global Volunteers would enable him to keep doing this fulfilling and rewarding work, stay active and travel, he made a call to the organization immediately after he retired.  He was fully committed to throw himself into service programs worldwide. Becoming a volunteer team leader and helping other volunteers to experience the life-transforming experience he had was a strong motivation.  Jeff trained to become a Team Leader and has since led volunteer teams in Italy, Cuba, and Montana, and very soon – Vietnam.  He says he looks forward to every new journey with the same enthusiasm and hope as his first service program.

volunteering abroad comforts the soul

Jeff volunteering with Italian students.

Why Global Volunteers?

Jeff chose Global Volunteers because it allows volunteers to serve abroad for a short period of time (1 to 3 weeks) and not having to commit for many months like other organizations. At the same time, Global Volunteers sends volunteers consistently, so it is not about what one volunteer can accomplish in a couple of weeks, but about the long chain of support volunteer teams provide to the host communities.

What do volunteers gain from a service program abroad?

Volunteers give up a lot, Jeff says: time with their families, time at work, time from regular vacations. But they gain a lot: friendships that they will never loose and the understanding that they have contributed to something of value to struggling communities in developing nations.

volunteering abroad comforts the soul

Jeff with a group of students in Italy.

Imagine all the people

Back in March Jeff was leading a team of 14 women in Cuba. When a local band started playing John Lennon’s Imagine, he realized his team was living just that:

“Living life in peace, sharing all the world, living as one.”

This was what Global Volunteer has been all about: Waging peace and promoting justice in the world.

You are special to me

That same team got to witness something special. On International Women’s day, people in Cuba would go out from their houses and hand flowers to the volunteers as they walked by. When the team arrived at the community garden where they were serving, one of the workers, Adriano, gave roses to the volunteers.

“He spoke a different language, but everyone knew what this meant: “You are special to me, you are important to me.”

Volunteering Abroad Comforts the Soul

A volunteer receives a flower from local Cuban worker.

Do you have what it takes?

Take a look at your skills, at the work you’ve done, and try to match up with the various projects Global Volunteers offers in 17 countries around the world. Your skills might fit a project most appropriately. Take advantage of that.

“You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will live as one”

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Volunteer in Hanoi

Over the past 30+ years, Global Volunteers’ CEO and Co-founder Bud Philbrook has led dozens of Global Volunteers teams. In all his travels across the world, Vietnam sticks as one of his favorite places to volunteer. Why? Read on for Bud’s eight reasons to volunteer in Hanoi!

1. Vietnamese love Americans.

I’ve been to Vietnam numerous times over the past 20 years. The one constant is that the Vietnamese people love Americans. 70% were born after the Vietnam War, and those who are older welcome Americans with open arms.

2. You’re needed!

The Vietnamese know that English is the international language of commerce, technology and opportunity. The country’s goal is to have all instruction, at every school level, taught in English. You can share your native language by tutoring conversational English as a Global Volunteer in Hanoi.

Volunteer in Hanoi and teach English

3. No age limits.

Anyone can serve at Blind Link or VIDS, two of our very engaging community partners.

4. Hanoi is a culturally rich and vibrant city.

Volunteers stay at the Hanoi Legacy, a charming comfortable hotel in the Old Quarter. The food is spectacular, a walk around historic Hoan Kiem Lake is fascinating, and the many and varied museums are iconic.

5. This is not a heavy lift.

Any native English speaker can be a volunteer in Hanoi. We’ll counsel you and provide you a Conversational English Teaching Guide jam-packed with activities, lessons, and step-by-step instructions.

6. Wage peace and promote justice.

You can be an ambassador for your country in the eyes of tomorrow’s leaders through interesting conversations, meaningful interaction, and mutual respect.

Wage peace in Vietnam and volunteer in Hanoi

7. Multiple community partners.

Our community partners direct and monitor volunteers’ contributions of expertise and energy, and work with us to modify and re-define community projects as required to meet their goals. Here are our community partners in Vietnam:

  • Blind Link: a career center for visually impaired young adults. Each volunteer works with two or three adult students who are training for a new career in massage therapy. You can enhance the trajectory of their futures.“Practicing pronunciation with blind students at Blind Link with each student assuming the role of a Massage Therapist speaking with a client was sheer joy.”
  • Vietnam Institute for Development Strategies (VIDS): a government research center focusing on national socio-economic development strategies. VIDS staff are eager to visit with you so they can improve their English! Interesting discussion topics range from Vietnam’s national health policies and privatization of government industries, to economic growth versus environmental protection.
  • Foreign Trade University (FTU): among the leading institutions of higher learning. Volunteers with backgrounds in business, law, trade, etc. deliver lectures in English so FTU students can learn to better hear the English language.
  • Nguyen Binh Khiem School (NBK): a private primary and secondary school for Hanoi’s brightest students. Use games, songs, skits, etc. to help young students improve their vocabulary and conversational abilities.
8. The Vietnamese people you work with will be so grateful.

The people you work with in Vietnam will show you their great appreciation for the help in their English-language learning, which opens up opportunities for them that they would not otherwise have. The opportunity to learn from native English speakers is invaluable in Vietnam.

Click image to read entire thank you note.


Visit our Volunteer in Vietnam page to learn more. Contact us today by email: or phone: 800-407-1074. Or, chat online with a Volunteer Coordinator to get your questions answered right away!

Chat online about volunteering abroad

Expectations Vs. Reality

Expectations Vs. Reality in Vietnam: Fran, a volunteer serving in Vietnam, writes about her expectations and what she actually finds at a day serving with Global Volunteers. 


It is early and I am awake. I want desperately for this day to begin when I will meet and make new friends. In the short time that we  volunteers have been in Hanoi, we have begun to form friendships. We come together from different places with different experiences, but we are becoming friends. Today we shall begin to fashion friendships in our first meeting with young people here in Hanoi. It is exciting, exhilarating, and amazing that we shall be friends. Each new friendship makes this world a better place. So I do want this day to begin.


And so it did. And it was as wonderful as I had anticipated. Practicing pronunciation with blind students at Blind Link with each student assuming the role of a Massage Therapist speaking with a client was sheer joy. Nkuy has the patience of a saint and the sense of humor of a little devil. Together we mastered pronouncing “Therapist” as well as other challenging words, and we had a great time doing just that. The other four students were equally focused and the assistant that worked beside me was a delight.

To provide help, enjoy the students and the assistants, and the process itself, is very rewarding.

Expectations Vs. Reality

Fran teaching conversational English to a young man in Vietnam.

After our lunch, a fellow team member, Jean, and I arrived at VIDS (Viet Nam Institute for Development Strategies) for  the welcome ceremony. The ceremony initiated by the president, Dr. Bui Tat Thang, was most kind and dignified, after which each of the four volunteers met with their assigned small groups. I met with four university educated professional women who have very prestigious positions at VIDS. Their jobs vary: one is the agriculture and education specialist at VIDS, another drafts official documents, and yet another specializes in technology. We shared information about ourselves in English, which we polished as we needed. We then began conversations that were most intellectually stimulating. I am certain that I will learn as much from these amazing women as they will glean from me, as we aim for their goal to speak English more proficiently and to do so with confidence.

Expectations Vs. Reality

Fran teaching and learning at VIDS.

Expectations Vs. Reality

Fran being recognized and thanked by her students in Vietnam.


Peace Lilies

Global Volunteers Vietnam Team Leader Jim Swiderski reflects on Peace in Vietnam, Peace Lilies, and how to make both of these flourish. 

Goooood Mooorrnig Vietnaaam!!! A garden of “Peace Lilies” next to the lake and park in central Hanoi greets my morning walk. It’s hard to capture the rush of emotions I have today as Global Volunteers prepares for our 30th team working with children at the NBK School in central Hanoi.

Yesterday afternoon I had a nice chat with Warren, a good friend, former Colonel in the US Marines and Global Volunteers Vietnam Team Leader. He is now teaching Business English and English Conversation skills at the Foreign Trade University in Hanoi.

Peace Lilies

Global Volunteer Team Leader Warren Williams with some students in Vietnam.

He recalled his recent visit over the Tet holiday with a retired Vietnamese Army Colonel. It turns out they faced each other in battle more than 40 years earlier. They shared a laugh over the fact that both armies believed they won the battle. They shared tears over the comrades and friends they lost on those days. They toasted their new friendship and hope for the future.

The hubris of leaders and blind patriotism on both sides brought so many years of death and destruction. But today, 4 decades later, I can write these reflections, and be interrupted only by young university students practicing their English with an American grandpa sitting on a bench with his iPhone.

The pain of those days seems lost in the mist of history that shrouds the lake this morning. I pray we never repeat such insanity. Peace Lilies celebrate the new camaraderie between nations. Let’s enjoy it, partake in it, and make it flourish.

Peace Lilies

Traffic in Hanoi, Vietnam.

peace lilies

Volunteers Bluma and Laura with her English students at a school in Vietnam.


use your career to make a difference in Vietnam

Tom has volunteered 5 times in Vietnam. Like Tom, you can use your career to make a difference in Vietnam.

The weather today was beautiful — blue skies with a moderately warm temperature. It helped make it another pleasant day in Hanoi.

My friend, travel partner and roommate, Keith, and I got up early and took to the streets for a jog around Hoan Keim Lake. Like many mornings, the activities taking place by the city’s residents spanned quite a spectrum—running, biking, dancing, marching, and more. One must keep his head up and eyes alert to consume the endless parade of energy.

After a quick hotel breakfast and taking a few minutes to check my email, Keith, Sara – another member of the team – and I headed off to Omamori Spa. Today’s ride across town, like the previous two days this week, was filled with amusing quips, light conversation, indelicate comments and lots of laughs. It’s a fun way to begin the day.

The morning duty at Omamori Spa was not what I expected. My top-of-the-class student, Thong (Thom), was missing in action. No problem. My trusted team leader, Pam, has instilled in me that being flexible is a trait of good Global volunteer. I found myself with a new student, Heiu (hee u).

Heiu is 38 years old. He’s a widower who is raising two teenage sons. He is totally without sight, a condition he was born with. He is very new to the Blind-Link program, both in terms of learning massage and conversational English. While Hieu was slow to grasp things, and became a bit frustrated, he did manage to learn a few basic phrases.

While working with Heiu for the first half of the morning was slow, the pace of the second half picked up when Su (shoo) joined us. With two students, my teaching assistant, Tung (tongue), and I could coop each student’s skill level in a game of name that body part. Both students stood facing one another and touched the other’s body part, then pronounced the word in English. “Hen” for head and “leck” for neck were just a couple of terms needing corrections.

use your career to make a difference in Vietnam

Tom helping improve English pronunciation to students in Vietnam.

Tom helping improve English pronunciation to students in Vietnam.

After having lunch at the nearby pizza joint, the tree of us headed over to Dao (zao) Spa for our afternoon assignments. Keith, along with his assistant, headed to the second floor with their two massage therapist students. Sara and I stayed on the first floors with our groups. She worked with some of the spa’s receptionists.

I spent my time working with what I guess I would call a quasi-executive team of three: Trang (trung) is one of the spa’s investors and a person active in daily management. Quang (kwan), the son of one of the founders, seems to be tasked with managing the spa’s receptionists. And another Trang is a marketing consultant and apparently works on the spa’s communications.

We had a lively conversation talking about various aspects of operating a client-centric business. I’d like to think I was able to employ my own business experiences to shed light on issues they expect to face. Our exchange of ideas and questions about managing certain situations was time well spent. You can certainly use your career to make a difference in Vietnam.

use your career to make a difference in Vietnam

Tom with some students in Hanoi, Vietnam.

volunteer in vietnam

Have you ever wonder what would it be like to volunteer in Vietnam? Keith, a 4-times Vietnam volunteer describes a typical day volunteering in Hanoi. 

“I’m not sure what part of my day is most enjoyable.”

It could be my solo run around Hoan Kiem at the break of dawn. Just me along with hundreds of other seniors moving and bending our bodies in robotic, creative or humorous ways. I love to see the badminton duals, no net necessary, just a string.

Then too, I enjoy our three daily taxi rides with my fellow volunteer teammates – Tom and Sara – where we share honest self-disclosure. Nothing is taboo – Sara’s housing history in the East Bay, Tom’s interest in the daily obits and my personal disdain for beta blockers.

There is great enjoyment in our lunches as well. Today’s feast included two lettuce salads (Tom first inspected the kitchen), pizza, BBQ ribs, and spaghetti. As I always say, “when in Rome…..”

Then there is the volunteer effort we are here to provide. Over and over I recite, “please lie down on your stomach and put your face here.” And eventually I recognize the words coming back to me from my earnest students. Ahhhh, the sweet sound of success. See, when you volunteer at Blind-Link, you teach basic conversational English skills to young, visually impaired adults who are in training for professional massage therapy careers.

Nothing too complicated here. Smile, make friends, practice patience and tomorrow do it all over again. It was a very enjoyable day!

Just like Keith, you can volunteer in Vietnam and teach conversational English at Blind-Link, at a university, at a school, or at development research center. Either way, you can have a peaceful day serving others and enjoying a beautiful country and an amazing people.

volunteer in vietnam

Keith with some of his students in Hanoi.

volunteer in vietnam

Keith Teaching conversational English in Vietnam.

Lunar New Year

Jenny Quach is a volunteer coordinator at Global Volunteers. She knows a thing or two about Vietnam. She was born there. Here she shares a little bit about the Lunar New Year.

While January 28, 2017 is just another day for most Americans, on the other side of the world, many Asian countries (China, Taiwan, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Singapore, Korea, Japan, Philippines, Malaysia, and other geographic neighbors) are celebrating the grandest holiday, the Lunar New Year. You might have never heard of it, but for almost half of the world, the Lunar New Year it’s a really big deal.

The Lunar New Year is similar to two of the most popular western holidays, Christmas and the Gregorian New Year, where the holiday celebrates family gathering and rich festive activities. While each Asian country has their unique ways of celebrating the New Year, you will see some common themes and values. For the most part, many people will thoroughly clean their house and work space to symbolize a fresh beginning to the New Year. Many homes and businesses are nicely decorated with the colors red and gold scrolls and paper cut outs as they symbolize luck and wealth.

Lunar New Year

Lunar New Year sign in Vietnam.

Furthermore, every family will purchase abundant food, snacks, fruits and candies to symbolize prosperity. Children also receives lucky money (a small red envelope containing money inside) from their parents, which might remind you of children getting Christmas presents. Lastly, many people will gather to watch the lion and dragon dancing as well as lighting firecrackers to ring in the New Year.

According to the Chinese zodiac, there is a 12-years cycle with one animal corresponding to each year. This year is the turn of the rooster. So this Lunar New Year half of the world will celebrate the Rooster! If you already knew this, you should plan to join the party next year. If you didn’t, you should still plan to join the party next year!

Lunar New Year

The Rooster is the star of the Lunar New Year celebrations in many Asian countries.

Global Volunteer Teaching Projects

Four-time Global Volunteer Connie reflects back on her volunteer teaching projects and experiences from Vietnam, Cuba and Portugal – comparing and contrasting them…

These words “rigid, fluid, and tech” describe three Global Volunteers tutoring experiences in Vietnam, Cuba, and most recently Portugal. “Rigid” curriculum and teaching structure in Vietnam contrasted to the “fluid” evening conversation sessions in Cuba, while “tech” dominated school environments in Portugal. My impression? Technology in teaching is today’s game changer, but face-to-face encounter is the ultimate winner.

“Rigid” Teaching in Vietnam

Imagine the year 2000, the US and Vietnam normalization of diplomatic relations only five years old, and there we were, Global Volunteers in the steamy Mekong Delta. Tutoring in the local hospital and evening language school connected us with eager learners. Structured “rigid” teaching techniques used Australian or British textbooks while repetitious dialogues defined English language acquisition for Vietnamese learners. A student wrote: “… you teach us to speak English. It is better than in tape. When you go back your country, you will remember us and we will remember you very much!”

Vietnam program volunteer Tam remembers: “I enjoyed working with a group of elementary teachers in Cao Lahn. They were very receptive to learning songs and games that would better help their students learn English.” While another member of the team Glen, recently reflected that the Global Volunteers Vietnam experience topped the list of his travel in 50 countries. Why? “Teaching conversational English was unquestionably the most rewarding of any of my trips.”

“Fluid” Teaching in Cuba

Fifteen years after the Vietnam encounter, what a contrast tutoring English in central Cuba! Our team gathered on hot and humid evenings at the church hall, a beehive of learning for generally seventy adults anxious to practice English. In the first session, a curriculum designed for the week quickly evaporated as the insatiable learners blew past the limited objectives. Fluid ‘organic’ discussions evolved as authentic learning worked in both directions, for Cuban learners Patricia, Ariel, his mother Rosa, and for me, the American volunteer tutor.

Volunteer teaching projects in Cuba

A Sancti Spiritus team member Erin said: “How quickly in two weeks things can change. Maybe that is the lesson and the hope for the people we meet and for us as well.  The little exchanges each day have forged genuine bonds.”

“Tech” Teaching in Portugal

Then, a short year later, Portugal became my learning lab…

The times change, the desires change, and who we are and what we trust,

keeps changing with them; the whole world is composed of change’s rhythm,

forever shifting qualities anew.

Luis de Camoes,  (1524 – 1580)  Portugal’s national poet

Could Portugal’s 16th century poet even imagine “change” to mean from parchment and pen to smartboard and thumb drive? “Tech” in Vidigueira Portugal schools would astound Luis. It impressed me.

Volunteer teaching projects in Beja, Portugal

Each classroom in both the elementary school and trades high school equipped with projection equipment offered unlimited conversation opportunities by simply inserting a thumb drive into a classroom computer. Voila! Images from home gave students a view of my world across the Atlantic. Which images elicited what questions ebbed and flowed in each class.  What diverse topics popped up!

Portugal team member Linda said it so well: “How truly profound human connections are and the lasting power it can have…one person encountering so many others in a brief moment can leave an impression of good will, compassion, genuine caring…this was the power of your presence…how truly wonderful it all can be!”

Some Things Never Change…

What an evolution of learning environments over the past sixteen years. But, what hasn’t changed are the learners – young or older, willing learners always anxious for more. Glen, fellow team member in Vietnam said: “Those young people were like sponges in their quest to learn conversational English.”

No matter which country, then or now, the core experience is the basic human desire to communicate face-to-face, maybe acquire some language learning along the way, but more importantly, to communicate by exchanging smiles without ever speaking a word.

Volunteer teaching projects in Vietnam

Volunteer Teaching Projects Worldwide

In addition to Vietnam, Cuba and Portugal teaching projects, we also offer opportunities to teach conversational English in China, the Cook Islands, Costa Rica, Greece, India, Italy, Mexico, Peru, Poland, Romania and Tanzania. Use your native understanding of the language to practice pronunciation, create lively lessons, assist the local English teachers, and excite youth and adult students about learning English. Chat online with a Volunteer Coordinator to learn more!

Chat online about volunteer teaching projects

Vietnam Volunteer Vacation

Enlarge Their Capabilities – And Your Perspective. Service adds meaningful dimensions to life. On a Vietnam volunteer vacation, you not only work with children and adults one-on-one, you expand their role in the country’s future. As a volunteer, you contribute to the country’s long-term development and position in the global marketplace, just by sharing what you already know. As a native English speaker, your language skills are life-changing. Change the world – enhance the lives of children and adults in Hanoi through English instruction. Refer to Vietnam service program dates here.

Global Volunteers’ Vietnam service program offers you…

  • Direct opportunities to help Vietnamese people learn English
  • An immersion into Vietnamese culture and daily life
  • Friendships with Vietnamese students and teachers
  • A genuine experience of both traditional and modern Vietnam
  • Exposure to current and future leaders’ visions for their county
  • Opportunities to visit remarkable historical sights

Vietnam Volunteer Vacation
Powerful people-to-people relationships change the global agenda – sometimes, in just two weeks. English unites the worlds of business and trade, environment, human rights, science, and technology. You help make that happen. No matter if you’re not a professional educator – You’re a unique and valuable resource for students of all ages in Hanoi.

“The Vietnamese people are very grateful for our service. And volunteers are so gratified to be a part of something important and long-lasting – that’s larger than themselves. Everyone benefits many times over.”
~ Pam Cromer, Global Volunteers Vietnam Team Leader

Your service program fee is tax-deductible for US taxpayers and covers lodging, three healthy and delicious meals a day, in-community transportation, emergency medical evacuation insurance, an experienced and talented Global Volunteers team leader, and required project materials.  Your health and safety are our highest priorities in Vietnam. Your secure, full-service Hanoi Legacy Hotel is an airy and quiet oasis in Hanoi’s bustling Old Quarter. Each guest room is double occupancy, with air-conditioning, in-room telephones, private baths with hot and cold water, and cable TV with CNN, BBC and other international channels. Join us now when you can make the greatest impact!

Call for details: 800-487-1074