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Volunteer Uses His Professional Background to Make a Difference 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.

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