PLC Armidale is consistently ranked in the top 100 schools this year they earned Number 1 ranking in the New England Region.
“It should come as no surprise that a Christian school values community service.”
What was the purpose of the service learning tour?
The tour was an opportunity for us to volunteer our services in a developing country and also an opportunity for us to learn more about ourselves and others, broadening horizons and perspectives.
“I think that it is so valuable to see different parts of the world and live in a different culture,” Emily Kozera said. “I honestly came back from our excursion with an enriched mind and a broadened perspective. As cheesy as it may sound, I did come back with a new perspective on life.”
Where did you stay?
The most interesting of our accommodation was our homestay experience.
We were paired with a host sister from the Vietnam Australia School (VAS) in Hanoi and spent three nights living with her family in a homestay.
“It was a really challenging experience; it is difficult living with a new family, and the language barrier made it even more complicated. I found it very different to be on my own with my family, as previously we had been in groups.
“I learned to be more independent and resilient and that I can get through almost anything by just taking time to focus and take things step by step. There are so many resources that we have that we are not aware of until we need to draw on them,” said Erinn Jeffery.
What service activities were you involved in?
We built a playground at an orphanage called Birla Children’s Village. We had to clear an area and plan and create a functional space for the children to play.
“The area was an old swimming pool filled with dirt and rubbish,” said Giveny Tombs. “We had to wear khaki clothing to protect us from the heat and the dirt, and boy did we smell afterwards! It was really hard work, and the rewards were beyond our imagination when we saw how much the children enjoyed the result of our toil.”
“One of the highlights for me was the party to open the playground,” said Stephanie Illiffe.
It was delightful to see the children run and sing, and the party bags were a real treat, as they are not something the children would ever have seen before. They put on a concert for us to enjoy, the small children sang and the older girls performed a dance In traditional costume. We spent the day with the children; it was so rewarding to see the enjoyment on the children’s faces as they played on the equipment.”
“I really enjoyed the day of teaching at the Le Quy Don Primary school,” said Emily Kozera. “It was so rewarding to see the smiles that we brought to their faces and to hear their laughter after teaching the Hokey Pokey. We worked in pairs to teach lessons for a day using resources such as stories, picture books and colouring in, along with song and dance activities.”
The lessons were prepared by the girls in consultation with their teachers before the trip.
“We chose singing and dancing activities, as we knew that these are very popular in Vietnam,” said Alinta Merrotsy. “The trip was not like normal tourist travelling, because we were living in the community and helping – we learned so much about the people and the place. We saw ourselves as travellers, not tourists.”
What else did you see on your travels?
We were lucky enough to move out of the hustle and bustle of Hanoi and take an overnight cruise on Ha Long Bay with its thousands of Islands. We travelled on a junk. We observed how people in Vietnam live in a floating fishing village. There was a school, and we watched tiny children row their boats to and from school – very different from how we are used to travelling.
At the end of our trip we spent time unwinding and shopping at a resort in Hoi An. The shopping was very cheap and lots of fun. We learned to cook traditional Vietnamese food from scratch. The best fun was learning how to present the food with amazing garnishes carved from carrots, tomatoes and various other vegetables. “We had no idea the scope of a humble tomato,” said Emma Lockyer. “It was really fun to make these for my family when we arrived home,” she said.
Would you recommend this adventure to others?
Definitely! It was the trip of a life time. We got to learn and experience so much. We made friendships with the Sydney girls, we became so much closer to the Armidale girls and it was amazing to build the playground and play with the orphans. It is important to step out of your comfort zone and experience another culture.
Perhaps the most valuable part of our adventure is knowledge that we have made a difference in the lives of people that we would not otherwise have met and may never meet again. Service is an important skill for life, and this experience will ensure that we continue to set goals for service throughout our lives.
Thank you girls.