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This summer I learned that smiles and love through actions speak beyond words. I learned this through my experience volunteering at Thu Duc Youth Village in Vietnam through the Degenhardt Foundation. I, along with my younger sister and brother, spent part of my summer in Vietnam working with children in the orphanage. It was a challenge trying to get past the language barrier but it was challenge that was fun to work through.
During my time at the orphanage I developed a strong relationship with a guy at the orphanage named Dung. He was learning English and could speak it a little. We learned how to communicate through the English he knew and though body language. I worked with him on English through out our stay in Vietnam, and he worked on my Vietnamese. He taught me how to count in Vietnamese and taught me the names of a few common objects. When ever we could not understand each other he would just smile, and I could not help but smile back. We did a lot of activities with each other. We played soccer and badminton several times, and I showed him how to play some American games like basketball. Every time he saw me, he wanted to learn more about basketball. I also got to go to the beach with him and several of the other boys from the orphanage. It was great swimming in the ocean and playing games on the sand with him and the other kids. Through the time I got to spend with him, he taught me a lot about Vietnamese culture and life. He also taught me that happiness is found in the small things of life.
Another great memory I have from the Thu Duc Youth Village was when I got to go out and get flowers for the flower beds in front of the baby nursery and some of the other houses. I really enjoyed picking out the flowers and planting them. The workers in the orphanage were very appreciative constantly motioned to me how much they loved looking at the flowers. The children at the orphanage really liked the flowers too.
I matured a lot through my time at the orphanage. I learned how to be flexible, learning that plans constantly change and that when they do, there is usually a better plan that will unfold. I also learned a lot about leadership since the directors at the orphanage asked us to plan what we would do in our time there. My appreciation for Vietnamese culture has also increased. I learned a lot about life. I saw those around me who had little but smiled a lot. I look forward to the day that I can return and play more basketball with Dung. This experience could not have been possible with out help from the Degenhardt Foundation. It was a blessing to have an organization that assisted so much with the trip.
Thank you Joy, Christy, and Hong,
You guys were very helpful to us. There is no way we could have done it without you guys. Thanks Christy for translating and helping us out at the village. Thank you Hong for making sure things were organized and helping us get anything we needed. Thank you Joy for setting the whole trip up and for the spaghetti dinner you cooked for us. It was very delicious and really hit the spot after having so much Vietnamese food. Thank you again for sacrificing your time for us. We had a great experience and learned so much through the trip.
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Vietnam Photo Journal
by Don Funk