Valencia Harminton only stayed in Vietnam for a few weeks last month but she said the short visit has forever changed how she sees the world.
“The overall trip was amazing. I really enjoyed it,” said the 18-year-old student from Te Kauwhata College in New Zealand. “I learned how privileged we are to live in New Zealand and how different countries are. Definitely an eye opener to life!”
Harminton was among a group of New Zealand students who joined a trip to Vietnam organized by Green Summers, which runs community service projects along the Mekong River for international students.
Nguyen Thanh Long, who led the trip, said the students visited Sa Pa, Hue, Da Nang and Ho Chi Minh City’s Cu Chi Tunnel.
“But what impressed them most was their stay in the Mekong Delta province of Ben Tre and their toilet project for a local primary school,” he said.
The group of eight students and one teacher stayed at a cottage, near the house of a Vietnamese veteran. His family helped prepare nice and simple meals for the foreign guests.
After breakfast, they would ride bicycles for a short distance to a local primary school where they helped build new toilets for around 180 children at a primary school.
Rachael Hartley, a student who had worked at a pharmacy for a year to cover this trip’s expenses, said she learnt a lot.
“It was very hot and tiring but at the end of the day I always felt I had done something good,” she said.
The group also spent time getting to know the neighborhood and play with the local children.
Tayla Moorfield said her family was very happy for what she has experienced with Vietnamese culture.
“I think our work was great for the school community… I learned to appreciate my own country and realized how lucky we are living in New Zealand.
“And I learned the world is a very beautiful place and I have to see more of it and I also learned you don’t need to speak the same language to have fun and communicate with the kids.
“I loved the trip and Vietnam and I can’t wait to come back and explore and see more and to explore the rest of the world and do more projects,” the student said.