can you help?
you can do?
- Assist the local staff at the food shop, setting up the tables and serving meals to underprivileged local people
- Prepare the food and help with the serving of food and the washing up/ cleaning up of the kitchen
- Talk to the locals who come to the project, and put a smile on their faces!
Why Involvement Volunteers International?
PROJECT NAME: NUTRITION SUPPORT
LOCATION: HO CHI MINH, VIETNAM
START DATES: WEEKLY (SAT/SUN ARRIVALS)
ACCOMMODATION: VOLUNTEER HOUSE (SHARED ROOMS)
MIN DURATION: ONE WEEK
MIN AGE: 16+
SPECIAL REQUIREMENTS: N/A
PROJECT COSTS: From US$290 + APPLICATION FEE
You will be volunteering at The Smile Food Shop, which was opened to help less privileged people by providing low cost lunches for only 2000 VND per meal (about 10 cents). Founded in 2012, The Smile Food shop is run by a local NGO, as well as passionate locals and overseas volunteers, like yourself!
Your daily duties may include food preparation, serving and cleaning up, as well as putting a smile on the faces of the people who greatly value this service.
During the project you will help to prepare lunches, serving the meals to around 500 people- mostly the elderly, local workers, persons with disabilities, students and children. These people come here for affordable and quality meals each day.
This project can be at times challenging and tiring but always engaging. Knowing you are giving back to people who genuinely need and welcome your help is a greatly rewarding experience.
The Food Shop program continues to run even when the NGO run facility is closed (including a month long closure around the Tet Holiday). During those periods, Food Shop volunteers will prepare food on-site at our accommodation kitchen and the free meals will be distributed at a local hospital to patients and local workers.
Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) is home to some 6 million people, most of whom you will see at some point during your stay as they whiz around town on their motorbikes. The city’s Tan Son Nhat Airport lies 7km north west of the city centre and is the most popular arrival point in Vietnam for international travellers. As well as long haul arrivals there are many flights to HCMC from within Asia, especially from Bangkok and Hong Kong.
- Help to generate funds so that the local people can continue to be provided with quality, healthy food at low costs
- Gain practical experience in the kitchen and in food preparation
- Assist the local staff at the food shop, serving meals to underprivileged local people
Food & Accommodation
All accommodation and meals are included in the cost of the programs. All volunteers are expected to be environmentally aware and to use all resources with restraint, especially water, paper and electricity. You will be expected to clean up after yourself, and to play your part to keep the accommodation neat and organized.
In Ho Chi Minh City, the accommodation is in a volunteer centre which is located on a college campus. You will share the rooms with fellow participants, but be in close proximity with local students. This allows a really nice cultural exchange and bonding. Rooms are dorm-style with 4-6 people per room. Rooms are well equipped with air conditioning, and fans and good sized single gender bathrooms, clean and functional. Internet access is available at the accommodation and there are various internet cafe’s nearby.
3 good meals are provided every weekday during your project, with 2 meals on the weekends (breakfast & dinner). Bottled water is easily available in Vietnam and volunteers should budget approx US$1 per day. There is also filtered water available at the campus.
You will be eating local Vietnamese dishes, with predominantly rice at most meals. The Vietnamese cuisine is known for its fresh flavours, soups and stir-fries. There may also be some western dishes such as spaghetti and sandwiches.
If you have a caring and patient nature and don’t mind a bit of hard work, then this projects for you! This is a rewarding project where you can really get to know the local people and make a real difference.
- 3 meals p/day weekdays / 2 meals p/day weekends
- Arrival airport transfer (Sat/Sun arrivals)
- Filtered drinking water, coffee & tea
- 1 day orientation
- Daily transportation to project
- In country 24/7 support & emergency assistance
- Fundraising support
- University course credits (where applicable)
- Certificate of Completion
- Travel Insurance
- Tours, Souvenirs & spending money
In Ho Chi Minh, volunteers are encouraged to take up the 1 week introduction to Vietnam to ease you into the lifestyle and get to know the city and it’s facilities and everything required to make your stay comfortable. These start on every 1st and 3rd Monday of every month. You may choose after the first few days to move straight into your chosen volunteer placement.
If you prefer to move straight into your volunteer without the orientation week, you’ll still have plenty of support. When you first arrive you may have to spend one or two days with the program coordinator aligning you strengths and interests within your chosen program. From there, you will need to ensure you are taking into account factors such as local customs, business practices and resources available and to keep an open and positive mind.
A free arrival airport transfer is provided only on the Saturday and Sunday before your program begins. A transfer coordinator will meet you at the airport upon your arrival and arrange your transfer from the airport. He will be awaiting you at the arrival section with you name. From here he will take you to your accommodation.
Volunteers arriving before the weekend or by land, are required to meet at our meeting point. All this information will be provided in the program pack prior to departure.
Monday to Friday
- Leave for the food shop project
- Assist in the preparation of food, work in the kitchen, cleaning the area and serving food, etc.
- Lunch at the food shop
- Head back to the accommodation
- Free time during the afternoon
***This program is relocated during periods/holidays when the NGO facility is closed and meals prepared by participants are then distributed at a local hospital***
The volunteer working week is generally Monday to Friday from 9:00am – 4:00pm with weekends free to relax and explore your local surrounds. Our ground operators will help you organize additional trips with special (non tourist) rates which can be paid directly in local currency.
Within Ho Chi Minh City…
As a large city, Ho Chi Minh has a lot to offer from shops to Vietnamese water puppet shows. Here are a few suggestions:
Bui Vien Street is the main street in Ho Chi Minh City, also called ‘backpacker street’. There are many cheap restaurants, bars, souvenir shops, massage parlours, markets, tour agencies and hotels/hostels. This is a great place for tourists to shop, dine, entertainment and to party!
Landmark 81 is the tallest skyscraper in Southeast Asia. It towers over the rest of Ho Chi Minh’s buildings and has incredible views form the top. Not only that, it also has an ice rink, virtual reality game, restaurant and shops!
Another place to go for a great view of the city. There is an observation deck (Saigon Skydeck) open daily and offering panoramic views of Ho Chi Minh City. From floors 50 to 52, there are more entertainment facilities, including a fine dining restaurant and bar/nightclub.
Dam Sen cultural park and Water Park
Fun for adults as well as kids, this water park is guaranteed to get you smiling! Plus, it also has some lovely gardens to walk around too. There’s animals, musical shows and restaurants too, making it a fun day trip.
Thien Hau temple
Thien Hau Temple is a beautiful Chinese temple, situated in district 5 of Ho Chi Minh city. It is dedicated to Thien Hau, (also named the Lady of the Sea). Inside there are many intricate carvings, statues and paintings, a very pretty and atmospheric place to visit.
Vietnam Quoc Tu pagoda
The Quoc Tu Pagoda is located in District 10 of Ho Chi Minh City, and is another interesting temple to explore, with its lovely incense smells, colourful statues, murals and shrines. It’s one of the tallest pagodas in the city with 7 floors. Usually only the first and second floors are open, but they open up the third and seventh floor to visitors every 15th of the month.
A couple of hours out from the city is ‘Monkey Island’, also known as Can Gio Island. This huge 80,000 hectare nature reserve contains mangrove trees, water coconut forests, and yes- monkeys! Hundreds of them live wild here and they will be sure to say hello to you- just be sure not to bring food with you, they are pesky little creatures!
Ba Den mountain (The black virgin mountain)
The Ba Den Mountain trail takes you through lush jungle, mountain streams and caves, before reaching its rugged top. You can also take a cable car up to the top to see some wonderful views from above, sometimes from above the clouds!
Outside of Ho Chi Minh…
The Mekong Delta River consists of swamps, islands, Khmer temples and the local floating markets. There are many small villages situated along the river front. It takes 2-4 hours by bus from Ho Chi Minh. Float on a traditional boat, through the jungle, swamps and floating markets to get a real feel for the way of life here.
Vung Tau beach
If you fancy a beach trip, only a couple of hours from the city is Vung Tau beach. There are 4 beaches in this town but try Pineapple beach for calm waters, which are great for swimming and getting away from the more crowded Front beach. There is also a culture and ecotourism park here which has rides and other outdoor activities to have a go at.
Mui Ne beach
Taking around 5 hours by bus or 4 hours by train (from Ho Chi Minh), this is a long sandy beach, lined with palm trees. There are many restaurants, shopping venues and luxurious resorts along the seafront, as well as a fishing village (great for photographers). It’s also a popular place to kitesurf.
Located high in the mountains, Da Lat is pleasantly much cooler and is surrounded by hills, pine forests, lakes and waterfalls. Close to the town is Datanla Falls, where you can walk to see a pretty waterfall (for the adventurous you can try water abseiling). You can also visit Elephant Falls, go tobogganing or just enjoy the beautiful jungle scenery.
Nha Trang is a busy beach resort with a great nightlife, located along the South-central coast of Vietnam. There is a long stretch of white sand and palm tree lined beach, as well as many island hopping tours to gorgeous islands. This is a great place to go and enjoy some nightlife.
Hoi An, along the Centre of Vietnam’s coastline, is a very pretty town, known for its lanterns and its Japanese covered bridge. Although popular with tourists, the town still feels very authentic. There are many French architectural buildings, markets, nearby beaches and colourful lantern stalls to explore. This lively town also has a very relaxed and romantic vibe.
Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park
A UNESCO Heritage Site in central Vietnam, Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park hosts the largest cave in the world (Son Doong). There are also many other stunning caves to explore, on top of lush jungle, mountains, lakes and native wildlife. This is an adventure lover’s paradise, with the views you can get here being absolutely stunning.
Hue Ancient city
There are plenty of things to do in beautiful Hue, central Vietnam. This is a great place to explore temples, as there are many around. A Visit to the Tombs of the Ancient Emperors will take you around 19th and 20th century tombs, statues and carvings, with stunning backdrops of the countryside. Other popular places to visit are the Citadel, the Imperial City and the To Mieu Temple complex, all colourful and intricate temples.
Hanoi (Capital City)
Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam, has a rich culture and is known for its Southeast Asian, Chinese and French influence, as well as it’s antient architecture. Located in the North of Vietnam, you can explore the old quarter, watch a traditional water puppet show, wander through the maze of streets or visit some of the many museums.
Easily done as a day trip from Hanoi, Halong Bay is known for its emerald green waters and giant limestone imposing cliffs. Hire out a traditional junk boat and cruise through the beautiful scenery. Or hire a kayak and explore the many different and colourful caves as you go!
Sapa is a stunningly beautiful part of Vietnam, popular with trekkers. For miles you will see green rolling hills, mountains and rice paddies. Explore this beautiful area, stopping in the small villages as you go for an authentic experience. You can reach Sapa by an overnight train from Hanoi, taking 8 hours (or 6 hours by direct bus).
Ninh Binh’s surrounding countryside is absolutely stunning and a great place for those who love the outdoors. Take a trip to Tam Coc, which is similar to Halong Bay. Drift through big limestone cliffs and bright yellow and green rice paddies. There are many things to do in this area from the Mua Cave, Bich Dong Pagoda, Bai Dinh Temple, a nature reserve and boat trips.
There are no further requirements for this program.
Vietnam’s history is one of war, colonization and rebellion. Less than forty years since the savagery and slaughter of the American War, this resilient nation is buoyant with hope. Few countries have changed so much over such a short time as Vietnam. The speed with which Vietnam’s population has been able to put the bitter events of its recent past behind it, and focus its gaze on the booming future is incredible.
However, there are broad regional variations in the distribution of poverty. The regions with the highest relative poverty rates include the north-west, north-central, central highlands, central coast and north-east. But in terms of absolute numbers, more poor people live in the north-central and north-east regions, in the Mekong Delta and central coastal regions, which are home to seven out of 10 of Vietnam’s poor people.
Volunteers have the opportunity to work in medical institutions caring for children and young people affected by Agent Orange, or in schools and community clinics looking after mentally disabled children. Volunteer work is varied and dependent on the institution where the volunteer is placed.
The weather in Vietnam can vary form North to South, with tropical and temperate climates. March to April is one of the best times overall, to visit the whole country, although Vietnam is a year-round destination.
June to August are the summer months and very hot and humid in Northern Vietnam, whereas this region experiences cold winters (as low as 4 degrees). Southern Vietnam is generally pleasant year-round but does have a rainy season from June to November. February to August is the best time to visit central Vietnam, as it gets hit with heavy rains in the wet season.
Vietnam has one of the oldest cultures in South East Asia, creating a rich history with ancient traditions dating back thousands of years. It also has a large Chinese influence. Elders are very well respected in Vietnamese culture, the older you are, the more respect is shown to you. ‘Saving face’ is a concept shown by most Vietnamese people and is thought of as extremely important in their culture. This means that if you feel angered or annoyed by someone, you do not show it and remain respectful. If you lose your temper/ are rude, then this is seen as losing face and therefore a loss of reputation and self-respect.
Vietnamese is the most widely spoken language, other languages include Chinese, Khmer, Cham and tribal dialects. Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism are the main religious beliefs in Vietnam, and you will find many temples dotted around the country. You will often see the local people giving fruits and burning incense to give as offerings.
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