Published: January 24th 2011December 9th 2010
The whole class, except for Mai.
This blog is written by Miss e from Philadelphia USA, one of the very talented volunteers that has traveled to Vietnam to help Lifestart Foundation this year.
Miss e's blog is about her experience as a volunteer with Lifestart Foundation in Hoi An.
We loved having Miss e as part of our team in Vietnam and dearly hope that she will find her way back to us again soon.
On an almost spring day in March of 2010 I took a long plane ride to Vietnam. And for three weeks I became a resident of the small centrally located city of Hoi An. Hoi An is a long way from Philadelphia in every way, physical proximity, culture, pace, weather, you name it. And if you’ve never been to Hoi An it is extremely beautiful, stunning really. It’s friendly, safe, easy to navigate by bike or on foot. There aren’t many cars so its relatively quiet. All you need is a week and you will start to see familiar faces. In fact you will become one yourself.
Like so many beautiful cities, it sits on the coastline right smack in the center of the country. Hoi An won’t
TRANSPORTATION IN HOI AN
My pal Martin, the bike.
really remind you of anywhere else. It’s one of those places uniquely unto itself like Venice, Italy or New Orleans in the states. Hoi An feels small and welcoming in size but its history is vast. Three weeks of course isn’t enough time to learn and explore everything about Hoi An but it definitely was enough time to feel at home.
Besides my normal exploring and meandering in a foreign place, I did actually have a purpose for being in Hoi An. I was to be part of an artist-exchange program between a local art collective here in Philly (noname) Art Group
and a Vietnam based charitable organization Lifestart Foundation
. While working with Lifestart, I had the great fortune of teaching a book-making workshop to a group of six potential new Lifestart members. I am an artist and a bookbinder by trade so the idea of getting to go to Vietnam to teach people to make books was basically a dream come true. I was the first artist sent as part of this residency program to supply Lifestart with new ideas for products that could be adopted by potential new members as well as support
THE CLASSROOM - WORKSPACE
Our beautiful open air classroom.
training the new artists.
The long term goal of the Lifestart Foundation is to set up proven working programmes within a small community to effect a generational change, and that is exactly what they do. They help people find a means to sustain themselves by teaching trades that become viable sources of income. In my case, the book project I was teaching my group would then go on to become products in the Lifestart store in Hoi An. The number and range of people that Lifestart serves is wide and ever growing: young, old, able-bodied, disabled, etc. which is why they are always looking for new products and new artists to come teach new skills.
Ok so now you have all the facts: me, Vietnam, bookbinding, done. The rest is just a taste of why Vietnam rocks on so many levels. Every morning I got to wake up and ride my bike (his name was Martin) a short way to the workshop where I was greeted by the kindest, most enthusiastic students I have ever had. Our group spent the mornings in our open air classroom while the lanterns swayed outside and our neighbor Sinh played music for
Our fabulous co-teacher and translator, the wonderful Ms Sang!
us while we worked.
At lunch we took a break and I went to eat at the yummiest vegetarian place in Hoi An with friends, other volunteers or whomever wanted to come along. After lunch our class would begin again with sewing practice and cutting and folding paper.
My class and I got to spend 6 intensive days together and everyone came out learning to bind the small traditional stab-binding journals. But in the end, two of the new recruits would own that product and the others would be given new tasks to learn like knitting, or painting hats. By the time I was done, we had made lots of books, some good, some not so good, some really great and we had a sweet time doing it. And I know I didn’t know any Vietnamese, but by the end we didn’t need to worry with words so much. They understood me and I totally got them. We had become friends through a common goal.
Below are some pictures of the mighty six plus Sang, my amazing interpreter/co-teacher.
The students of the class were Nhung, Tu, Ly, Nga, Hahn and Mai who isn’t pictured in the
Our class at work.
group shot but he’s so cool I had to include an individual shot of him painting his new products, hats! A great story about Mai can be found here by Karen, MAI - AN ASPIRING ARTIST
The final “owners” of the project were Ly and Nhung! They are now the makers of the books. There are a few pictures of them below as well. See Karen's post on Nhung here, NHUNG'S STORY
If you’d like to read more about the trip, or a day by day account you can visit the blog I kept while I was in Vietnam. There are a series of posts about the entire experience here
. To read in the correct order just keep reading forward (hit next post and so on and so on)!
I hope that you enjoy reading about the wonderful individuals who volunteer to help Lifestart Foundation.
They are special people who give of themselves so generously and we are all the better for their expertise, help and support.
Volunteers seldom get the thanks that they deserve however I would like to sincerely thank all of the wonderful volunteers that have given of themselves selflessly and helped Lifestart Foundation to develop into
GOOD FORTUNE JOURNAL
A completed set of journals!
the organization that it is today.
Read more about the Lifestart Workshop: LIFESTART FOUNDATION WORKSHOP
Lots of Love from Karen
Enjoying the blogs?? Forward them on or subscribe those who you think would be interested in Lifestart Foundations work.......its free!
Visit us at:
LIFESTART FOUNDATION WORKSHOP
77 Phan Chu Trinh Street,
Read lots more about some of our wonderful volunteers here and the many various ways that they contribute. LIFESTART VOLUNTEERS THE ROYAL AUSTRALIAN NAVY GREAT WORK BY NEW VOLUNTEERS SHERRY - A DREAM VOLUNTEER TEACHING ENGLISH AS A SECOND LANGUAGE DOCTOR JOHN SUE - A BRILLIANT VOLUNTEER CYCLING VIETNAM FOR LIFESTART FOUNDATION BIRDMAN BEAUTY CLASS AND OTHER THINGS DENTAL DAY ART CLASS WITH SARAH VOLUNTEERING DURING THE TYPHOON MEMORY PORTRAITS
There are more photos below