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Published: August 6th 2010
Sue & Greg working on a funding proposal
A completely different office environment to my civil service job back in the UK.
"My goal when I came to Vietnam 11 months ago as a self-funded volunteer was to capacity build the local staff working for Lifestart Foundation in Hoi An. I've been truly impressed with the skills that the team here have learnt so quickly, and I've also been involved in lots of things I never knew were part of the job description!
My experience working as In-Country Manager for Lifestart Foundation has really been fantastic - it's been great to be able to contribute to an organization that I can see is really making a difference to peoples lives. I was working back in the UK in the civil service, and was keen to travel but also do something useful with my time. I found the Lifestart Foundation website, liked the focus on self-sufficiency and emailed Karen. After an interview with a previous Lifestart Foundation volunteer in the UK I headed over not really knowing what to expect. The hope was that I would be able to make a little bit of a difference somewhere and also experience life living outside of the UK, and I haven't been disappointed!
I quickly found out what happens when it floods here when
we were hit by typhoon Ketsana. Hoi An emptied of tourists and even some volunteers as the floods hit but I loved the adventure. I was really impressed with how everyone worked together for the clean-up - the Lifestart Foundation volunteers and especially the Vietnamese people who had their shops cleaned up and open a few days after flooding that was up to two metres high.
My focus here has been using my skills to develop sustainable systems and templates that the local staff are able to maintain. I've also been providing computing lessons and in particular helping Phuong (Trainee In-Country Manager) develop her IT and management skills, developing the information available for potential and future volunteers, dealing with inquiries from potential volunteers, updating our website and marketing material, making applications for funding grants, organizing translation of our workshop brochure and more generally supporting Karen in developing the longer term strategy for Lifestart Foundation. Wherever possible I've been training and delegating to our local staff to ensure the sustainability of our projects.
Anyone who knows me from back in the UK knows that I thrive on a challenge, and working here has provided me with many challenges I
would have never expected, which for me is a very good thing. There have been some tough days where I've missed the support of friends back home but these can also be some of the most rewarding moments too. Working with people who come from difficult backgrounds can emotionally be quite tough sometimes - especially when you have to say no or if there is a problem that you can't fix.
Thanks to funding from a generous Australian trust, I've been given the opportunity to come back to work for Lifestart Foundation in Hoi An next year. I hope to be able to develop the work of Lifestart Foundation to allow us to provide opportunities to more and more people." Note from Karen.
How lucky we have been to have Sue on board this past year and what a huge bonus that she has agreed to come back for all of 2011. It has certainly been a luxury for me to have someone so dedicated and capable to be the In Country Manager for Lifestart Foundation in Vietnam. Sue has treated her volunteering no different to full-time employment working 9-5 and some every day. She has strengths
Painting class with Ngung
Although I'm just providing the encouragement - my skills don't really extend into the artistic realm unfortunately for Karen!
in areas that I struggle with ( especially in the IT area ) and has developed programs and added ideas that I didn't know existed. Sue works selflessly, takes on her volunteering role with 100% commitment and simply "gets " what it means to volunteer in the true spirit of the word!
She gets that this is more often than not, exhausting work on all levels, physically and emotionally...but you wouldn't want to swap a minute of it.
She also gets that this is not a walk in the park or an adjunct to a holiday, that we are really focused on changing peoples lives in the most positive way we can........ and for that very reason it is such a fullfilling way to invest your time.......... and I know that she understands that there is not a lot of time ( if any ) for " pats on the back"', it's a roll your sleeves up atmosphere and you just get on with what ever needs to be done at the time and there may not be any one there at the end of it to say thank you or a job well done , but you know
Well earned lunch break
With tiny chairs of course...
that instinctively anyway......
We seem to have complemented each other with our strengths and weakness, so it has been a great experience for me to have worked with someone so supportive and hard working.
Sue is an exceptional young person and those of you who have been fortunate to have met her will no doubt agree.
I am sure this experience will put her in good stead for whatever her future holds. Great things I'm sure!
It is with a huge debt of gratitude that I say THANKYOU to Sue for everything that she has done to develop the Lifestart Foundation Projects and vision, capacity build the local Vietnamese staff, the support that she has given all of those that we are endeavouring to help, the guidance given to our many volunteers , her fundraising and grant application success and her unwavering support of myself.
If you are planning a trip to Vietnam in 2011 make sure you pop into our Workshop and meet this remarkable young person.
If you would like to support Sue, say your own thank you or add your own experience this can be done via our comment section on this blog.
New office at 77 Phan Chu Trinh Street
We've got full size chairs and everything!
Lots of Love from
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