Have you ever experienced living near a jungle in a traditional village, but with up-to-date information?
Huang Liang, 22, is currently in her second year at the National University of Singapore studying Quantitative Finance. She went to Vietnam in Winter 2017 for her Global Volunteer Programme and spent Christmas, the New Year, as well as her 22nd birthday there. For Huang Liang, her motivation to go to Vietnam came from her background as a history student. She often wondered how it is like living in a South-East Asian country beyond what she studied in textbooks. Wikipedia and others’ experiences can only go so far, and Huang Liang wanted a first-hand experience.
The focus her project was to teach English to minority Vietnamese children. The children’s passion for learning impressed Huang Liang, as despite not having an education system or even a proper classroom for them to receive knowledge, they eagerly sat down to listen to her classes. They were infinitely curious to learn about how the outside world works, and how English is different from their own language.
Huang Liang’s 6-week volunteering trip was in a jungle that used to be home to both the Ma and Stieng ethnic minorities. Later on, the government moved the minorities out of the jungle for conservation purposes. Now, the villagers are involved in other activities to sustain their lifestyles out of the jungle, though they still visit the jungle regularly to forage for herbs, woods and fruits. As such, the hope is that through this Global Volunteer project, the children will learn English and hopefully have a career in eco-tourism, as their skills and knowledge of the jungle could be useful for them to be tour guides, other hospitality sectors, or protecting the jungle.
Other than the impact brought to the villagers, Global Volunteer also had an impact on Huang Liang, the volunteer herself. Prior to her volunteering experience, Huang Liang followed the majority and did not voice out her thoughts. After her trip, Huang Liang has become more independent and is now confident in making her own decisions as well as helping others. She initiates more, and tries to venture into the unknown every so often. Besides that, Huang Liang’s Global Volunteer trio also allowed her to meet exchange participants from all over her world, which made her more interested in hearing different perspectives and stories of others. Upon reflection, she feels that she is now more willing to accept differences in people, realising that people may not understand each other due to different mindsets and upbringings. She is also more understanding of how people can come from vastly different backgrounds.
Seeing the impact Global Volunteer has brought to her and the children in the village, Huang Liang is now more involved in and committed to social causes to give back to the community, trying to come up with innovative ways to contribute. She has also realised how AIESEC gives youth a platform to develop through cross-cultural experiences and making youth more tolerant and understanding to differences. Now, Huang Liang is Vice-President in Brand & Marketing in AIESEC in NUS, firmly believing in AIESEC’s mission to impact the youth of the world.