From 02 – 04 February 2018, Vietnam Track (08 participants) was glad to join the voluntary trip to Ca Mau with Tuổi Xanh Club (Hoa Sen University.) This is the article of one participant sharing his views on the trip – Stefen Lotz from South Africa.
According to a litany of sayings, it is evident that the future of a country is determined by the potential of its youth. If the past weekend trip with the Tuổi Xanh Club (Green Age Club) of Hoa Sen University is anything to go by, I would say Vietnam is in excellent hands. This dynamic group of both students and young working professionals orchestrated a very successful weekend trip to Đất Mũi at the southernmost point of Vietnam.
In broad outlines the itinerary was simple: charter a bus from Ho Chi Minh City to Đất Mũi, participate in some activities with the community kids, sleep over at the Coast Guard station and come back; all part of Xuân Biên Giới – an event that brings the Spring warmth to soldiers and border inhabitants. In reality it turned out to be a much more complex affair. The bus trip had to be managed in terms of meals and rest stops, ferries had to be organized, locals and government officials had to be placated, an army of 45 volunteers had to be assigned tasks and managed and even shower facilities had to be arranged in a community where a bathroom is a luxury.
The spartan setting itself is conducive to good character building. Đất Mũi is a small fishing village perched on wooden stilts on the fringes of the canals of the Mekong river. Here, in the last throes of its long meander from Lasagongma Spring on the plateau of Tibet, the river continues to provide in abundance. Life is simple. The houses are small wooden frame constructs with corrugated iron cladding built on top of the water. Boats of various sizes, put-put up and down the canals on their way to ply their trade, haul in the last catch or collect the new harvest of tropical fruits. About the whole of Cà Mau province is covered in swamp land and mangroves, ideal for the cultivation of shrimp and crab. And of course, heaven for mosquitoes.
Thanks to good planning, the student leaders managed to pull off a very successful outing. Everybody jumped in to help with the tasks, never complained and participated with real energy and passion. Everyone I met were friendly and helpful. I talked to various current and future HR professionals, digital wonder-kids, engineers, international relations students and future leaders with informed opinions and smart ideas; each of them with enough confidence and willpower to take Vietnam forward on the global stage.
The school kids who benefited from this wealth of goodwill were delighted to be rewarded with sweet treats and gifts. In return, the higher grades entertained the community with dance performances and the local authorities praised the students for their help.
The evening was reserved for a campfire, dinner and drinking with the soldiers at the Coast Guard Station nearby. For this, our small contingent of foreign participants retired to a nearby hotel, as entrance entailed strict security clearance. We instead feasted on a selection of crab, oyster, fish and clam dishes, washed down with ample amounts of Tiger.
The next day we took a stroll through Năm Căn market before embarking on the long bus ride home. Clearly less hangover than the students who joined the solders, we could leisurely contemplate the vast expanse of swamp that surrounded us, before nodding off into a rickety sleep.