My experience of Loving Work in Vietnam is one that has forever changed my life in the best
ways possible! I arrived with a plan to participate in the Loving Work Retreat and the following mobile retreat, but the Universe had other plans for me. Now, three months later, I am still here (though I leave tomorrow).
While working and traveling with our Joyfully Together Sangha, I knew very quickly that I would extend my trip. The connections we made and the projects we worked on inspired me. I really enjoyed getting my hands into the dirt at the local primary school garden. Physical labor felt especially good after four years of university studies (I had graduated just three months earlier.). Our tour of the Hoi An Thanh Dong Organic Vegetable Farm and interactions with the farmers inspired me even more.
The school gardens and the farm are projects of Action for the City, the local NGO that
coordinated much of our Loving Work. When the mobile retreat ended in Hanoi, Trish and I
returned to Hoi An. Soon after settling in at her house, I began to regularly volunteer on the
farm. My hours were 6 AM – 9 AM. The early morning 20-minute bike ride through town was so pleasant, with many curious looks from venders and shopkeepers along the way. Curiosity
quickly changed to broad smiles and an occasional wave and a shouted greeting of “hello”.
Three days each week, the farmers harvest and package their organic produce for delivery by motorbike to various families around the Hoi An area. I have had the honor of learning from these farmers the process of harvesting, cleaning,and packaging the vegetables. It’s hard work, and I have much respect for all the time, effort and pride each farmer puts into his or her section of the farm.
At the beginning of my volunteer assignment, I was introduced to Ms. Ton, whose husband is
deceased. Her sons live out of town. She attends her plot of land alone and has been struggling to make a livable income from her organic produce. Each morning after harvest, I helped her for a couple of hours with weeding, plowing, planting and whatever she needed. Our relationship developed in a comical way. I speak very few words of Vietnamese, and her English consist of “hello” and “ok”. Through much sign language, she has taught me lot about farming and treats me like family. I will miss Ms. Ton.
In addition to my farm duties, I worked two afternoons a week in the Action for the City office. I translated articles, constructed surveys and completed other various tasks, such as working with a group of local volunteers to build a sand house prototype, a dwelling that has the potential to withstand typhoons and floods, both of which are common on the Central coast of Viet Nam.
I will miss the friends I’ve made in this beautiful country. I know that some day, I’ll return.