Twenty students and two staff from Residential College 4 travelled to Thanh Loc Commune, located in Cai Lay District of Tien Giang Province, in the Mekong Delta region of Vietnam, as part of an overseas community service trip, named Project Orca, from 9 to 17 December.
The Project Orca team spent six days at Thanh Loc Secondary School, conducting a series of games and systems thinking workshops for 600 students at the school. These were designed in response to a request the team had received from the principal of the school for activities to help improve her students’ cognitive skills, as well as mitigate the dropout rate. These games and workshops consisted of activities that aimed to empower the youths with critical and creative thinking skills as well as motivate them in their studies, and they were well-received by the students there.
Project Orca also visited two more schools — Thanh Loc Primary Schools I and II — and presented teachers there with books to improve their students’ literacy in English. The NUS team also introduced the Vietnamese students to various games, such as Captain’s Ball, that the students had not encountered before.
Additionally, the NUS students took part in cultural exchange activities where they performed both Vietnamese and English songs and dances in the commune’s annual schools concert, as well as enjoyed an afternoon of games with the Vietnamese Youth Association. Accompanied by the leaders of the commune, they also visited the victims of Agent Orange.
Lim Xin Ying, Year 2 Arts student and co-project director of Project Orca, shared that one of the key takeaways from the trip was learning that cultural sensitivity prepares them to be global citizens. At the same time, the team also acknowledges that instilling cultural sensitivity requires time and effort.
“We also learnt that despite language barriers, our workshops on systems thinking could be successful when a connection was established with the Vietnamese students through respect and sincerity,” she added.
“We were deeply touched by the enthusiasm that students from Thanh Loc Commune displayed for learning,” said Fazrina Salauddin, Year 2 Science student and co-project director of the Project. The NUS students were inspired by this attitude, and it spurred them to think about and reflect on their own perspectives on education.
Both project directors hope that this overseas experience has ignited and deepened passion and commitment in the participants for community service.