Henry Mariotti wrote this update from Hoi An:
Up until we arrived in Hoi An, our trip to Vietnam had been moving at a rapid pace. We welcomed the opportunity to stay in a beautiful homestay in the comfortable city of Hoi An. This past week has been time well spent, resulting in a productive, rewarding week.Before arriving in Hoi An, a city situated on a river along the central coast of Vietnam, Explorations Academy made contact with Children’s Hope in Action (CHIA). This NGO was founded by an Australian woman who came to Hoi An and saw a lack of services for disadvantaged children. Today they are focused on providing services connected to health, education, disability, and housing. We walked to CHIA’s offices on our first day and met our advisor from the organization, Dung. She introduced us to the organization and shortly thereafter, went with us to a local school where they asked us to paint the fence in front of the school as part of their preparations for Tet. CHIA sponsors several students at this school (editor’s note: Vietnamese public schools still have steep fees associated with them. At this school, it costs over $500 per year to cover tuition, books, and uniforms). It was a big project, but nothing that 10 students and 3 teachers could not accomplish. The first two days were dedicated to scraping off the old flaking paint. That might not sound very interesting, but have you ever scraped paint with 10 students who are over the moon about being in Vietnam? There was never a dull moment. Laughter was a constant, and smiles were in abundance. Our time was made even more fun by the fact that nobody ever got hungry or thirsty. Dung stopped by regularly to keep us hydrated, and we never had to go far for some of the best food one could desire. When day three rolled around we were done scraping and ready to get painting. Once our group started painting I could tell by the look on the Vietnamese students faces that they really appreciated what we were doing. At every opportunity, teachers and students would express their gratitude through high fives, compliments and offers to help. Even the principal who was set to retire in less than a week joined us in a silk dress and high heels to help in the painting.