This life-changing experience started the moment we stepped foot into the War Museum. The photos and stories of the victims of Agent Orange were both sad and disquieting and we found it hard to believe the brutality and horrors of war. Our “wartime” experience continued with a visit to Cu Chi Tunnels where we learnt how the Vietcong outsmarted their enemies using nature and their sharp wits.
Our visit to Hoa Binh Village was especially poignant. The village is an initiative by the Medical and Scientific Aid for Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia and is a party of the Tu Du Obstetric and Gynaecological Hospital in HCMC. It was founded to house and look after children suffering from the effects of Agent Orange. We met a few of those featured in the War Museum and were heartened to hear about some of their successes despite their medical problems and physical defects as a result of dioxin poisoning. We also spent our time playing and dancing with a number of them. This interaction taught us that with determination and perseverance, we can always better our lives and that of others.
In addition, we spent most of our days in service at Que Huong Centre and Ky Quang Pagoda, which are orphanages. We also visited Thien Phuoc Centre which houses children with learning and physical disabilities due to cerebral palsy.
language differences acted as a barrier for all of us, time spent together erased any initial unease and over the days, we bonded over games, simple lessons and K-pop!
As a treat, we travelled out of HCMC to the Madagui Forest Resort where we had the incredible opportunity to go paintballing and zip-line into the tropical forest. The latter was both a terrifying, yet an exhilarating experience, and some of us even went back for more!
We have learnt a lot on this CAS trip, such as never taking what we have for granted. It was heartening how the young children we met were always grateful to see us and always full of smiles. We believe they taught us more than we did them; this made us realise how lucky we are. We can definitely say that the unforgettable memory of this trip will forever be etched in our minds and our hearts.