A profound volunteer travel experience

Idaho Senator Brent Hill shares the profound impact a Globe Aware volunteer vacation he took to Vietnam with his sons had on him.

What Vietnam taught me about Idaho

By Sen. Brent Hill | Guest columnist Apr 25, 2019

Vietnam. The very word sent chills down the back of every young man facing possible military draft during the sixties. It summoned to the mind other words like guerrilla warfare, Vietcong, communism, casualties. Over a quarter of a million American families lost a loved one in the Vietnam War. Four times that many Vietnamese were killed.

As a boy growing up in the 1960s, I never expected to visit Vietnam ' at least not for peaceful purposes. But earlier this month, three of our sons and one of my brothers traveled with me to an island in Vietnam.

We were there to conduct service projects in a country still recovering from decades of war. Through an organization called Globe Aware, we spent long days working at a school for deaf children, building a home for an elderly widow, teaching English and other activities. Because Idaho' s legislative session persisted longer than expected, I finally asked Eric Erickson of Rexburg to fill in for me for what I assumed would be the last day or two, so I could keep my other commitment in Vietnam.

Mixing mortar with shovels and laying brick in 95-degree weather with 88 percent humidity was difficult compared to sitting in airconditioned committee meetings at the statehouse. But it was also therapeutic. Surrounded by deaf and hard-of-hearing children longing for attention and starving for affection helped put life' s challenges back into perspective.

Mai McCann is a dedicated nurse from Australia. She works three months each year in Australia so she can spend the other nine months in Hoi An, Vietnam, helping hearing-impaired children. Through her school known as Hearing and Beyond, she teaches 26 students, ages 3-16, with many more on a waiting list ' children who would otherwise remain uneducated, lonely, socially isolated and sometimes abandoned.

In a rundown building with limited facilities, the children are taught social and life skills while learning Vietnamese sign language, reading, writing and math. They are fed modest meals, some of which comes from a small garden behind the school. We spent one day building a chicken coop so they could have eggs and meat for some meals. But the best part came the next day when we unexpectedly showed up with two dozen hens, five hundred pounds of rice and a bag full of small toys and games for the children.

I have enjoyed smiles before ' I have cherished expressions of appreciation ' but none have been more poignant than the smiles of joy and shouts of gratitude from excited children who had so little to be grateful for.

Although most of the work was completed, I felt bad about leaving the legislative session before final adjournment. But the few hours I missed surrounded by skilled colleagues within the walls of the Capitol were surpassed by the days I spent laying brick and constructing a modest chicken coop surrounded by children who could neither hear nor speak, but who effectively communicated life' s most important lessons.

In contrast to what I saw in Hoi An, Idaho' s economy is near the top nationally and our poverty rate is one of the lowest. This is one of the safest places in the world to live. We continue to attract businesses and families wanting to relocate in a state that values education, workforce development, quality of life, freedom and family.

I love this state. And the short time I spent away from Idaho, in a country I grew up despising, not only taught me to cherish the people there but also deepened my love for Idaho. I needed to be reminded again how blessed we are and, for a time at least, I will feel more grateful, smile more often, serve more willingly and love more compassionately.

Brent Hill is the Pro Tem of the Idaho Senate.

Idaho Post Register

Volunteer vacations a growing trend

10 News, Tampa Bay’s and and Sarasota’s CBS station, recently looked at volunteer travel and volunteer vacation trends and their growing popularity.

Volunteering on vacation is a fast-growing trend

You can help others while seeing the world is a new trend!

Author: Jenny Dean
Published: 11:00 AM EDT April 25, 2019
Updated: 11:00 AM EDT April 25, 2019

TAMPA, Fla. ' A vacation often means rest and relaxation, but more and more people are looking at traveling as an opportunity to help others and give back.

“I’ve been up the Amazon River, I’ve been to Vietnam, Romania, Guatemala, Haiti, several places in the United States, Puerto Rico, all over the Caribbean,” said Don Germaise.

Germaise is a familiar face to many in Tampa Bay, but this former TV reporter’s life has changed a bit.

“In the TV business you see the best and the worst the world has to offer, and at some point, it just occurred to me: I just gotta do something to make the world a better place,” he explained.

He now travels the world, volunteering his time to help others.

“Here’s the best part about a volunteer vacation, you’re not stuck at a dumpy hotel doing tours that everyone else does,” Germaise said. “You’re meeting regular people, living with regular people and helping regular people all over the world.”

Travel Writer Joe Miragliotta says that’s exactly why more people are spending time volunteering on vacation.

“Travelers, especially millennials like myself, are becoming more socially conscious when it comes to choosing where they go,” Miragliotta said. “They want to connect with the communities and causes they really care about.”

He recently took some time out of a trip to San Francisco to help out at a local farm.

“Here, volunteers are growing healthy foods for the community, and they give it right back for free; and you know you can tend the vegetable gardens, help clean the orchard — lots of fun activities,” Miragliotta explained.

And, volunteering doesn’t have to take up your entire vacation. You can do it for a few hours or even a few days. It’s all up to you.

For Don, one of the most rewarding parts is the people you meet and lives you touch.

“With a kid…when you do something as simple as giving him or her a pencil when they never had a pencil for school, the look in their eyes is so incredible,” Germaise said. “It’s like they got an iPad for Christmas. It’s the greatest feeling in the world.”

He is currently planning volunteer vacations this year to Costa Rica, Romania and Vietnam. When he’s not traveling, he spends his time volunteering five days a week right here in Tampa.

10 News

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