A series from my 16-day part-holiday, part-volunteering trip with Project Give Pray Love (PGPL) to Vietnam. Founded by my lecturer and her mom, PGPL collects donation from Singapore and distributes them to the needy villagers. We stayed in S$15/night room reminisce of the 1960s Singapore, ate cheap and very nice local food, crossed a Monkey Bridge (you'll see), witnessed poverty both in the village and in the city.
It is not that the villagers are not working. Some of them weave and sell baskets but most work in the rice fields. A large number of the families we visited have one or two disabled members. Having one less body to work and more mouths to feed contributed to their poverty.
The best bit of the holiday part is the company. I got to tag along my lecturer and her mom to visit their hairdresser (who shifted his salon from Ho Chi Minh City to the provincial city, Long Xuyên due to higher standard of living in HCMC). We talked about our school days, traveling, ideas, politics, making our new Vietnamese friends guess our age and..being matchmade.
I have been asked, 'Do you feel good after this volunteering trip?' I already thought of this before my trip and now that I am back, I can confirm my initial thoughts. I do not feel any pleasure. The only certain feeling is perhaps the slight relief that these villagers who received our aid will have a short respite from their situation. Every click of the shutter I made during the volunteering period brings a new wave of guilt and indescribable helplessness.
I take slight comfort in the words of war photographer Larry Burrows, '...and so often I wonder whether it is my right to capitalise, as I feel, so often, on the grief of others. But then I justify, in my own particular thoughts, by feeling that I can contribute a little to the understanding of what others are going through; then there is a reason for doing it.'
Detailed write-up coming soon.