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Heart in Hand Volunteers learn true service among tribal peoples

By Mr. John Ngoc Son
Heart in Hand (HIH) volunteer

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, 29 November 2019 -- I’m Ngoc Son, 24 years old. The impression that how friendly and forward the Salesians are, attracts me a lot! These impressions developed my relationship with Don Bosco until now. And the Salesian missionary somehow effects my lifestyle. As a young Catholic, I realise my responsibility in society especially for peers who lack good life conditions. This is the reason that urges me to embark on the voluntary journey. I had served at the remote village – Ban Toong in Lao Cai Province with extremely difficult economy because most of that area is mountains. The road from the town to this village seems a venture ride, one side is the cliff and the other is the abyss. It takes around 2 hours by motorbike and not recommended for heart-attack disease prone people. Moreover, during bad weather, this way is not possible to go and the other way to get to this village is on foot.

There are 30 households and they are ethnic H’mong. The simple national identity remains here. There is no modern equipment because of no electricity, no gas even no clean water but full of warm human relations. The children are simple as they could enjoy their life in their way like hanging around, swimming at streams or singing when they are climbing up the hillside. We struggled with them in communication when trying to explain any academic words. We know that in the short period of time, we cannot help them gain massive knowledge through lessons, but the only thing we believe is through our presence and behaviour, somehow we can be an effect on their perception, helping them to be aware of good manners. We are the young people full of energy and enthusiasm, who spend time to integrate into local life. It seems the perfect way for a missionary volunteer. Giving time, spreading love to others are foremost about service.

What makes you joyful as a volunteer? 

The most incredible joy when I was in the volunteer time is the moment observing the children smiling around me. The children’s smile may be brighter when they seeing a stranger live with them as well as spend time on them without any hesitation.

What was your main challenge as a missionary volunteer?

The biggest challenge which I had to manage is life without electricity. The situation was worse to a municipal boy like me. The only power source relied on the small water generator from in a stream, which always breaks down whenever having heavy rain. I need to learn how to cook the food by myself and know to adjust the fire to prevent my food being burned or not properly enough cooked.

How does the Heart in Hand volunteer experience affect you personally?

This journey impacted me not much, I don’t hope that 1 month to live with the Highland youth could change their life totally but some tiny aspects of their life would be influenced by us. The parents can change their mindset about the educational problem when encouraging their daughters and sons go to school and getting out of the poverty circle. Through that, I am in process to become a better version of myself. I believe that I have the ability to use my knowledge to make impacts on not only for the village where I volunteered but also for my community where I belong to.

What is your message to other youth?

Don Bosco has the greatest passion which I need to learn from. In Don Bosco, I don't feel alone when there are thousands of people who have the same thinking, same doing, being together to give a hand to Don Bosco’s affairs in particular and God’s work in general.

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