Plan My Gap Year work with a total of six organisations in and around Hanoi, providing vital support and care for vulnerable children and young adults in NGO care centres, kindergartens and hospitals. Below is a detailed description of what each organisation does and volunteers roles within those organisations. You will no doubt have a preference of placement, whether it be working in the hospital or at one of the care centres and you can request this in the ‘Special Requirements’ section of the online application form.
Important Note: Please bear in mind that whilst we will always do our best to place volunteers at their chosen project, it is not always possible and project availability and needs are fluid.
As in most developing countries, disabled people in Vietnam do not receive the level of support they need. It is estimated that nearly seven million people in Vietnam are disabled (8% of the population). We support NGOs in Hanoi that provide vital assistance to these vulnerable groups.
PMGY support four projects that provide care for children and young adults with special needs.
Phuc Tue Centre – Established in June 2001, Phuc Tue Centre provides support to around 75 children and young adults. The students range from 2 to 30 years of age and suffer from a variety of physical and mental disabilities. These include the effects of Agent Orange, Autism, Down Syndrome and Japanese Encephalitis. The aim of the centre is to provide the children with the level of support needed to empower the students to be able to be as independent as possible and integrate into mainstream society.
Phuc Tue Centre extends their support to raising awareness in the community about disability and the human rights of the disabled people. It is around a 45-minute journey to reach Phuc Tue Centre from the Volunteer House.
Morning Star Centre – Founded in 1995, Morning Star Centre (locally known as Sao Mai) is a subsidiary of the Vietnam Relief Association for Children with Disabilities. The centre has nearly 70 staff members caring for approximately 150 children ranging in age from 1 to 25 years. Morning Star’s mission is to provide opportunities for children and young adults with special needs to receive the education and training to help them successfully play their part in the local community. In particular, the centre strives to provide assistance for those children suffering from developmental disabilities including Down’s Syndrome, Autism and Cerebral Palsy.
Where possible, Morning Star strives to prepare the children to enter mainstream education. However, it is quite common for former pupils who have entered mainstream education to return to Morning Star as government schools are by no means equipped to welcome special needs students.
Friendship Village – We also place volunteers at Friendship Village, which is a living, health, and educational centre for children living with the effects of dioxins from the herbicide “Agent Orange”. The centre also provides healthcare to war veterans.
Friendship Village was founded in 1992 by George Mizo, an American veteran who strived to repair the damage done as a result of the use of Agent Orange in the America-Vietnam War. The Friendship Village complex is composed of two living quarters, two classroom buildings, a health centre, and a few other buildings used by the staff for cooking and general administration. There is also a vegetable garden, as much of the food is grown on-site.
The centre provides a home to 120 residents, aged from 4 to 26 years of age. The residents come from all over Vietnam and suffer from a range of disabilities such as Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Down Syndrome, physical deformity, and severe mental disability.
Please note that the minimum time commitment to join Friendship Village is 4 weeks, all applicants must be aged 21 or over, and have experience (whether professionally or through education) of working with people with physical and/or mental disabilities.
Khanh Tam Day Care Centre – Khanh Tam Centre is a non-profit, non-governmental organization founded in 2006 for early detection and care of mentally impaired children. The centre has nearly 20 staff members caring for approximately 50 children ranging in age from 1 to 12 and is located in Nam Dong, Dong Da, Hanoi.
The Little Seeds Project at National Hospital of Paediatrics – Aside from the medical treatment provided at the hospital, the children have very little social interaction and are heavily reliant on their families. Quite a few of the children come from rural communities. Therefore, a family member, usually the child’s mother, will stay with their child 24/7. The family member will sleep in the same bed as the child and, for all intents and purposes, basically live at the hospital! You can therefore imagine how stressful the whole experience is for not only the child but their family as well.
The time the children spend at the hospital varies from a week to several months. As a result, PMGY have identified a placement whereby we can create regular activities and engagement for the children in order to improve their psychological well-being. When hospitalised, the children face huge changes to their life and daily routine, which has numerous psychological effects. Infants, toddlers, school-aged children and teenagers all respond differently to illness in regards to their individual development.
Without the right stimulation and routine, long-term hospitalisation will result in a higher susceptibility to long-term psychological damage. The aim of this programme is to not only bring entertainment to the children, but also to pay attention to the specific needs that young patients develop during long-term hospitalisation. Responsive activities will be strategically developed to support the various needs of the children. We aim to introduce a concept called ‘Play Therapy’.
From childhood to adulthood, play is fundamental in our lives. For children, play has an even more important role, as they haven’t yet developed the abstract reasoning abilities and verbal skills to articulate their feelings. Kids use toys as adults use words. They play as we build conversations. By playing with the children, the aim is to give them the space to develop strategies for them to cope with the difficulties they experience. When playing the children’s defences are reduced and it becomes natural for them to express their feelings. Play releases stress, connects people to one another in a positive way, stimulates creativity and curiosity, and helps to regulate emotions.
The overall purpose of bringing volunteers to the hospital is to create an environment where the children can grow, play and learn with adults who are respectful and understanding of their needs. Furthermore, the sessions give family members a much-needed break. A mother may use this time to take a shower, buy groceries, or just take some time for herself. The mothers and families take great joy in seeing their child being happy and interacting with other kids. It is difficult to express how relieving the pressures on the parents, even just for a few hours, can really help them cope with the situation as a whole.
Volunteering with disabled people is a challenging but highly rewarding experience. Using your creativity, emotional strength and resourcefulness to help such vulnerable people will not only change their life but yours as well.
Xuan Dinh A Kindergarten – We also place volunteers at Xuan Dinh A Kindergarten which accommodates around 900 children aging from 2-5 years old. The kindergarten focuses on teaching children art subjects, sports, some basic writing (for 5 years old kids) and English. It also has different clubs in the school where the kids can better develop their talents and cater for their hobbies.
ESSENTIAL PROGRAMME INFORMATION
For the majority of our programmes you can apply at any time. However, we advise that you apply as soon as possible to ensure we have availability on the programme – particularly if you’re looking to travel between June and August, as spaces can fill up very quickly during this period.
It is best that you apply sooner rather than later as some of our programmes only have a limited capacity and spaces get filled very quickly. However, you should always make sure you’re 100% committed to the programme before applying.
It is also possible to change your start dates once you have already applied and had your space confirmed. However, please note this does carry an administration charge of £39 and is subject to availability
Based on volunteer feedback we believe a period of 4-6 weeks is the ideal time to get really involved in a project and make an impact. This also allows you to have enough time at the weekends to explore the local area and further afield. Participants who join us for 2 weeks frequently tell us that they did not believe this was long enough and wish they had stayed for a longer period.
All volunteers will receive a PMGY Volunteer Handbook once they have paid their deposit and confirmed their place on the programme. We will send you an email entitled ‘Welcome to PMGY’ which will include a link where you can download the Volunteer Handbook. Please note that we DO NOT send a hardcopy of the PMGY Volunteer Handbook.
This Handbook contains literally everything you need to know – from what to pack, to how to obtain a visa, to local language guides. It is really important that you read through the Volunteer Handbook carefully once you’ve downloaded it. If you require any further information not covered in the Volunteer Handbook then our team are always on-hand to assist you. You can contact us via email, telephone, Skype, Facebook, online chat…whatever works best for you!
You should arrive into Noi Bai International Airport in Hanoi (airport code HAN) on the selected Wednesday start date. Programmes start on the 1st and 3rd Wednesday of each month. You will be met at the airport by one of our local staff or an appointed driver who will be holding a named sign. They will take you to your accommodation where you will spend the rest of your day at leisure.
The programme ends on the Wednesday of your final week and you should depart the accommodation on this day.
Can I use this program as part of a university or college placement?
It is certainly possible to use one of PMGY’s programmes as part of your university or college placement. Project staff can sign off any paperwork required by your course tutors. PMGY regularly receives medical, childcare, psychology and nursing placement students at our projects around the world and we have ties with some of the leading universities.
If you’re a course tutor and would like further information about how one of PMGY’s programmes could meet the placement requirements for your degree course then please contact us directly.
Is it safe to travel to PMGY desitnations?
Although our volunteers work in the developing world, we always ensure our host locations are safe. Each programme has been extensively researched and has passed our strict vetting process. Our UK team undergo an extensive routine when establishing our in-country infrastructures and we continue to monitor our safety procedures on a regular basis. Furthermore, we monitor the stability of our volunteer destinations on a daily basis. Through our constant contact with consulates and embassies and our reports from our overseas teams, we are able to ensure that our volunteers are never placed in unstable regions.
The PMGY team have visited and participated in every programme we offer and verified them based on our own independent criteria. We carefully inspect every little detail of our set-up. From inspecting the living conditions, checking out the neighbourhoods you’ll be staying in, to tasting the food you’ll be eating – each and every programme we establish has gone through a lengthy and rigorous vetting process. Risk assessments have been written for all areas in which PMGY operate and our experienced local coordinators are always on-hand to manage any emergencies that may occur. Our UK team are always on the road reviewing our risk management procedures in the field and monitoring local conditions.
In emergency situations we have the necessary protocols and equipment in place and we are able to evacuate our volunteers from potential dangers. Our local coordinators are trained to deal with emergency circumstances.
When you join PMGY we will send you a Volunteer Handbook. This document addresses a range of issues such as health, safety, visa issues etc. Furthermore, our UK team are only ever a phone call away should you wish to discuss any aspect of your upcoming programme. When you arrive in-country, you’ll be given a comprehensive safety briefing during your orientation course by our local coordinators. We will go through everything from emergency procedures, how to use local transport and cultural differences. You’ll also be given the opportunity to purchase a local SIM card, something we strongly suggest, so you’re contactable at all times. We will provide you with a full list of the important contact numbers that you’ll need to know.
All our local teams are experienced development professionals who have years of experience in hosting international volunteers. They are our representatives on the ground and will assist you 24/7 throughout your stay. Whether you need to call home, travel at the weekend or require urgent assistance – they are there to support you.
While we cannot guarantee your volunteer experience to be 100% trouble free we have taken all the necessary precautions to make sure each programme is as safe as possible.