Hawaii students voyage to Vietnam

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The group going on the three-week trip to Vietnam poses for a photo. åPictured from left, is Sidney Vermeulen, HPA sophomore, Matt Piercy, HPA. sixth and seventh grade social studies teacher, Joli Ana Welch, HPA senior, Philip Cheng, HPA math and Chinese teacher and Natasha Schultz, PAAC high school director. (COURTESY PHOTO)

The word “war” seemingly trails closely to the name, “Vietnam.” But the country is home to much more, and four high school students from the state of Hawaii have been selected to take part in a Pacific and Asian Affairs Council Summer Study Abroad. For three weeks during the month of June, the group endeavors to learn more and hopefully redefine this persevering land and its people.

Partnering with PACC is a non-profit organization called Glocal Literacy Foundation, which was started by a teacher at Campbell High School in Oahu. High school students who work with the organization will provide Hawaii students with the opportunity to experience daily life in a fishing village outside the central coastal city of Hoi An, aptly translated to mean, “peaceful meeting place.”

Over a 10-day period, the group will help teach third, fourth, and fifth grade students in a government elementary school. The program will provide the Hawaii students with countless opportunities to learn more about Vietnamese culture as they are intentionally given the chance to interface with teenagers and young adults from Vietnam. The first days, beginning in Hoi An, the group will experience an orientation session, improve the lessons they will teach, and visit the ancient archaeological site of My Son. Set in an enchanting lush jungle, the Unesco World Heritage site is Vietnam’s most extensive Cham remains, dating back to the fourth century.

Monday to Friday, the Hawaii students will spend mornings at Cua Dia Elementary School. In the afternoon, they will have an opportunity to experience cultural activities ranging from bicycle and photography tours, to listening and learning from a expert on Agent Orange. The groups visit is perfect timing — it is the first week the country will celebrate Nguyen Tieu Festival, which occurs on the full moon of the first lunar month of the year. Though celebrated throughout the country, there is no better place to see the most spiritual event of the year. A lantern festival along the Hoai River and city streets is considered the favorite cross-cultural event of the local people, expats, and tourists.

Before returning to Hawaii, students will experience three days in the French colonial capital city of Hanoi. Here, they will have an opportunity to visit more cultural sites but also learn firsthand about non-profits dedicated to helping disadvantaged and underprivileged youth in Vietnam. Organizations committed to principles such as KOTO~Know One, Teach One,” are certain to inspire the group.