Laura Lambert - 2016 Program Participant

What inspired you to go abroad?

My passion and my heart drives me as I believe to make this world a better place is to be part of something bigger than yourself.

Why did you choose International Volunteer HQ?

I wanted to fulfil my lifelong passion to volunteer with children who needed it the most.

International volunteer at a hospital with children in Vietnam

Me at the hospital with other volunteers and the beautiful children

What was your favorite part your Vietnam?

The people, the food, the sounds, culture! But the ultimate was the beautiful children I volunteered for.

What made your experience abroad unique?

Doing something completely out of my comfort zone.

How did local staff support you throughout your program?

They were helpful, kind and understanding. They are vital to tell you the dos and don'ts and have an advantage speaking the language.

International volunteer and a baby in Vietnam

Me and tiny toes at the orphanage

What's one thing you wish you would have done differently?

Worn leather high top boots! It rains in Vietnam - hot sticky tropical rain with bad drainage systems throughout the system! Flip flops don't quite cover it!

Describe a typical day in the life of your program.

I was based at a local hospital where I cared for children with disabilities from unprivileged families but had the support of this vital volunteer program and hospital day care. I gave my time, my love, and my gentle hand to children who just wanted to be accepted. I assisted local staff in providing therapeutic treatments, feeding, play time, entertaining and educating.

What did you enjoy doing in your free time?

In my spare time I visited an orphanage where my heart was broken; 3 floors and 75 children with no mummy and daddy. But being allowed access to the orphanage and to get to know the sweet, loving children who just wanted a cuddle, it was an experience I won't ever forget.

What was your accommodation like? What did you like best it?

I am a bit of a princess when it comes to sharing toilets and showers with multiple people - I opted out after a week and stayed next door in a hotel.

What is one thing every participant should know before participating in your program?

Be strong, be an adult, and go in with an open mind and heart! Be something bigger than yourself.

Baby rockers

My 2 master pieces I put together for the orphanage

What was the hardest part volunteering abroad?

Being face to face with poverty. I think it is hard to realise how some people are born into a situation they have no control over. There is a massive lack of a healthcare system in Vietnam and seeing families and people in destitution and homeless is hard.

What surprised you most Vietnam?

Myself, I volunteered in a hospital daycare with children with disabilities and I was so nervous before I began. Nervous, I would cry the whole time and feel sorry for the children and be over emotional. However I wasn't, these children who have a tough time and some who suffer daily with discomfort and pain are some of the strongest individuals I have ever met. Even with the language barrier their intelligence and integrity shined through and I didn't cry once whilst at the hospital. All these children want is acceptance, your time and love, they don't want you to feel sorry for them.

How difficult was it to communicate with locals?

It was fine, you just need to be savvy. Always have in your phone or written down your accommodation location or programme location so if you get lost you can jump in a taxi. I had to do this a few times.

What is one thing you wish you would have known before volunteering abroad in Vietnam?

Nothing, I did a lot of research before I left for Vietnam, I also read my full volunteer pack before I arrived.

I am in my thirties and have my wits me, anything I didn't know was part of the experience and the cultural journey. Key thing to remember is every culture is hugely different and be open minded with an open heart.

International volunteers on an outing in Vietnam

3 Canadians, 1 Aussie and me - gorgeous new friends

If you could volunteer abroad again, where would you go?

I am going to back to Vietnam to do the exact same volunteer program in just 2 weeks, I miss the children and want to see them again. I am very excited to be reunited. My passion is for children who need care and love, so I will always concentrate on that journey. I think my next country will be Cambodia and once I have the extra confidence I will head to Africa.

What do you feel the biggest benefit of volunteering abroad is?

Time with the children, whether it is 10 minutes or 10 weeks, that time is so precious and valuable for each child. One moment with a child who is is looking for acceptance or just a kind soul, can make a difference to them more than you ever will know.

Do you have any packing tips for individuals headed to Vietnam?

Bushman Mosquito Insect Repellent - go strong!

Now that you're home, how has your program abroad impacted your life? 

I sort out a volunteer program when I arrived home and I am now a Team Leader for Girl Guides Australia. Looking after 20 children aged 7 -10 years.

Would you recommend International Volunteer HQ to others? Why?

Yes I would! It is VERY affordable and worth every penny. So much so I fly in 6 weeks - same placement, same location and same children.