Vietnam, there we go!

Social Sabbatical in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Here we go! This Thursday all the adventure begins, taking me to a Social Sabbatical in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

The first questions I get from my friends are around what I’m going to do there and what the sabbatical is about. So first of all, context!

The Social Sabbatical is a short-term assignment for professionals who work in highly diverse, international teams to solve business challenges for the education and social entrepreneurship sector in emerging markets, while strengthening their leadership competencies, cross industry sector know-how and intercultural sensitivity. SAP, the company I proudly work for, sponsors the projects that are driven by Pyxera Global, this great organization that look for global engagement opportunities to improve people’s lives. Social Sabbatical is my once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to turn SAP’s vision “help the world run better and improve people’s lives” into action from a social responsibility perspective.

Along the month of April I and two more colleagues will be working with Teach for Vietnam, an organization which aims to bring equitable, relevant and excellent education to all children in Vietnam by inspiring leadership skills and mindset in both students and teachers to prepare them for the 21st century. This is a great opportunity to help improving the education in Vietnam which will reflect on the generations to come.

For me the whole experience sounds like to move the box up and down with me inside. It will be my first time in Asia, my first time working with education, in such an event with potential to change my life forever. In a positive way! And I hope that I will be good enough to give it back for Vietnamese people through my work.

See you soon!

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Day 2 & 3: Go Far, Go Together

Phuc Huynh, the founder and CEO of Teach For Vietnam, shared with me the phrase “Go Far, Go Together” and it is a perfect summary of the last two days.

On Monday, we had our official Kick Off session where each of the client organizations presented to the SAP team more about their organization and the project ahead. It was at this event, that we met Phuc and the TFV team face to face for the first time. It was also at this event that we had to say goodbye to Koert, our alumni mentor, who will continue to mentor us from afar.

Felipe, Adil, Koert, and Me

We then headed to the Teach for Vietnam office where we had the opportunity to get to know the entire team better. I was, and continue to be, inspired by the passion of the entire team. Phuc radiates such positive energy in the room and everyone has been so welcoming.

The TFV team

Let me tell you a bit more about this amazing organization. Teach for Vietnam is a nonprofit organization working in partnership with Teach for All, a network of 40 partners in the world. TFV aims to bring equitable, relevant and excellent education to all children in Vietnam by inspiring leadership skills and mindset in both students and teachers to prepare for the 21st century.

Our project with Teach for Vietnam is to design a Measurement and Evaluation (M&E) system at a high level to measure both the impact of the overall organization as well as the soft skill development of the students.

Tuesday, we headed back to the office where we spent the morning meeting with the team to better understand the education system here. A similarity I discovered between Canada and Vietnam is that in both countries the teaching profession is undervalued!

I left Tuesday feeling like we had a lot more of the pieces to a large jigsaw puzzle. We still have lots of work to do, but we are off to a good start.

On a coffee note, with help from Vy, I ordered a cà phê sữa đá from a coffee shop from around the corner. This is an iced Vietnamese coffee which is strong coffee with condensed milk and ice. It was delicious and definitely fueled my morning.

Street view near the office

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Smiling takes you far

Starting second week in Vietnam. I’m here for just one week now and seems like three, so intense has been this time. A lot of impressions, cultural aspects, experiences, all transformed into information being delivered constantly to my brain. The convivence with the colleagues attending the Social Sabbatical plays also an important role on making it an unique period. We are like a true family. Using WhatsApp groups we don’t let anyone stay alone, always calling for dinner, trip, coffee, gym or just talk in the hotel convenience areas. They are simply great!

Sailing in Saigon river, heading to Cu Chi tunnels

What has impressed me a lot is the Vietnamese people. Vietnam, as you know, is a development country, and as such it faces the challenges of any development country: pollution, fast-growing population, traffic, low income, bureaucracy, etc. So you expect Vietnamese have a lot of challenges to deal with along the day. But they smile, all the time. And are confident about future. Vietnamese are humble people yet proud about their country, origins and culture. Like in the local traffic where thousands of scooters outline the cars, the Vietnamese face the problems, find their way to surpass the difficulties and move ahead.

Teach for Vietnam flyer used in recruitment campaigns

Teach for Vietnam is an organization that aims to provide social and emotional learning by teaching English to students in primary and lower secondary schools all over Vietnam. We are supporting them to design and implement a Mesurement & Evaluation framework that would make possible to determine how effective the program is being applied. Collected and evaluated results will help Teach for Vietnam to adjust their efforts, obtain further funding and spread its program to more provinces. I’m sure they will make it, so confident and determined they are. And of course, smiling helps and takes you far! 🙂

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Sarah King