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Vietnamese Canadian woman brings charity to Vietnam

Vietnamese Canadian woman brings charity to Vietnam

Tuesday, July 15, 2014, 15:02 GMT+7

A Vietnamese Canadian woman has brought many groups of American students to Vietnam on charity trips.

Thirty-one-year-old Eilen Vo, a graduate student in Asian Studies at Cornell University in New York, has taken groups of U.S. students to Vietnam on charity trips over the past six years.

On a sizzling day in mid-July, American students carried stones to build houses for low-income locals in central Quang Ngai Province’s Duc Pho District, Vo’s hometown.

With her impeccable Vietnamese, Vo is easily mistaken for a native Vietnamese woman.

During a typical day at the site, Vo has her hands full monitoring the two groups of American students.

She also organizes the students’ meals, making sure that the dishes suit their tastes.

In 1987, Vo left Duc Pho District for Canada with her family.

At 21, Vo and her family returned to Vietnam for Tet (the traditional Lunar New Year).

The trip made her think a lot, as she witnessed many poverty-stricken locals.

Since her first trip, Vo dreamed of returning and contributing to her hometown.

In 2008, she gathered photos and information on Vietnam and promoted it as a hospitable, safe destination among students volunteering at charities in the U.S.

During the summer of 2008, she and 14 American students came to Vietnam.

“I had to make guarantees for the trip and arrangements with Vietnamese students at Cornell University. The trip was the opportunity of a lifetime, as its success would bring more charity groups to Vietnam,” Vo shared.

Photos from the trip were posted on online forums, attracting many views.  

Many American students then contacted Vo and made arrangements to come to Vietnam.

In the past six years, she has taken 10 groups of American students on summer charity trips to Vietnam.

With her flawless Vietnamese, the Vietnamese Canadian woman is able to bridge the language gap between the American students and locals.

Several students came to love Vietnam during their time here and have returned since.

Andy Melo, who came with Vo during her first trip to Vietnam, is now her companion on every trip.

Melo shared that she has been to several other countries on charity trips, but she usually does not return to them. However, she is haunted by the eyes of Vietnamese children, and finds herself wishing to return to the country every summer.

The fruits of Vo’s efforts in the past six years include nearly 50 houses built for poor locals in Quang Ngai Province and English classes held for hundreds of local kids.

“I have plenty of plans to carry out in Vietnam, but first I have to finish my doctoral thesis. I’ll definitely return next summer,” Vo said with a smile.

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