Of the total Vietnamese population of 88 million (2010), 13 million live below the poverty line and many others remain very near it. Poverty reduction is slowing down and inequality between the rich and the poor is increasing. There are persistent deep pockets of poverty, particularly amongst the ethnic minorities who make up 14% of the population, yet account for half of the country’s poor.
Around Ba Be Lake are the settlements of ethnic Dao, Tay and Hmong. They are fortunate to enjoy the benefits of beautiful scenery and seemingly idyllic rural lifestyle but it is a hard life and they suffer from poor infrastructure and inadequate education.
The people are resilient and have adapted to a life governed by the immediate needs of their own community, with little input from outsiders.
This is the first scheme to combine a tour of Community Volunteering and English Teaching at Ba Be Lake area with aiding the inhabitants nearby in a practical and meaningful way. Instead of just observing each other from the shore and the tour boat we can bridge the gap between visitors and villagers in a way that will benefit all.
All the projects are initiated only after we have consulted with the communities, at village, town and district level to ensure that each tour brings significant benefit to the schools and communities involved
Day 1: Hanoi - Ba Be Lake (Lunch, Dinner, Guide)
Departing from Ha Noi we embark on a route into the mountainous areas north of the city. On the way we will visit the majestic Đền Đuổm Temple, built during the Ly dynasty to commemorate the national hero Duong Tu Minh.
You will then continue to Ba Be Lake, one of the largest natural lakes in Vietnam, which is surrounded by the National Park comprising scenic valleys, towering rocky outcrops, underground river tributaries and a gigantic cave. It is home to a great variety of flora and fauna, particularly birds and butterflies, and also to local ethnic minorities of the Tay, Red Dao and Hmong people.
On arrival, you will stretch our legs by exploring a spectacular cave and going on a gentle hike around some nearby villages and along the river front. You will be welcomed by your host family in their traditional Tay house in Bo Lu village and be able to experience their way of life. You will have free time to wander around the village and have a shower before enjoy dinner.
Day 2 Orientation, Introduction And Preparatory Visit to Central School (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Guide)
In order to make the most of your visit, you will need to spend a little time on orientation. This will include learning a few words of Vietnamese, considering some Dos and Don'ts in the Vietnamese culture, discussing how we may assist the local teachers and understanding some essential information.
After lunch, you will make our first visit to the school. The Central School is housed in the typical national style of yellow lime washed building, proudly flying the Vietnamese flag. Catering for about 220 pupils from all the nearby villages, the school houses the Kindergarten (ages 2-5 years), the Primary School (ages 6-12) and the Secondary School (ages 12-15). Depending on the teachers' needs and your talents, you may be preparing to help with English classes or with the young children in the Kindergarten.
At the end of the day a family dinner will be served with plenty of time to discuss the exciting prospect of the First Real Day “very new blasting intervention” at School.
Day 3: First Real Day At School (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Guide)
School starts early in the village, as parents need to be at work, so everything must be ready to start in the classroom by 7am. In the Kindergarten the programme may include morning exercise, drawing, clay modeling, imaginative play, story time, building blocks… especially the music subject, you could learn to sing with the children some of Vietnamese song.
If you are able to bring any materials from home, or even buy them locally, you can supply a list of suggestions like good quality second hand books and toys. There are currently 30 include 14 about 2-3 year olds children in the kindergarten.
Depending on the teacher's work schedule, you may be able to help with the Primary and Secondary classes. Perhaps you know some funny songs with actions or games and puzzles that would help with Basic English. Remember you have to be able to put over your ideas with very little language. Your day may be exhausting but should be great fun and truly rewarding.
Day 4: School Janitors Support (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Guide)
According to the twelve labours of Heracles of Greek mythology, with the fifth, Heracles must clean King Augeas' stables, since the livestock were divinely healthy and therefore produced an enormous quantity of dung. These stables had not been cleaned for 30 years and had been home to over 1000 cattle. However, by rerouting 2 rivers he managed to wash the stables clean. Lunch will go with quite sweet bread.
Today that is how we do but by the besoms and shovels (not by any immortal ways). Now you are not suggesting the school is in a bad state, but there are always jobs to be done around the school, such as grass cutting, painting, so put your best handy man (or woman) hat on and enjoy a day of practical help for our village school.
Day 5: Up And Away To The Uplands Of Khau Qua - A Remote Primary School (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Guide)
You will start a 5th day by enjoying a Vietnamese breakfast and then hiking uphill through some rugged terrain but beautiful scenery. Just as you begin to feel hunger pangs the rural idyll of the Khau Que village will appear and lunch will be served in a house.
The afternoon, you will be spent discovering our new surroundings. The Point of Hamlet School is a lot smaller than the Central School, being just a village school for 30 local children. Here the pupils will be mostly of the Hmong tribe and so their life is more basic. You do hope to be able to contribute some supplies to the school. You will overnight in a Hmong Homestay
Day 6: The First Point Primary School Up High Land (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Guide)
Take a deep breath of mountain air and start your day with the Morning Exercise. The culture of Morning Exercise is inspired by Ho Chi Minh's call to strengthen the Vietnamese spirit by regular physical activity. So it has become a regular start to the day for all school pupils. Maybe you could introduce a few nifty moves to the routine?
The scale of Point Primary School is smaller so you will assist the teacher in whatever way they want, and end the day by various small practical tasks.
Day 7: Up on high with the Dao tribes - Na Nghe village (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Guide)
Leaving Khau Qua it is going to take us the whole morning to hike up to Na Nghe village. When you arrive, you will have lunch in the Cash Dao Homestay that will be our base whilst we stay in Na Nghe village The Na Nghe Point Primary School will be our last step of the programme so any remaining school supplies will be given to the pupils here.
Day 8: The Last Point Primary School Up High Land (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Guide)
Start the day with Morning Exercise, (you should be good at it by now!) and assist the teacher with some English, some songs, games or activities. We will again do some helpful practical tasks in the afternoon and have a small farewell party, before spending our last night in the hills in Na Nghe.
Day 9: Trekking Back To Ba Be Lake (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Guide)
After breakfast at the Homestay it will be time to bid farewell to your Cash Dao hosts. Firstly, you will follow trails to Nam Dai village and then continue through the forest to see the Dau Dang waterfall which lies within the two provinces of Bac Kan and Tuyen Quang. At lunch you will be joined by Mr Pirate, the main actor in the "Ba Be Lake Pirate Movie" and then take a boat trip up the Nang River. A visit to the Puong cave will reveal over 1000 bats with 18 generals and you can marvel at the stalactites and stalagmites. The boat will pass right through the cave and continue on the river into Ba Be Lake.
On the way home you will visit the An Ma temple before returning to the lake shore. Enjoy your final dinner and a well earned night's sleep in your Bo Lu Homestay.
Day 10: Ba Be - Hua Ma Cave - Ha Noi (Breakfast, Lunch, Guide)
After breakfast, you will travel through the Ba Be forest, and see spectacular rivers, deep valleys, natural caves and lofty mountains. On the way, you will pay a visit to Hua Ma cave which is quiet and pleasant place. Then you continue our drive back to Ha Noi, stopping for lunch at a local restaurant on the way. You will be in Hanoi in the late afternoon.
This programme is designed to provide a bridge between the disadvantaged ethnic minorities and foreign visitors through assisting with the teaching of English, practical help with the fabric of the school buildings and with contributions of much needed learning materials. Visitors will be privileged to experience firsthand the lives of the ethnic minorities and the children, their teachers and the schools will benefit from the help provided.
From July to September the climate is usually hot and humid.
From October to June the weather is cooler and more pleasant.
- Free Vietnam Visa invitation letter.
- Private door-to-door pick-up & drop-off services.
- Travel in an appropriate private air-conditioned vehicle with an experienced safe driver.
- Breakfast and accommodation sharing a twin or double room.
- The services of experienced English-speaking guides as indicated in the itinerary
- Boat cruises as specified in the programme.
- Lunches and dinners (as specified in the itinerary) in the best local restaurants, picnics where suitable restaurants are not available
- All sightseeing tickets.
- VAT and other taxes
- 24/7 hotline support guaranteed
- International flight tickets and airport tax.
- Lunches and dinners, except as specified above.
- Drinks, gratuities and personal expenses.
- Travel insurance
- Surcharges for Peak seasons (if any)
- Vietnam visa stamp fee
- Other services not mentioned above.