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Taking action to protect Viet Nam’s national treasures
21 March 2005

I joined UNV by accident. When I visited UNDP's website, I discovered that UN Volunteers Vietnam was looking for a volunteer associate working with the Youth Volunteers in Cultural Heritage Preservation (YVCHP) project. A four month-long true volunteering opportunity without any financial compensation!

At that time, I was working for a well-known Vietnamese state-owned enterprise in a stable position and comparatively high salary but it was not quite the work I wanted to do. The UNV opportunity on offer began to interest me and I thought why don't change my life a bit and give this a try.

When I brought my opinion home, my parents got angry. They could not understand why I want to be a volunteer. "It is not a job, and you will get nothing for yourself", they said. "Moreover everybody works for money. How can you make a living without a salary?"

I acquired my Masters degree in Development Economics participating in a joint programme offered by the Hanoi National Economics University and the Institute of Social Studies in The Hague, Netherlands. Then I was accepted to work in a state-owned enterprise after having passed several successful exams. Many people were impressed about my success. My parents and friends congratulated me and thought I am very lucky. However after a short time, I realized that my daily work was quite different field from what I have been trained. I felt that I was unable to continue developing my skills, and, that in turn I could not contribute much to my work. I thus decided to look for a more suitable environment for me to work more and to contribute more. The opportunity associate myself with UNV, volunteering to support a cultural heritage preservation project in my country looked like a possibility for a turning point in my life.

I was a bit anxious about what my parents would say. I didn't know whether I should try the opportunity. I may not need money for a period of time but  volunteering would be meaningless if I could do nothing for myself. I visited the website of UNV Vietnam, talked to some friends, read newsletters on what UN Volunteers do and I realized that volunteering is what I long for. Fortunately my husband has supported and encouraged me a lot, which helped me a lot to participate in UNV activities.

Gradually, I recognize that volunteering for development -- the concept UNV promotes -- has brought me more than I could possibly expect. I can practice what I have learned in my studies of development economics. I can develop my knowledge and skills to prepare for a better job and further studies. I have the opportunity to work in a multicultural environment which helps me practice my English every day and understand more about the culture and peoples of many countries in the world. I can contribute to the sustainable development of my country through my daily work in heritage preservation. And, maybe most importantly I am involved in a field of development work and with people I am really interested in. I feel satisfied with my life.

I have the opportunity to share my ideas with youth volunteers engaging in the YVCHP project when I come to Hue and recently in meetings of the UN Volunteers. We exchange ideas and concerns about nature and mission of volunteers, that volunteerism is based on free will, engagement, commitment and consolidation of volunteers and that volunteerism makes important contributions, economically and socially, to more cohesive societies by building trust and reciprocity among citizens. Although each of us feels the benefits in different ways, I believe that for people who really want to engage and contribute to a better future, participating in the UN Volunteers programme's activities is a good chance. This is definitely so in my case.