This year we welcomed Ross Chandler to our Vietnam office as Community-based Tourism (CBT) Marketing Volunteer. Here is Ross’s story in his own words:
I was introduced to Action on Poverty (AOP) by the staff at Australian Volunteers International in Hanoi. My partner, Emily, was on the Australian Volunteers program, and I was accompanying her. I was looking for a way to keep myself busy and gain some more practical experience in the fields of marketing and tourism. I’d previously spent a year in Cambodia and six months in Thailand, studying and volunteering for a number of NGOs. I was keen to apply what I had already learned to help develop a tourism project and gain further knowledge of the industry in Asia.
The AOP team in Hanoi welcomed me with open arms. It felt great to be working alongside so many passionate people. My work specifically involved the Da Bac CBT project, so I found myself working with a small group in charge of the newly established social enterprise. It was exciting to see that the Da Bac CBT had already reached a level of financial sustainability—a very difficult achievement for community-based tourism projects that often require long-term funding. My role was to further assist in marketing activities, creating a variety of marketing materials, updating the Da Bac CBT website, and planning and strategising for the future.
It’s no surprise that one of the best parts about volunteering for AOP was visiting Da Bac. I was lucky enough to visit on two occasions, staying in all three villages and taking part in many of the leisure activities on offer. On the first night of my first visit, I joined the community for a huge dinner party with some fantastic local food. Everyone was so proud of what they had already achieved through the CBT, and were very thankful to the AOP team. Each member of the community went around and visited each table, introducing themselves to visitors and welcoming them to the village. Of course, each introduction involved a shot of rice wine! A tip for future visitors: they prefer it to be a fresh, full shot each time.
I’ll always look back on my time at AOP fondly. I look forward to keeping in touch with my friends there and following the work they continue to do. It’s incredible to see a small organisation making such a big impact. Their achievements thus far are not only a testament to the way AOP approaches development, but also to the Da Bac community’s initiative and motivation to make the CBT project a success.
Find out more about volunteering with Action on Poverty.
Note: Community members in Da Bac dressed Ross and Emily in the traditional garments pictured above and invited them to participate in local culture.