Volunteer Spotlight: Ruairidh MacDonald

Header photo: Ruairidh MacDonald and Jessie Morgan conducting a survey in Hoa Binh province, Vietnam

Earlier this year, Ruairidh MacDonald and Jessie Morgan, students from Macquarie University, travelled to Vietnam to volunteer with our Hanoi office.

Ruairidh and Jessie are just two students who came to us to gain valuable work experience. At our office, students apply their skills and knowledge to our development projects, contributing to both our team and to the vulnerable communities we work with. Below, Ruairidh shares some reflections on his time at AOP in Vietnam.

Could you share with us the kind of volunteer work that you did?

I did social science research for AOP, which involved designing surveys and interview questions for local mothers and healthcare workers, on the topic of maternal health and malnutrition.

What was a typical volunteer day like? 

Well there were two types of typical days I guess: in Hanoi or on a field trip.

In Hanoi it involved getting a Grab car in the morning to the office, and always being welcomed by cheery and (at times) playful work colleagues. Work would continue until about 12.30, when the entire office would have an amazing lunch, followed by tea, all the while surrounded by lively office talk. Work would then continue to about 5.30, but could be quite flexible.

On a field trip it was much more flexible. We might be driving a long distance to a village, or walk around the corner, to conduct the research. Lunch could be back at the homestay or even in the home of one of the participants. Sometimes we had free time in the afternoon, which could be actively filled with kayaking, swimming or walking, or calmly spent reading or snoozing. The evenings and nights were also occasionally spent conducting interviews as local mothers came to our homestay.

Tell us about your favourite part of your volunteer experience.

My favourite part was definitely the field trip we went on to conduct the research, into Hoa Binh and Phu Tho provinces. The chance to experience a genuine rural Vietnamese lifestyle and meet the people in real circumstances was special and humbling. And the endless tasty food was amazing too!

What skills did you gain from this experience?

Apart from the technical social science research skills I gained from the experience, the most valuable lessons involved learning to be patient and adaptable to unforeseen changes; that there is always a greater variety of experiences and human stories than you can expect; but also that everywhere there is a common humanity which makes it possible to share your time with anyone, give the right attitude.

Our sincere thanks go to Ruairidh and other volunteers that have been supporting vulnerable communities through AOP.

Read more about volunteering with Action on Poverty

Ruairidh presenting his and his co-presenter’s findings and recommendations after their surveys

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