Early Saturday morning, AUV students and staff loaded up for a long journey to the edges of the Quang Nam province, just shy of the Laos border, for a day of philanthropy with some of the Katu people. The student activities committee was eager to plan this charity event at the Tay Giang ethnic minority secondary boarding school because it offered a different opportunity than previous charity trips.
“You can always give money,” says Nam Cao, the Student Activities Coordinator, “but we wanted to provide something more sustainable. So we found an organization that recycles and reuses soap. Something we could teach the school how to make and continue making in the future.”
The idea behind the soap initiative was to focus on hygiene practices and healthy routines that may not be habitual in rural provinces of Vietnam. The expectation was not a lack of awareness about hgyiene, but a lack of initiative and practice. AUV hoped to liven the subject matter with games, dancing, and activities with an overall positive mentor message about healthy habits.
The charity event was in partnership with An Nhien Farm and Ms. Nga Nguyen who is the Deputy Director of the Center for Adative Capacity Building (CAB) an NGO in Vietnam whose mission is to help disadvantaged groups through the implementation of sustainable development. One of their projects is to make new soap out of melting and molding recycled soap from hotel chains, to redistribute to people in need around Vietnam. The process is timely but straightforward. Shave the used soap into small graded pieces. Then melt the soap with a small concentration of hot water. Pour the melted soap into a mold and let cool for a few hours. The students had a few days of practice before they were pumping out soap like professionals and could lead others in making soap.
Upon arrival at the school, AUV was welcomed by Mr. Lăng Điếu and students wildly waving and jumping in enthusiasm at the arrival of visitors. The day progressed with excitement as AUV proceeded to lead everyone in an upbeat electric dance about washing hands—an activity more fun than it sounds—and distributing hygiene kits made of a new washcloth, toothbrush/paste, and individually made soap. AUV also collected clothing donations from faculty and staff as well as support from AUV’s chairperson Dr. Binh Tran to provide non-perishable foods and other supplies.
Students were broken up by class to meet with AUV students for a discussion on hygiene. When the group came back together for a game of trivia, MC and student activities support Thao Nguyen found that the students were already in the know about good practices for hygiene.
“They knew all the answers to the questions, which was great,” says Thao. “So the day was less about teaching and more about spending time with the students, getting to know them, having fun and making something together.”
Ms. Nga and the AUV team helped set up soap stations after the games. The soap stations were limited, but students were able to rotate and assist in the beginning stages of making new soap. With initial soap supplies donated from AUV (the burner, molds, grader, etc.), the CAB will continue to send the school recycled soap to be remolded and used in the future.
AUV looks forward to keeping in contact with Tay Giang School and would like to thank all collaborators in this event for guiding AUV students in their weeks of preparation and helping to support philanthropy in the region.