Ecoventure is Earthlink’s very own annual youth overseas community involvement program. First initiated in 2004, Ecoventure started as an eco-trip to locations where students are able to experience the environment in a novel way. At that time, Ecoventure intended to expose participants to prevalent environmental issues and to allow them to appreciate the importance of conserving the environment through learning and sharing. Over the years, Ecoventure took a slight change to incorporate other elements into the trip, which included Community Service, and Information and Cultural Exchange.
As a proud recipient of the Nanyang Award for Humanitarian Work for its effort in 2016, the Ecoventure team continued its environmental works in 2017. The team, consisting of 24 students, travelled to Tra Vinh, Vietnam to install water filtration system at a school in the rural region. Other than installing the filtration system that would allow the children to have clean water to drink, the Ecoventure team also provided basic English lessons to the children.
Arrived and Eager to help
The group was divided into two main team: education and construction. The education team had initially prepared many topics to teach the children. However, upon interacting with them on the first day, the team knew that their English proficiency level was low. The lessons were then changed to teaching them basic greetings, counting, occupations, numbers etc. in English.
Despite the language barrier, the great enthusiasm of the children had encouraged the education team to come up with a better lesson plan to engage them further. Every night, the education team would gather to review on the difficulties the students were facing such as the speed on which the teachers were speaking and the suitability of the teaching materials. Lessons were taught through games, dance and songs to make it easier for the children to understand.
The construction team had different challenges from the education team. A skillful construction artisan led the construction team for the installation of the filtration system. Most of the time, the artisan would instruct through actions on what should be done as he did not speak a word of English. Generally, the team would clearly understand what he wanted us to do. The team had to clear away the grass, hack the wall and make cement plaster for the basin. The team also hand painted the wall around the basin. The other challenges during construction was the fickle weather where it changed from hot and dry to heavy rain within hours.
During the weekend when the school was closed, the team helped the community in other ways. We went to visit six different households that require assistance from the community. All the visited households are poor and cannot afford education for their children. The interaction between the families and the team is enriching and enlightening as it shows how fortunate we are to have so many things that they do not have. We also went to visit a nearby library where everyone helped in weeding and maintaining the library garden.
The team also went to experience catching Snakehead fish in a muddy pool with their bare hands. The frustration we had trying to grab the slippery and sneaky Snakeheads is unforgettable. Lots of screams, shrieks and laughter were heard throughout the fishing event. Twelve fishes were caught in total, it was an incredible feat. The participants brought the fishes back and had a relaxing barbeque together.
Dance of Diversity in Culture Night
Other activities included a library event and the culture night. The library event was akin to games day where children would gather at the community library and played games. There were six game stations manned by the team. The children went back home happily with their game prizes.
For the cultural night, we came up with four songs (in Malay, Indian, Mandarin and English) and dances to showcase the multi-racial culture of Singapore. The Vietnamese locals performed their own song and dance too! Everyone danced and enjoyed the night together with laughter and joy around the campfire and under the starry night sky, celebrating our unity in diversity.
Another effort we did to help the community was planting a garden in the school. Everyone came together to clear all the rubbish that was littered in their school compound. After the compound was cleared of rubbish and litters, construction team proceeded to plant flowers. Education team then taught the children about environmental cleanliness and proper ways to use their newly installed water system.
In the 14 days spent together, the team had completed the installation of filtration system, painted a wall mural, built a garden and provided useful lessons to the children. The team also built a closer bond and friendship among themselves and with the locals. Ecoventure’s aim is not only to help the less fortunate, but also to instill an empathetic feeling towards people who were impoverished and lacked many basic facilities to the participants. The household visits were certainly impactful to students like us. By understanding the living conditions and their difficult situations each of them had, we hope to provide more OCIP ideas in the future to help the needy and continue the spirit of helping people.