SMMIS Service Journey to Vietnam

How to organise a meaningful international school journey

Elaine Robinson, Principal

Creating a meaningful service journey for SMMIS Secondary School students is a life-changing experience. Time away from home, with their friends and teachers in an informal setting, can have a huge impact on a teenager, incorporating a mix of fun, exploring and meaningful interactions is key to the success of any trip.

In the recent SMMIS visit to Vietnam, our Secondary School explorers visited the Village of Hope orphanage, embarked on sustainable gardening activities, explored the Cu Chi Tunnels, and a Mekong Delta river, while reflecting on the keys aspects of the ethos of SMMIS. The students and staff will tell you, it was a truly transformative experience.

Here's how you can plan such a journey:

Choose your local provider carefully

Ensure that the local agent reflects the ethos and values values you hold dear. For us, we care about real interactions with the local community, and are conscious of our journeys not being ‘charity tourism’. We want to ensure that our visits are as sustainable as possible, and that the planning and execution of the trip reflects our school values throughout the trip.

Preparation and Education

Start by educating students about the history and significance of the locations they will visit, including the history and geography of the areas to be visited, for us it was the Cu Chi Tunnels and the Mekong Delta. Discuss the importance of service, sustainability, and cultural understanding. We aligned our preparation with SMMIS's ethos of global citizenship, community engagement and Tikkun Olam.

Orphanage Visit

Arrange a visit to a local orphanage where students can interact with children, play games, and engage in activities such as reading or art projects. Encourage students to bring donations like books, toys, or school supplies to support the orphanage.

Sustainable Gardening Project

Partner with a local organisation or community to initiate a sustainable gardening project. Students can learn about sustainable farming practices, participate in planting fruits or vegetables, and understand the importance of organic agriculture.
Emphasise the significance of environmental stewardship and sustainable living in line with a commitment to eco-consciousness.

Cu Chi Tunnels Exploration

Organise a guided tour of the Cu Chi Tunnels, providing students with insights into Vietnam's history and the resilience of its people during wartime. Discuss the significance of understanding different perspectives and histories, fostering empathy and cultural sensitivity among students.

Mekong Delta River Tour

Plan a river tour of the Mekong Delta, allowing students to experience the region's unique ecosystem and traditional way of life. Include activities such as visiting floating markets, observing local craftsmanship, and enjoying regional cuisine. Highlight the importance of preserving cultural heritage and supporting local economies, reflect on a commitment to cultural diversity and respect.

Reflection and Action

Facilitate reflective sessions throughout the journey where students can share their experiences, insights, and emotions. Encourage students to write a diary and to brainstorm actionable ways to continue their service efforts and promote sustainability in their own communities. Provide opportunities for ongoing engagement, such as volunteering or fundraising initiatives, to sustain the impact of the journey, on their return.

What next

By integrating service, cultural immersion, and sustainability into our journey, students not only enriched their understanding of the world but also embodied the ethos of SMMIS by becoming compassionate, responsible global citizens dedicated to making a positive difference in the world. The students learnt as they had fun and will remember their experience for a very long time to come.

At SMMIS we are committed to making the world a better place one step at a time, through our meaningful service-learning opportunities.

Book a tour to find out more.