Volunteer Service

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Volunteer Service May Include:
These are agencies where IPSL students have served in the past or may be able to serve. Other service placements may be available. Your placement will be determined by community and agency needs, as well as your interests, goals, and skills.
  • English Community Classes

  • Community Development and Education NGO:

  • Child Care/Social Welfare Center

  • Child Care and Education for Mentally Impaired Children

  • Center for Physically Impaired Children

  • Center for Children Affected by Agent Orange + Vietnam/US Relations

  • Early Child Care Education

  • Institution for Scientific Development in Asia NGO

  • Clinic and Center for Vision Health for Children

  • Sustainable Development NGO



Ethical Service & Research in Vietnam

As an IPSL service-learning participant in Hanoi, Vietnam, you will have the opportunity to perform volunteer service in one of several local partner organizations/agencies. IPSL does its best to match your skills and interests to the placement, but please remember that the notion of service is, first and foremost, to respond to the needs of others. You will play a role not only by actively participating with a determined role among the team members, but also by enriching the projects and programs with your knowledge, experience, and hard work.  Therefore, each project or program is improved and enriched with your participation. Your impact on other people's lives will be powerful and sustainable, even if you don't see the results right away.

Advocacy Research and Sponsored Research

Advocacy Research is a framework for reimagining ways to provide service to others. Through Advocacy Research, IPSL Institute for Global Learning students serve the host organization by conducting primary research that provides data and analysis that supports the organization in its mission. 

The IPSL Advocacy Research Program provides students an opportunity to learn about and engage in professional research that produces relevant, useful information for the benefit of nonprofits, NGOs and community development organizations around the world. Unique to the IPSL program, Advocacy Research permits students to develop insight into the ethics of human subjects research in an international context with immediate, practical application.

“Researching while aboard gives students the opportunity to really immerse themselves into a new culture. In Asia, I was able to cross cultural barriers and really talk to my participants and learn about their past experiences. I gained an understanding into their lives and by doing so enriched my experience abroad.” 
-Karen, IPSL alum

A student’s service organization abroad serves as the “field study location.” The research results in data that is at once beneficial to further the IPSL student’s education and career while at the same time being of use to the host organization. Resource-scarce organizations simply do not have the ability to examine, evaluate, and analyze their programs in a qualitative or quantitative way. With the assistance of the IPSL student-researcher, IPSL’s host organizations are presented with data that can be used to impact their work and the constituencies they serve. 

Advocacy Research generally refers to original, primary research that IPSL students design in collaboration with IPSL, its teams abroad, the host organization, and other local resources. This can be a more time-consuming undertaking. To accommodate the time frames where students are living in the host community (sometimes just one semester), IPSL students also have opportunities to engage in what we call Sponsored Research projects where the research topic and protocol are pre-identified, reviewed, and approved well in advance of the student’s term abroad. Research topics and protocols are proposed in-country by a host organization and then collaboratively designed and reviewed by IPSL, in-country staff and community members, and the IPSL Institute for Global Learning’s IRB (Institutional Review Board), which is legally authorized to approve the research.  The student researcher then has the opportunity to “adopt” the project and conduct the research within a given semester. The data and analyses from one student often prompts further inquiry, which a future student can then adopt as his/her/their research project. In this way, Advocacy Research presents a sustainable model for ethical service. 

Partners contribute expertise and share decision-making and ownership of the research. Data is collected over time with multiple student researchers, leading to an increase in value. The sponsored research program is especially useful for beginning researchers who may want to engage in international research but who do not have previous experience.

Graduate students participate in a Sponsored Research project during their first semester abroad. At all IPSL sites, there will be one or more sponsored research projects at a variety of NGO’s and community organizations. Following review of IRB applications, students can be approved by the IPSL International IRB as Principle Investigators of the on-going project. At the pre-departure residency, students will be briefed on the project details so that they will be prepared to support the organization once they are in-country. Sponsored Research thus helps students learn the research process and prepares them to launch their own original primary research in semesters 2 and or 3 (should they choose) under the guidance of their academic advisor, local research liaisons, the IPSL IRB, and the IPSL Research Coordinator.

The goal of Sponsored Research is to create an instructive and supportive process that removes barriers and enables students to experience ethical, human-subject research in a real-world setting.

IPSL’s mission of service is rooted in advocacy for the NGOs, organizations, and communities in which IPSL students serve. Advocacy Research and Sponsored Research are meaningful and transformational manifestations of IPSL’s advocacy for the communities we serve. 

Volunteer Service Examples

Generally our students serve with projects developed by the IPSL partner, CSDS (The Center for Sustainable Development Studies). Other service placements may be available. 

English Community Classes:

These English Community Classes provide an alternative English learning environment for local students.  Pupils who attend such classes mainly come to Hanoi for their study from provinces outside of Hanoi. They can be from 10-20 and are grouped according to their English level and their age. Community classes focus on students who want to improve their English skills, especially speaking and conversational skills. It also helps to improve students’ confidence in using a foreign language.

Volunteers who teach in the Community classes lead the class on his/her own, sometimes with another volunteer. Volunteers are also provided with a suggested curriculum from which the volunteers can design more supporting/alternative materials. If needed, the volunteers can get support from a local intern with translation.

Community Development and Education NGO

This organization is made up of a dynamic group of experienced scientists, training and development specialists, and educators committed to education and development causes in Vietnam. The group has worked together for many years to conduct research and create and implement programs in education, training, and development to serve the needs of a rapidly developing Vietnam. CED is developing and testing new ways of teaching, learning and providing input and feedback for education reform in Vietnam.


Specific activities include:

  • Conducting research on progressive approaches in education from throughout the region and the world for adaptation to Vietnamese contexts.

  • Developing and testing appropriate models to improve teaching and learning methodologies for both public and private institutions through active coordination and linkages.

  • Developing hands-on science and skill-training programs for school and university students.

  • Organizing exchanges and study tours for educators, school and university students at home and abroad.

  • Partnering with governmental and non-governmental organizations in Vietnam and abroad to expand successfully tested good educational practices.

  • Mobilizing resources and donations from different institutions, organizations, and businesses for the development and implementation of programs to improve the quality of human resources in Vietnam.

  •  Increasing parental involvement and community support in school activities and programs.

Development Initiatives

With a range of partners from the public, private, and non-profit sectors, the organization designs and implements initiatives to deal with social and environmental issues affecting communities. The programs focus on local governance, policy advocacy, promoting civil society participation, and sharing best practices to address such issues as biodiversity conservation, climate change, environmental management, disaster risk reduction, migration, and human trafficking.

Child Care/Social Welfare Center

The Centre is both a non-profit and an NGO, separated into two locations. The Centre currently provides care for around 60 children between the ages of 3 and 12, cared for by a total of 16 staff members. The center’s mission is to provide opportunities for children with mental impairment to receive an education, and to feel included with their local community. In particular, the center provides assistance for those children suffering from developmental disabilities including Down's Syndrome, Autism and Cerebral Palsy.

Child Care and Education for Mentally Impaired Children

This service site is a non-profit and non-governmental organization founded in 2006 for early detection and care of mentally impaired children. The center has nearly 20 staff members caring for approximately 50 children ranging in age from 1 to 12.  Their primary activities include:

  • Early intervention: target group is 2-5 years old. The program provides children basic skills to develop (communication skills, social skills, etc.), which aims to help children integrate into society in their early age (kindergarten age).

  • Primary/ elementary program: target group is 6-12 years old. The program equips reading- writing- calculation, providing necessary knowledge about life. The children will learn how to read, write and calculate.

  • School function program: target group is 6-12 years old. These individuals would otherwise have no ability to study in a standard primary school program.

  • Living skills program: target group is 10-16 years old. These kids have no ability to integrate into society and study in a standard primary school program. Children will focus on acquiring living skills, such as working skills and career orientation

Center for Physically Impaired Children

This non-profit and non-governmental day care organization is based in Hanoi for the care of mentally and physically impaired children. There are now 2 centers around Hanoi that provide care and education for approximately 50 children and young people (aged 2 to 22yrs old) who are suffering from the effects of Agent Orange, Autism, Down Syndrome and Japanese Encephalitis. The Centre`s aim is to look after these children and help to integrate them into normal society, and their mission is to provide opportunities for children with mental and physical impairment to receive an education and to feel included with their local community.

Center for Children Affected by Agent Orange + Vietnam/US Relations

This center, called the Friendship Village, exhibits a living, health, and educational space for children dealing with the affects of dioxins from the herbicide “Agent Orange”. The Village provides health-care and therapies for war-veterans staying for a period of 1 to 2 months. At the same time, the Village is also a symbol of international solidarity, reconciliation, and the continued efforts to heal the pains of war caused by Agent Orange.

Early Childhood Education

This service site is a local Kindergarten accommodating around 900 children aging from 2-5 years old. The kindergarten focuses on teaching children art subjects, sports, some basic writing (for the 5 years old kids) and English. It also has different clubs in the school where the kids can better develop their talents and hobbies.

In each class, there are around 45 kids. The volunteers are expected to help the kids with some basic English teaching, organizing games, teaching kids to make handicrafts, drawing, painting, songs and dances, etc. There will be a local teacher in the class to help the volunteers if needed.

Institution for Scientific Development in Asia NGO

This service site consists of a science and technology organization with the mission of providing research, training, and consulting services as a leading management science institution in Vietnam. In close cooperation with management associations, partner agencies and prestigious international universities, The NGO offers creative, intelligent, practical and highly professional management solutions. A majority of the managers and officers have obtained Masters and PhD degrees from nationally and internationally accredited universities. In addition, the Institute has established an extensive network of Vietnam’s most recognized experts in management, human resource management, public administration, disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation.

Clinic and Center for Vision Health for Children

The goal of this program is to improve the vision of children in Kon Tum Province by strengthening the ability of health personnel to provide pediatric eye care services. Local ophthalmologists train community health staff and teachers to screen, identify and refer children with eye health problems. Screenings are then organized in different schools each month. The trained teachers and health workers work together to organize the students, conduct the screenings and record results, noting those students who fail the visual acuity test. Last year, 7,047 school children from 10 secondary and primary schools were screened; 1,706 students were refracted and 743 children in need received eyeglasses. Future plans include expanding the program model to other districts in Kon Tum Province, as well as other provinces in Vietnam.

Sustainable Development NGO

This center aims to address development issues in Vietnam with particular focuses on climate change for environment protection, women empowerment through sustainable livelihood support, children support through social inclusion, and lastly youth development through international exchange and non-formal education.

The Center focuses on 4 main areas:

Climate Change/ Environment 

The center is supporting the community based ecotourism scheme run by local women and fishermen in Giao Xuan – the buffer zone of the Xuan Thuy Wetland National Park. It aims to develop the skills and capabilities of community members (especially poor women and fishermen) in conservation-based eco-business to address poverty and improve living standards through sustainable livelihoods that conserve the environment

Women Empowerment / Micro Finance

The center supports the micro finance scheme for rural women in Vinh Phuc province in cooperation with another local NGO. The project aims to empower women through provision of asset building skills as well as social awareness on the rights of women. The project is currently giving loans to over 1,000 women to assist them in running small businesses and investment.

Children's Support / Social Inclusion

The program has been coordinating several projects to support children with needs and to promote social inclusion for disadvantaged children. Examples include:

  • Building classrooms for primary children in Moc Chau Plateau, Son La Province

  • Training for care workers in Thuy An Center for Handicapped Children

  • Language development for children program

  • Vocational training for youth in sub-urban area of Hanoi

  • Youth Development & Volunteer Exchange

Middle and Secondary Education Center

Students can serve with a local secondary school (grade 6-9) and high school (grade 10-12), where there is very little chance for the pupils and teachers to meet foreigners to practice English and exchange communication skills.  The aim of the program is to provide an English language-speaking environment for pupils to practice and improve their confidence in using a foreign language and communication. At the same time, with the support of the international volunteers, the local teachers can improve their speaking skills and get to understand more about the culture of the language that they are teaching.