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 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.

Service-Learning versus Internship/Practicum

IPSL service-learning placements are determined, in part, by student interests and skills (and, in some cases, language abilities), but primarily by community needs. Central to the philosophy of service-learning is the notion of service. Service-learning is not the same as an internship or practicum although it may look very similar. The service in service-learning may or may not be career-related. An internship is designed mostly so that the student will benefit by learning about his or her future profession. In contrast, in service-learning, the outcome of the student's work - that is, the service -  is as important as the student’s learning. There are  - or should be - identifiable benefits to those served. This reciprocity is a key component in international service-learning.

IPSL Service Placements

IPSL's service-learning placements are in agencies that have sprung up from the grassroots, where locals have identified a need, and where the change effort is owned by them. What they need is additional assistance of all kinds from the outside. So, IPSL participants should remember that they are stepping into a moving stream of initiatives and efforts that began long ago, and that will continue after the participant departs. Your work is important, but your individual contributions may not be visible for many years. Change takes time. In the meantime, you are fulfilling a need, and the need is huge.

A single agency may need hands-on assistance from IPSL participants (direct service) or assistance in the background building capacity (indirect service) so that the agency can one day experience more stability in the delivery of its services. Either way, both direct and indirect service are needed to accomplish the goals. Each is valuable. In actuality, because nearly all non-profits experience resource scarcity, IPSL participants do a little bit of everything. And this is as it should be. Nothing says "I'm a partner in your community" more than a willingness on the part of a service-learning™ participant not only to do higher tasks, but also occasionally to pick up a broom and sweep the floor so that the setting is clean and presentable. Such actions serve to break down stereotypes about Americans, and build relationships based on equality. That is why many of the service agencies with which we work have been our partners for years.

The IPSL website lists areas of service, and a few examples for each program site. This list is not exhaustive, nor static. The types of work listed do not each represent a distinct agency; they represent the types of work that IPSL participants can expect to encounter at the different service agencies with which we work. The number and selection of service agencies may change at any time. Sometimes there are logistical (transportation, scheduling, etc.) issues that arise that complicate certain service agency placements and make them unworkable. Sometimes students need to be proficient in the local language in order to serve in a particular agency. Also, we do not place too many students in any one agency. Doing so would undermine the immersion environment for which IPSL programs are known.


Volunteer Service that Addresses Real Human Needs

During Orientation, you will have an opportunity to work with IPSL staff to learn about the various service opportunities available  and select one (or possibly more)  that is of interest to you.  As you work with local people and care for those in need, you will find your experience and understanding of the culture enriched and deepened, your leadership skills developed, and your language skills enhanced. You will serve approximately 12-15 hours per week in a local agency.

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.