My name is Lua and I am a volunteer from the USA who joined as part of an American organization called Volunteers in Asia. I have been with Coins for Change since September 2018 and adore it! My position as the External Relations Manager is one of the hardest, but also one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had yet. Our contracts with VIA last one full year, but I have decided to renew mine until June 2020 at the very least because of my love for this organization, my wonderful boss (Ms. Hong) and my coworkers!
When I first started, I had just left a volunteering position at an anti-human trafficking organization in the South of Vietnam where I was working 60-80 hours per week. Although I adored my coworkers and the work that I was doing, I just couldn’t imagine the hours being sustainable for an entire year, especially because I had originally agreed to working 40 hours per week. My work was becoming my entire life and I knew that I wouldn’t be able to last long. My mental health was deteriorating and knew that would soon burn out. After I left, VIA discovered Ms. Hong’s organization and soon I was sitting in a little coffee shop with her, discussing all the work to be done! I knew when I first met her that I wanted to be a part of Coins for Change! She had so many ideas, felt so passionate about her work, and cared deeply for the women she was working with.
Although I am an American in nationality, I was born in Singapore and an half Vietnamese. My beloved father, cute younger siblings, many aunties, uncles and cousins live in Hanoi, but I grew up with my mother and another younger sibling in the USA. I grew up missing everyone terribly and wanting to return to my home country. One of the reasons why I took this opportunity to work with Coins for Change so quickly was that I knew working with them would give me a chance to be with the family I had missed for so long. Travels from the USA to Vietnam are expensive and I only saw them once every few years.
However, I had no idea what would be in store for me once I started! At first, I was writing grant proposals, revamping the Volunteer Guidebook, updating the website content and posting on the Facebook page. After I became more familiar with the organization and became passionate about my work, Ms. Hong began giving me more responsibilities and freedom to change things up. Within a few months I had completely re-done the application process for Teach for Change volunteers, began managing the new volunteer posts, managing our social media pages, taking over our different volunteering online profiles, and coordinating new partnerships! Never in my life have I had a boss that trusts and respects me in the way that Ms. Hong does.
I think that one of the best parts of my job is being able to meet so many international and local volunteers. They join us for so many reasons! Some want to develop their professional skills, some want to travel to a new and exotic country, lots want to have the rich cultural exchange experiences that our programs have to offer, but everyone, no matter their background, join in the end because they want to make a real, positive impact on the world. I find it amazing that my work involves talking to people from all over the world and learning about their lives. Just last week I talked to candidates in Italy, Egypt and the Philippines within a single morning!
Sometimes my job can be really difficult because of the amount of volunteers I need to recruit every month, but it’s so rewarding that I don’t mind. When a volunteer that I have been speaking with for months finally arrives in Vietnam, it’s a great feeling, especially when I get to meet them in person. It saddens me that I won’t get to meet many of the people that I recruit due to distance, but I know that I’ll get to see a lot of them one day and I am making lifelong connections. It’s been a wonderful year so far and I’m so excited for the next one!