Vietnam Trip Info

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General Info

  • Team Leaders: Haley Pope & Weston Wise
  • Location: Dong Thap, Vietnam
  • Trip dates: July 26 – Aug 4, 2018
  • Team Size: 24 people
  • Event code: GV19859
  • Program donation: $1,575
  • Program donation due and recruitment ends: June 11, 2018

Check out the Habitat for Humanity Vietnam website to get a sense of who they are and how they help. READ THE HANDBOOK!


Build Location: Dong Thap

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Our build location will be in the Dong Thap province in the Mekong Delta. Dong Thap is located in Southern Vietnam, in the Mekong Delta, 160km from Ho Chi Minh City. Dong Thap province is the third highest rice producer in Vietnam, but almost a quarter of the population is poor or nearly poor according to the national poverty line.

Most houses in Dong Thap have temporary stilt raised frames made of local construction materials such as cajuput and nipa trees and are located along the river bank. Due to the annual floods and poor construction, many of these houses are damaged and require continual maintenance. Many people cannot afford to renovate or repair their current houses.

In addition, access to clean water and sanitation is another significant challenge for the province. Most households do not have a hygienic latrine or access to clean water (only 37% of people in rural Dong Thap has access to clean water). Groundwater quality in Dong Thap is poor and cannot be used for drinking due to high arsenic. Most people use river water and rainwater directly used for drinking or washing with little or no treatment.

Project Description & Objectives

Typical Vietnam House
Typical Habitat House in Vietnam

In November 2018, the Vietnam affiliate will host a Big Build in the Mekong Delta. Our team will be part of the Test Big Build. We will work with several families and on several houses since we have a large group. This will enable us to really get to know the region, the locals, and have different building experiences from one another. We will come together to reflect on these experiences.

The project in Dong Thap will focus on assisting low-income households affected by the impacts of climate change and natural disasters. The project will:

  • Provide access to safe shelter, water, and sanitation facilities.
  • Build capacity for local community members in disaster preparedness, mitigation, and climate change adaptation.
  • Raise community awareness about safe water, sanitation, and hygiene practices through WASH training courses, as well as a strong focus on school-led water, sanitation and hygiene practice (WASH) training.

Recipient Family Profile

We will be working with the Nguyen family in Dong Thap! Learn more about the family and their current home to understand how we will be helping them achieve a better place to call home.

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Dates, Cost & Fundraising

Payment Due Dates

Deposit: $350 to secure your spot on our team (non-refundable, non-transferrable).

Full trip cost: $1,575 is due on June 11, 2018.

Please pay this fee or the remaining cost using any of the following methods:

  • Online with a credit card on the secure GV website
  • Online with a credit card on your fundraising page by clicking the donate button in the top right corner
  • By phone with a credit card: call 1-800-HABITAT, ext 7530
  • Send a check in the mail to Habitat for Humanity International Global Village Program, 121 Habitat Street, Americus, GA 31709.

*NOTE: Include the GV event code (GV19859) and your ID # on any payment

Your GV trip cost includes a donation to Habitat for Humanity Vietnam and Habitat for Humanity International; meals; accommodations; transport (excluding airfare); cultural activities; health, accident, and emergency evacuation insurance; and team coordination from HFHI and the host program.

The trip cost does not include airfare, R&R activities before or after the build, and visa and exit fees (where applicable). All R&R arrangements should be made independently by the team and directly with tour operators.

Read Habitat’s cancellation policy.

Fundraising

For those of you who have already set up your Share.Habitat page, keep up the great work fundraising! Please don’t forget to thank your supporters! You may even want to consider ways to draw them further into the experience, like sending them a photo of you at the build site.

For those who haven’t created a page yet, there’s still time. Create your account and share it on social media, through email, and word of mouth to encourage your friends and family to support your trip. This is not only a great way to help fund your way to Vietnam, but also allows others not physically participating in the trip to know they’re playing an important role in supporting the build. Let me know if you need any help!

Learn how to be a great fundraiser for Habitat!


Travel Arrangements

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Arrival & Departure

UPDATE: Buy your flights now, from July 28th – Aug 25, 2018. Send us your flight info.

  • Arrive at the Ton Son Nhat Airport in Ho Chi Min City airport by 5 pm on Saturday, July 28. This means you’ll have to leave by Thursday, July 26 or Friday, July 27. The Habitat team will be there to pick you up when you arrive. 
  • Our trip ends on Saturday, August 4. You can book your flight home anytime on this day leaving from the same airport.
  • Please book your flights by Feb 28, 2018, and send us a copy of your flight itinerary.
  • Habitat recommends purchasing trip cancellation insurance in the case of unforeseen circumstances. You can usually purchase this with your airfare.
  • Late Departures: The dates noted above are the “official” trip dates, but you are free to arrange your own independent travel after our build. 
  • Insurance coverage is only for the dates listed in the itinerary. Any travel outside of this time will not be covered by the Habitat insurance policy.

*NOTE: Because our visas are single-entry and only valid for 30 days, please make sure you leave Vietnam within 30 days of your arrival. Additionally, the group needs to be on a similar schedule for ease of visa processing. Please do not arrive in Vietnam before our official trip dates. If you are going to extend your trip, make arrangements to stay later rather than arriving early. Team members staying later are responsible for their own transport, hotel arrangements, and payments, etc. 


Passport Requirements

You need a passport that is valid for at least 1 month before and 6 months after our dates of travel in order to leave home and enter Vietnam. If you need to replace your passport, do so now. 


Visa Process

IMPORTANT: You can fill out the application beforehand and make sure it’s ready to go, but DO NOT mail it until you receive the letter of invitation from team leaders. 

The Vietnam government has an exacting visa application process, but we are here to walk you through it! Here is some general information:

  • Apply for your visa before entering Vietnam, but after purchasing your flights. Therefore, the earlier you book flights the better. Each participant will need to apply for theirs individually.
  • Vietnam requires you to obtain a business visa in order to volunteer with Habitat. You must apply for this visa in advance, not at the airport. It will be valid for 30 days, beginning on July 24 and is a one-time entry visa. You need to apply for this visa even if you already have a current tourist visa.
  • Habitat advises not to plan international travel directly before this build. Vietnam’s application requires you to mail your physical passport within one month of your departure date to Washington D.C. (if you live in the US). We recommend that you schedule any additional travel after the build’s conclusion.
  • We will email you the letter of invitation about a month before our trip. Once you receive this letter, you will fill out your application, mail the application along with your physical passport, and receive your passport and visa before our departure date.
  • Fill out the application beforehand and make sure it’s ready to go, but DO NOT mail it until you receive the letter of invitation. 

While it may seem stressful, rest assured that each Global Village team has received their visas in time! Thanks for partnering with us in Vietnam. If you have questions, please get in touch with us! 

1) Visa Timeline

  1. Send your team leaders (us) all the required documentation listed below by the due date, Feb 28.
  2. We will send your information to Habitat Vietnam (HFHV), who will get approval from the government for our trip.
  3. HFHV will send your team leaders (us) the letter of invitation for volunteers to apply for their business visas (NN3).
  4. You will fill out your application and include all required documentation.
  5. Mail your application to the Vietnam embassy in Washington D.C., if you reside in the U.S. (If you reside outside the U.S., mail it to your local Vietnam embassy).
  6. Wait…until you receive your passport and your visa from the embassy.

2) Send Us…

This travel info must be sent to us by February 28th. Habitat will use this information to obtain a letter of invitation from local authorities. Your timely submission will ensure a smooth application process for all.

  • Photo of your passport: Color scan or photograph. Do not use a flash.
    • Full name
    • Date of birth
    • Nationality
    • Passport number
    • Date of passport issue
    • Date of passport expiry
  • Occupation/Profession
  • Your flight itinerary
    • Date of departure to Vietnam
    • Date of departure from Vietnam

3) Include in Your Application

  1. Completed PDF visa application form, printed out (instructions below).
  2. Scanned color copy of both passport pages in a vertical orientation.
  3. Two 2×2 passport photos.
  4. $80 visa fee per person (reimbursed after your trip):
    • Money order, cashiers check, certified check, or company check.
    • Payable to “Embassy of Vietnam”.
    • i.e. for two people applying together, you can pay a combined $160.00, etc. but you MUST submit separate applications and documents.
  5. Copy of the 3-page Habitat Visa Letter:
    • Highlight your name found on pages 2 and 3.
  6. Pre-paid, trackable, self-addressed return envelope:
    • Use USPS, FedEx, or UPS.

NOTE: If you wish to pay for expedited service, your visa will be processed within 24 hours of document receipt. To request expedited service, include an additional $30 per passport and write “URGENT – EXPEDITED SERVICE” on the application and on your mailing envelopes.

NOTE: Please make a copy of all the above documents before you mail your application and passport. 

4. Filling out the Application

Follow these instructions when filling out your visa application. Read the FAQs here. Please write legibly and use CAPITAL letters when filling out your personal information.

1-8. Input all information exactly as it appears on your passport, including your name, gender, birthdate, etc. 

9. “BUSINESS VISA TYPE NN3 REQUIRED for volunteer work with Habitat for Humanity.”

10. Write our Vietnamese sponsor address: “The People’s Aid Coordinating Committee (PACCOM), 105A Quan Thanh, Ba Dinh, Ha Noi, Vietnam, Phone: +84 (0) 4.3843 6936, Fax: +84 (0) 4.3845 2007”.

11. List the dates of entry and exit as shown on the attached visa invitation letter, NOT the dates of entry based on your airline ticket.

12. Please check “Single Visit” and “One Month”.

Glue one passport photo to the top right of the application page and the second photo to the bottom right corner with a staple. 

Sign the document.

In the checklist, check the box for “Passport copy (front photo page, for a loose-leaf visa request)”. Check the rest of the boxes below.

5. Mail your Application

All applicants applying together can send their documents in one package and include a combined visa fee ($80/person).

Paperclip each person’s documents together inside the package. 

Mail all visa documents (above) to:

  • Consular Section – Embassy of Vietnam
  • 1233 20th Street, NW Suite 400
  • Washington DC, 20036
  • Tel: 202 861 0737 ext 121, 122, 123, 129
  • Hours: 9:00 – 12:00 and 2:00pm – 4:30pm Monday – Friday, except holidays
  • Website: www.vietnamembassy.us

Health & Medical

Habitat for Humanity provides health insurance for every volunteer on the Global Village trip during the trip. If your travels extend beyond the Global Village trip dates, you will need your own health insurance.

Immunization

Please consult your doctor or travel clinic to find out what is specifically recommended for you. Here’s a link to the CDC website for Vietnam if you want a preview of what your health care professional might recommend.

Dietary Restrictions & Medical Concerns

Let us know if you have any dietary restrictions or preferences, food allergies, medical conditions, or anything else that might impact your health and safety while we’re in Vietnam. We’ll share the food-related information with the local affiliate to make sure everyone is able to enjoy our meals while we’re away. We’ll also be carrying a fairly extensive first aid kit, but please remember to bring any critical prescription medications (and a copy of the prescription) with you.


Accommodations

You will be allocated a hotel and a room closer to the date of departure. The accommodation will be simple, basic and twin-share (each volunteer will have a roommate, so please let us know if there is someone you’d like to room with).

In Vietnam, it is common practice for hotels to hold on to the passports of their guests after they have checked in since hotels are required to let the government know who their guests are. Passports will be returned to guests when they check out.

While hot water is available, please be aware that the temperature may drop quickly depending on the number of hotel guests who are using it. There may be short power outages so it’s best to keep torchlight handy. A small safe, usually kept in the hotel’s office, will be available for the use of the volunteer team.

Wifi is also available in your hotel; however, once again, this may be limited at times due to power outages and connectivity may be weak at different times of the day/night. Internet cafes are numerous in Ho Chi Minh City.


Meal Time

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All meals we eat as a team in hotels and restaurants have been vetted and are safe and healthy to eat. Breakfast will be at your hotel every morning, lunch will be at the build site, and dinner will be at the hotel or surrounding restaurants. Vietnamese cuisine is very healthy and flavorful, using very little oil and many vegetables. Rice, soy sauce, and fish sauce are the staples of Vietnamese meals. The characteristic flavors are sweet (sugar), spicy (serrano peppers), sour (lime) and savory (fish sauce) enhanced by a variety of mint and basil.

That said, it’s always good to keep in mind some general guidelines for safe eating and drinking when traveling abroad: you should avoid food prepared by street vendors; wash your hands whenever possible, especially before eating; if soap and water are not available, use a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.

Drink only bottled or boiled water or carbonated drinks in cans or bottles. Avoid tap water, fountain drinks, and ice cubes. Use bottled water for brushing teeth as well. Make sure food is fully cooked. Avoid dairy products unless you know they have been pasteurized.

Water will be available on-site and at your hotel at all times. Please use bottled water conscientiously. This water is available for drinking purposes only. There will be hand washing stations available at the worksite.

*NOTE: If you have specific dietary needs or allergies that you haven’t mentioned, please let us know ASAP so we can make the appropriate arrangements.


Dress Code & Packing List

Vietnam TemperaturesThe temperature, while we are in Vietnam, will be in the 80s and 90s. However, it’s good to have clothes for any type of weather, so make sure to follow the packing list below.

When packing clothing for the trip, keep in mind our daily activities: we will be working during the day (bring old clothes that you don’t mind getting dirty) and afterward, eating dinner and socializing in the evenings (bring clothes other than working clothes). At the worksite, loose, comfortable clothing is best.

There will be an opportunity to do laundry at the hotel. Each volunteer will need to pay for these services separately.

For the worksite:

  • Long and short-sleeved t-shirts (no spaghetti straps or tank tops)
  • Long pants, such as jeans or hiking pants
  • Closed-toe shoes with a hard sole (work boots if you already have them, otherwise, gym shoes are perfectly fine)
  • Lightweight rain jacket
  • Hat and bandana
  • Sunglasses
  • Sunscreen and bug spray
  • Chapstick with sunscreen
  • Work gloves (you can find these at any Ace, Lowe’s, Home Depot, etc.)
  • Reusable water bottle
  • Camera (not an expensive one!)
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Insect repellent
  • Supplemental snacks if you have dietary restrictions
  • Gatorade/Powerade powder to add to your water
  • Small backpack or bag to carry your things to the worksite

Here’s a picture of a recent volunteer group – this is what you should wear – look at all of that great sun protection!

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Off the worksite:

  • Casual, modest clothing (knee-length shorts are fine)
  • Personal toiletries
  • Baby wipes or make-up wipes
  • First aid items (there will be a first aid kit on site, but it’s nice to have Band-Aids, Tylenol, Advil, Pepto-Bismol, etc. for yourself!)
  • Any personal medications (bring your prescription as well)
  • Earplugs (you will be sharing a room)
  • Small flashlight or headlamp with batteries
  • Electrical adaptor
  • A good book or two
  • ATM card
  • Personal spending money
  • Journal and pen and pencils
  • Snacks – granola bars, nuts, etc.
  • Passport and a photocopy
  • Swimsuit, just in case
  • Shower shoes
  • Zip-lock or plastic bags for soiled clothing/shoes
  • Photos of your family (avoid photos depicting wealth)
  • Spanish/English pocket dictionary, if you’ll be attempting some Spanish
  • And of course, don’t forget your passport, ID, and money!

What not to bring:

  • Anything expensive you’d be devastated to lose (watch, laptop, camera, jewelry)
  • Large amounts of cash
  • Gifts (as discussed above in the gift-giving policy)

Itinerary

Day 1-2: Travel
Thursday, July 26
Friday, July 27
• Depart the U.S. in order to arrive by 5 pm on the 28th.
Day 3: Welcome
Saturday, July 28
• Arrive at Ton Son Nhat Airport in Ho Chi Min City
• Greeted by Habitat Vietnam staff
• Transported to accommodations in Ho Chi Minh City
• First team dinner and overnight in Ho Chi Minh City
Day 4: Orientation
Sunday, July 29
• Breakfast at accommodations
• Travel to build city and enjoy some free time before dinner
• Welcome dinner and orientation
• Overnight at accommodations
Days 5-8: Build
Monday, July 30 –
Thursday, August 02
• Breakfast at accommodations before leaving for the work site
• Worksite safety & health orientation
• Work on the build site with breaks for snacks and lunch
• Travel back to accommodation, time for cultural activities, group reflection, and dinner
Day 9: Celebrate
Friday, August 03
• Breakfast at accommodations before leaving for work site
• Work until noon and have lunch at the worksite
• Farewell celebration in the afternoon
• Travel back to Ho Chi Minh City, dinner at accommodations
Day 10: Explore, Goodbyes
Saturday, August 04
• Breakfast at accommodations
• Cultural activities
• Departure

Cultural Activities & Evenings

During our build, we’ll have some built-in free time to avoid over-working ourselves and also to make sure we have an opportunity to get to know the community. We have some fantastic options on how to spend this time, COMING SOON!

Each night we will eat dinner and talk about the events of the day as a group, but after dinner is free time for everyone.

Although this region is considered safe, we will adhere to common sense safety practices like traveling in pairs. Some nights we may choose to stay in and I encourage you to bring your favorite card or board game and challenge your teammates!


Vietnamese Culture

Officially, 80% of the population has no religious belief. But the major spiritual influences in Vietnam are growing and include Buddhism, Christianity, Taoism, Confucianism, Islam, and Cao Dai, and native religions (ancestor worship and mother goddess worship). 

Vietnamese is the language spoken by the majority of the people, although students learn English in schools as well. French is still spoken by some older people but is losing its popularity. In recent years, Chinese, Japanese and English have become the most popular foreign languages.

There are 54 ethnic groups living in Vietnam! The Kinh (or ethnic Vietnamese) people account for 88% of the country’s population and are mostly concentrated in the lowlands. Most of the 5.5 million people from ethnic minority groups live in the mountainous areas. These groups include the Tay, the Nung, the Thai, the Muong, the H’mong, the Dao, the Hoa, the Khmer, the Bana, the Gia-rai, and the Ede.

Cultural Considerations

  • Be patient. Vietnamese people do things at a different pace. No matter how frustrating things can get, don’t lose your temper. Showing anger is seen as a sign of weakness.
  • Be flexible, especially during the build week when tasks may be changed.
  • Dress modestly to respect others and the culture.
  • Remove your shoes when entering someone’s home Wearing sandals or other easily removable footwear makes it easy to observe this tradition.
  • If you would like someone to come over to you, motion with your whole hand held palm down.
  • The traditional greeting is to press one’s palms together in a prayer-like gesture and bow. Nowadays, the practice of shaking hands has become more widespread. Please note that it is considered culturally unacceptable for a male to embrace a female companion in public.
  • Do not touch people you do not know well, as this may be seen as disrespectful. Intimate gestures between the sexes are not appropriate in public.
  • Pointing can be offensive. Never point your finger or the soles of your feet toward a person. Extend a flat hand to bring attention to a place, person or item.
  • Avoid discussions on religion, politics or the Vietnam and United States war.

Habitat Policies

Gift Giving Policy & Donations

Habitat for Humanity takes a very strict stance on avoiding paternalism and fostering any sense of dependency or inequality among our partnering communities. Essentially, giving gifts are not allowed. It can create jealousy, competition, and enmity within the community. In some cultures, people feel if they receive a gift they are obligated to reciprocate. If they are unable to do so, your generosity may lead to unhappiness or disappointment on the part of the recipient. It also undermines the ideal that Habitat is trying to promote – a hand up not a handout.

If you would like to donate anything in addition, which is certainly not necessary, the team leaders will collect the items and give them to the host program who will distribute it appropriately and fairly without names attached. Read the Habitat Vietnam gift policy.

That said, there are a couple exceptions. Here are some guidelines:

  • Never give money, or promise to give money, to anyone. Although rare, you may be approached and asked to sponsor a child, make a mortgage payment, or give money for daily items. Under no circumstances should you agree! Habitat strives to promote independence and personal capacity, not create dependence on others— especially those outside of their own community. Let us know if this happens during the build and we will address the situation.
  • If you have gifts to give, they must be shared anonymously by the host affiliate. We will collect any items you wish to donate and at the end of our trip and pass them along to the host affiliate who can then distribute to those most in need in the community. Some examples of appropriate gifts are below:
    • Work clothing and shoes
    • Tools for building (tools will be provided on the work site. You are not required to bring your own tools).
  • Bring toys to play with the children, but then take them back home. Some ideas include bubbles, Frisbees, balls (with pump) etc. The only guideline here is that at the end of each day, we take back the items to comply with the gift-giving policy. Remember if you share something with one child others will expect something as well. This can cause problems in the community, including violence between children who didn’t receive a toy and those who did.

Photography & Photo Sharing

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Taking pictures is a great way to capture special memories and keep them with you – and you are highly encouraged to take lots of photos on the build! But please remember Habitat works to promote dignity in the partner families or communities. Here are some guidelines:

  • Please ask permission from any local people prior to taking their photo.
  • Avoid photos depicting people in “destitute” situations. The partner families/communities that we are serving are working hard to better their lives and we should strive to document that hope instead.

To keep our funders and supporters in the loop, it’s nice to share photos of the work we’re doing at the build site while we’re there. Please include the hashtag #GVVietnam2018 to any photo you share on social media.

After the trip is over, I’ll set up a Flickr album for the trip with everyone’s photos so we all will have copies of the build.

Alcohol Policy

As a reminder, Habitat’s policy regarding alcohol is that you’re permitted to drink moderately after work, but should do so with discretion and remember to act as a representative of Habitat for Humanity at all times. You will be responsible for purchasing any alcohol you consume – it is not a covered expense by Habitat.


Action Items:

  • Mark your calendar for June 11, 2018, when final trip payments are due.
  • Make sure you have scheduled an appointment with your health care professional to discuss any immunizations.
  • Purchase your flight reservations to and from Vietnam by Feb 28, 2018.
  • Email us:
    • A complete copy of your flight itinerary.
    • A short bio about yourself, your profession, and a photo, so we can start to get to know each other! Once we get everyone’s bio, we’ll send you a copy.
  • Let me know of any dietary restrictions/preferences/allergies and any medical conditions that may impact your safety on this trip.
  • Begin to think about packing – assume you won’t be able to buy anything you’ve forgotten, so make a list and check it twice.

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