Name: Dzanh Le-si
Hometown: Alexandria, Virginia
Nationality: United States
Occupation: Senior Consultant at Acuity, Inc.
Languages spoken: English
Past travel experience: Moderate
Volunteer Abroad: Social entrepreneurship in Hanoi, Vietnam
Duration: 12 weeks
Start month: September 2017
Claim to fame: As a first generation immigrant, Dzanh has always been aware of differences between his family’s culture and that of the American culture he grew up in. Welcome to the UBELONG Community!
Why did you decide to become a UBELONG Volunteer?
I was at a point in my career (IT consultant) where I wasn’t feeling passionate about what I was doing everyday and wanted to shake things up by trying something at the other end of the spectrum. I knew I wanted to try working at a non-profit or volunteering, and I had always wanted to travel to Vietnam (where my parents and family are from originally). Eventually I put those two ideas together and that led me to find UBELONG.
As it relates to the UBELONG Local Team and in-country support: How was it?
It was a seamless process. I’m a “read the instructions/checklist” type of person, so I read through the UBELONG preparation booklet, watched the videos, and got in touch with my UBELONG Mentor (Martina). The visa process for Vietnam was a little confusing, but after a few questions with Martina, everything was cleared up, and I felt ready (though a little nervous) for Vietnam!
In terms of in-country support, I really couldn’t have asked for more. The support started from being picked up at the airport (which was a big relief as I was arriving to a country I had never visited before, did not speak the language, and was unsure how to navigate) by Thuong who is one of the interns. She introduced me to volunteers living at the house and gave me a tour of the house.
The next day I met with Duc, who was my project point of contact. Duc reviewed my NGO project with me, showed me how to take the bus to get to the project site, and introduced me to the people at my office. After that I was off and running on my own.
Throughout my project assignment Martina and other staff would periodically check-in to make sure everything was OK and if I had any questions or concerns.
What three pieces of advice would you give to a future UBELONG Volunteer?
- Have an open mind and embrace the differences of the country you’re in (That’s why we’re volunteering right? Daily living and working conditions likely won’t be what you’re used to, especially if you’re coming from a western country).
- Be flexible and look to contribute in any way you can. As they say, “best laid plans…”, be prepared for your project to be exactly as you though it might be, but give it a try and give yourself time to adjust. Also, communicate with in-country support staff, your project contacts, and UBELONG Mentor.
- Have fun! Enjoy the people you meet and make sure to take trips to explore the country (not just the city you’re in)!
In a sentence or less, what is your best packing advice.
If your bag exceeds the airline weight limit, you’re probably packing too much.