Thereâ€™ll be me and (I think) other ex volunteers all taking the stand for seven to eight minutes to tell our stories. I believe there will also be an opportunity for questions too.
Not sure what form my speech will take but there might be some brief readings from Our Man in Hanoi detailing my experiences in Vietnam.
Just to reiterate, yet again, if you have ever thought about VSO but dismissed it for whatever reason – think again. If your really want to do it then find a way. If the problem is the mortgage, or the kids, then think about doing it in your retirement. VSO just loves oldies.
Some more facts to dispel any myths:
1. Itâ€™s not all floppy haired gap-year kids
2. It is people with skills and experience doing in the developed world what they get paid for back home.
3. It used to be all two-year stints but there are some shorter options now available.
4. You might end up in a mud hut in the middle of nowhere but, then again, you probably wonâ€™t. I lived in rather a nice house.
5. While youâ€™d be advised not to pick and choose too much, you can say what youâ€™d be prepared to do and what you just couldnâ€™t do without. Donâ€™t be too picky though or they might not be able to find anything.
6. You do get a living wage and your flights are paid for. Itâ€™s enough to cover the basics. Volunteering for VSO shouldnâ€™t cost you anything. You even get a resettlement grant when itâ€™s all over.
As a final spur hereâ€™s a brief snippet of something I wrote about the experience:
â€œI am so proud of what we have achieved at KOTO. So proud just to be a part of it. So proud that the new KOTO is going happen. And if youâ€™ll forgive me the indulgence, Iâ€™m proud I stuck it out. Not just the two years but the extra time to see this through.
â€œIt is easily the single best thing I have ever done with my life.
â€œMy future has many more adventures ahead but I will see and experience nothing like this ever again. I am the luckiest guy in the world to do this.â€
For more info, or if youâ€™d like to attend, go here.
For my own part, let me say the following. Thereâ€™s not a doubt in my mind that Iâ€™d be happy as Larry living in Hanoi again for a few months, year or whatever. Iâ€™d certainly second everything on the above list. I only did 6 weeks in Hanoi on my longest stint getting Blue Dragonâ€™s website and stuff sorted, but I was made to feel so much a part of the team by the kids that I simply did not want to leave.
OurMan mentions the pride at the end of it. Hell, yes. Sure, itâ€™s good to feel proud of something you did in the office when youâ€™re home and getting your monthly wage. But when that thing youâ€™ve done, youâ€™ve done for little or no financial reward; and when you can see how much it matters to people who have a hell of a lot less than you ever willâ€¦ then you experience pride. Then you know what youâ€™ve done is more worthwhile than anything else.
People – donâ€™t have second thoughts. Itâ€™s a meeting. In Newcastle. It will, I assume, involve a bunch of people having a right old chat and probably a beer afterwards. What a great way to spend an evening, and you might even find yourself walking off with some life-changing ideas.