April 19, 2023

Bridging the Gap: My Volunteer Journey in Vietnam with Trinh Foundation Australia

Bridging the Gap: My Volunteer Journey in Vietnam with Trinh Foundation Australia

Volunteering with Trinh Foundation Australia (TFA) is a unique opportunity to support the speech and language therapy profession in Vietnam. Here, Gold Coast based Senior Speech Pathologist Megan Nevell shares her experiences as an in-country volunteer in Da Nang, Vietnam.  

In Megan's role as an international clinical educator, she supervised five fourth-year Vietnamese Bachelor of Speech and Language Therapy (SLT) students on their final paediatric placement plus a Masters of SLT graduate who was working on her supervision skills. The work involved seeing five clients per day in an outpatient hospital clinic. This was possible with the help of an interpreter who would interpret their discussions during assessments and intervention sessions as well as translate written information to English and Vietnamese such as session plans, progress notes, handouts and feedback.  

Megan's impressions of Vietnam were overwhelmingly positive. She described it as a beautiful country with friendly, helpful people who try their best to communicate and share their culture with visitors.  

“Vietnam is a beautiful country with really delicious, flavourful and fresh food. It has a rich history with many cultural experience.”

- Megan Nevell 

 When asked about the importance of capacity building, Megan highlighted how new the speech and language therapy profession is to Vietnam and how limited access to services is.  

“There is a small number of qualified speech therapists in the cities, and a high demand for services. People from regional areas do not have access to speech pathology services, or they would have to travel far, which is costly to them. The profession is not recognised to the same level as other professionals. Ongoing advocacy and capacity building of current speech therapists, clinics, schools, hospitals, and universities are very much needed.”

- Megan Nevell

Megan's favourite part of volunteering abroad was the opportunity to work with locals, which allowed her to experience living there like one. She had the chance to connect with people, eat shared meals, and travel on a motorbike to get to work. Her biggest takeaway from the experience was the richness of the experiences she had, which was much deeper than a typical holiday. For fellow speechies considering volunteering in Vietnam with TFA, Megan highly recommends it, especially if you are adaptable and enjoy varied work experiences. Volunteers need to be flexible and able to think on their feet in a setting that is different from what they are used to.  

Megan's insights and recommendations for future volunteers include being aware that Vietnamese people do not use greetings in the same way as Westerners and that they have different greetings depending on their relationship with the person. Additionally, volunteers should take advantage of the array of delicious vegetarian restaurants and coffee shops in Da Nang. Chay An Lan, Ans Vegetarian Cuisine and FM Tea & Coffee were just a few of her favourites.