From shy volunteer to program pioneer

By Nguyen Xuan An and Nguyen Ngoc Duyen, World Vision Vietnam

Have you ever wondered if you can volunteer with World Vision overseas in the communities where we work?

If you’ve ever asked us, you will have found out that all our volunteers come from the communities themselves. This is so that local people are engaged in their community and feel they are part of the outcomes of the development work taking place. Once the community becomes self-sufficient and World Vision can leave to help the next community, these volunteers can continue on with the knowledge and experience already gained.

Chang Thi Cha is an example of a volunteer in our Tua Chua Area Development Program in Vietnam.

Cha was born in 1994, and is the oldest in her family living in the Tua Chua district. Cha left school at 14 to farm and help take care of her siblings. She got married at 17 and now has a three-year-old son. Although working, Cha still faced many difficulties because she lacked knowledge on income generation and how to raise her son. Going back to school to gain more knowledge has always been a burning desire for Cha.

In September 2013, World Vision introduced savings and loans groups in her village. Through this model, group members save a portion of their income together which can then be lent out to fellow members at low interest rates. Any profits are shared out amongst group members and invested back into the community. 

Cha saw this is as a good opportunity for her and many other women in the village to access a loan more easily and quickly. She registered and encouraged other villagers to participate. She was then elected as group leader to manage and maintain the group's activities. After three years of operation, her village has two savings groups with 36 members making regular monthly contributions.

In August 2014, a health club was established in her village, made up of 30 mothers and other caregivers, to promote improved maternal and child healthcare practices. Cha was elected as a group board member. 

“If I had participated in the [program] activities sooner, I would not drop out of school and [enter] early marriage,” said Cha. “Since I have been participating in World Vision’s program, I feel I have completely changed from a shy person when joining in the village’s activities. Currently, I feel more confident and always I am the pioneer in the activities of the communes* and villages. I would like to thank the [program] for giving me and everyone in the commune the opportunity to change and develop ourselves.

“… I am equipped [with] knowledge and skills [in] animal husbandry, cultivation, business skills, taking care for my children. I have a chance to go many places inside and outside the commune. Village people love and encourage me in work and I’m learning a lot."

Cha has become a leader in her community after gaining skills and knowledge in livestock raising, business and child healthcare.

Cha’s contribution was acknowledged by her community and as a result she has been entrusted with the role and responsibility of helping the villagers to escape from poverty and gradually improve economic and learning conditions. 

Cha’s formal roles include membership of her rural commune’s management board and council, president of her village’s Women’s Association and committee member of the commune branch of the Women’s Union.

Fellow savings group member Thao Thi Cha describes Cha as a good leader who is very concerned about the welfare of group members.

"I remembered that when my husband was sick, I was not going to the monthly meeting. She found out and mobilised group members to contribute money together to visit my home and comfort me to try to take care of the family,” she explained.

Cha is planning to continue to learn more through short-term intermediate courses so she can work and take care of her family better. She hopes that she can help women in the village to escape from poverty in the shortest time.


* A commune is a local level administrative area in Vietnam which consists of one or more towns and villages.