GROUND Vietnam has successfully organized many service-learning programs in Mai Chau district, Hoa Binh province which community relies on agriculture for most of their income. There has been little opportunity for economic development in this community for the past few decades, meaning that many people live below the UN’s international poverty line. To assist in the community’s development, many student groups come to this area to work with the local families and tradesmen to build kitchens, toilets and bathrooms. The aim is to improve living standards and sanitation in this community. Not only does GROUND Asia try to create valuable learning experiences, but we also try to help the students embrace the culture by cultural activities. Let’s explore which cultural activities the students have chances to experience after their hard-working day at the project site.
1.Making bamboo-tube rice (so-called Com Lam)
The mountainous people largely live in the forest. With the nomadic life, they move mountains to mountains for farming and livestock breeding. Their temporary life is so difficult and the lack of items such as pots and bowls lead them to develop ways to cook without these essential items. Thus, mountainous people thought of grilling bamboo containing rice, which is an extremely convenient way to make delicious meals in difficult conditions. The rice is soaked for hours, then washed and put into these same-size small bamboo tubes. A banana leaf is usually rolled and put inside the tube before the rice is put into it. In the true version of Com Lam, no other spices are included. Tubes are then blocked in one end and added with water to a certain level. The groups learn why local people invented it and how to make it. Finally, they will taste what they have made for their delicious meal.
2. Weaving bamboo baskets
Bamboo is everywhere in mountainous areas, especially in Mai Chau. As a result, local people take advantage of bamboo to make many daily items that serve people’s lives. Bamboo baskets which are one of those have existed for a long time. In modern life, many plastic items are more convenient and widely used by people. People here still try to preserve the national cultural identity, especially the older generation. The students will be guided on how to make the bamboo baskets by the old local man whose hands are really strong. They can use the bamboo baskets they made for their trekking or putting stuff in.
3. Enjoying local food
After a hard-working day at the project, all the group needs to strengthen their body is food. The food is well-prepared and cooked by the local chef. The food is both delicious and nutritious, as well as well-presented. The students will learn how to use chopsticks to pick the food from the dishes on the table and eat rice as the main dish, just as the local Vietnamese do. I must say the food here is just wonderful. Most of the groups eat up everything on the table. We love Mai Chau food!
4.Playing football and volleyball with local people
A great way to explore the culture of a place is to talk and interact with people who live there. GROUND Asia always tries to bring the groups and locals together. After heading back from the project site, the groups love playing football or volleyball with local people here. Some can actively participate in playing. Others will watch and try to communicate with local people in Vietnamese, after a quick lesson from our coordinator at the beginning of the program, which is so challenging but fun.
5.Watching traditional music performances
In the farewell dinner with local authorities and the locals, the groups will have a short talk with local people. After that, the groups will have a great chance to enjoy a traditional Thai dance performance of Thai ethnic young girls and boys with unique dances which bearing deep, charming and graceful. The dancers will wear their traditional customs which are so beautiful. Nowadays, people here just wear their traditional customs in some special events, not in their daily lives. Therefore, it is a great chance to see their traditional customs to deepen our understanding of their culture. At the end of the performance, the group will participate in and try the bamboo dancing which we are just able to try in the mountainous area.
Let’s join GROUND Asia’s service-learning programs to experience the once-in-a-lifetime cultural activities.
GROUND Asia partners with communities across Asia to assist in their sustainable development. The communities we work with are our clients. To meet their expectations, we empower them through mutually beneficial programs to ensure their development needs come first.