For those of you who aren’t familiar with the Queens motto, non ministrari sed ministrare, means “Not to be served, but to serve” (or Không phải để được phục vụ, nhưng để phục vụ in Vietnamese). One thing I have noticed at Queens is serving others is ingrained in every aspect of the curriculum, community and culture. I’ve never seen another school where serving others is so natural and common place than at Queens. It is one of the many reasons why I love my job and why I love Queens.
On the second day of our short homestay we completed two small, yet significant service projects. The first project involved repairing a path associated with a recently completed irrigation project. A good portion of the path had eroded and was making it difficult for the villagers to make their way into the corn and rice fields. So, we along with 8 or so villagers shoveled excess soil from the side of the road onto cut-up rice bags and carried it to the portions of the path that needed to be filled and repaired. Interestingly, the project was supposed to take the entire morning, however, it took us a little over an hour to complete the project. The take home message: Never underestimate the power of many when working together as one.
After completing this project moved to the community house and volleyball court to complete a second. The local youth group asked if we could clear the grass around the court so that it was easier to see when the ball was out of bounds. This may seem like a trivial project. We aren’t feeding the hungry, clothing the poor or building homes for the homeless. Regardless, this was still a very significant project. Volleyball is actually a very important game to the villagers as it builds community and friendship, particularly among the children and young adults. So yes, this may not have been as significant as other projects but it still meant a lot to the village and that is all that matters.
While we work working on the volleyball court one of our students, Raahil, came up with an excellent idea. A number of our students on this trip (Julian, Ian and Josh) plan on the men’s soccer team. The night before we asked if the locals wanted to play us in soccer after playing volleyball, but, they said they had no soccer ball. Raahil suggested that we all pool some money together and buy a soccer ball and either purchase or build them two goals. After talking with our guide Chung, it was determined that we should ask the head of the village (Mr. Nga, our host) and the village youths what they wanted. They mentioned that they would really like a new volleyball and net. So, we all chipped in a few dollars and Chung asked one of the villagers if they would make the purchase. The total cost was 500,000 dong (which is basically $25.00). This doesn’t seem like much at all, but, if you consider that the average monthly salary of the those in the village is probably around $100 – $150; $25.00 is a sizeable amount. Before leaving we presented two volleyballs and a new net to the local youth group and Mr. Nga and you could tell they were very appreciative of the gift. Again, it doesn’t seem like much, but, I commend the students for coming up with the idea and making it happen. I firmly believe that when our students go to Vietnam in the future they will see how the 2012 group led by example and will continue to follow the Queens motto, Non ministrari sed ministrare.