Reel Vietnam – “A Little Goes A Long Way”

Reel Vietnam – “A Little Goes A Long Way”

By Cameron Brtnik


      On May 27, 2017 I jumped in a van – joined by my fellow teachers Peter from America and Marty from Australia, both living and teaching in Vietnam, and Toby, a winemaker from California and one of the sponsors, – and rode the hour long trip to Tien Hiep Secondary School in Ha Nam. This was my second excursion to a rural school in the countryside with BLV – Better Life Vietnam – a non-profit organization that promotes learning and reading to students who attend schools that don’t receive enough funding for school materials or resources or even programs like a library. BLV does this by visiting these schools, often located in rural areas of Vietnam, and providing English classes and activities taught by foreigners, an opportunity that students in these villages would not normally get. BLV also does this by donating books to those children who don’t normally have access to an abundance of learning resources.

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{BLV’s wonderful team of supporters and volunteers from USA, Canada, NewZealand, Australia and Vietnam}

      On my first trip to Hà Nam, I had such a great experience bringing joy to these underprivileged children I had to do it again! When you arrive at the school, the students’ eager looks, the excitement in their voices, their enthusiasm to speak and learn English – If you’re an English teacher in Vietnam, you understand that these are all the reasons we teach in the first place. This is an experience you may not find teaching at schools in the larger cities. It was no different this time around. When we arrived at Tien Hiep Secondary School, we were greeted by bright, smiling faces excited at our arrival. The students were very shy to speak to us at first; keep in mind their speaking level is at the “Hello, what’s your name?” level. We split up into various classrooms and each volunteer teacher taught the students a 30 minute class. They were so well behaved, they made us forget all about the naughty kids we had back in Hanoi!

See here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2qUsEgl0qHg&feature=youtu.be

      We then hit up our second school for the day, Trinh Xa, where we played activities and handed out books to nearly 300 students! The organizers, Thinh Nguyen and Nhung Nguyen, hosted the school’s event and introduced each of the volunteers. One at time, we took to the stage to talk with the students, play games, perform magic tricks, teach English and give them advice – namely sharing with them the importance of reading – all this to 300 students!

Watch here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nPnYx9Ws2ew&feature=youtu.be

     Then the best part: Handing out the books. It was like a hundred Christmas gift-openings at once! The children tore open boxes, reached inside and hurled out books, choosing a book that perhaps caught their eye or had a familiar title. Lots of photographs and video were taken throughout the day to document the day’s events. After all the fun and games, the organizers again took time to talk about the importance of reading, and encouraged students to keep learning no matter what their education or family’s situation is.

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After a full morning, we joined the school principal and teachers for a lovely locally-prepared  lunch, enjoyed with a toast with their local rice wine. What a splendid way to end an already awesome day!

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     Started by Thinh Nguyen in 2017, Better Life Vietnam was established as a way to reach underprivileged areas of Vietnam, and to help less fortunate children and families in Vietnam: “Better Life Vietnam was founded with the belief that access to education, food, healthcare, clean water and a decent quality of life are basic human rights.” BLV is an outstanding organization that develops programs to sponsor schools, provide educational material, donate books, and organize events – all geared toward underprivileged schools in rural areas of Vietnam. They also initiated a superb program that interviews students’ families about their family and financial situation, choosing one of those families (based on various factors) to sponsor by providing livestock so that they, typically farmers, can earn money. Visit their website www.betterlifevietnam.org for more information.

VOLUNTEERS WANTED!

BLV is currently looking for volunteers to help with teaching classes, hosting activities, taking photographs/video of the event and video editing, as well as other jobs. This is a fantastic opportunity for you to donate your talents and time to a worthy and fun cause: providing better living for students in Vietnam! Note: Some organizations in Vietnam make the volunteer pay for their time. This opportunity is free for all volunteers!

If you would like to get involved please contact Better Life Vietnam at
Email: betterlifevietnam@gmail.com

Cameron is a freelance writer, English teacher, and volunteer living in Hanoi, Vietnam

Memories of JR: 1988-2013

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Memories of
 
JR: 1988-2013
 
     
     I knew JR for a short time in Panorama Mountain Village when I worked there, let’s see, 15 years ago now in Lusti’s Cappuccino Bar… I knew JR as the annoying kid who kept harassing me at work (I was 19, he was only 12). I would be making coffees for customers and he would visit, uninvited, and just constantly talk and ask me questions. But I realized I enjoyed his company – JR was like a younger version of myself – and we shared the same sense of humour. We would joke around when there were no customers around, and listen to music after work – mainly Eminem and the South Park Movie soundtrack. He would wait for me till I finished work and then he’d walk with me to my staff accommodations but no further, a “no-mans land” for kids his age. He was too young to hang out with, but he tried, and I admired that. I remember he was already a strong athlete, and competed in everything from skiing to motocross. He was also a very handsome dude, and I remember he asked lots of questions about girls; he was already fending off his wonderstruck female fans.
 
 
     I only just found out about his death, and its been three years… I was shocked, and saddened. He lived a fast life at a young age. I wish I knew him in his twenties as I’m sure we would have gotten along very well. I got to know his dad, Doug, quite well as he’s a musician and I was a rapper and we collaborated a couple times at T-Bar’s open mic nights. We both shared a love for music and people, and I remember him being a very charming and friendly man. I hope to visit Panorama soon, as it’s been over a decade since I’ve been back, and visit the MacRae family. I wish I could have hung out with JR one last time. Without knowing him as a young adult, I know he lived a fuller life than most of us do in a hundred year lifespan. I’d like to believe I was a role model for the young JR. Even though we had a respectable age difference, we treated each other as friends.
 
 
     For knowing JR for only one ski season, I will miss him, and keep him in my heart.
 
-Peace and love to family and friends,
Cameron
 
 
Below is a poem I wrote the day I discovered he passed (this past August). I picture performing this onstage at the T-Bar, collaborating with Doug on the flute:
 
“This is for JR – Even though you’re gone, you ain’t far / Even though you’re not here, won’t stay far; never disappear like a faint scar / And you will stay a star like a quasar, faster than a race car – vroom – off the radar / Most people work hard – You would play hard, I knew people later and you’re still greater than they are
 
Damn life is way hard, so we gotta communicate; human resources HR / You were the prodigal “sun,” another day gone, life’s a game of chance, you better play cards / So here’s another eight bars, sharp like knife’s edge, livin’ life on the edge like a skatepark / Not religious, but not a day goes by don’t pray for another day I see ya again, “Hey God”
 
Life’s a melody, gotta learn how to play guitar, sometimes it’s f&^%ed up, yeah it’s Rated R / Feel a pain in my stomach, hit like a paintball, oh shit I’m losing it, gotta stay calm… / Life is a game of pool until you sink the eight ball – but that means you win, so I think it ain’t all / that bad; Life is a dream that we eventually wake from, so JR I’ll see you later when I wake up….”