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Linda Mah
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PeaceJam Visits Vietnam

Eye-Opening Trip Focused on Education, Service

Loy Norrix PeaceJam students traveled to Vietnam this summer to learn about the Vietnam War and to see first-hand the effects of communism on its people.

PeaceJam International trips always include an emphasis on community service, and this trip was no different. Students helped build a concrete play yard at Tien Thuy Elementary School in the Mekong Delta, south of Ho Chi Minh City. Students lived with Vietnamese families during the project. The students and adult chaperones worked three days transforming a muddy area into a playground. The PeaceJam group also used a $500 donation to purchase books that celebrated childhood for the school library.

Loy Norrix sophomore Alexander King and Loy Norrix graduate (and Western Michigan University freshman) Emma Knutson said seeing the reaction of the children was rewarding.

“I was amazed how this effort impacted the kids,” King said. “It was 100 percent worth the hard work.”

“Cementing the play yard was so rewarding, despite the hard work, heat and humidity,” said Loy Norrix senior Carter Miller. “We worked alongside a local former South Vietnamese soldier, who only had one arm, and another who was mute and deaf. They were inspiring.”

Senior Matthew Nelson said, “This service was humbling. It made me feel that I should do more for my own community, and it also left me feeling proud of my work.”

The group completed several other service projects while in Vietnam. Students worked with the World Wide Orphan Organization (WWO) to provide music and movement classes for orphans living in a Buddhist temple. PeaceJam donated $150 to help KOTO (Know One Teach One), a restaurant in Hanoi that teaches culinary skills to youth and gets them off the streets.

The trip included visits to the War Remembrance Museum in Ho Chi Minh City, the CuChi Tunnels in the Mekong Delta, and the Ha Loa Prison (Hanoi Hilton). The trip helped further the students’ knowledge of the Vietnam War.

“It was really difficult to believe that the places we visited were so rich with history and yet so hard,” said Loy Norrix junior Shelby Richardson.

Nelson said the trip made him interested in reading more about Vietnam, “The culture was very different. The trip made me appreciate what I have, because the people have very little but are still happy and friendly. We learned the value of family when we discovered that the younger generation supports their aging family members.”

PeaceJam is an international organization in which young students help foster positive change in their communities. Once a year a Nobel Peace Prize Laureate comes to the Great Lakes PeaceJam and provides insight into how they earned their Peace Prize. Loy Norrix PeaceJam students perform community service projects at their school, in their community, state, and nation.

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