Our Volunteers: Thuy Nguyen volunteering in South Africa

Holy Family Care Centre star jumpsHoly Family Care Centre

Situated at the foot of the Drakensberg Mountains in Ofcolaco, Limpopo Province, South Africa, Holy Family Care Centre is responding to the needs of the sick and vulnerable, especially orphaned children with HIV and AIDS. Each person who comes to Holy Family Centre is helped to find peace of mind in beautiful surroundings and is treated with reverence and respect.

Run by the OLSH sisters since 2002, the centre has filled an important role in the local community, both supporting vulnerable children so that they may participate in community life, including receiving education at the local school and proper health care, and contributing to better understanding of health issues.

Several local staff assist the program and it is hoped that with training they will be empowered to take greater leadership roles in the coming years.  To this end, a request was placed with Palms Australia for a volunteer teacher to assist develop skills of staff in Holy Family’s creche and education program. The volunteer will be building upon the initial training provided by Fran Hewitt at the centre.

Thuy Cecilia Nguyen

Palms Australia recruited Thuy Nguyen, a Social Worker and Community Development Worker from Adelaide, to fill the request placed by Holy Family. Thuy has extensive experience in social work and community development with qualifications including a Masters in Education Studies in Guidance and Counselling and a Bachelor of Social Science.

Thuy has demonstrated a strong life-long commitment to working for justice in the world, having previously worked and volunteered in Papua New Guinea, Zimbabwe, Zambia, South Africa, Kenya, India, East Timor and outback Australia. She is fluent in Vietnamese, English and Tok Pisin and has a grasp of a number of other languages.

Holy Family and Palms Australia believe Thuy is well suited to the task of improving the services provided to orphaned and vulnerable children in Ofcolaco.

We need your support for this placement. Please click Donate above to help us cover the costs of getting and keeping Thuy in placement, thereby providing sustainable education for some of South Africa’s most needy.

Why do I volunteer?

May 14, 2013

Thuy with students at Holy Family Care Centre show off their baking skillsWhy would one volunteer in a developing country? For me as a Catholic, it was a combination of a “call” from God to be a missionary, an international volunteer, a humanitarian worker and, most of all, doing something positive and making a difference in the world that we live in.

As with any volunteer venture, one always feels much better about oneself as a result. It is a feeling that may surprise you with respect to its passion and effect on your life. Obviously, the most important result of your volunteering is that you are helping someone. Apart from the specific assistance you are providing, I believe Australians need to get out in the world, not only to experience other people and cultures, but also to have them experience you. This is the main focus of Palms Australia, promoting a better understanding between Australians and other people of the world, and especially transferring professional skills to locals so that all projects can be locally sustainable.

As a Palms volunteer working in Asia and in Africa, there have been challenging moments, when not everything went well, but overall they were wonderful life-changing events for me. Travelling to developing countries provides a perspective on how you live as well as how others live. Learning about another culture, not as a tourist, but as an active participant, is a wonderful experience. Throughout my years of international volunteering and humanitarian work, the thing that stands out is that people can be happy without many of the material things we consider necessary in Australia.

My volunteering experiences have taught me to always switch my mind over to a “here I am, what can I do” frame of mind. This has helped me to be more flexible and more patient. My flexibility, adaptation and patience have prepared me to do what is necessary, not what I think I should be doing.

At the moment, I am working as an Educator for Holy Family Care Centre in the far north of South Africa, where the OLSH Sisters are caring for HIV/AIDS orphans and other at-risk children. The age of the children ranges from 6 weeks old to 17 years of age. I live in the same compound with the sisters, the local staff and the children. Even though I am an Educator for this care centre, I also have many informal roles ranging from liaising between the centre and the schools to teaching music.

As Johann Wolfgang Van Goethe has said: “Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Willing is not enough; we must do.”, therefore, I would wholeheartedly recommend volunteering to individuals or even families. I think everyone should help the community in which they live, but to volunteer in other countries, especially in developing countries, can be a unique and amazing addition to your life.

Thuy is now volunteering with Holy Family Care Centre in South Africa, her third placement with Palms Australia, having previously volunteered in Timor-Leste.

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Thuy Nguyen's placement has completed, but you can still help us provide volunteers to many other communities by using the form below.

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As Thuy Nguyen's volunteer placement has ended, your donation will be placed towards the costs of sending and supporting other Palms volunteers to exchange skills with our partner communities. For more information contact Palms Australia.

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South Africa

Population: 51,605,347

Area: 1,219,090 sq. km.

Median Age: 24.7

Literacy: 86.4 %

Languages: IsiZulu, IsiXhosa, Afrikaans, Sepedi, English, Setswana, Sesotho, Xitsonga, IsiNdebele, Tshivenda, siSwati

Since the end of apartheid in 1994, South Africa has achieved remarkable political and social transformation, and is one of the few African countries to have peaceful and non-violent political transition in recent times. South Africa has a strong human rights-based constitution and development mandate which explicitly takes into account the United Nations Millennium Development […]

More on South Africa

The poor themselves can create a poverty-free world —
all we have to do is to free them from the chains that we have put around them. - Muhammad Yunus