By Graham Scarlett, Rotary Club of Kyneton

Rotary has given some students completing Year 12 a chance to do something other than attend “Schoolies”.

My club, Kyneton Rotary, where I have been a member for 25 years, decided to offer students an alternative that would be a different and exciting experience.  Over the past three years, we have taken 23 students from local secondary schools to Vietnam for a fortnight.  The idea came from a suggestion at a club Forum.

Some of the students had never been in an airplane before, let alone experienced such a different culture.

The tour commences in Ho Chi Minh City and then travels north by train, eventually reaching Hanoi. On the way, the students spend a few days at an orphanage in Tu Bong, which cares for 19 children, all less than five years of age. As a group, we construct gardens, climbing areas, cubby houses, swings and toy boxes. The children love rolling around on the floor with the Australian students and going for walks, which does not happen with the older Vietnamese carers.

A local Australian businesswoman, Eileen Brown, supports the orphanage and is our translator.  The students universally acclaim that the visit to the orphanage is the tour highlight.

Also a favourite of the students, is Ha Long Bay where they go boating, swimming and exploring islands.  

Included in the last two trips, was a visit to the Australian Embassy in Hanoi where the students discovered what Australian representatives do overseas.

The cost per student for the trip is approximately $3,000, and includes airfares, ground transport, accommodation, meals and tours to the Mekong Delta, Vietnam War memorial and Ha Long Bay.

One of the students, Bradley Nugent of Sacred Heart College, said:

“The tour was really well-planned, and the highlight was the visit to the orphanage. We agreed that this trip is much more fun than Schoolies”

And another student, Ashleigh Wilson, also of Sacred Heart College observed:

“It was a great experience that enabled us to enter another culture and view how people live”.

After COVID, the club will look at conducting a fourth program.