KOICA Volunteer Jung Yun Pil: “Volunteer in Vietnam is an unrepeatable experience for me”

How do you find your volunteering experience in Da Nang city, Vietnam? I find it an unrepeatable experience in my life and a stepping stone to my future, Jung Yun Pil – KOICA volunteer, answers.
Jung Yun Pil has come to Da Nang City under the KOICA Overseas Volunteer Program since December 2012 with Da Nang Institute for Socio and Economic Development (DISED) as his host agency. He has a Master degree in Agriculture Economics and 3 years experiencing as a researcher. He is also an experienced traveller. During his one and half year volunteering in Da Nang City, together with the Division of Urban Studies at DISED, this one-year project “Mushroom Production Support in Hoa Vang District, Da Nang” has been conducted successfully.
In this close-up interview with DISED, Pil shares his memories with Da Nang city and Vietnam through his volunteer works and the people he met.
 
What has brought you to volunteer in Vietnam?
My research career and travelling hobbies! I always enjoy writing, travelling, getting to know a country’s culture and its hidden beauties. All of these characteristics have brought me to “knock the door” of KOICA Overseas Volunteer Program (KOVP) after 3 years being a researcher in Seoul, Korea to get my first long-term volunteer work. And as my major is Agriculture Economics, KOICA has assigned me to work in Da Nang city, Vietnam. That is why I am here.
 
What would you feel and expect when you heard of this mission?
Vietnam, a country with beautiful Mekong River and Ha Long Bay and lots of motorbike! Good to be back since my previous travel in 2011. Da Nang, I haven’t been yet but I thought it would be the same.
Hmm, I have been only travelling for a short time, so I thought it must be tough to work with local people for long time…
 
So how did you overcome cultural and language barriers to adapt to the living and working style in a country without knowing its language and culture?
“Căng thẳng” (stressed) .... Yes, it was hard in the first year to find out which poverty reduction and sustainability issues to work on and understand Vietnamese-English and Vietnamese. I got one-month Vietnamese training in Korea and two-month training in Hanoi. But unfortunately, I am so bad at intonation that no one understands me!!! They only understand “Tra da” (iced tea) (laugh).
So I try to make use of anything I could, body language, English and Korean-Vietnamese! Lucky that Korean movie is so popular here that they could understand some for me :D. For important discussions, I ask a Korean-Vietnamese translator to interpret important points between me and project stakeholders to ensure clarity and no misunderstandings.
Too long”… I mean lunch break, in Korean we have only one-hour break, and in Da Nang there are 2 hours. I don’t know what to do while I don’t get used to taking a nap.
 
We are amazed by the idea and achievements of the project. Could you tell us how did you come up with the idea?
As a research institute in socio-economic development, DISED, particularly the Division of Urban Studies has helped me address a critical issue in agriculture of Da Nang City that is to support mushroom production. Mushroom has been identified as a priority agricultural product in Vietnam, and in Da Nang particularly. However, owing to limited knowledge and investment in facilities and training, mushroom cooperatives in Hoa Vang District, Da Nang City face many challenges in their production process. Therefore, this issue has been ultimately selected to be our working topic for cooperation between KOICA and Da Nang City. Looking back, it was hard before we could come to this mutual decision. And now most of us could feel a sense of satisfaction that the project could give an immediate contribution to support local livelihoods in Hoa Vang District, Da Nang City.
 
The project achievements are highly appreciated by local government and host agency. How is about your self-evaluation of the project?
KOICA was very happy to see the project results too. This is one of the biggest projects that KOICA has funded for volunteering activities in poverty reduction and sustainable development.  For me, I feel happy to follow the whole process of this project, witnessing joy and challenges during the project. It was the joy seeing local farmers growing mushroom from sawdust blocks. It was also the challenge and sadness seeing typhoon destroy the mushroom houses built by local authority. There are much memories brought from this project.
And I will be much happier if in the future the mushroom cooperatives could self-create their own trademark and ensure sustainable livelihoods for the local people. At this moment, the project could only support mushroom production facilities and knowledge for local farmers to improve their livelihoods.
Looking back, how do you find your volunteering experience in Da Nang city, Vietnam? Does it meet your expectations?
It was an unrepeatable experience, building a good stepping stone for my future. It gave me an opportunity to challenge myself adapting to life and culture of an unknown country for a long time. It challenges my previous travelling skills when I truly need to deeply understand the people, the work demands and the culture. It gave me a precious opportunity to learn a true view on the world outside. In the end of the trip, I have great new friends to keep in touch. I have many experiences to bring along for my coming overseas PhD study. And I have a mushroom production house to look forward to its contribution to local livelihoods.
 
Finally, what would you recommend for the future volunteers to prepare before they come to work in Da Nang, particularly Da Nang Institute for Socio-Economic Development?
Experiences! I know volunteers will learn new experiences when they do volunteering, but before that they should have their own experiences tackling a particular problem that they are going to deal with during long-term volunteers. This will ensure adaptability of volunteers and true contributions to the host agency and place.
And finances! Most of the places volunteers come volunteering will be developing countries. Actually, local people do have a lot of creative ideas and local expertise knowledge on their own. However, they face substantial difficulties in raising funds for the ideas. KOICA understands this issue clearly; thereby with KOICA volunteer program, I could bring both experiences and finances to support critical needs of locality.
 
Some quick Q&A with Pil:
Bonus: 10 fun questions about Jung Yun Pil
1. Your most favourite place in Vietnam: Sapa
2. Your most disliked place in Vietnam: None
3. Your most wanted food in Vietnam: Tra da
4. Your most unbearable food in Vietnam: Coriander
5. Your most loveable memory in Vietnam: Living in Vietnam by itself
6. Your most awkward experience in Vietnam: Food order. No one understands what I am talking
7. Your most favourite person (different gender) at DISED: All (laugh)
8. Your most unpleasant person: None
9. The first thing ever that you have done since you come here: Acquire a language
10. The thing you often do in Vietnam that you never want to do again: They are all lovely. Will do all of them again.
 
A photo of Jung Yun Pil (on the right) at the Inauguration ceremony of mushroom support building in Hoa Tien Commune, Da Nang on 20th May 2014

 

20/06/2014

 








 

 








 

Vui lòng cài đặt Flash Player để xem được Video
Vui lòng cài đặt Flash Player để xem được Video

Da Nang Institute For Socio - Economic Development

Primarily responsible: Nguyen Phu Thai - Director Da Nang Institute For Socio - Economic Development

Address: Da Nang Administration Center, 28th floor, 24 Tran Phu, Hai Chau District, Da Nang

Phone: (+84.236) 3.840.344 - Fax: 3.840.975

E-mail: dised@danang.gov.vn

Da Nang Institute For Socio - Economic Development

Primarily responsible: Nguyen Phu Thai - Director Da Nang Institute For Socio - Economic Development

Address: Da Nang Administration Center, 28th floor, 24 Tran Phu, Hai Chau District, Da Nang

Phone: (+84.236) 3.840.344 - Fax: 3.840.975

E-mail: dised@danang.gov.vn