Putney Student Travel: Community Service Vietnam

Putney, VT


Immerse yourself in the life of a coastal village on this community service program in Vietnam for high school students. Our work provides an opportunity to engage in tangible service projects and to build connections with local people. Visit the stunning Ha Long Bay and gorgeous city of Hoi An on weekend excursions.


  • Volunteer with local workers to build simple houses for community members.
  • Participate in a language exchange with local youth.
  • Swim at quiet, beautiful beaches on the South China Sea.
  • Explore the fascinating sights of Ho Chi Minh City, Hoi An, and Hanoi.Spend three days exploring gorgeous Ha Long Bay.


Village Life and Service

The focus of our community service work is the construction of simple “Compassion Houses.” Most of the homes in this farming region are very small, consisting only of a space for living and dining, a bedroom, and a small kitchen. Local organizations identify families with the greatest need for new housing. Putney contributes the cost of the materials and volunteer labor to build a basic house for these families. Under the supervision of skilled local workers, we participate in all phases of construction. The gratitude of the new residents is extraordinary and moving. Upon successful completion of this volunteer program, participants can expect to receive a certificate for 80-100 hours of community service.

Putney students participate in English/Vietnamese language exchanges, and work and play with the many community children who visit us at the work site every day. Our connections with the local youth union provide opportunities to interact with Vietnamese youth, to hear their stories and hopes, and to participate directly in the life of the community.

Each Putney student receives a bicycle at the beginning of the program to get to and from our worksite. These bicycles are donated at the end of our stay. Afternoons are often spent at  beautiful, local beaches.

In addition to time spent in the village, we spend our first two days in Ho Chi Minh City for an orientation, visit the capital, Hanoi, and the historic seaside town of Hoi An, famous for its temples, tailors, and beaches.

Learn basic construction techniques with the help of Vietnamese foremen.

Independent Projects

In addition to the collective group projects, students select an independent project to explore an aspect of Vietnamese culture or to pursue a particular interest. Learn how to make a favorite local dish, organize a village sports tournament, or interview community members about the history of the village and create a photo portfolio of local scenes.

Final Adventure

The last three days of the program we travel to Ha Long Bay, on the coast adjacent to Hanoi. We board a private boat for a journey through the calm waters of the bay. With the gorgeous karst islands as our backdrop, visit a floating fishing village, explore enormous caves on foot and in kayaks, swim in the warm water, and enjoy the comfortable accommodations on board. It’s a relaxing way to celebrate our hard work and accomplishments!


Group accommodations are carefully selected by Putney Student Travel to emphasize convenience, a positive group environment, and wholesome interaction with local people and fellow travelers. During the workweek in Vietnam we stay in a simple guesthouse located close to our project village. Rooms are doubles with private baths. During weekend excursions, we stay in small hotels. Leaders reside together with the students throughout the program.

Physical Challenge Level

Our programs are active. Days are filled with movement — bicycling to the project site, working on the Compassion Houses, swimming in the South China Sea, or walking the streets of Hanoi are all activities you will participate in during this program. You do not need to be at peak fitness to participate, but it is important that you have a desire to be physically active, and that you are excited about trying all activities.

A Typical Day

7 a.m. – Breakfast
8 a.m.–12 p.m. — Work
12 p.m.–2 p.m. — Lunch and rest
2 p.m.–4 p.m. — Work
4 p.m.–6 p.m. — Beach time, relax
6 p.m. – Dinner
8 p.m. – Group meeting and/or group activity

During the week, we wake up between 67am, eat breakfast together as a group, and then head to the work site from 8am12pm. Work may include mixing cement, laying brick, painting, participating in a local rice harvest, or teaching English to local kids. We’ll break for a long lunch and rest time, then return to work for a few hours in the afternoon. After work, we often head to the beach to swim, relax, or play soccer with local friends. After a group dinner together, participate in a meeting to discuss the day, plan for upcoming excursions, or simply play a game together. Weekends are a time to explore. Visit the the S?n M? Memorial near Quang Ngai, have a traditional outfit made for you in Hoi An, or kayak into caves in gorgeous Ha Long Bay.

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