Healthy living and environmental sustainability are hot topics among today’s generation, but the journey towards leading healthy lives and protecting vital resources have been a perennial one. This is no different for the beautiful country of Vietnam.
On October 2, Vietnamese students from the University of Social Sciences and Humanities (USSH) arrived in Singapore for the two-week Temasek Foundation Specialists’ Community Action and Leadership Exchange (TF SCALE) programme with RP students. The students were attached to RP’s School of Applied Science (SAS), where the two groups worked on a healthy eating and healthy living project for the March 2023 outbound programme in Vietnam.
MAKING A MEANINGFUL IMPACT
For a country with the lowest obesity rates across Southeast Asia, one would think that the Vietnamese do not need lessons on healthy eating and healthy living. Nevertheless, the students hope to teach the locals about the intricacies of healthy living so that they can make more informed and conscious decisions to lead healthier lives.
The project, named Ăn ngon sống khỏe or Eat well, live well, will focus on educating primary one students and elderly in the peripheral regions of Ho Chi Minh City through workshops, interactive activities and round-table discussions.
The students will be conducting the programme for elderlies in the local elderly organisation in Hóc Môn District and the Thanh Loc nursing home in District 12, as well as primary one students from Võ Văn Thặng Primary School in Ho Chi Minh City.
From cooking booths and health check-ups for the elderly to mental wellness workshops and fun games for the children, the activities planned aim to develop understanding of healthy balanced meals, nutritional values, reading nutrition labels as well as disease prevention and wellness living.
Quach Kien Thanh, 20, a USSH student also explained that elderlies often feel lonely and detached from the modern world due to a generation gap. He hopes the project will bring them closer to the younger generation while enabling them to gain useful knowledge and skills on healthy living.
“I think we should help the elderly learn more about a healthy lifestyle because many Vietnamese don’t really practise nutrition label reading and don’t know the calories and nutrients in their food,” Kien Thanh added, expressing concern for elderlies who may be more vulnerable to health-related illnesses.
LEARNING ABOUT SUSTAINABILITY
While working on the project, the RP and USSH students had a meaningful and enjoyable time visiting various attractions in Singapore. Among the locations they visited include the Sustainability Gallery at Marina Barrage, the preserved Mangrove Boardwalk at Pasir Ris Park and the Hay Dairies Goat Farm.
Recalling her visit to the goat farm, Ngo Tieu Hy, 21, a USSH student noted that the farm’s goat rearing and milking processes were rather clean and modern than in Vietnam, where farmers work independently without modern equipment and with less consideration for sustainable practices and animal welfare.
“I think the goat farm (standard) is considered really far away if we want to model after Singapore, because in Vietnam we have many farms and it depends on the progress of their development,” she explained.
“Some areas are developed while others are still developing so it’s hard for Vietnam to implement all the modern machines in those places.”
Ang E-Young, 17, a first-year Pharmaceutical Science student in RP said that the Vietnamese students have gained a better understanding of the local sustainability landscape through these learning journeys, such as learning about the Green Plan 2030 and efforts towards a circular economy.
The learning journeys have also encouraged the students to use more sustainable items for their project. From cooking ingredients to stationery supplies, the students have prepared sustainable essentials for their planned activities.
“What is important is that we cut down on waste and teach the children and elderly how to recycle and why sustainability is important,” said E-Young.
Kien Thanh also shared that he enjoys seeing the vast greenery across our little island and hopes for Vietnam to increase its green efforts to reduce environmental pollution.
He believes spreading awareness is the best long-term solution for building sustainable communities. “If you have high awareness about the environment, you will know your responsibility to prevent pollution,” he explained.
“Sometimes the government will really try to prevent people from littering or harming the environment, but awareness is important because if people just obey policies without intentional effort, no sustainable result can happen.”
Kien Thanh hopes to share his knowledge and experiences with Vietnamese people back home and encourage them to visit Singapore. He believes that visiting our green city will encourage more Vietnamese to learn about sustainable practices and apply them in their own lives.
MORE THAN JUST A PROJECT
Amidst the relaxed atmosphere and friendly banter, it’s easy to forget that TF SCALE is a leadership programme. After two weeks of collaboration and activities, the RP and USSH students forged a close visceral bond, fostering a smooth sailing learning experience for the students.
“I think it’s really for a good cause as Singapore and Vietnam are tied together with interrelations as part of the ASEAN community,” said E-Young. “I strongly believe by helping each other out, it leads to further improvement and progress.”
In addition to their new friendships, the students also learned more about each others’ cultures and developed essential soft skills.
“The Vietnamese students get to learn about Singapore’s culture, and we also get to learn about their culture. What is more important is the interaction and ideas exchanged,” added E-Young. “I think the younger Singaporean students also matured from the programme as we gained insight on the (older) Vietnamese University students’ ideas.”
Tieu Hy also revealed that the programme has helped her develop her leadership and presentation skills, and hopes to apply these skills in Vietnam, “I don’t know why but meeting new people and friends gave me a lot of knowledge and skill. When I go back to Vietnam, I think I have to do something because I gained so much new knowledge and courage.”