Emotional journey for Niagara Falls students in Vietnam
  • | niagarafallsreview | August 23, 2011 08:17 AM

Joelle Schonberg started the day making springrolls and other traditional Vietnamese fare and ended it by mixing massive amounts of concrete.

DSBNi Home Build team working on a site in 2010

"I did things I never thought I\'d do," said the 16-year-old Stamford Collegiate student.

Schonberg was one of nine students with the District School Board of Niagara who travelled to Vietnam recently to take part in the annual DSBN international (DSBNi) home build.

With average temperatures of 38°C, the teens put in 12-hour days to build a better home, and a better life, for a family in the small community of Cho Gau in southern Vietnam.

"We basically started from scratch when we arrived," Schonberg said.

"It\'s amazing how much we were able to accomplish and it showed me the passion that I have for helping people," she said.

Her mother said the program was a wonderful opportunity for young people.

"Now she wants to go out and make a difference in the world and we\'re delighted with that," said Wendy Schonberg.

Over a ten-day period, the students were involved in all aspects of a home-build.

The recipient family were on site for the duration of the build, preparing meals for the workers.

"Through our aches and pains, we\'ve changed the lives of a family," said Karen Ngo, a 17-year-old student at Westlane Secondary School

In addition to gaining life experience, the group also earned a cooperative education credit towards their diploma.

Both Schonberg and Ngo said it was a rewarding yet emotional journey.

"It was definitely a life changing experience that I will keep with me forever," Ngo said. "Everyone should experience something like that."

Mike Doyle, coordinator of DSBN\'s technology and experiential learning department, agreed.

"We were greeted with smiles and we parted with tears," he said.

This was the fourth DSBNi home build. The project is a partnership with Habitat for Humanity Global Village.

While Vietnam has experienced significant economic growth in the past several decades, it is still one of the poorest countries in Asia.

"The students learned the difference between wants and needs, and that happiness goes beyond accumulating material goods," Doyle added.

"They learned of the great satisfaction that comes from giving and they learned that the world is a relatively small place where everyone shares in a struggle to make it work."

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