Vietnam in Focus Blog Placeholder

Vietnam in Focus

Vietnam is one of South East Asia’s most beautiful countries. The capital city of Vietnam is Hanoi. Whilst it isn’t the largest city in Vietnam, it is the most populated. Hanoi is located approximately 1,760 km north of Ho Chi Minh City, which is the largest city in Vietnam. Vietnamese is the main language spoken by the majority of the population. The current population of Vietnam is around 90.5 million people and it is the 8th most populated country in Asia. In regards to climate, Vietnam is very tropical, experiencing heavy rains, warm temperatures, light winds and high humidity throughout the year. The winter dry season lasts from November through to April, whilst summer lasts from May to October bringing substantial rainfall.

The main form of transportation in Vietnam is motorcycle. Whilst motorcycles are cheaper to run it is also a more convenient way of travelling through the chaotic and busy streets. There is said to be approximately 45 million motorbikes registered in the country. The national dish in Vietnam is ‘Pho.’ It is a noodle soup that can be found everywhere! This dish can be found in small markets on the streets or at fine dining restaurants. Vietnam is also known for being the second largest coffee producing nation in the world, so if you love coffee then Vietnam is the place to visit! Vietnam tourism is growing every year and more people are discovering the unique beauty of this country and being introduced to the culture, food and architecture.

Busy Streets of Vietnam

Vietnam has many popular tourist spots that have a lot to offer with many attractions and activities to undertake. When Development Together interns and volunteers apply for their visa’s with us we are able to ensure they have an extra week at the beginning or end of their placement if they wish to explore the country.

Below are our top 3 things for you to do on your Vietnamese adventure:

  1. Guided Street Food Tour

If you want to get a real taste for the Vietnamese culture then we would recommend going on a street food tour in Hanoi! On such tours you are given the opportunity to try many authentic dishes including the most popular and traditional “Pho.” Whilst on this tour you are given the chance to learn about Vietnam’s culture and history along the way. It is great to indulge and immerse yourself in other countries culture to make the most out of your trip.

Traditional Vietnamese Dish- Pho

2. War Remnants Museum

If you’re into history then this could be the place for you! Vietnam is known for its history and the impact that the war between the Vietnamese and countries such as the US, Canada and Australia had during the late 1960’s early 1970’s . The War Remnants Museum is supposedly the most popular museum in Vietnam and has approximately 500,000 visitors each year. This museum conveys the saddening effects of war on local citizens. It is extremely eye-opening but said to be a great experience! The War Remnants Museum is situated in Ho Chi Minh City.

Searching History Books

3. Day Trips Visiting Islands off Vietnam

Vietnam has a great range of Islands to explore throughout the day and there’s no better way to see them then on a day cruise. These islands are know for their unique beauty surrounded by great swimming and kayaking spots. Many companies offer a wide range of day trips to take a traditional cruise with a professional tour guide and trained boat crew. The trips can also allow you to visit local fishing villages or pearl farms where you’re able to get a true taste of how some locals live.

Turquoise Waters of Vietnam Surrounding Nearby Islands

Development Together currently offers internships and volunteering placements in the rural region of Da Bac, west of Hanoi. This is a mountainous agricultural region where there is still a lot of poverty, and access to sanitation and clean water is limited. Our placements are open to Engineering, Environment, Urban Planning and Architecture university/college students (who have completed at least the first year of their studies by the time the program starts), OR professionals with experience in these fields. Participants spend 1 month in Vietnam, in a small inter-professional group of 6-12 participants.

We partner with a local not-for-profit organisation and village chiefs/elders with a focus on bringing clean water and sanitation to local families. We partner with locals to develop and implement access to clean water for personal use via water filtration systems, improved methods of irrigation for crops and animals, along with the installation of safe hygiene facilities such as toilets and hand washing stations.

Participants use a Human Centered Design approach to identify the main issues in the village, liaising and discussing with local community members, and then working on a design solution together that will meet their needs. Participants are also responsible for identifying what materials will be required, the timeline and budget, construction and evaluation of the project. Participants are supported by Development Together staff, and our local partners in Vietnam who assist with interpreting and community facilitation, along with a local Vietnamese Engineer who provides technical support and guidance. Community members get involved and contribute towards the physical labour and design process. Development Together assists by providing all the necessary financial funding required to complete this project.

Development Together Engineering students volunteering in Vietnam

Learn more about how you can get involved by visiting our website at or email


development together Vietnam in Focus Blog Placeholder

Who will support me when I am volunteering overseas?

One of the questions we get asked most often is, “Who will support me on my Development Together placement?” This question comes from all our participants – both student and professional volunteers considering a placement with us.

When Development Together was still just a thought bubble, our management team did extensive research into what level of support other organisations give to their volunteer both before they leave, once they are in their host country and after they return. We found that:

a) Support provided before you leave is often done on-line, requiring the volunteer to read a lot of documents and/or complete online            modules.
b) Once you arrive in your host country support is usually provided by local staff. Sometimes they may have trained in their own                    country and have professional qualifications that are similar to the volunteer’s backgrounds, or they may simply have a background in          tourism and be able to speak English well.
c) On your return to your home country support provided may be limited.

At Development Together we reviewed the literature to identify what volunteers want from support staff and what best practice recommends. We found the following:

1. Volunteers want to feel welcomed. Our support staff at DT meet you on your first day in country, take you out for dinner, show you around the town where you will be staying and introduce you to your partner site. You will be staying at the same accommodation as your support staff and they can be contacted 24/7 and will happily answer all of your questions.
2. Volunteers want organised and considerate support staff. Volunteers understand that not everything will always go to plan. At DT our staff are able to manage any changes or difficult situations easily, without major concerns for the group, and will communicate this to you as soon as they can.
3. Volunteers want support staff who understand the issues affecting the country where they are volunteering. At DT our staff have an intimate knowledge about the country they are working in and can share specific details and knowledge about the social, technological, economic, political and environmental issues affecting the country you are traveling in and how it impacts on local peoples lives.
4. Volunteers want culturally aware support staff. Our DT staff have all been to the host country at least once before, if not many times before and understand the cultural nuances that can affect you, the partner site and how things operate.
5. Volunteers want knowledgeable support staff. Our DT staff are suitably qualified to provide expert advice and support. All of them are degree qualified, with many having done additional studies in development and aid.
6. Volunteers want support staff with an appropriate level of specific knowledge and expertise. DT staff have worked at our partner sites before and know the locals, clients and specific area. This enables them to assist volunteers to feel safe and supported when trying new things at the partner site.
7. Volunteers want open lines of communication with support staff. When you need someone to go to for answers to technical/clinical questions, your DT support staff will be there for you. They are also the person who you can touch base with if you are feeling homesick or worried.
8. Volunteers want to learn from support staff. Volunteers expect our DT staff to provide them with training and development as well as capacity building into local staff through the delivery of relevant professional development or on-site training. All of our DT staff are briefed on how and when to seize training opportunities and spend time teaching with volunteers as required.

Development Together volunteer, with DT Clinical Supervisor Ms Kristy Goodchild and local staff.

9. Volunteers expect support staff to be competent and follow procedures and guidelines. Our DT staff are trained and highly capable to manage an Emergency/Incident. They are all Police Cleared, have training on appropriate ways to work with vulnerable adults and children, are First Aid trained and can competently run a partner site induction program.
10. Volunteers want to enjoy their time with support staff. Building rapport and developing relationships is all part of ensuring volunteers get the most our of their placement, after all, it is not all about the work! Having fun and exploring the country with your DT staff member helps to solidify the trust relationship and also creates great networking opportunities.

Development Together Vietnam Engineering volunteers 2018, enjoying down time with staff and locals

At Development Together we take pride in understanding the needs of our volunteers and ensuring the support staff that work with us are qualified, trained, competent and personable! We feel that our point of difference is in the way that we prepare volunteers before they leave and provide support in-country via our Australian Clinical or Technical Facilitator’s who accompany our small groups* and provide on-going remote support and follow up on the participants’ return.

Our pre-departure team consists of our MD, Accountant, Administration Officer and Marketing Officer. Each of these staff members works with the participant to make sure you understand the placement and what to expect. We regularly communicate with participants, process your paperwork, provide visa, health and immunisation advice, answer any of your questions. liaise with universities, and run face to face briefing sessions (compulsory for each participant to attend) to ensure your placement runs smoothly.

Development Together’s Perth Office Staff

Development Together staff members provide in-country Clinical/Technical Facilitator support for all of our group placements. Our staff are qualified with at least a Bachelor Degree and have relevant work experience in the area where you will be volunteering. For example, on our Health Placements our current Clinical Facilitators qualified Australian Speech Pathologists, Physiotherapists and a Registered Nurse. All of them have extensive experience working in clinical settings, as well as supervising inter-professional teams. On our Humanitarian Engineering/Environment placements our Technical Facilitators have a Bachelor in Engineering with relevant work experience in industry, and have also supervised volunteer groups in the past. All of our Facilitators have been facilitators in-country at least once, if not numerous times in the past (some as many as 14 times!). They have an intimate knowledge of the country, its history and specific concerns relevant to your placement.

Development Together’s Cambodia Engineering Group 2018, with DT Technical Supervisor Mr Julian Goh.

On your return to Australia our Clinical/Technical Facilitator follows up with each participant and runs face to face group or individual de-briefing sessions. We encourage participants to give us feedback about their internship/placement and make suggestions to enhance future participants experiences. We can also provide guidance and referrals if you have any ongoing medical concerns or would like to speak with a counsellor about your experiences. we also run annual Alumni events where you can reconnect with your group, and we communicate regularly with our past participants and encourage them to act as Student Ambassador’s , helping us to spread the word about the good work that Development Together is doing in the developing world.

If knowing how Development Together staff will support you on your clinical placement/internship then why not consider joining us and having the experience of a lifetime?

Learn more about how you can get involved by visiting our website at or email



*Please note that our Vietnam Engineering/Environment groups are facilitated by a Vietnamese Engineer.

Young tourist woman swinging on the cliff in the jungle rainforest of a tropical Bali island, Indonesia.

Sustainable Travel on a Budget in Bali

When you participate in a Development Together placement we advise and assist you to get the appropriate visa. Often this visa will allow you some additional travel days either before or after the placement dates. Something you may be wondering about it is how you will spend your time overseas and what you can do on a budget to make the most of this opportunity.

On our Bali placement you will have the chance to enjoy affordable shopping, day trips and tours that can be experienced on a budget! Some of these activities include:

Visiting the markets: The markets in Bali are renown for their cheap prices. Most markets offer products of relatively good value at an affordable cost. This can include; shoes, clothes, artwork, leather goods, sunglasses and homewares etc. Markets can be found almost anywhere, just make sure your bartering skills are up to scratch in order to pay what you consider fair! When contemplating which markets to buy from, it is important to think about who you are actually purchasing from. We recommend making the conscious effort to buy from female vendors. This will allow Balinese women to support and be able to provide for their families.

Shopping for bargains at the markets

Boat Trip to Nusa Lembongan Island: Nusa Lembongan is a beautiful island surrounded by clear turquoise water and an impressive display of reef. Many activities can be undertaken on this island such as snorkelling, bike riding, eating with the locals and exploring some of Bali’s most picturesque beaches. *Prices for travelling return from Nusa Lembongan can be estimated at $50 AUD. Currently, Bali is trialling solar panelled boats to reduce the impact that fuel powered engines has on this pristine environment. Once these boats become available we would recommend you choose this option of eco-friendly transportation. If you’re planning on snorkelling at this picturesque island it would be advised to look into reef-friendly sunscreen. This is due to some sunscreens containing chemicals that are harmful to coral reefs, so choose “reef safe or “water safe” sunscreens with fewer or no chemical additives to protect the reefs.

Snorkelling at Nusa Lembongan

Guided Cycling Tour: Bike tours take place through the rice fields, temples and traditional villages in Ubud, Bali. Whilst enjoying the stunning scenery away from the touristy streets of Bali, you are given the opportunity to learn about the Balinese culture. Your guide leads the tour explaining every encounter along the way. Some companies offer a great range of deals and packages that can include meeting locals, seeing how rice farming is conducted and eating at a local restaurant. *The bike tours start from only $55 AUD. We highly encourage you to think about which company you chose to economically benefit the local communities that you ride through. Whilst on this tour we recommend taking plastic free water bottles and snacks such as fruit so you aren’t required to find a bin for any plastic wrappers. It is important to remain environmentally conscious wherever you are. (And don’t forget to wear your bike helmet!)

Cycling through the jungle

Spa Day: Maybe you’re someone who loves to relax and enjoy a spa day every once in a while? Spa Salons are located almost everywhere in Bali and can range in pricing. There are many massage salons on the side of the streets that are extremely cheap. Whilst they’re not your typical five-star salon, they are still very good and very affordable. *Prices can start from $5 AUD depending on how long and what you would like done. If massages aren’t for you, then treatments such as manicures, pedicures and hair treatments/styling are also offered. We recommend getting massages from ladies on the beach or small salons on the side of the streets rather than visiting bigger salons. It is important to support local businesses to encourage financial independence and security.

Enjoy a massage overlooking the ocean

Surfing Lessons: Whilst Bali is renown for their great surf breaks, the beach is also a great place for beginners. Even if you’ve never attempted to surf, the Balinese offer a great range of classes for people at all levels. They teach the key basics and focus on surf safety. It is most popular to hire boards along Kuta and Legian beach. *Prices can start from $10 AUD for only 1 hour! Make sure to rent a board from a reputable company that includes a life jacket. It would also be wise to consider what company you choose to hire from. We suggest hiring from locals that are set up on the beach as this supports local employment and creates jobs for the future.

Surfing lessons at the beach

Whatever you choose to do in your downtime in Bali, be sure to research, and consider the safety and health implications before undertaking any of these activities. Bali is an amazing place to experience a different culture, with hospitable and friendly locals. Being able to give back as you enjoy yourself makes a trip like this even more worthwhile and rewarding.

For more information about our Bali placements go to:

Learn more about how you can get involved by visiting our website at or email



*Prices correct at time of publication but may vary depending on season and locations.

development together volunteers engineering cambodia

8 Reasons To Volunteer in the Developing World

Today is the International Day of Charity! What better way to be charitable than volunteering in the developing world. Together we can make a difference in society by helping to eradicate different forms of poverty and partner together to build sustainable futures.

Making a decision to volunteer overseas can be difficult and daunting. We all lead such busy lives, and sometimes the thought of volunteering is not a priority. So we push those thoughts aside and focus only on what is directly in front of us.

However, if you take the time to stop and think about the benefits that you and the people you will be volunteering with will experience, you may find a reason to step outside of your comfort zone and become the deliverer of significant change!

Here are 8 reasons we think may convince you to get involved in volunteering:

1. Immerse yourself in another culture

Volunteering is a great opportunity to experience a different culture and walk of life. You can immerse yourself in the food, arts, history, and culture and have a truly authentic experience.

Learning about coffee production in Indonesia

2. Get to know the locals

Spending time with locals will help enrich your experience as you get their perspective and meet people from different backgrounds and walks of life. The hospitality and generosity of the local people will touch your heart and be an experience you will never forget. This will help broaden your understanding of their culture as well as other cultures.

3. Help a local community

The value you add to the community and the local people is so fulfilling. You can return home knowing that you have contributed towards significant change which may lead to enhanced health, economic, social and environmental outcomes. This experience is bound to change the community you volunteer with.

4. Enhance your technical skills and gain relevant work experience

You will gain practical work experience as you participate in a community development project under the supervision of a qualified professional who will guide and assist you. If you are studying at university you can also use most volunteer experiences to add to your work experience hours and put it on your resume! This experience may not only benefit your career prospects, but will provide you with skills and memories that last a lifetime.

Brick Laying- Cambodia Engineering Placement

5. Create amazing memories and friends

By travelling and sharing experiences with other people you are likely to form a bond with each other. Through this you make memories and friendships that will last a lifetime. The like-minded people you meet while travelling, and those who you work on projects with, you will likely build good relationships with. They may also provide good contacts in the workforce in the future.

6. Build your confidence

When you volunteer you will work on community development projects that will help you to gain skills and knowledge that will build your confidence in your field. Volunteering provides you with a platform to help practice and develop your skills, with the support from local partners.

7. Exposure to a wide variety of tasks

Most of our volunteers work on a project from start to finish, so you will be involved in the different stages and aspects of project management, and this will provide you with a wide range of knowledge and skills. This will come in handy not only in your everyday life, but also the workforce.

8. Practice teamwork

By working with partners and teams, you will learn how to be flexible, compromise and voice your opinions appropriately. This will help to strengthen your future team work and help you to communicate with colleagues better.

Indonesian Engineering Interns Jan 2019

These are only a few reasons why we would encourage you to volunteer on a community development placement. Our past volunteers tell us that the time they have spent volunteering overseas was an experience of a life-time, and the impact they have on local community outcomes is second to none. At Development Together, we are so grateful to be able to provide these services to encourage sustainable community development globally while enhancing our volunteers skills and knowledge.


Learn more about how you can get involved by visiting our website at or email


development together volunteers

You Can Make a Difference

According to the World Health Organisation, each person needs 20-50 litres of water per day for their hygiene and hydration needs. Most of us make no more effort than walking to our tap in our kitchen, turning it on and filling up a glass of water. However according to UN Human Rights, women and girls in the developing world walk an average of 6 kilometres (3.7 miles) every day to collect water for their daily needs. Apart from taking on average 2-3 hours per day, it also has an enormous physical impact on them. Additionally, it creates many issues that you may not think about at first. For instance, women and girls often have to walk alone to get to a water source and this puts them at risk of sexual assault or robbery. It also means that for many girls, they are unable to attend school as collecting water takes priority for their them and their families.

Woman in Uganda collecting water for daily needs

You may sympathise with them, but think that there is not much that you can do. However, you can get involved by joining us here at Development Together as we partner with local communities in the developing world on sustainable community development projects. We specifically work with partners who aim to increase ease of access to water sources and develop clean water filtration systems that can easily be used in local homes and villages with the result being more girls can stay in school and risks to women and young girls are decreased.

For example, in December 2018 a team of Development Together Engineering interns designed and built an 18,000-litre underground water tank in Uganda to help improve access to water for a local farm. Our interns also assisted with constructing a new water well on the farm to provide easier and closer access to water for the local villagers. This farm is run as a Not-For-Profit entity, with all income being returned to local community development projects focused on Keeping Girls in School, encouraging micro-economic development projects for local women, providing education about sexual health, reproduction and family planning and encouraging good farming practices to enhance agricultural outcomes. These two projects significantly decreased the need for women and girls to walk long distances and spend time collecting  water, substantially lowering the risk of being alone, decreasing their heavy physical workload and giving girls back precious time to spend on their education.

New water well is used now to collect the water

In addition to the water projects our team of Engineering interns constructed a new piggery, refurbished an already existing chicken house and proposed a design of water filter that could be easily replicated by locals to assure they have access to clean drinking water. This was all done in an 8-week time frame.

The piggery built by Development Together volunteers in collaboration with locals
The completed underground water storage tank with easy access to the water via a Rus pump
Development Together volunteers working alongside locals

These projects were really quite simple, but will bring about significant environmental, economic and social change, not only in the lives of those working on the farm, but also for the locals in the nearby villages. We have supported small group Engineering, Environment, Urban Planning and Architecture internships running to Cambodia, Indonesia, Uganda and Vietnam this coming December 2020 and January and February 2020 for between 4 and 8 weeks. If you feel like you would want to be a part of such a life-changing project contact us today at

Learn more about how you can get involved by visiting our website at or email


Female engineer volunteering development together

Volunteering and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals

In 1992, the first United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), better known as the Earth Summit, was held in Rio de Janeiro. This is where Agenda 21 – The Action Plan for Sustainable Development was created. Sustainable Development aims at meeting the needs of this generation without harming the needs of future generations.

Globally, individuals, organizations, businesses and governments aim to achieve these goals. These goals are crucial to maintaining safe, healthy and quality conditions for our future generations. Reviewing these goals encourages us to monitor and stay on track regarding sustainability. These goals show us that the small changes we make in our everyday lives, like turning the tap off, and using public transport, can and does help better the world for our future generations.

Each of us can implement certain habits and practices in our daily life to assure we contribute to the achievement of these goals. We do not have to completely change our daily routine, but even a few small steps will make a great difference. For example – we can stop using plastic straws. To be perfectly honest we don’t really need them, and by discontinuing our use of straws we are contributing to Goal #14 – Life Below Water: Focus and determine sustainable solutions for our oceans, as we have helped to improve the conditions of our oceans and potentially we have prevented harming an animal that may have died because of that plastic straw. Yes, it is as simple as that. Imagine how much we could do if we all implemented a few small changes in our lives. Amazing isn’t it?

Here, we list all of the UN Sustainable Development Goals with our suggestions about what we can do to make the world a better place for ourselves and future generations. Goal 1 – No Poverty: Promoting sustainable jobs and equality through inclusion

What we can do: Purchase items created by sustainable and Fair Trade organisation, with a focus on gender equality


Goal 2 – Zero Hunger: Aimed at trying to eradicate hunger and poverty

What we can do: Try not to waste or throw away food and only purchase what you intend to use. Over 1/3 of the world’s food is wasted!


Goal 3 – Good Health and Well-Being: Healthy living and well-being for all

What we can do: Vaccinate your family to protect them and others in our communities and improve public health


Goal 4 – Quality Education: Gaining an education is crucial to improving people’s lives

What we can do: Volunteer in a school and help children in your community to read


Goal 5 – Gender Equality: It is a human right and important for sustainable development

What we can do: Speak out against inappropriate behaviour and support those who are marginalized


Goal 6 – Clean water and sanitation: Clean accessible water for all is essential

What we can do: Turn off your taps properly and take shorter showers


Goal 7 – Affordable and clean energy: Energy is crucial to all our development endeavors

What we can do: Only use energy efficient appliances and reduce your reliance on petrol/gasoline


Goal 8 – Decent Work and Economic Growth: Sustainable economic growth will promote appropriate conditions for people to work in

What we can do: Support companies that promote equal opportunity employment and provide appropriate work conditions for their staff


Goal 9 – Industry, Innovation and infrastructure: Investments in infrastructure and innovation must work simultaneously to achieve this goal

What we can do: Come up with innovative ways to re-purpose material


Goal 10 – Reduced inequalities: Policies must be non-bias and take into consideration marginalized communities

What we can do: Speak out against inequalities and biases


Goal 11 – Sustainable Cities and Communities: Create a future where everyone in the community is provided with basic needs and services

What we can do: Partner with a local not-for-profit to enhance people’s access to appropriate housing and food


Goal 12 – Responsible Production and Consumption: Promote resource and energy efficiency, sustainable infrastructure, basic services and decent jobs

What we can do: Encourage your local government to consider how they allocate resources in your local area


Goal 13 – Climate Action: Our climate has been heating up in the past decades, we need to come up with sustainable solutions to stop this

What we can do: Educate people on climate change and recycle paper, plastic, glass and aluminium


Goal 14 – Life Below Water: Focus and determine sustainable solutions for our oceans

What we can do: Avoid plastic bags and straws to keep the oceans safe and clean


Goal 15 – Life on Land: Manage and prevent threats to our land such as desertification and land degradation

What we can do: Plant a tree and help protect the environment


Goal 16 – Peace, Justice and strong Institutions: Access to justice for all, and building effective, accountable institutions at all levels

What we can do: Use your right to elect the leaders in your county and local community


Goal 17–Partnerships for the Goals: Revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development

What we can do: Get the SD’s in Action app to learn about the Goals and ways to achieve them


Lastly, if you feel like you could do even more than that, this is what Development Together is here for. Volunteering is the next step you can take in order to help people all over the world to improve their lives. This will also have a positive impact on your own well being as volunteering has known psychological, physical and emotional benefits – see our previous post

Learn more about how you can get involved by visiting our website at or email



Read Further: The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals along with the description, advice and icons has been taken from the official UN website.

development together volunteers humanitarian engineering

When Help is No Longer Needed

We received a phone call recently from our Not For Profit partner in Hanoi, Vietnam. At first, I thought the news being delivered was not what I wanted to hear – and it certainly was not expected. The village Chief where we had been volunteering on a water project for the last two years told us, “We don’t need you to come back”.  We were in shock and at first we couldn’t understand why this would be the case. However, by the end of the conversation I was over the moon!

Development Together is a Perth based organisation that facilitates internship and work experience for university students and professionals to the developing world, where they work in partnership with local Not For Profit groups on community development projects. For the past two years we have been partnering with the Centre for Sustainable Development Studies in Hanoi, Vietnam to identify rural villages in need of assistance to develop access to clean water. We have sent small groups of Engineering and Environment students to a remote village in the Da Bac region, around 3.5 hours’ drive west of Hanoi. This mountainous region is very poor with a large number of people living in poverty.


Development Together volunteers with some members of our NFP group in Vietnam

In December 2017 we were invited to Xom Ke village which consists of 20 households. In 1994 these families had been relocated to the edge of the largest hydroelectric dam in Vietnam (and the 2nd largest in South East Asia). This enormous dam on the Da River produces more than 27% of Vietnam’s electricity requirements. More than 89 000 people were relocated, and 13 000 hectares of land was submerged to create this dam.


Volunteers Tour Mo Hem village to learn about the water issues they face, with the Da River and Dam in the background

Prior to the dam being built, the local people relied heavily on traditional agricultural practices and grew rice in abundance. However, since the valley floor was flooded to create the dam, they have had to become more creative in their approach and have had to move up the steep mountainous walls. Many locals now conduct small scale farming and clear large areas of jungle to grow vegetables to feed their own families or have chosen to raise cattle on the steep hill sides. The cattle roam freely directly impacting on soil erosion, stability and leading to large amounts of cow manure contaminating local water sources. The use of pesticides, herbicides and fertilisers to support growing crops for human consumption, and to feed the cattle, has also led to additional contamination of water sources, directly affecting the health of humans who consume this water.

Our first Needs Assessment was conducted collaboratively with the Chief Matriarch and her community members. One of the biggest problems they face is access to clean drinking water. There was only one small water storage tank that held 1.5kl of water, allowing only 8 household’s access to water. The remaining households collected water from the stream closer to the village, which carried more contaminants.

The source of the water was located 1.2km from the village, in a small river, where the water was deemed to be cleanest. There was no filtration system at the source or on the tank and no maintenance plan to keep it clean – upon inspection it was contaminated with debris, algae and potentially harmful microbe and bacteria. The existing water pipe that brought water from the source to the tank had been damaged extensively by cattle repeatedly treading on the pipe. All of the households in the village boiled their water as a treatment method to kill off any pathogens that may be present.

Volunteers trek through the jungle to inspect the source of the village’s drinking water

At a community meeting it was decided that we would work in partnership with the local community to build a new water tank that would provide clean water to all of the families, and that the tank would have a filtration system in place. Our volunteers spent time in community consultation identifying the problems and accommodating locals’ requests and recommendations.

Volunteers meet with the local community to discuss the proposed new water tank design

A final design was proposed and approved by the village Chief and community. Due to the low income in this village, we assisted with a financial donation towards the material costs of the project. Each family in the village agreed to provide one person per day to assist with the construction and labour required.

Volunteers work alongside local villagers on the new water tank

Over a 3-week period, we worked collaboratively with locals and the final product was a tank that allows all the village households to access this water and holds close to 6.6kl. We laid 1.2km of new pipe, raised so that cattle could not damage it. A simple filtration system was established at the water source and at the entry point to the tank. An education session regarding maintenance was conducted and villagers agreed to take responsibility to care for and maintain the tank.

We were again back to the village and returned in December 2018. Our Needs Assessment revealed that water from the tank still had some contaminants, mainly sand deposits, and potentially unseen bacteria and microbes. In consultation with the village we determined there was a need for water filtration systems in each of the 22 households. We designed and built a simple carbon/sand/pebble purification system to work alongside the existing water tank.


Volunteers working on new water filtration systems with local villagers

Over three weeks we constructed 15 new water filters with the villagers assisting. Unfortunately, we were unable to complete all 22 water filters due to time constraints. Once again, due to the low income in this village, we made a financial donation towards the project, and each supplied one person per day to assist with the construction and labour needs. Prior to our group leaving, we noted a few local families who had not received a water filter, had begun constructing their own water filter system using the design and principles that we had used.

Our next volunteer group was due to start in early July 2019. We began planning to return Xom Ke and finalise the outstanding water filters. However, when our partner group approached the village Chief, we received THAT phone call – the one where the village chief said, “We don’t need you to come back”.

Our hearts dropped. Not only because of the work that had gone into getting the group there, but also because we had spent so much time teaching them how to work in collaboration and partnership, to make sure we were meeting the village’s needs. When I heard those words, I was terrified we had done something wrong, or offended the village Chief in some way, and that was why she didn’t want us back.

Much to our delight this was not the case. As it transpired the local villagers had successfully completed the project themselves! They had self-funded and finished the remaining water filter systems using the designs we had left with them. Now all of the families had access to clean water.

This means that there is less chance of illness  and more likelihood of people being able to improve their economic outcomes as they are able to work each day and provide for their families. It also meant that the project we had been working on had proven sustainability, and would positively impact on the health, social and economic well being for this community.

At the request of another village Chief who had heard about our work in Xom Ke, our team was relocated. This week they have been conducting a Needs Assessment and identified that there are 29 households in this village also facing similar water access problems.

Volunteers conducting a site inspection at the new village of Mo Hem

We hope that our volunteers will be able to achieve similar results in this village over the month of July, and that ultimately, we are able to do ourselves out of a job again!

Learn more about how you can get involved by visiting our website at or email


development together blog

Top 5 Packing Tips

What can be more exciting than going on a holiday? Being able to experience new destinations, cultures and cuisines, taking a well-earned break and being able to relax. However, one of the least exciting parts of any holiday is packing.

Most of us leave packing to the last minute, and more often than not, we accidentally leave out some key items, or our suitcase ends up weighing more than our luggage allowance, which can be extremely costly.

So, before you start packing for your next holiday, here are some important tips to consider, which will help you start your holiday on the right foot!


1. Wear your heaviest items to the Airport

Airlines weigh your suitcase – not you! Therefore it is a good idea to wear all your heaviest clothing on your flight in order to maximise your luggage allowance. It’s a smart idea to wear your jeans, jacket and heaviest shoes, and if you get too warm, just put the jacket in the overhead locker!


2. Invest in a light-weight suitcase

If you have an older suitcase, and often struggle to get below your luggage allowance, maybe your suitcase is the problem. Many newer suitcases are made of lightweight materials and can help you save on those precious kilos when you check your bags in. Plus it means that you’ll be able to pack a little bit more!


3. Don’t pack anything unnecessary!

Don’t bother to pack things such as shampoo and conditioner, as you can often just buy these once you’ve arrived, and they are often a lot cheaper than back home too! Plus, most hotels also offer an array of complimentary toiletries. Packing items such as towels and hairdryers should be avoided, as these are usually provided by your hotel. In addition, if you are traveling to a country with a different power frequency – your hairdryer won’t work anyway!


4. Don’t go overboard

People often go overboard when packing clothes, however you’ll probably only need half of what you’ve packed! Having one shirt for every two days is more than enough, and you can always “wash one” and then “wear one” to make your clothing stretch. It’s more likely than not that you’ll be buying some clothes once abroad anyway.


5. Roll, don’t fold!

By rolling your clothing, it not only saves space, but it avoids creases too! Tuck underwear into all the gaps, and put your socks into your shoes in order to create some extra space.

If you are keen to try your packing skills for a 2, 3, 4 or 8 week placement, go to for more information.

Learn more about how you can get involved by visiting our website at or email


development together volunteers

Benefits of Volunteering and International Internships

Volunteering abroad has a strong positive impact on local communities. Every day thousands of people volunteer their time to help others and to make someone else’s life better. But did you know that helping others can have a positive effect on a volunteer’s life just as much?

If you have ever considered volunteering internationally, either as a professional sharing your skills and knowledge, or as a college or university student doing an internship as part of your studies, you probably already know some of the benefits it can bring you. These benefits differ from person to person but may include: earning credit towards your degree, getting a chance to meet new people, being able to travel to a new and exciting country, learning about new cultures and getting to eat wild and wonderful food!

Apart from these obvious advantages, there is one benefit that you may have not thought about. This benefit is the positive impact on a volunteer’s mental health and emotional well being. Numerous studies have proven that volunteering can improve your life from an emotional health perspective and add to an individual’s EQ. Dr Rachel Casiday reviewed 87 articles regarding the impact that volunteering can have on a person’s health and found that there is a direct positive correlation between volunteering and improves one’s life satisfaction, self-esteem, family functioning, self-efficiency ratings and decreases psychological stress.

At Development Together we totally agree with these findings. International internships and volunteering programs help you to become a part of a larger community, to feel connected and to have a sense of achievement and purpose. It also feels good to be able to share your skills and knowledge with others, as well as learn from your peers that share similar interests and passions with you.

This truly is a way to a new and better version of yourself. In fact, it has so many benefits, that one of the articles published on BMC Public Health even suggested that volunteering should be promoted as a part of a healthy lifestyle by public health, education and policy practitioners.

Volunteering is not just another way to have a great time, but contributes to you understanding more about yourself and developing real purpose and meaning for your life. It is an experience you will never forget.

Learn more about how you can get involved by visiting our website at or email



In case you want to read the articles referenced, here they are for your convenience:


development together travel blog

10 Travel Tips for South East Asia

When traveling to southeast Asia, there are a few tips that you should know, that will help you prepare and ensure a smoother journey:

1. Always have USD – If you ever run out of the local currency, USD is likely to be accepted. Most borders require that you pay for your entry visa in USD as well. Get some in your home country and bring it with you. Remember that some countries (like Cambodia) also dispense USD, as well as the local currency.

2. WiFi is almost everywhere – Free WiFi is honestly way easier to come by than expected, and for the most part it is decent. However, SIM cards are super cheap so you’re not breaking the bank buying them. And if you’re worried about getting lost, download, an app that doesn’t need an internet connection to access mapping tools!

3. Don’t be afraid of street food – Asia is the home of the world’s tastiest cuisines, and the really good news is that the cheapest is often the best. There are so many markets and roadside hawker’s – unbeatable places to try the many local specialties. Night markets are great for tasting different dishes at extremely low prices – sizzling woks full of frying noodles, swirling clouds of spice-infused smoke and rows of glistening fried insects all make for an unforgettable gastronomic experience.

4. Agree on a taxi price before you get in – Never get into a tuk-tuk, taxi, motorbike, tricycle or songthaew without agreeing on a price (or starting the meter in the case of a taxi). When possible, ask a local first how much the fare should be, so you know if you’re being overcharged. If you don’t you’ll suddenly be expected to pay a ridiculous amount.


5. Have at least 6 months validity on your passport – Most countries require you to have at least 6 months left on your passport. Otherwise they can deny you entry. The same goes for having blank pages. Have a minimum of two blank pages when entering a country.

6. Always have toilet paper – Just when you really need it, there is never any around! So, stock up and carry toilet paper or tissue paper wherever you go. Besides being necessary in public bathrooms, it can also substitute for a napkin, something that is often not supplied in restaurants.

7. Watch out for snatchers – For ladies it’s recommended to carry a bag that you wear across your body. And don’t forget to hold onto your phones and cameras tight!  Snatchers are usually people on scooters who will grab your bag or whatever is in your hand quickly while you’re out walking, in a tuk-tuk or on a bike.


8. Bring sunscreen from home – It is ridiculously expensive in SE Asia. It’s one of the few things that’s worth using the extra space in your bag for.


9. Pack a scarf to easily cover up – This is essential when visiting temples. It’s too hot to always be covered, but you’ll need your shoulders, chest, and knees to be covered when visiting temples.

10. Pack appropriate clothes– Please respect the locals and don’t only pack skinny tanks, short shorts, and crop tops. It’s fine to wear shorts and tanks whilst at the pool or beach, but this is not your home, so dress according to their standards when visiting cultural sites, palaces, government buildings and places of worship.

Learn more about how you can get involved by visiting our website at or email