From September 16 to September 24, 2019, together with other participants from Vietnam, Peru, Lithuania & South Africa, I happily took part in a seminar of “Second Chance” project held in South Africa. The journey has left me beautiful memories and meaningful lessons since I experienced the most authentic and colourful life of local people.
During the 9-day seminar, we focused on learning and working but also spent time exploring the area. We visited a few local NGOs including Southern African Youth Project, Olieven Development Association, Greater Midrand Development Centre, etc… These organizations provide care for vulnerable & disadvantaged people in the society; trainings for the youth; social disease counseling and treatment and so on.
We also spent time in Bona Lesedi Disability Centre where people with disabilities are taken care of and educated, while there is still discrimination against them out there. Since I work in a similar environment in Vietnam, I felt moved and motivated to continue the good work.
In order to implement the project in an effective and meaningful way, we believe that getting close to the community and inspiring young people are very important. Therefore, we also organized Vietnamese, Lithuanian & Peruvian cultural events during our visits to NGOs. We brought our national flag, traditional food to show them & danced together. That was the very first time that I proudly wore Vietnamese “áo dài” and talked about Vietnam culture in front of many people. They like our performance so much that Vietnam team couldn’t hide our excitement.
To me, the highlight of the journey was our visit to Kgosi Mampuru II Correctional Services, also known as Pretoria Central Prison with more than 2200 prisoners, while the number of staff is much smaller. The prison aims to become the best in correctional services in the continent as well as the world, and I think they have been doing a great work. The whole group were amazed by the hard efforts, enthusiam and friendliness of the staff members in a dangerous and busy working environment.
We were accompanied to have a look at different corners in the prison inlcuding their meeting room, classroom, prayer room, gym and kitchen. There is even a restauran where prisoners cook and serve customers. We were not allowed to take photos or videos, however, I still remember myself shaking when I walked in the prison – the facilities look very similar to those in “Prison Break” the series. We met prisoners of different crimes who even come from faraway countries including Peru & China. The rules in the prison must be strict and clear, and at the same time, staff seem to really respect human rights of prisoners. They can maintain their special diets if suitable, are allowed to have pets and learn practical as well as soft skills…
It was a great pleasure to be a part of the seminar; I am also very sorry for not being able to help much with our community-based tourism start-up because I was ill for a few days. However, until now, I have been trying my best to introduce our project and tour to my network. Thank you all for making my journey in South Africa come true and great! I look forward to seeing all of you very soon and continuing to contribute to the community.