Vietnam | Community Service

Rebuilding in a Post-War Community

Immerse yourself in the life of a coastal village on this summer community service student travel program in Vietnam. Collaborate with community members as you engage in service projects and build lasting connections with local people. On weekends, visit Vietnam’s stunning Ha Long Bay and gorgeous city of Hoi An.

  • June 29, 2017  –  July 27, 2017
  • July 6, 2017  –  August 3, 2017
At A Glance:
  • Adventure
    Outdoor exploration, hiking, biking, swimming, and other active pursuits
  • Beach
    Stay on the ocean with time to swim, surf, boat, or snorkel
  • History
    Exploration of the country’s past, politics, and culture, and visits to historical sites
  • Service
    Focus on community-based projects in collaboration with a partner village
Completing grades 9 – 12
US Gateway City:
Los Angeles
Community Service
29 days
Typical Group:
14 – 16 students, 2 leaders
$ 5,890 + airfare
  • Volunteer with Vietnamese foremen to build simple houses for community members
  • Swim and interact with local youth at quaint, beautiful beaches on the South China Sea
  • Explore the fascinating sights of Ho Chi Minh City, Hoi An, and Hanoi
  • Spend three days exploring the gorgeous turquoise waters of Ha Long Bay

Leader Profile: VI NGUYEN

Education: The University of Texas at Austin, B.A., Psychology, B.A., Visual Communication; Syracuse University S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, M.S., Multimedia, Photography, & Design (candidate)

After completing her undergraduate studies in Developmental Psychology and Visual Communication at the University of Texas at Austin, Vi spent two years teaching English to… read more

After completing her undergraduate studies in Developmental Psychology and Visual Communication at the University of Texas at Austin, Vi spent two years teaching English to kindergarten and university students in rural northeastern Thailand. Curious about her roots, Vi immersed herself in the cultures of Asia by traveling throughout Vietnam, Laos, Malaysia, and Nepal. Upon returning to Texas, she conducted research in the field of applied behavioral analysis as a therapist to children and young adults with developmental disabilities. Vi is currently a graduate student in Multimedia, Photography, and Design at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University with a focus on social and mental health issues.  In her free time, she runs marathons for the Organization for Autism Research. Vi is fluent in Vietnamese and proficient in Spanish and has led Putney’s Community Service Vietnam program.


Departure • Travel Day • Meet your fellow high school student travelers and one or more of your leaders in Los Angeles and fly together to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. To learn more about how we organize travel, click here.

Ho Chi Minh City • 2 days • Settle in and learn about Vietnam’s history, food, and customs. Get to know your leaders and fellow students during an in-depth group orientation, focused on your time in the host community and the service projects you will complete.

Host Village • 15 days • Fly from Ho Chi Minh City to Da Nang and travel south by private bus. Move into a simple guesthouse that serves as your base. Each weekday, help to construct simple “compassion houses” together with local foremen in an area where some of the most intense fighting of the Vietnam War occurred. Bicycle to and from your work site along small roads that wind through the village. Participate in Vietnamese/English language exchanges, build friendships with friendly, local children who visit the work site each day, and spend afternoons relaxing on beautiful local beaches.

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Quang Ngai • 2 days • Take a weekend excursion to visit the My Lai Memorial Site and the Binh Chau Tunnels. Discuss the history between the United States and Vietnam with a monk at the Thien An Temple.

Hoi An • 2 days • Travel by private bus to Hoi An, a small, historic city on Vietnam’s coast, famous for its ornate Chinese temples, tailors who can make clothes to order overnight, and beautiful beaches.

Hanoi and Ha Long Bay • 5 days • Fly to Hanoi, Vietnam’s capital city and explore the fascinating Old Quarter with its narrow streets, tiny shops, and night market. Cap your experience with a three-day, private boat trip on Ha Long Bay to explore karst islands, sea caves, and floating fishing villages, and kayak and swim in the warm, calm waters.

Return • Travel Day • Fly with your group and a leader from Hanoi to Los Angeles, then continue on to your final destination. To learn more about how we organize travel, click here.

This itinerary represents our best projection of the group’s schedule. However, we may implement changes designed to improve the quality of the program.

A Day in the Life: HOST VILLAGE

Due to the traveling nature of this student program abroad, each day is different. Here is a snapshot of a day in the host village.

7 AM Eat breakfast, then bike from your guesthouse through the village to the work site
8 AM Mix cement and lay bricks for the simple house you are helping to construct
12 PM Lunch at a nearby community member’s house
1 PM Siesta and downtime to play with local children
2 PM Continue working on construction, taking breaks to learn about the local rice harvest
5 PM Cool off with a dip in the ocean after a full work day, then bike back to the guesthouse
7 PM Dinner with your group at the guesthouse
9 PM Group meeting to discuss the day and the upcoming schedule

The country is so beautiful, I met my best friends, and the locals were funny and great to be around. We experienced so many cool things I could never have dreamed of doing.

— Isabelle A., The Field School, Washington, DC

What to Expect

Community Service • The focus of this travel program in Vietnam is learning about another culture by forming meaningful relationships with local people and undertaking a shared community service experience together. You should come to the summer with an open-mind, eager to participate in new experiences and interested in exploring another culture and way of life. During your travels in Vietnam, you can expect to work on a construction project building “compassion homes” for families in need. Everyone participates in the group’s projects on a rotating basis. You can expect to complete 80 – 100 hours of community service work. To learn more about our Community Service programs, click here.

Independent Project • Pursue an independent project and explore an aspect of local culture of particular interest to you — learn how to make a favorite local dish, organize a village sports tournament, or interview community members about the history of the community and create a photo portfolio of local scenes.

Physical Activity • This is a physically active summer program. The volunteer work and afternoon activities can be strenuous and you can expect to spend most of each day outside, playing with local children, biking, swimming, walking, or kayaking. 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. You must be comfortable riding a bicycle to participate on this program.

Accommodations • Accommodations in Vietnam are varied, ranging from simple guesthouses to small hotels and quaint boat cabins. Leaders reside together with the students throughout the program.

Meals • We begin each day with a simple breakfast at our guesthouse. Lunches are our heartiest meal of the day, and are prepared near our work site by local community members and eaten family-style. During excursions, meals are eaten at the guesthouse or in small restaurants.

A man who I had only met once or twice hosted a birthday party for me. He and his family organized cooking classes, sang to us, helped us finish two gigantic cakes, and blow up balloons. We exchanged thank you cards at the end of our stay in the village. The mutual exchange of love and generosity was truly something beautiful to behold.

— Leah B., The Urban School of San Francisco, Mill Valley, CA

Ask Us

Call Maya at 802.387.5000 or email

The Community Service Vietnam summer program is directed by Maya Higgins. If you have questions, are interested in receiving more detailed information, or would like to talk further about the program or any of our high school student travel abroad summer programs, please get in touch!

Maya Higgins

Scripps College, B.A., Organismal Biology and Ecology.

Maya first discovered her passion for travel while studying abroad in Kenya and England and then doing field research in Costa Rica. After graduating from college, Maya studied the impacts of ecotourism on island communities as a Thomas J. Watson Fellow in Madagascar, New Zealand, Palau, Micronesia, and the Galápagos Islands before moving to Thailand to teach English on a Fulbright Fellowship. Before joining Putney full-time, Maya spent three years working for NatureBridge as an environmental science educator in Yosemite National Park, Olympic National Park, and the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. In 2016, Maya was named one of National Geographic’s 30 Under 30: the Next Generation of National Park Leaders. Maya has led programs for National Geographic Student Expeditions in Thailand and Vietnam and currently organizes Putney programs in Southeast Asia, Europe, and the United States. Maya is passionate about female empowerment, outdoor adventure, and delicious food. When not working, Maya can be found cuddling with puppies, testing the spice tolerance of her taste buds, or frolicking in alpine meadows.