Dear Trinh –

The last words you said to me were, “Don’t cry.”

I wanted to answer, ideally with my usual mix of sincerity and sarcasm, or at least with a forced, “Lol, I’m not,” but of course I was sobbing like the rain-soaked, newly-widowed engenue at the dramatic climax of any period piece filmed in the last twenty years. So instead, I tried really hard to smile at you and your mom, and your very sweet little sister while our bus left your village for the last time.


In the final installation of this year’s Global Village series, AmeriCorps Aziza

I’m gonna be honest, Trinh. I’m not really sure what happened out there. Not just Thai Binh, but Vietnam in general, or at least the parts of it I saw. I get the basics – Global Village, Vietnam, bricks and mortar and bonding and so many coffees. It was a great time, and I met great people, you included. There was site-seeing, and karaoke, and cement mixing, and this one time, my Thai Binh roommate (and fellow AmeriCorps, Margie) found a lizard in our shower, and that was a fun and unique way to start our day. It was a lot of work, and a lot of fun, but even taken together, none of that makes for the ‘life-changing experience’ I was promised. And yet here I am, the cynic, feeling…changed.


So, I’m counting little moments, offsite and on, because it’s the only way I can think of to talk about it all. Every afternoon when swarms of dragonflies would signal snack time. Sitting on a side walk with two women who spoke no English and somehow magically sharing a joke anyway. Watching Stan play with the kids during construction and having to fight not to sob (again), because as much as I call myself a cynic, everything to do with babies turns me to mush.

Or when we first met, and I asked how old you were. You told me your birth year, and when I correctly guessed your age, we found out we were five days (and ten years) apart.

When I tried to get your attention on our last day, and you, being the social butterfly you are, turned away to chat with someone else. I was willing to wait, but your adorable little sister, whose name I never even learned, looked at me, and then at you, and then she grabbed your arm and you stopped.

Seeing one of the homeowners hide his happy tears behind his new house on the day of the home dedication.


Writing these out, it feels a little easier to understand why leaving was so hard. Weirdly, still nothing I could put into words. Nothing tangible, nothing I could bring home and present to my friends and family. Stories are one thing, but memories are another entirely. And I could write all day about every aspect of going to Vietnam, building a house, playing with the children who were going to live in it. Meeting you, and saying goodbye. But  I can’t give those things to someone else. I can hardly explain them. And to be honest…I’m not sure I’d want to.

So, all I can say is this, Trinh. Thank you to you, and your family, and your village, and your country. You gave me a gift that is literally beyond describing, and a few bucketfuls of mortar will never be near enough to repay you. All I can hope is that everyone who tries a Global Village trip after this can come away with memories like the ones I have of you.


Write back soon,


This letter first appeared at:

HFH Vietnam pledges support to the Mekong Delta crisis on World Water Day
March 22, 2016
From home to health
March 30, 2016


  1. I was just looking at your An Open Letter to Trinh and Vietnam | Habitat for Humanity Vietnam site and see that your site has the potential to get a lot of visitors. I just want to tell you, In case you didn’t already know… There is a website network which already has more than 16 million users, and most of the users are interested in topics like yours. By getting your website on this network you have a chance to get your site more visitors than you can imagine. It is free to sign up and you can find out more about it here: – Now, let me ask you… Do you need your site to be successful to maintain your way of life? Do you need targeted traffic who are interested in the services and products you offer? Are looking for exposure, to increase sales, and to quickly develop awareness for your site? If your answer is YES, you can achieve these things only if you get your site on the service I am describing. This traffic network advertises you to thousands, while also giving you a chance to test the network before paying anything at all. All the popular sites are using this network to boost their readership and ad revenue! Why aren’t you? And what is better than traffic? It’s recurring traffic! That’s how running a successful site works… Here’s to your success! Find out more here:

  2. Pretty great post. I simply stumbled upon your blog and wished to say that
    I have really enjoyed browsing your weblog posts.

    After all I will be subscribing for your rss feed and I hope you
    write once more soon!

  3. Wonderful, what a blog it is!

Leave a Reply to Natalie Murray Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

X Window

Text description...

Ha Noi

Address: Room 203, E3 Building, Trung Tu Diplomatic Compound, 6 Dang Van Ngu, Dong Da Dist, Hanoi
Phone: +84 (04) 3715 2615 - Fax: +84 (04) 3715 2614

Phu Tho

Project name: Improving shelter security, health and disaster resilience in Phu Tho province
Project length: February 2015 - June 2016
Project purpose: Shelter, WASH
Beneficiaries: 41 households; 3 local authorities, 500 teachers and students and additional 100 villagers via training
Donor: Habitat for Humanity Australia
Budget: US$ 110,000

Thai Nguyen

Project name: Low-income housing, water and education in Thai Nguyen province
Project length: November 2014 – October 2015
Project purpose: Shelter, WASH
Beneficiaries: 92 households; 210 community members and local authorities via training and 1000 students via equipment of IT classroom
Donor: Samsung
Budget: US$ 225,000

Hoa Binh

Project name: Improved housing and WASH for low-income households in Northern Vietnam
Project length: January 2014 – June 2015
Project purpose: Shelter, WASH
Beneficiaries: 80 ethnic minority households; 5 local authorities and additional 200 community members via training
Donor: Evonik Industries
Budget: € 120,000

Quang Nam

Project name: Building Disaster Resilient Communities
Project length: March 2014 - December 2015
Project purpose: Shelter, WASH, CBDRM
Beneficiaries: 65 households; 200 local masons and 1200 local authorities and community members via training
Donor: Habitat for Humanity Australia
Budget: US$ 204,237
Project name: Safe community in disaster-prone Quang Nam
Project length: July 2014 – June 2015
Project purpose: Shelter, WASH, CBDRM
Beneficiaries: 56 households; additional 90 community members via training
Donor: Habitat for Humanity Greater San Francisco
Budget: US$ 127,040

TP. Ho Chi Minh

Address: 53/10 Tran Khanh Du, District 1, Tp. Ho Chi Minh
Phone: +84 (08) 3526 5005 - Fax: +84 (08) 3526 5323

Tien Giang

Project name: Nine Dragons – Phase 2
Project length: October 2013 – September 2015
Project purpose: Shelter, WASH, CBDRM
Beneficiaries: 208 households; 10 local authorities and additional 330 community members via training
Donor: AusAID and Habitat for Humanity Australia
Budget: US$ 217,641

Long An

Project name: Housing upgrade in Long An province via Microfinance partnership
Project length: March 2015 – August 2015
Project purpose: Shelter, WASH
Beneficiaries: 22 households; 75 community members and local authorities via training
Donor: P&G
Budget: US$ 64,874

Ba ria - Vung Tau

Project name: POSCO 3
Project length: September 2014 - February 2016
Project purpose: Shelter, WASH
Beneficiaries: 85 households
Donor: POSCO
Budget: US$ 507,475