high school students

Is this mission suitable for my high school student?

Having served on 6 summer medial missions, I have been often asked by parents of high school students “do you think my kid is ready for the medical mission”? Unfortunately, there’s no definite answer I can provide because each child is different. When it comes to personality and maturity no 2 children are exactly alike, not even siblings.  Therefore, I will list here the factors that parents need to carefully consider before taking their HS child on the trip.

  1. The weather is grueling during the summer time in Vietnam. Temperature is typically in the 90°s with 80% humidity. You will sweat and feel sticky all day long.

  2. The clinic work is long and hard. A normal work day is about 9 hours long plus 2-3 hours of commute time on the bus. We work 6-8 clinics during the 2 weeks period. We will work 2 or 3 consecutive days before getting a day off.

  3. Volunteers typically get up at 5:30AM, eat breakfast around 6AM, and get on the bus at about 7AM. The group will return to the hotel for dinner around 7PM. Then we all get to repeat the cycle again the following day.

  4. Since this is a medical mission operating on a budget, the hotel accommodation is basic and the food is simple. The hotel is typically 3 stars or lower (Vietnam standard). Each student will have a roommate of similar age for the full 2 weeks.

  5. HS students 16 or younger don’t have the full privileges of older college students:

     a.  They won’t be grouped together with the student team. Instead, they are part of the adult team so they can be under the supervision of their parents. This means they will ride the adult team’s bus and are only allowed to go out at night with other HS students and adults. They aren’t allowed to go out with older college students.

     b.  They will be assigned a specific task at the clinics, usually gift station or counting pills in Pharmacy. They won’t rotate through all stations as the regular student team.

We adopted this policy because young HS students in general don’t have sufficient maturity to be exposed to topics college students may consider casual (alcohol, clubbing, and relationships). We don’t want parents complaining to us about the type of conversations that their young children may overhear.

  1. HS students 17 or older will be part of the student team with only 1 restriction. At night, they can’t go out with college students. They must go out with other HS students under the supervision of adults.

I can’t predict how well your child will adapt and react to the experience. But I will share with you the reactions of my 2 sons and nephew after I took them on their first medical mission, Son1 (17), Son2 (15), and Nephew1 (14). Son1 embraced the experience and asked to come back the following year. Son2 didn’t want to return the following year but asked to return 2 years later when he was older and more mature. Nephew1 didn’t enjoy the experience and never returns. So the final decision is yours. Just keep in mind that you probably don’t want to expose your child to an environment that he isn’t quite socially and mentally ready for. A perceived unpleasant experience may discourage him from ever returning. We love to have all of our student volunteers returning some time down the line so we would like to make sure they arrive in Vietnam the first time with the proper frame of mind and realistic expectations. We find that the greatest benefits of the medical mission come when the students are in their college years trying to decide on their career path. Each summer, we average about 12-15 returning students who work their way into leadership positions.

If you have further questions, feel free to contact me at nguyeninirvine@gmail.com.


Paul Nguyen

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