Developing soft skills for disadvantaged children and youth is one of the purposes of saigonchildren’s programmes, in addition to improving their access to academic education. At saigonchildren’s Thang Long school, as well as English classes and training courses, soft skills workshops are built to meet the needs of each developmental stage of the children.

Last Sunday, 15th November, 162 students from the English classes of Thang Long English and Vocational School enjoyed a day trip to Giang Dien Waterfall Eco Resort to practise their skills in presentation and giving feedback.

Ms. Nguyet, who is in charge of Thang Long school’s soft skills workshops, explained that this is an annual event for the school’s students. Yet this is the first time the event has attracted such a large number of participants, almost doubling previous years’. The event was supported by A Better World, a centre promoting soft skills and life values. 13 volunteers from A Better World came together with 13 staff and teachers at Thang Long to facilitate this event.

The 180 students were divided into 16 teams to compete in a range of challenges. All the challenges were designed to strengthen verbal and non-verbal communication skills. The students were excited by first game, drawing saigonchildren’s logo while blindfolded. However, because it was the very first challenge, they did not yet have experience in presenting and giving feedback, meaning all the students were trying to instruct their teammates simultaneously. This exercise allowed them to realise the importance of proper communication, and how to give instructions in the most concise way.

Ms. The Doan, the event’s facilitator, said, “I have been doing activities like this for students of Thang Long school for quite a while. For these students, their advantage is they have been together for years. I see students who I first met five or six years ago as little kids, and now they are already in high school. However, the closeness can also be their weakness. They may not cooperate as a team but just leave all the work to the ones who they think are best to do, or have already formed groups and only hang out in their groups. Therefore, when I divide them into teams I always try to mix up the groups and separate the ones who are always together.”

Besides competing in teams, there were other activities to develop a range of soft skills. This included challenges where the students played different roles in the communication process, either as the provider or receiver of information. There were also physical games to subtly teach communication skills such as throwing balls over a curtain. In this game the ball thrower was the provider of information, and was unaware who the receiver hidden behind the curtain was, meaning the receiver had to be flexible to extract information and only take balls of the right colours. At the same time the receiver was required to give feedback to the thrower on how and when to throw the balls.

Hoang Yen is a Grade 7 student who is studying B2 English at Thang Long school. In the morning she was shy and reluctant to interact with other students in the team, but by the afternoon she was participating in all the games. “This is the first time I get to join this activity. Although it’s tiring, I’m very excited to get to know many other students. I really like the “Mystery box” station, where we have to pick an object and describe it to our teammates. Through the activities today, I have learned how to trust and communicate with other teammates, and hopefully can apply these communications skills in life.”

Hoàng Yến, on the far right, with her friends

At the end of the event, all the students sat together to review what they have learnt through watching videos of themselves playing the games. Mr. Huy from A Better World spoke on how to communicate effectively, as well as sharing valuable stories from his own life experience. The students did not just learn about presentation and giving feedback skills, they learnt the most important lesson in communication that is to respect and to be kind to other people.