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Canucks gain support from villagers in remote region of Viet Nam

Showing their steadfast support for the Vancouver Canucks are two student volunteers in Viet Nam, Taryn Bodrug (front) and Louise Wirtz (back row), along with the Red Dao women.

Far from the comfort of their living room couches and cable access, four students from Capilano University’s Faculty of Tourism and Outdoor Recreation are showing their support for the Canucks while delivering tourism education training in Viet Nam. The students are working in the hill tribe villages of Ta Phin and Lao Chai in the Sa Pa region of northern Viet Nam, providing the villagers with sustainable Community Based Tourism (CBT) training.

“We have been all disappointed that we have been unable to watch the hockey games, and we’ve desperately been trying to stay in touch with the series,” said Taryn Bodrug, one of two students pictured in the photograph. “Tuesday morning we were finally able to listen to game six from our remote and rustic home-stay outside Ta Phin, a small Red Dao village near the Chinese border. We were disappointed that we lost, but we are dedicated to rallying all the Canuck fans in northern Viet Nam. When we told the Red Dao villagers of our plight they stood behind us and have now all become die-hard Canuck fans.”

The Viet Nam project is supported by the Pacific Asia Tourism Association (PATA) and administered by Capilano University. Students Kyla Derkach and Jase McBride were in Viet Nam from March 13 to April 4; Louise Wirtz and Taryn Bodrug are there now with accompanying faculty, Jennifer Reilly and Kim McLeod. They are training residents of the two villages in business development, understanding the tourist, sales skills, event planning and management, home stay management, environmental stewardship, and tourism planning for local governments. Both villages, filled with mostly ethnic minorities, welcome a substantial number of tourists on a daily, weekly and monthly basis.

“This project has made a difference in the lives of the villagers that we work with, and in the lives of the students who participate,” Reilly said. “It’s an amazing opportunity for some of our excellent students to really apply what they’ve learned in the classroom to a real world tourism planning situation.

“Our partnership with Pacific Asia Travel Association helps position Capilano University’s tourism programs as a recognized leader in tourism education and community-based tourism planning, as we strive to link classroom learning with relevant and progressive practical experience in a variety of tourism environments.”

Training is delivered in coordination with Hanoi Open University tourism faculty and students, and Sa Pa Trade and Tourism. These partnerships were fostered in a previous Capilano tourism capacity building project supported by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA).

The students were chosen for their solid background and knowledge of the tourism industry. All four students are currently pursuing their Bachelor of Tourism Management Degrees at Capilano University. Derkach and McBride are graduates of Capilano University’s Destination Resort Management Diploma and will enter the Degree program this September. Seeing this as an opportunity to ‘give back’ at the community level, Derkach, from Penticton, BC, is interested in tourism as a result of extensive solo travels throughout the South Pacific including Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea. Raised in Dawson Creek, McBride was chosen for his diverse tourism background that has included food and beverage, tourism, sales, event management and leadership.

Wirtz is a goal-orientated second year student from Lillooet whose experience teaching in Malawi for a year is one of many reasons she is an excellent addition to the CBT team in Viet Nam. Bodrug is in her third year of the Degree program, and already has a Diploma in Outdoor Recreation Management under her belt. She is a world traveler from North Saanich, Vancouver Island, and has traveled in the Middle East, Australia, Central America, Europe, the Indian Subcontinent and South East Asia.

“This is an opportunity of a lifetime,” says Derkach on behalf of the group. “We are involved in all facets of this project including creating and delivering training modules, web development and meeting with some of the local authorities in the villages. I know being part of this may change my life forever and hopefully, I can make a difference in the quality of life for some of the locals.”

The opportunity to apply for this project was open to all students in the Faculty of Tourism and Outdoor Recreation at Capilano University. The interview process, which took place in November, involved submitting an application of interest, completing a group interview with other students, and finally an individual panel interview. Fourteen students applied for the four available spots.

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