For the overseas part of volunteering we have the rare and wonderful opportunity to stay with an ethnic minority group called the Mường people who were very welcoming and kind to us. They lived in an isolated, rural beautiful area of Northern Vietnam. I found value in certain ways the Mường people lived their lives in terms of SDG 12, Responsible Consumption and Production.
Their lifestyle gave me an awareness of how my own consumption patterns can be improved, my perception of my lifestyle was definitely altered.
The Mường people are self-sufficient in their food needs and have little or no waste. Where they lived was on the shore of a lake and they had their own fish farm, their own livestock (there were often chickens rambling around being chased by local dogs). They made use of all the resources around them, the rice fields and bamboo were all food sources. One hot afternoon our host nimbly climbed up a tree in her bare feet and dropped fruit down to us that she picked from the branches.
I was beyond impressed as to how they lived in harmony with nature, every resource around them had a value and purpose. Comparing how Mường people lived with their food consumption to my pattern at home seemed to me to be drastically different and got me thinking as to how I could make better choices on my consumption for the environment. At home I would buy food products wrapped in several layers of plastic & leftover waste from meals being disposed of in the bin.
Since returning home I am making different choices around my consumption; buying fruit without packaging, buying local food products and reducing my food waste. When we were leaving our host gave a beautiful, colourful hand-stitched purse that she had made herself, this item held a lot of value for me. I couldn’t help but think of all the items of clothing/accessories I have at home that were often not bought out of need.
I realised I can make a better choice of shopping at charity shops. While staying with the Mường people I learned how I can improve my own consumption patterns from their lifestyle, how we can all make better choices for the environment. Prior to volunteering this would not have been in my awareness!
Name: Aileen Maughan