Volunteer work for charities or NGOs are always good, especially if it really comes from the heart. But remember that the facts and procedures may vary, especially if you’re and expat or foreigner in Saigon as things may be done different from country to country. It is always best to contact these organizations beforehand for guidance and instructions.

The VUFO-NGO Resource Centre, based in Hanoi, works with organizations that help city residents. There are city NGOs involved in advocacy, climate change, landmines and unexploded ordnance, water supply and sanitation, and children’s and ethnic minorities’ issues. Many of these non-government organisations – both Vietnamese and foreign – take volunteers, though requirements and conditions differ between groups. There’s a special demand for people with skills and experience in the fields of development consulting, the environment, charity, market research and rural development.

There’s also nothing better than contacting local charities and NGOs directly, as they are best placed to let you know what kind of help and support they need. Check out some important organisations doing great work here.

What should I know about starting an NGO in Vietnam?

Working for NGOs and having your own are two very different things. If you do want to start your own NGO in Vietnam, you very well can, though you will most likely need to file a small Mount Fansipan of paperwork. First, NGOs must acquire a certificate of registration from the Vietnamese government. These certificates are issued for three types of INGO status:

››Operations (certificate of registration may be granted for up to three years)

››Project Office (certificate of registration may be granted for up to five years)

››Representative Office (certificate of registration may be granted for up to five years)

INGOs based in HCMC, Danang and Hanoi can apply for Representative Office status. The only distinction between the Project Office and Representative Office is with regard to privileges (i.e., importation of vehicles, tax-free office equipment). Applications go to the Committee for Foreign NGO Affairs (COMINGO). This body gathers key Vietnamese government ministries and others to help the Prime Minister guide and address concerns pertinent to INGOs. After receiving the completed applications, COMINGO will respond within 45 working days; for applications for extensions, supplements and amendments the response time is 30 days or less. INGOs with valid certificates previously granted do not have to re-apply for registration certificates; supplemental documents will suffice. 

Examples of supplemental documents include:

››INGOs’ consular-legalised statutes in Vietnam

››Consular-legalised documents declaring INGOs’ legal status in their home countries

››Consular-legalised judicial records of INGOs’ directors/heads

Note that foreign INGO directors and heads are exempt from the Vietnam work permit.

For information on charity in Saigon go to Heart Institute Gala benefits Vietnamese Children with Heart Disease