VFCD - Fraudulent? PDF Print E-mail

The following article was written by Lorraine Elletson, and does not directly reflect the standpoint of VolunteeringInfo. After being contacted by Lorraine we searched for further information on VFCD but failed to find much of interest, as most of the online postings found were posted by VFCD officials. We have contacted Trinh Son and asked for an explanation of the events detailed below, but 12 days later we are yet to hear back. The decision was made to temporarily suspend VFCDs VolunteeringInfo listing until the matter has been cleared up. If you have any information, please do not hesitate to get in touch.

In early October last year, I went to Vietnam hoping to work as a volunteer for VFCD. I sent 450 US dollars in advance as payment for 1 month. Before leaving Spain, I wrote to the director Trinh Son and asked him about the visa situation- whether or not a 3 month visa was possible. I also told him that I did not wish to be placed in any assignment until after my arrival. On his website, he had mentioned working with women and fair trade. That is what I was interested in doing- not in teaching. I never made any contract with him.

After arriving, I was put up in a hotel for 3 nights- the last night of which I paid myself. After that, I was taken to the volunteer house where I spent 2 nights. I, therefore, spent 4 nights at VFCD’s expense.

At the volunteer house, I met a Canadian-Chinese girl Catherine and Sabrina Syben- a German girl who was supposed to work as an intern for UNESCO. (VFCD uses the logo of UNESCO on his websites and sets up fake websites to attract volunteers. He also uses the information from application forms to add names to his sites). Sabrina told me about how she had been badly treated by Son in Sapa- north Vietnam- and had lost a lot of money which he refused to pay back. In addition, she had had to pay for her food and accommodation (both of which were supposed to be included). I then realized that I did not want to work for VFCD and wrote to Son explaining this and asking for my money back minus the 4 nights and moved out of the volunteer house with the above-mentioned 2 girls.

Son then wrote back saying that I should feel guilty, that I had broken a 3 month contract with him and that he had rented the volunteer house just for me. He then asked me to pay him 2 months more- 900 US dollars more. I then understood that I was dealing with a very dishonest man and that the only way of dealing with this would be to report him to the UNESCO office as suggested by the Chinese-Canadian girl.

I then went twice to the UNESCO office and spoke to Mr Thang and to his intern Van. Mr Thang said that he would try to help and requested my bank details in case Son paid me back what he owed. He also said that he doubted that the Vietnamese police could help because I had no contract. I kept writing to UNESCO but rarely got a reply. When I did, they said they were still working on the case.

In the meantime, I started to write to various websites to report my experience in an effort to save other volunteers from having to have such an experience. I also learned of many people who had also been cheated by Son.

Before leaving Hanoi, I asked a Vietnamese friend to telephone Son and to tell him that I would telephone the police if he did not pay me back my money. He then told this friend that he did not mind this since the police were on his side and they could force me to pay him 2 months´ more. He has said the same thing to other volunteers who have threatened to call the police.

I am very sad about all of this and also sad that this man is cheating so many people and ruining the reputation of UNESCO and creating a very negative image of Vietnam as a very corrupt country.

Lorraine Joan Elletson

Final Comment

Lorraine has been in contact with several other people who claim to have been victims of this reported scam, and has provided us with a list of 11 people and how much money they report to have lost to VFCD. As we have not been in direct contact with said people, we will not publish their names, but can reveal an average loss of $5363 USD, with the highest reported loss being €1600 or roughly $2200. The average of the remaining 10 victims was $315.

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0 #7 constantinos 2014-01-29 01:06
Spent two wonderful weeks volunteering at VFCD. In those two weeks I became great friends with Son, the founder and manager. My humble opinion? He is one of the most honest, polite and giving guys I've ever met. Am I a good judge of character? Well, I have a postgraduate degree in psychoanalysis from University College London, finished top of my class.. I think I'm a bit more qualified than the average person to judge.
0 #6 CDS 2013-01-01 17:44
They are doing great voluntary work, don't worry ! Please see feedback from fomas participants

Mr. Duy Khang Tong
01Nationality: Vietnamese - Swiss
Date: 2012, August

"I had a very good time on this camp. I learned a lot about the local people and the culture. This trip was kind of adventure for me on the same time you meeting volunteer people to share the experience. The choice of the place where we spend was very nice and interesting. I think as a group we worked pretty well together. In short, the trip is over my expectation, although the schedule changed a few times"

Mr. MaximeThrvolle
02Nationality: French
Date: 2012, August

The camp was really interesting and I learnt a lot about life in the countryside and how farmers lived and see the world. The scenery was beautiful and the landscapes were to be preserved.

Mr. Guy Nicholson
05Nationality: British
Date: 2012, August

I thought the program theme was very positive and focused on helping the local people in rural Vietnam live better life and to use our knowledge to help them progress their business and increase our awareness of how they live. The atmosphere was relaxed, I felt very welcome in the group and I felt like the organization was grateful for my attendance. I felt that I got a chance to really interact with rural people to a depth that I could not access through a travel agent's tour.

(Excellent) by Ashley from Newzealand [24/10/2012]

This is a wonderful program to be a part of. V4D is doing extremely good work for people who need it, and will look after you perfectly throughout your time here.

Ha Noi and Viet Nam are great places that allow endless opportunity to meet amazing people, see super sights, and feel the life in the world.

I hope very much to be back one day more

(Excellent) by Benjamin - USA [01/11/2012]

We had a great time working for V4D program. The schools we worked at ranged from young kids, to people with disabilities, and high school aged students. All of the schools were a lot of fun to work at and I feel as though we learned as much from them as they did from us.
V4D was a great host and took great care of us during our stay. Vietnamese coordinators arranged for tours around the area as well as provided us with excellent food. They is a awesome cook. I would definitely recommend this workaway to anyone who is interested.

Eduardo Duarte - England

Once again thank you very much for making my experience in Vietnam so incredible. I will never forget you all and the children.

In regards to feedback, first of all I think that Mr. Son was extremely supportive with me and always tried to answer my needs.
I found the whole community very welcome and with good hospitality. By having dinner and lunch with them all the time, it gave me the opportunity to learn more about your culture which is another plus for my experience in Vietnam.

The planning/timetable was very clear, I am very happy and pleased to be the first volunteer coming to Vietnam, and once again thank you very much for accepting me. It was a wonderful experience :)

Send my regards to everyone please!!!!!

Best Regards,

Eduardo Duarte
0 #5 Katie Honan 2012-06-09 12:18
0 #4 Katie 2012-06-08 02:42
Sorry not defending the scam but giving advice on how to solve the problem when his company itself is scamming those interested in volunteering.
0 #3 Katie 2012-06-08 02:39
I find it amusing that Edward from Micatz commented on this article defending this scam as I myself have fallen victim to a similar experience with Micatz and have had money taken off me from them never to be returned. In december last year a friend and I contacted Micatz about volunteering in Vietnam in Feburary. We were sent several emails within a matter of days requesting payment immediatly, which we obliged with. Two days before we left in January, Micatz cancelled our trip, promising a full refund within 8 weeks. It is now June, some 6 months later and I find myself emailing Edward and Micatz daily and attempting their skype and contact numbers with no real response. Just empty promises. They took $700 of me and my friend, both 19 year old students who worked all summer to save for this trip. I find this disgraceful and it really did ruin my first voluntering experience and has definatly made me much more cynical when it comes to these matters. Hopefully with this comment the next person to google micatz will read this and learn from my mistakes and chose a different company to go with.

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