The Emerging Change Makers: Life Matters Course in South East Asia

The second South East Asia Life Matters Course will take place this year in Vietnam from 28 June to 7 July. Rob Wood and Miftahul Huda have sent this report of the first course, held last April in Cambodia.

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The young Initiatives of Change (IofC) teams in South East Asia are very emerged and dynamic, as there are so many diverse initiatives they take like the Youth Leadership Camp in Indonesia, Cambodia Thailand Exchange Programme, Tools for Change Conference in Malaysia, Family Workshop and Community Development in the Philippines and many more.

Cambodia is a country of contrasts – generous hospitality and care side by side with rampant corruption and injustice, extraordinary displays of wealth alongside heart-wrenching poverty. It’s a country that captures your heart and stirs your emotions and it is where the South East Asia Life Matters Course started.

The first-ever South East Asia Life Matters programme was held in Sihanouk Ville and Phnom Penh at the end of April in temperatures of 35 degrees and more! It was good that the first session – inner reflection and sharing – was held at 7am in the coolest part of the day.

Most of the 16 facilitators for the group of 38 are from nine countries (Cambodia, Vietnam, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Australia). The course was facilitated by the alumni of Action For Life participants plus IofC seniors Rob and Cheryl Wood. Our planning times – three to four hours in length – mainly happened over skype and we only had a bit more than a day after everyone arrived from our various places for finalise preparations. Amazingly, it all came together in a wonderful way and the different sessions were ably hosted.

With such a large number of participants, the life-story telling was done in teams. The last one was held on one of the local beaches under the stars! The day of our final presentation we travelled five hours by bus from the port city of Sihanoukville, where we’d been till then, to the capital, Phnom Penh. One of the highlights of that evening event was an apology made by a young Cambodian to his god-brother in the audience. After asking forgiveness, he left the stage and went and embraced him.

A week later we met for lunch at a cafe with 13 of the 15 Cambodians who had joined Life Matters. A young businessman, who now manages 11 companies selling organic agricultural products, talked to them about his decision after attending the Life Matters course in Australia to resign from the business he was then working for because his boss refused to register his company. This was a brave step as, at the time, he had no other employment prospects. However the thought then came to establish his own business and soon afterwards he was offered the needed financial support to make it happen. His message that honesty pays was very well received by those listening to it.

They responded by telling him about steps of change they had taken. One said, ‘I grew up at Life Matters. I still have times when I don’t know what to do but I’ve now got a tool I can use – a time of quiet reflection – to find my next step.’

As a group they have decided to tackle the ever increasing problem of pollution in Phnom Penh. Twice a month they will work to clean up the rubbish in a very popular part of town in order to encourage others to join them. One of the groups called us yesterday about their plan and said, ‘We’ve decided we want to do more and talk less’.

After the course in Cambodia, the team decided to run the second South East Asia Life Matters Course from 28 June to 7 July, 2013 in Vietnam. People are very excited to be connected to be the change makers and make a global friendship.

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