By Xue Qichan (Programme Officer, Youth Internship Program)
“This is the law of nature; everyone should go through.” For the young people who took part in the “Eco-agriculture and Youth Training Exchange” last June, the words of Fab, founder of Thailand Khao Chamao Preservation Group, led them to a deeper level of understanding about the conflicts and perplexities they felt when they learn, practice and promote sustainable living.
Network building for a broader vision
The weather was pleasant and beautiful when PCD, Chengdu Urban Rivers Association (CURA) and Agricultural College of Guangxi University organized a 10-day exchange trip in early summer. The exchange trip took participants to Chengdu and Panzhihua of Sichuan, as well as Guilin and Liuzhou of Guangxi. There were about 30 participants. Most of them came from about 17 organisations from Thailand, Taiwan and mainland China while some were free lance workers. Participants visited universities, volunteer organizations, farms and farmers’ fairs at various project sites. They shared with each other about lessons and knowledge that they learnt and difficulties they faced in practicing and promoting eco-agriculture and sustainable development. In the previous few years, there had been many exchanges between PCD and concerned groups in Thailand and Taiwan on issues of community development and youth training. Participants that took part in this trip came mostly from volunteer organizations involved in rural community building and youth training. Through this exchange, we hoped to build more connections, to gain broader visions and to have deeper learning opportunities. We aimed at: 1. enhancing exchange and sharing between youth facilitators between Thailand, Taiwan and mainland China to encourage the building of a youth action network across the borders; 2. broadening the vision of youth facilitators in mainland China so as to deepen their understanding of and exploration on youth training work; 3. enhancing mutual learning between network members on issues of eco-agriculture and youth training.
Inspiring experiences and touching memories
Even though the schedule was tight, participants were deeply moved by every visit and had gained a lot to reflect on. When we visited farms and heard how farmers stood firm in refusing the use of chemical pesticides and fertilizers, how they took care to protect the environment and how they continued on the road of eco-agriculture with firm convictions, we could practically feel the power and emotion that flowed from inside them. In our exchange with university students, we had stimulating and exciting discussions and remarked on the paths of each others’ actions. During the exchange with volunteers from the Sichuan Youth Volunteers Programme, participants from mainland China, Taiwan and Thailand shared about their experience as volunteers, their own participation and that of their young friends in volunteer organizations. They also shared about the social context of their work and their own options.
Through the workshop on “Self Knowledge and Awareness and Social Development Work”, we learnt to feel the self inside of us. In the cities, in rural areas, on the nights in Yangshuo in Guilin when fireflies danced, in the midst of mountains, there were our common experience and memories.
Taking root in one’s beloved place
One participants Pomelo were in Thailand last year for learning. This time when she met Fab from Thailand again, she said she could feel deeply the power, joy and peace in Fab. For her, Fab was like a tree that had taken root in its beloved location. “I want to become such a tree,” said Pomelo. She was again moved by Fab when the latter was asked what had been the biggest difficulty she had over the years. “I don’t feel there’s been any difficulty. All the time I had only this idea and so I went ahead to do it. I never thought I must achieve something…..”
“‘The purpose of acting is to have a more beautiful relationship with something’— I was most impressed with these words of Fab during her sharing,” one of the participants said. Thailand Khao Chamao Preservation Group is a community development and environment conservancy group. Its aim is to develop, promote and support children and youth’s participation in social development, and to strengthen their learning through various creative activities which build intellectual and thinking skills. Fab emphasized the importance of starting from small things. She told us that when she returned to her village, the first thing she did was to open a very small bookshop. Making use of this small space, she encouraged children to come to read books. Later she took them with her to go to pick garbage. At first there were only six children who joined her. The number gradually grew. The organization has been established for 17 years. In 2003, it was given the Community Building Award by Ashoka Thailand.
Mutual influence brought by encounter
Wu Jia Ling from Taiwan Rural Front was studying a master degree in the university. She said because of this trip she saw many more young people working on the same thing and it gave her a lot of positive energy.
Sometimes we are only creating space for encounter, but encounter brings seeing which will become the source of strength and power and will become the starting point of connections and actions. Learning occurs in every real individual; mutual influence occurs in real encounters between people.