There are just two months left in this year abroad, and the end seems to be coming at a fast pace. Sorry to my friends and family, but I’m not at all desperate to get home. I feel like I need more time – to discover new places and people and to revisit old ones. I will be home in two months, but I will start planning my next adventure right away.
For the remaining two months, I will be doing two things that I never expected to be doing. Read on to find out more.
Give Peace A Chance
I have been invited to attend an amazing seminar in Portland titled “Education for All: Inclusion and Access as Pathways to Peace.” As an alumnus of an exchange program funded by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the U.S. Department of State (to Kyrgyzstan in 2008), I was eligible to apply for this seminar. It is also funded by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (as was my Fulbright program in Vietnam), so thank you to all the U.S. taxpayers who are making this possible! The seminar will be administered by World Learning in Portland.
There will be 30 professionals and graduate students from around the U.S. attending the conference representing a wide range of interests and experience. During the four-day seminar, we will be learning about how to design a project in our community that promotes peace and reduces barriers to education. Then we will be able to compete for significant grant funds to implement our projects.
My first thought, after reading the email about the seminar, was that I could not attend since I am still abroad. Yet, the topic of the seminar seemed to fit perfectly with my current interests, and the chance to learn and network with others would be a great opportunity. I also realized I could fly to San Francisco and visit my son who moved there recently. So, I will be in San Francisco and Portland from May 8-18. It will be a quick and exhausting trip, but will surely lead to even more opportunities that I have not yet imagined.
I do want to live like a refugee
Well, not permanently, but I do want to experience a refugee camp, and that’s what I will do for three weeks on the Thai/Burmese border at a Karen refugee camp. I also understand that, no matter how long I spend there, I have the freedom to come and go, and will not really experience the life that the refugees live. I know that my time at the camp will, among other things, help me to better teach my future students about refugees.
Sara and Melissa, from my current location in Cambodia, recently taught there and said it was among their favorite places of the dozens where they have volunteered. This meant that I would have to give up seeing Laos and a few other plans, but there’s always time for that during my next trip.
Who are the Karen people and why has this camp been in existence since 1995? Those are all questions I am just beginning to find the answers to and will have a lot more to write about as I learn more. What I do know now is that I will be working with high school and college students, hopefully teaching them poems for my poetry project that I started in Vietnam. I think it would be great to hear these students tell about their lives through poetry.
When I arrive in Thailand after a long flight from San Francisco, I will be buying much-needed school supplies and other items to bring to the refugee camp. It is in such a remote location, that getting even basic things like paper and pencils can be difficult. If you would like to contribute to this effort, just send me an email with the amount you would like me to spend. I will purchase items for you and deliver them to the camp. You can reimburse me by sending a check to an address that I will provide. I appreciate any contributions you can make. If you are able to contribute, please email me the desired amount by May 19 (firstname.lastname@example.org).
If you would like more information about the project, please visit the Karen Alliance for Refugee Education website: http://projectkare.org/
Stay tuned for lots of information about these two opportunities. In the meantime, here are some more photos (taken by the kids and me) from Cambodia.