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20170706 6th Cambodia-Vietnam Exchange Programme
Re-bridging friendship through community services at the 6th Cambodia-Vietnam Exchange Programme 2017
Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Re-bridging friendship through community services at the 6th Cambodia-Vietnam Exchange Programme 2017

Trustbuilding is the focal point that Initiatives of Change has engaged throughout its history in order to build a thoughtful, peaceful, and healing world beyond diversity and differences. Inspired by that shared vision, from the 6 to 9 July 2017, 25 Cambodian and Vietnamese youths came together to renew friendships through a cultural exchange programme in Cambodia.

This was our 6th Cambodia-Vietnam Exchange Programme (CVEP) since the programme started in 2005. Our vision was to develop compassionate understanding and to build a respectful relationship between our two countries despite shared historical challenges.

His Excellency Son Soubert, a long-time Initiataives of Change (IofC) friend, hosted us at the Peaceful Children’s Home (PCH) in Kandal Province. Son Soubert regaled the history of the children's home and revealed that it was created following the wars in the region. He said, ‘We need to learn to live together and to support one another to find the kind of future we want for our children.’

We were inspired by how PCH has cared for a community of destitute children by meeting their physical needs but also providing educational opportunities. The group planted 100 banana trees on campus and for many of us it was the first time we had done manual gardening work. With joy and sweat we learned to be humble in service and teamwork by supporting each other. We hope we have contributed to providing the children with a more complete and balanced diet.

We also visited the Vietnamese community living near Phnom Penh. It was a good chance for the team to understand the lifestyle of a Vietnamese population in Cambodia. Many were born without legal papers and therefore had limited access to social rights and benefits. Few young ethnically Vietnamese children can get into the Cambodian public schools and need to hide their identity to avoid violent acts. The team spent a half day interacting with the community, playing games, and sharing lunch with the kids and volunteers of the Catholic church as well as sharing our CVEP ideas with the Catholic priest and others through stories and IofC songs such as ‘Be the Change’ and the Maori songs and dances we learned from visiting Action for Life members. A Vietnamese CVEP member said that she had come from a poor family and life was challenging and difficult. She studied hard and now has a degree. She encouraged the children to never give up hope and that a good future awaits everyone.

There was also time for personal talks and team games and before leaving Phnom Penh we had a fellowship dinner along the Mekong River. A Vietnamese participant said, ‘I am deeply thankful for the great care from our Cambodian friends and for helping us understand and love Cambodia much more.’ A Cambodian expressed her appreciation and said, ‘I am grateful for Vietnamese friends who are friendly with open hearts to understand us and to be caring friends.’

To continue the CVEP spirit, three Cambodian friends travelled to Ba Ria Vung Tau province in Vietnam to volunteer for the annual youth camp hosted by IofC Vietnam.

This year's CVEP has rekindled the friendship between the youth of Cambodia and Vietnam in a meaningful and practical way. On this journey, we are deeply grateful to friends who have supported us spiritually and financially. With their meaningful support, we know we are walking on this journey toward peace with dedication and faith.

Written by Tuan Anh Nguyen and Kim Vuth, edited by Peter Heyes