4 days, 75 delegates, all over Asia, all gathered in Bangkok with one dream. We are people of different nations, speaking different languages, of different skin colour, but we all share the same dream. The dream that the world could be a better place. We can not change the world but we can make a difference.
Making a difference in the lives of others, no matter how small an impact it may be, had always been my dream. Don't see this as something noble. In fact, I feel that all of us who are borned here in a very much affluent country desire for this. We all have this sense of emptiness in us. Why? Cos we have so much but so little joy. Because joy lies in sharing with others what little we have. In bringing that smile to the face of others, our hearts too will glow with joy and warmth. So really to friends out there, who felt that it was a 'noble' thing to do, to go all the way to bangkok, to have that desire to make a difference, it really isn't. In fact, i would say that i am even more in need than those in the 3rd world country. My heart is empty and i am glad to find something to fill it with once again. I am glad to find my little sense of worth, self-esteem and purpose in life during this 6 days in Bangkok.
The confernce is nothing like what i had thought it to be. I had pictured it to be 4 days of sitting in the conference hall, listening to endless 'lectures' by different speakers, struggling to stay awake and being overwhelmed with information, and not daring to speak up because I think I will make a bimbotic remark instead, and no interaction with the other delegates. It's just conference in the morning and sleep at night. but hell NO! The confernce totally blew my mind as well as all the other delegates. There was so much interaction and everyone felt so attached to each other that leaving was such a bitch.
Everyday we were presented with 2 papers on certain issues or rather consequence of poverty and after lunch break, we would all break into our smaller groups to discuss on the 2 papers and think of solutions to it. After which, we would present our case and solution to the rest of the other delegates from other groups as well as the guests (speakers) and organisers. And yes we are creative people. Apart from the brain dead day 1, we barely use the powerpoint at all. Instead, we had tonnes of fun doing skit, songs, videos, and campaign posters. It was heart-ware boosting and LOADS of fun everyday.
Admist all the fun, the message is clearly put across. We have to find ways to reduce poverty. Poverty is not a lack of resources but an unequal sharing of resources and our failure to be our brother's keeper. I am truly glad to be a part of this conference and every single cent spent is really well-spent. Indeed, in the words of Mr Lam (the organiser), i have made a smart choice by going. The sharings by the speakers not just exposed me to the plight of the poor mainly the children, but also changed my perspective of them. As shared by Mr GK (my fave speaker of all, he's just so charismatic and all inspiring), helping the poor should not be just dumping all your cash to them. it's not just sharing of your wealth. It is the restoration of the dignity of the poor. Often, we share cos we feel sympathy for these people, sub-consciously there's this condescending feeling about this whole act. That their lives is incomplete or something. But it's not true. They have alot more than we do in the heart. And helping them is not just a moral duty, it goes beyond this. It is actually helping to develop our society. If society wants to progress, we can never neglect the poor. they are apart of our society. Helping them is social development. It's about loving God and loving our neighbour. It's about being our brother's keeper. So it really goes beyond helping them cos we feel obligated or we pity their 'incomplete' life. it's about the heart and love for our fellow men, who deserve the same rights and dignity we all have. And like another inspiring speaker Dr. Robert says, it's a calling.
Apart from this change in perspective, there's also a fair bit of sense of helplessness. there is so much to be done. The street kids in Mongolia run away from their homes because conditions at home is so bad that wandering in the streets is better. Being poor has so much social effects. The pressure faced by the parents to maintain the household unimaginable. Kids gets so desperate they escape their homes and when winter come, they have to live in man-holes to hide from the brutal cold. And under in these man-holes are pipes which send steams to home, but these old pipes crack and burst every now and then, boiling these kids alive. Out on the streets, these kids are easy prey to drug addiction and syndicates. And there's also little kids being sold into prostitution by their desperate parents. NGOs are doing something to help them. The Government, some corrupt, some taking measures. These problems will persist. It's such a bleak picture. But let's not get disheartened. Even a small step counts. And on the last night, during quiet time, God adressed my heavy heart. Reminding me that I am His Child.
All in all, these are my take home lessons. That helping the poor goes beyond a duty. There's so much to be done, but even small steps counts. And it should start from us. If each of us can light candle, we can have enough light to illuminate the whole earth. OKay cheesy i know haha. But i am truly moved by the sharings, by the people i met in the conference.
And these people are smart. Okay i admit, i used to have this impression about high flyers in life, that they lack heart-ware. that they don't care. That they only have the dollar sign in their mind. And social workers, people from NGOs are those who lack chances in lives to do other stuff and have nothing better to do. haha. But hell wrong. The people i meet at this conference are all Professors, if not master holders/students, and even those undergrads are all scholarship holders. my my. haha. yes I am the most stupid one in worldly eyes. So i guess i am really fortunate to be granted a seat in the conference. People there are so hell smart, they make you feel inferior even. But ok lah, we all bonded well. No airs about these people. And there is no problem in speaking up. All the delegates are so comfortable with each other that we have no problem speaking up. And i don't have to fear being a bimbo.
Oh forgot to mention. Every day after the conference was another GALLONS of fun. haha. the thai delegates are really really hospitable and they would bring the bunch of us to eat good food and explore thailand. fun fun. Every night all of us would just hang out together.
So yes, next year's conference will be in Myanmar. Hope i can make it in. Maybe tougher, cos they are inviting alot more smart asses to the conference (people frm ivy league haha). And next year's schedule would include a night stay with slum dwellers or street kids. so who's up for it? haha :)