We are One

By: Sharon Bulaclac

The fifteen (15)-day International Osmosis in Thailand was like a classroom without walls, learning without borders, a class where everyone was a teacher an expert of something and everybody has something to share and each one was a willing learner.

As a teacher and a student of History and Culture it’s a great privilege to be given the opportunity to be part of this journey. “Comfort the disturb, disturb the comfortable” encapsulated everything I saw and experienced during this trip. As we spend time at UHDP and visit communities they worked with for many years I was impressed with one word – COLLABORATION, valuing the working together for better principle. They recognized that in reality, to fully achieve their goals they need to collaborate and provide space with other groups to work with them. Through UHDP we were able to listen to the different stories from the Lahu and the Palaung tribe. For me, I believe as we listened and give space for their stories to be told, we also allow them to revisit pages of their lives that they treasure. Showing our willingness to listen afforded those we met a certain amount of healing, a feeling that they do matter and their stories are important. Obviously they have been displaced and disturbed from their traditional homeland as they seek for safer place in northern parts of Thailand. But as we listen and share also our stories it created a bond and indelible mark with each other’s lives. Listening and sharing each other opens an opportunity for empathy which reminds me of a Jewish saying that I love - “What is truer than the truth? Answer: the story.” This kind of experience saves us from having a single story not only with the communities we visited but even among us who joined the Osmosis.

More opportunity for learning and sharing were given to us as we move from place to place to visit other organizations. With the New Life Center I learned about TEAMWORK. Pi Faye shared to us how they work together with the different institutions of the government to safely rescue women from human trafficking. It showed me the value of acknowledging the strengths of others and recognizing what you do not have. With WEAVE, it's CREATIVITY. I appreciate how the organization creatively work their way in helping the displaced, disadvantaged and marginalized ethnic women from Burma and in Northern Thailand. I was really impressed with WEAVE as a social enterprise on how they build pathways and opportunities to generate safe and fair income for women through handicrafts development and support preserving what they call time-honoured artisanship and culture. Every product they sell carries the story of the weaver. With the School of Tomorrow, I was moved with their COMMITMENT to offer education to the less privileged sector of society. How their teachers and volunteers patiently erase used materials so that those who cannot afford to buy can reuse them.

The common denominator of all the expressions of kindness and goodness of the people we’ve met within the 15-day journey was passion and a realization that we are one regardless of our color, creed and nationality. We are one in this one big journey called life. We may differ in context but by simply having a small amount of awareness that we are one as human beings and all of the wisdom of all peoples we meet can contribute to our collective well-being, we can appreciate more the beauties of life and be more giving and caring towards each other.

Sharon is an historian and academician from the Mindanao State University, Philippines who has been supportive of iEmergence's programs and activities. She has undergone the Asset-Based Community Development Training (ABCD) Level II with iEmergence last October 2014 and has since been an active champion of ABCD throughout her work and other passions. Sharon went with the team from iEmergence to live and learn in Northern Thailand for two weeks.