Har Khaw Dee, one of ESI's first participants from Myanmar shares her passion for education as a Warden at the Phaung Daw Oo Monastic School (PDO) where she supports 186 girls from different regions in Myanmar, some of them even coming from areas of civil war. Although many of these girls age 5-16 are struggling with poverty and loss of confidence, Khaw Dee sees their potential and is dedicated to seeing them grow fully into themselves and achieve all that they're capable of.
During ESI, Khaw Dee shared her own story of why she chose her career path to the group of changemakers across Asia during the ESI tradition event, V-talks--the V stands for VIA, and is originally inspired by the famed TED talks. Back in Myanmar, she is planning to reuse this V-Talk format to encourage her girls to share their stories with her and each other. She is calling this the "You & Me" program, which will start with her 9th grade girls, and be held every Sunday evening, where each girl will have a chance to share about their families, challenges, views and other aspects of themselves that they've been a bit shy to reveal so far.
Take a look at Khaw Dee's first V-talk below and look forward to future updates from her bright young girls and the You & Me program!
I had the privilege of spending a week with a group of Stanford and Rikkyo University students during an Impact Abroad trip in Japan. I listened to their process, helped them problem solve and think about their ideas, and sat with them as they shared their proposal with the mayor of Rikuzentakata.
Here we are at our first team lunch in Tokyo- shortly after deciding to become Sushi Berries.
On our final morning in Rikuzentakata everyone was putting the final touches on their presentations for the mayor. After working late into the night to create the presentations, the topics only finalized that afternoon, the final presentation was less than an hour away. In the frenzy of final preparations, it finally dawned on me that my time in Rikuzentakata was coming to a close. That morning we enthusiastically presented our ideas to the Mayor, and afterwards we received feedback from him. According to him, this was the first time concrete ideas had been presented to the city, and he was excited to work on implementing them.
Next, during a question and answer session with the Mayor Toba, we heard more about the city’s current projects. I was particularly impressed by the inclusion of youth ideas into the city’s reconstruction. Mayor Toba explained that he didn’t want the youth to grow up while the city is being reconstructed, and at some point see a rebuilt city and realize it is not the city that they wanted, and no longer a place they want to live. After the presentations I was overwhelmed by the strength of the community and couldn’t have been more pleased with the time I had spent there. I learned so many lessons, from tsunami evacuation procedures to the importance of family and community in times of disaster.
As our bus pulled away from Rikuzentakata, a restaurant owner whose restaurant we ate lunch at, ran alongside us, waving as we drove away. Moments like these really made me feel the warmth and kindness of the people of Rikuzentakata. I hope someday I can return and see the progress the city has made.
If there were a college application for the city of Rikuzentakata, with that annoyingly sugar-coated question of “What’s one word that describes you?”, I would have to answer with the word resilience. Whether it be from the tenacity of the people to reconstruct their city, to the chilling stories of disaster heard from local residents, to the endless positivity with which they pursue their dream of an inclusive residence, resilience is felt in all nooks and crannies of this town.
One of my first thoughts of the morning was just how beautiful this place is. Situated in the northern Japanese prefecture of Iwate, Rikuzentakata is ringed by mountains and flanked by the sea. In this midst of this rainy season, clouds float close to the mountains’ tree-lined surface, rising up like the dreams of these people that, unlike their city, never seem to get washed away. As our bus makes its way to the community center for another day of stories, field visits, and diligent note-taking, I reflect on the resilience of these people, and especially their willingness to create something unique with the tragedy-turned-opportunity of the rebuilding process. In one of the first lectures, we heard of the city’s goal of “normalization” - to create an all-inclusive city where everybody’s rights are respected.
Another inspiring chapter in VIA's Impact Abroad program with Stanford and Rikkyo University. A passionate restaurant owner shares his invention and plans for reconstruction; Sakura Line 311 staff tells his story of returning to his hometown after giving up a career in Tokyo to help rebuild Rikuzentakata and grow a beautiful legacy of cherry trees marking the tsunami's path for the next generation.
Follow our aspiring changemakers from across Asia as they travel through San Francisco visiting innovative social change organizations and learning how to harness their luck and embrace their failures!
Check out part 2: http://youtu.be/gzPdBmne1cg!
Chapter 2 of our mini journey through Exploring Social Innovation program. Follow our two participants from Taiwan and Japan as they take the paperclip challenge through the streets of San Francisco reaching out to strangers and making some luck!
For me, the journey to the Rikuzentakata was one filled with nostalgia. Having previously lived in a similar rural city in Northern Japan, the journey to our destination felt similar to so many other trips I had taken. The small windy roads and frequent agricultural scenes gave me a warm feeling of comfort. However, my stomach was soon unsettled.
How exactly would you react if you see a 15 meter wall of water coming toward you? In the moment after realizing that no matter how fast you turn and run, the water will catch up to you, what would you feel? Is it simply fear? Or is it something so intense that one those who had experienced it first-hand could understand? How helpless and small must you feel in the world after witnessing the sheer power rampant on earth?
I have to admit that I have no idea. The closest first-hand experience I had to this kind of disaster is being dumped into the Wenatchee River in Washington and needing to ride out the next ½ mile of rapids. Obviously this isn’t a comparable experience but it is all I have right now to give me some perspective. In any case, we spent the day learning about the disaster and our mission. After this orientation our groups rallied around different focal points. Sushi Berry cooking up ways to make the city of Rikuzentakata more attractive. The Dwarves mining for inspiring stories and tales to share from the people of Rikuzentakata. And the Coffee Beans brewing up methods to make the story of and visits to Rikuzentakata more memorable. Once these directions had been decided, we made preparations for our trip to the city itself the next day.
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