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Journeys of Sustainability

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“If education is the thing you have left, after you have forgotten what the lessons were about, then many of my memories from this project will not recall the discussions in workshops, or the many presentations I saw.”

International Volunteering Ireland.

Comhlámh’s Information and Support Officer, Ruth Powell, recently attended the final event of a project entitled “Journeys of Sustainability” in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.  The project was co-ordinated by a Lithuanian organisation called Deineta, is partly funded by the Erasmus + programme and brought together 15 organisations from Europe and South East Asia to discuss sustainable tourism and capacity building for youth and youth workers.  Ruth was invited as she delivers English language training to the MA students at Kimmage Development Studies Centre, and this is what she learned.

“I learned so much during the “Journeys of Sustainability” project that it is difficult to articulate, quantify or qualify.  So I’ll just try to highlight some moments that will not leave my mind.

I learned that receiving a birthday card from someone you just met, from the other side of the world from you, is one of the most beautiful feelings of all.  I learned that Vietnamese hospitality and kindness is elegant and effortless, and very desirable, and I want to cultivate more of that in me.  I learned that the effects of Agent Orange, from the American war, are still being experienced almost forty years after the war ended and I learned how to cross the road in Ho Chi Minh City, calmly and confidently.

If education is the thing you have left, after you have forgotten what the lessons were about, then many of my memories from this project will not recall the discussions in workshops, or the many presentations I saw.  Rather, I will remember chatting with my roommates from Cambodia and the Philippines about gender relations in our respective countries; I’ll remember a conversation about Communism in Estonia while looking out at the South China Sea (or Eastern Sea as my new Vietnamese friends call it); I’ll remember sharing cigarettes with the French, whiskey with the Nepalese and coffee with the Italian participants.  I will remember a boat trip on the Mekong Delta, sleeping in a floating house, coconut ice cream and pagodas.

The acquisition of knowledge does not always come in the traditional forms we might be used to.  Therefore, I learned to expect the unexpected, to be inspired by the inspiring and to try to walk away from my Eurocentric perceptions.  I hope that I have brought these learnings and memories back home with me, so that they can motivate my work and keep me excited in my daily routines.  I learned a great deal and I am grateful”.

For more information about Journeys of Sustainability go here:  http://www.journeys-of-sustainability.eu/



One comment

  1. That’s a beautifully written piece Ruth which sums up the essence of learning and should in turn inspire all who aspire to learn or “teach”


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