PowerShiftMsia taught me that the choice, to do nothing or something, is yours. – Elaine Lim
Most of us went through a phase in our childhood when we hoped that we’d somehow fall into a puddle of toxic waste. We’d then go into a bit of a fit, gain superpowers and live two lives –average human being by day; hero and crime fighter by night. Blame it on good imagination and Marvel cartoons. That was the being of an ache that grew in me to be someone who loved to give back to society.
Growing up, I learned of names like Helen Keller, Nelson Mandela, Au Sung Suk Yi, and even David (from the story of David and Goliath); names of ordinary people who did extraordinary things with their lives. I realized soon enough there wasn’t that big a difference between them and I. We are all human, all given the freedom of choice to live as we please and we are all given one life. Mae West once said ‘you only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.’
What started out as a “work thing”, turned out to be an experience of a lifetime. It was bittersweet working with the team for PowerShiftMsia 2014. ‘Bitter’ because we were miles apart and only connected via cyber space. Most of our first hellos were said over Google Hangout, our introductions written and sent through email and our impressions communicated over a thumbnail-sized display picture taken 2 years ago. It was difficult, frustrating and inconvenient to say the least.
The ‘sweet’ began when the first day of #PowerShiftMsia 2014 finally arrived. We welcomed over 60 participants from 12 different countries with open arms and greeted them with a good 20 minutes hike up to the campsite. That didn’t sit well for some but overall, it was both a good experience and an activity that set the tone for a mind blowing, eye opening 4 days camp. There is nothing comfortable about the fight for what is right and nothing easy about putting another person’s needs above your own. But PowerShiftMsia believes in educating, equipping and empowering this generation to rise above circumstance, to be bold and brave, to live larger and to be a force of change in society.
With a different speaker for every workshop and an average of 3-5 workshops a day (with toilet breaks, food and playtime in between of course!) meant that there was always something new to learn. Each speaker, heavyweights in their respective fields, fed hungry participant with facts, figures and experiences gained over the years in hopes of sowing into a generation that would reap and then sow into their respective communities. Being part of the planning team, I readied myself, prior to camp, to give and to serve rather than to go to receive. But to my surprise, I came home with new skills, new experiences and new life lessons.
It was more than just the workshops, it was also the people and our daily conversations that were mind blowing.
On the last night of camp, the plan was to have a time of reflection and I asked to be a group facilitator. As a group facilitator, our job was easy. We were asked to be quiet, to listen, to give the participants room to speak and to request for a group hug when we were done. It took self-control to not add on to something someone shared and to refrain from giggling (a habit I have in reaction to awkward situations) went the group goes quiet. But just by listening, I learned my biggest life lesson yet.
We had 10 people in our group. 4 Cambodians, 3 Indonesians, 1 from Bangladesh and 2 from Malaysia. The room was dimly lit and we huddled as close as we could, and spoke in soft tones so no one else could hear that we wanted to share from our hearts. I was told to ask two questions at the start of the session and that was it. There was no encouragement; no looking someone in the eye and going “hey, why don’t you start the sharing”. The first 3 minutes was just plain awkward but the next half hour was life changing.
The group answered the first question by sharing their highs and lows throughout camp. It was good listening to both the joys and struggles of camp life and seeing the past few days of camp through someone else’s eyes. Our awkward silence was slowly replaced by thoughts, words and quiet giggles. Walls were slowly coming down and it was starting to get comfortable. Listening to answers for the first question taught me about each person –the people they were and the walks of life they came from but the second question taught me a good lesson on being human and understanding humanity. The question was “What was one thing that touched your heart throughout camp? It could a person or something someone said”. Most of the people in our group talked about kindness – how the kindness of people they’ve encountered throughout camp touched their hearts – but a few shared their burdens, struggles and pain. For most, PowerShiftMsia 2014 was a good escape from the harsh realities of their daily lives. And every workshop was a reminder of why they came and how much they wanted to bring the change to their communities and countries.
There is absolutely nothing easy about being human. We live our lives in broken communities, systems and environments. But PowerShiftMsia 2014 taught me that I could bring change and gave me the tools and skills I needed so that I could take my first step and put my best foot forward. However, more than that, PowerShiftMsia 2014 gave me a family of like-minded people to belong to. People who understand the pains of the world and wanted to do something about it. People who acknowledge that there is no perfection, sometimes no solution and plenty of hopelessness but refuse to give up, give in and back down. PowerShiftMsia 2014 was more than a 4day camp, it was a fire starter, a good reminder and the beginning of a whole new adventure. To end, I quote Edmund Burke who once said “the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” PowerShiftMsia taught me that the choice, to do nothing or something, is yours.
Written by Elaine Lim – #PowerShiftMsia 2014 volunteer
Edited by Roxanne Low – #PowerShiftMsia 2013 participant