Review By : Phyllis Xie (Outreach at Site X & Phetchabun 15-25 Sep 08)
This trip has been quite an adventure, an experience and a learning process for me. I am very thankful for the first few days of preparation where the team came together to address some issues and consolidated on our programs. This trip has surfaced the strengths and weaknesses of the team and the things that hindered the team from drawing closer. Things were run at a high pace and I saw myself being pushed over the limit.
Though physically tiring, yet I am glad to see that the little things that we do; visiting an elderly woman can bring so much joy to her. I was exposed to hunger, poverty, broken families but yet I saw that in spite of these circumstances, they still had a reason to hope and they cling on to it. As I hear the destitute women/windows share of their struggles and how much injustice were done to them, my heart was shaken and there was a sense of compassion of love that flowed out through me, just wanting to give them a hug and tell them that everything would be alright. Each day was truly an experience as the team went through up and downs together in striving to reach and bless the Hmong people.
During house visitations, I was amazed at how strong some of the families were, in trying so hard to make ends meet. Though we could not do much for them, but I realize that the power of love; a hug and a touch can strengthen and comfort them, knowing that someone cares and love them.
It was a joy to bring the children out for an outing for 2 days, building friendships and bonding with them. These children came from destitute homes. Though language was a barrier, but I sensed that every individual kid had a story to tell, a struggle or hurt that was unknown behind a big smile. All the more, this compelled me to want to love them more and more. I was so touched when they wrote notes and draw pictures to me when we left the village. In essence, that was love. It was love that brought the kids to open up, trusting us.
It was love that brightens up their inside out.
SOLEAD Graduate. Campus Crusade Staff Coordinator.
Review By : Kenson Tan (Outreach at Site X & Phetchabun 15-25 Sep 08)
One of the greatest things it made me realized was how blessed I am to be able to get an education. The people have very little hope of ever getting a better life because they can hardly afford to get a good education.
I know that it may sound strange, but I was indeed surprised with how much I enjoyed getting dirty and enjoying the natural breeze along with 10 kids loaded onto a songthaew. It was just so different from what I am used to, that I found it fun. I thought it was funny how after spending a day in the dirt, literally being covered in dirt, that I would come back to get clean and be sad that another day was over! And while it brought me a great sense of thankfulness to be born an Singaporean, I wish that sometimes I had the contentment that they have. They live in a dump, and they don’t know any different. But I didn’t see them complaining or whining, instead they were laughing and playing and making us feel very welcome.
There is a certain satisfaction in a hard day’s work, helping to better the lives of people and in the end, getting blessed yourself. I didn’t really have any disappointments from my short stay there. The trip on the whole is an awesome experience that I wish could go on longer.
Singapore Polytechnic Student Leader
Review By : Vera Tan (Outreach at Site X & Phetchabun 15-25 Sep 08)
The eleven day trip to Phetchabun has been one of the best trips that I had in recent years- it has been an eye-opening, impactful and fulfilling experience for me. What struck me during this trip was how much willpower that the Hmong people had. No matter how adverse the circumstances they have been through, they are willing to push on with their life and this is what really encourages and inspires me. As I looked at the Hmong people, it really struck me at how much gratitude they had for things. Just a simple gesture such as a hug or a smile or a simple act of kindness could bring hope and comfort to these people. I remembered that when we brought the kids out for an outing, I bought some snacks for the children. As I passed the snacks around for the children to share and enjoy, it really brought joy to my heart as I saw how their faces lighten up with happiness as well as gratitude as they were eating the snacks. It just showed how much appreciation they had for the snacks that they were given. Thinking back, it just showed that how much gratitude they had for simple things such as food. This incident taught me the lesson of not taking things for granted.
This trip will be a trip that I will always remember as it has been the most amazing eleven days ever! And kudos to Radion International for such a spectacular trip! :]
Singapore Polytechnic 2nd Year Media and Communication Student
Review By : Aloysius Lim (Outreach at Site X & Phetchabun 15-25 Sep 08)
The 11-day trip to Phetchabun was one of the most challenging, exciting, and fulfilling experiences in my life. Each day brought new challenges, pleasant and unpleasant surprises, and great adventure as the team worked together to serve the Hmong people.
During the first phase of the trip, we visited the homes of several destitute individuals and families. These people struggled to survive day by day, and did not have the means for a secure, comfortable future. Many of them were elderly folk with no family and who were unable to work. Some carry the scars of emotional or physical hurt from their past, with no hope for the future. The scant physical conditions that they lived in was pitiful; but the troubles and despair in their lives was truly heart-wrenching.
There was nothing that we could do to take away the hurt in their hearts or heal their pain. We simply did whatever that was within our power—a smile, a hug, a gift of food to say that we care. Yet it was these simple things that touched their hearts in profound ways.
One old lady told us how lonely and painful she felt, and how nobody has been able to help her for years. She had lost all hope in life. We listened to her, cried with her, and simply loved her. She was amazed at how much we loved her—even more than her own step-children did—even though we were strangers. She had caught a glimmer of hope for her life, knowing that she was no longer alone. Deeply moved, she called us her children, and welcomed us to come back again. We left for the next house with tears of joy, and a deep gratitude for the impact that we were able to achieve through the simple things.
There were many other stories like this. Whether we were visiting the destitute, taking children out for a day of fun and excursion, or distributing food to the needy, I saw the same principle at work. We did not have any expertise in counseling or child psychology, any complex community development programmes, nor any other grand schemes. All we had to offer was our love. And that was enough to touch lives and bring new hope to a world of despair.
If a picture is worth a thousand words, sincere love is worth more words than anybody could count.
Mr Aloysius Lim
Cornell Alum 07 (M.Eng. Operations Research and Industrial Engineering, Information Technology)
Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore
Review By : Chen Yining (Outreach at Site X & Phetchabun 15-25 Sep 08)
One of the things that struck me the most is this: we always expect children to learn things from us, yet we are the ones that learn so much more from them. I am humbled yet at the same time ashamed to see how the little ones give so much out of the little that they have. A lollipop may not mean much to us; it may even be considered a rare treat for many of them. Yet, they choose to bless us, as a token of their gratitude/love.
Even though there was the language barrier, I truly believe that actions do speak louder than words. A hug, or even a smile, it means so much to them. To know that someone out there still cares.
From visiting the destitute and distributing food, to serving the villagers at the BBQ, it warms my heart to see how these children with broken pasts could be used to touch other broken lives. All because they were given a second chance in life. =)
Singapore Polytechnic Student
Review By Dr Choo Weng Chuk (Outreach Jan 08)
Drab, and ringed by coils of barbed wire and a high fence, the refugee camp was rectangular in shape. No visitors were allowed into the camp.
I was there to experience what it was like to look after refugees, even if it was only for a day and a minor act of compassion. The purpose for the outreach was straightforward: to give a cup of malt and biscuits each to about 1000 Hmong refugee children. This effort might seem minor, even trivial, to many of us. I soon found out it was not. It was an event that 3000 children of this camp looked forward to eagerly. We quickly settled down in a large thatched hut just outside the camp to boil water and open the packets of Milo and powdered milk, and tins of biscuits. All these provisions were made possible through generous donations by Singaporeans to Radion International, which was founded by Eugene Wee and Benjamin Goh, two exceptional young men in their late twenties who had decided to travel a path less travelled.
Without continual donations from supporters, we would not have been able to give something, no matter how small, to the 1000 Hmong kids and to see their beautiful and innocent faces that day. The pictures speak louder than my words can of the emotions each one of us felt that day in Huay Nam Khao Refugee Camp.
Dr Choo Weng Chuk worked in companies such as OCBC Bank and multinationals such American Express and MasterCard International. Following his last position as General Manager, Southeast Asia for MasterCard, he ran his own management consultancy, focusing on the Balanced Scorecard. He developed the student course material on Strategic Management for Singapore’s Open University, which was well received.
Review By Francis Ong (Project Last Christmas Dec 07)
The Christmas relief mission was one of the most inspiring yet humbling life experiences thus far, and it was made possible in no small measure by the professional and committed team at RADION International. One is touched by the outpouring of gratitude of the Hmong people just knowing that someone out there cares, as well as being humbled by their fortitude in surviving under such dire circumstances.
I have no doubt that good people like RADION serve an important role in giving the refugees strength and hope for a better tomorrow.
MBA Student NUS
Review By Franziska Schroeder (Project Last Christmas 07)
When a friend of mine asked me, whether I would be interested in spending this year’s Christmas in a refugee camp in Thailand providing milk and cookies to little children. I immediately knew that this would be an incomparable experience in my life.In my family, Christmas is the most important time in the year. It is the time when all the family comes together to spend a peaceful time with love and happiness. Since I could not join my family this year, I needed an adequate replacement.
When handing over the cookies to these little children’s hands and receiving their little gestures of gratefulness my eyes felt watery and although our skin burned under the hot sun. It felt more like Christmas than it ever did before. The more faces passed by the more emotional I got and when the military finally forbade to distribute chocolate milk on Christmas Eve.
I struggled with a feeling of aggression and helplessness.I want to thank RADION for giving me the possibility to join this mission. The several briefings and debriefings
helped a lot to prepare for the next days’ challenges. My due respect goes to our team leader Eugene, who did not only a great job within the camp when ensuring an enduring supply of milk and cookies for thousands of little
children hands, but who also gave us some insights in the Hmong and Thai culture. I therefore give my sincerest recommendations for the following trips. It is an experience that not only broadens the mind but even leads to a re-evaluation of “normal” things that have been determining our ordinary lives so far.
Thanks RADION for that impressive experience.
MBA Student NUS