Project Vietnam 2015
The overarching theme of this project is “Individuality.” The focus of the two components of leadership and service will be used as a means to explore the question “What does it mean to truly be ourselves?” During these two weeks, we will be working with two main groups: the high school students of Vietnam and Cambodia, and the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender) community of Vietnam in order to answer this question, together.
For the LGBT community, a socially oppressed group, we aim to accomplish our shared mission of creating a more sympathetic society that will allow them to embrace their identity. Specifically for the LGBT participants that we’ll be interacting with, we will provide them with leadership skills, knowledge about their community, and opportunities to step up and develop a strong sense of conviction in themselves, in order for them to best contribute to the LGBT community at large. Upon embarking on this journey, we seek to listen to their stories, to widen our perspectives, and to deepen our understanding of our surroundings, as well as ourselves.
For the high school students of Cambodia and Vietnam, we strive to foster a safe environment where they can explore and discover themselves. Through multiple approaches, ranging from leadership workshops, service to the LGBT community, to one-on-one mentorship, we challenge the students to step up, to redefine themselves, and embrace their individuality. At the end of the two weeks, we hope the students will leave with a fresh sense of confidence in themselves to voice their opinions, take action for their beliefs and the understanding that they will have a vibrant community of SEALNutters behind them every step along the way.
During our journey together, each one of us will have our own answer to the question that has started it all: “What does it mean to truly be ourselves?”
The LGBT community of Vietnam:
Ever since the first LGBT online forum was established in 2001, the LGBT community of Vietnam has come a long way in being recognized as one of the most progressive in the Southeast Asia region, as the ban on same-sex marriage (SSM) law has been lifted. However, there is still a long way to go in creating a truly open society that would allow them to embrace who they are. Currently, because community-based organizations in support of LGBT mostly focus on long-term approaches, immediate needs of LGBT people who are vulnerable to physical, sexual and emotional violence are left inadequately addressed. Additionally, another issue the community is facing is that false information about LGBT is still circulating among the youth from middle to high school, which perpetuates bad stigmas around the community in the long run. Our project aims to address both these immediate and long-term needs through our service leadership model.
High school students of Vietnam and Cambodia:
In Vietnam and Cambodia, rigorous educational curriculums with emphasis on specialization are restricting its students from having the chances to explore and develop themselves through other means like community service and expressive activities. This narrow approach is detrimental to the holistic development of Vietnamese and Cambodian youth. Another source of pressure comes from the students’ families and peers, as they generally perceive academic success as a triumph to personal development. All these factors prevent the students from forging an own path built on their unique individuality, a path that will not only ensure a fulfilled and meaningful life later on, but will also produce effective and ethical leaders in the future. As a consequence, students lack the means, support systems, and courage that would enable them to explore and discover who they are and ultimately, their purposes for contribution as change-agents.
LGBT participants (We will recruit a team of 10-12 LGBT participants through a separate recruitment process in Vietnam with assistance from our partners)
- To have a platform in exercising their agency and creativity during and beyond these 2 weeks.
- To realize the power of their stories and increase confidence in themselves to move the community forward in their unique ways.
- To create long-term impacts for the LGBT community as a group after these 2 weeks.
- To engage them in continuing to work towards the goal of creating a more empathetic society.
- To provoke the inner leader of the students and enable them to discover who they are as leaders, with clear visions and goals of their own. This will allow them to make an impact on what is important to them.
- To foster a genuine bond between the two nations.
Mentee Challenge #1: Before the actual project starts in August, we will recruit 9 mentees from Cambodia and 9 mentees from Vietnam. They will come together to create fundraising/spreading awareness events in each location. This challenge is meant to give the mentees a concrete leadership experience for them to reflect on during the leadership workshops.
Leadership Workshops: The Mentors in the Leadership Team will be in charge of designing the whole two-week workshop. Workshops will be based on the themes of Inner-Leadership, Direction, and Action. The Objectives for each team will be provided by the co-leader and it is up to the mentor to shape the workshop based on their creativity.
Mentee Challenge #2: The second part of the challenge will be held during the project period when all of the mentees are assigned to design leadership workshops for two days. The purpose is to allow the mentees to step up, exercise their agency, and test themselves on the things they have learned.
Mentor-Mentee System: This is a structure in which the mentors and the mentees are encouraged to develop a detailed long-term development plan for the mentees’ growth after these two weeks. The plan will be customized according to each mentee’s own style, development pace, and direction. Mentors will be responsible for checking up with the mentees regularly after the project ends.
Give the LGBT participants the agency in providing direction for our team in understanding their realities (e.g. stories sharing, privilege walks, etc.) and help assist them in building a stronger LGBT community.
Assist OPEN house in building stronger infrastructure with a focus on bringing in permanent funding sources and connecting them to potential foreign partners.
Together with the LGBT participants, we will build a comprehensive basic LGBT information curriculum, so they can disseminate that education to middle schools and high schools in Saigon after the two weeks.
Plan a Talent Show with the goal of giving the LGBT participants a stage to tell their stories through artistic forms and spread the message of celebrating “individuality” to foster understanding and empathy from the larger society
LGBT Culture Presentation: the LGBT participants will put on a presentation to introduce unfamiliar aspects of their cultures and the meanings behind them. This will help our team to deepen our understanding and appreciation for their culture.
Culture Exchange: With a mixture of culture differences in one group, we believe setting up an opportunity for them to embrace and share their roots can lead to a different form of understanding among all the members.
Homestay program: Giving the Cambodian Mentees the opportunity to experience the Vietnamese culture closely. The purpose is to strengthen the bond between the mentees and the two nations on a larger scale.
Aid the LGBT participants in establishing their own official group with a clear mission to execute their own mini-projects and making use of the LGBT information curriculum.
Encourage the mentees in the existing Cambodia and Vietnam SEALNet club to continue to develop personally and professionally along with the SEALNutter community.
Inspire members to continue with the theme of “individuality” with 2016 service projects in Cambodia as we have a strong connection with local partners over there already.
ICS: Information, Connecting and Sharing is the first community-based organization that works on LGBT rights advocacy in Vietnam. Its mission is to empower the community to protect their own rights. Their vision is for Vietnam to be a country where LGBT people can have equal rights, are free to be themselves, and can best contribute to the development of society.
OPEN house: This is an organization that seeks to alleviate immediate needs of those that are most at risk of being sexually, physically or emotionally abused due to their sexuality. The OPEN house will usually take care of these people for no more than 2 weeks and provide them with emotional and material support. Their end goals are either to get them back to their family or to connect them to relevant resources that would allow them to sustain themselves independently.
Team Member Responsibilities
- Strong commitment to the planning process from April to August.
- Involvement in the execution process when we are on the ground.
- Dedication to your mentee during and beyond these two weeks.
- Fundraise $350 toward the cause of the project.
- Always do your best.
- Have fun in the process, like always!!!.
- Devoted to the mission of the project.
- Creative and Critical thinking skills
- Flexibility and Reliability
- Interested in youth empowerment and community engagement.
- Have an Open Mind to accept differences, expand perspective and learn new things about others and yourself.
- Have an Open Heart to be vulnerable, to listen and to connect to others.
- Be able to say, “yes before knowing how” every chance you get.