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Debate and Media workshop in Philippines: Two weeks, nine countries, one goal
Submitted by Mite Kuzevski on 10 July 2012
It’s almost midnight, but the lobby at the Island Cove resort hotel in Cavite is still crowded with young people clustered in little groups, peering at laptop screens and competing for power sockets.
It’s been a week into Southeast Asia’s 2012 Youth in the 21st Century: Debate and Producing Media camp (SEA camp for short), and deadlines are looming. People are beginning to realise that there’s plenty to do and not a lot of time to do it in. Soon, it will be time to say goodbye to the Philippines and return to their “real” lives of work and study and bills.
In its third year of operations, SEA camp is organised by the International Debate Education Association (IDEA) and brings together 30 to 40 young Southeast Asians each year for training in debate, journalism and video production. The idea is that they will then take these skills back to their home countries and apply it in ways that benefit their communities.
Every year, SEA camp is home to fantastic diversity. Hang around the dining area long enough and you’re bound to hear at least three or four different languages being spoken around you at the same time. Nine countries are represented here – Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Myanmar and the Philippines – but everyone shares very similar goals.
There’s Vina, who advocates for children’s rights in Indonesia. And Dave, a Buddhist who is involved in interfaith issues in the Philippines. Pang does projects with UNESCO in Thailand, and Lucas works for a human rights group in Malaysia. These are just a handful of the participants from 2012′s SEA camp. The scope of their work and experience is mirrored by almost every other participant here in Cavite; these young people are engaged and determined to make a change in their society.
“I would like to help in AYM (ASEAN Youth Movement). We are also producing the Mekong Peace Journey newsletter, so I would like to help the media team,” says Phwe, a participant from Myanmar. “For my country we are doing a lot of peace campaigns, so I would like to gain more critical thinking. I hope this camp can help me with my future work.”
“I joined the camp because I love debate, and I also dream of becoming a good videographer. The camp’s just two of my loves in one,” says Arnold from the Philippines. “So I really grabbed this opportunity.”
“I enjoy this camp because I know more friends here from other countries and it’s not just about study but also about communicating with other people,” Malaysian participant Jennifer adds.
The collaboration doesn’t stop after camp. With easy accessibility to budget flights, reunions crop up all over the region. Alumni also return for future events, helping out in whatever ways they can.
“I believe in this camp because my life has really been changed in many ways – attitude towards work, dealing with other cultures, feeling the sense of oneness with other countries in Southeast Asia, building stronger friendships, being in-the-know with what’s happening in the region,” says Gail Javier, alumni of the 2011 SEA camp. This year she has returned as an administrative assistant in the 2012 camp.
“I chose to come back because I felt there’s still more to do, and I felt like I need to give back to the camp by helping the next batch have an awesome experience similar to what we’ve experienced before,” she adds.
Gail isn’t the only alumni who has returned this year. Mesa Lang, also from 2011′s camp, has come to Cavite to act as a debate judge. “I have never been a judge, so it’s a new experience. I also wanted to share what my experience from after the camp, and inspire other participants to do more than what I’ve done in the past year,” he says.
The monsoons are closing in on the Philippines now, the weather making people sleepy and lazy. But the lobby at Island Cove continues to bustle with activity late into the night, as young Southeast Asians hone the skills that they hope will change their world.
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