Rotary Peace Center at Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand
It has been seven weeks so far into my Peace Fellowship at the Rotary Peace Centre at Chulalongkorn University here in Bangkok. This journey, made possible by strong recommendations from an alumni, Jane Murutu (Class #12), the Rotary Club of Medford, Oregon, for endorsing my application and of course my University for giving me time off. My Host Counselor, Rotarian Abdullah Alawadi (Rotary Club of Bangkok) has been of great help and inspiration making sure I settle in comfortably and not forgetting the great dinners he has hosted for me and my other Fellows.
Presenting my ICA topic to Peace Fellows
The great orientation by the Centre staff paved way for an in-depth training in Peace and Conflict Resolution which is very extensive and a lot of materials to read both in soft and hard copies. This has given me new perspectives in trying to analyze different types of conflicts using various tools from different contexts both theoretically and practically. Having experienced and wonderful speakers from various countries has not only enabled me to learn more, but also have some interactions and professional connections and networks. As Peace Fellows, we were selected from a very competitive selection process from many applicants around the world. Many of us are committed to a world that is just and peaceful at all levels of our societies regardless of our religious, political or cultural backgrounds. This was well reflected during the Individual Conflict Analysis (ICA) presentations by Fellows.
The modules for this course have been tailored to make the Fellows have a clear and realistic understanding of Conflicts and Values of Peace and Conflict Studies, Diagnosis and Analysis of Conflict, Conflict Resolution Skills, Strategies and Approaches, Conflict Transformation and Building a Sustainable Peace and local and International Field Study trips to give us a practical understanding of key theories.
Insights into the nature of the political conflicts, which is my key area of research, with a concern on the South Sudan Conflict to religious conflicts or the natural resource conflicts on the 4800 kilometres Mekong River that traverses China, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam, has given me different perspectives on conflict resolution strategies especially the role of women in peace building.
This brings me to the story I keep sharing as told by my role model, the late Prof. Wangari Mathai, a 2004 Nobel Peace Prize recipient (first woman from the African continent), of a humming bird; the story of the hummingbird is about this huge forest being consumed by a fire. All the animals in the forest come out and they are transfixed as they watch the forest burning and they feel very overwhelmed, very powerless, except this little hummingbird. It says, ‘I’m going to do something about the fire!’ So it flies to the nearest stream and takes a drop of water. It puts it on the fire, and goes up and down, up and down, up and down, as fast as it can. In the meantime all the other animals, much bigger animals like the elephant with a big trunk that could bring much more water, they are standing there helpless. And they are saying to the hummingbird, ‘What do you think you can do? You are too little. This fire is too big. Your wings are too little and your beak is so small that you can only bring a small drop of water at a time.’ But as they continue to discourage it, it turns to them without wasting any time and it tells them, ‘I am doing the best I can.’ And that to me is what all of us should do.
We should always be like a hummingbird. I may be insignificant, but I certainly don’t want to be like the animals watching the planet goes down the drain. I will be a hummingbird; I will do the best I can.
I must also say that it has been a great and wonderful experience so far, meeting and sharing classroom and field activities with the other 23 wonderful Peace Fellows from different backgrounds representing 16 other countries all over the world. From my fellow cool, calm and collected sister and brother Jane and Karisa to my colleagues in the academia Prof. Simonized-Simon (China), Prof. Goran from Croatia (oh my God)! My tuna and cassava-loving good friend with his humorous and infectious laughter from the Solomon Islands, Kemuel, the soft-spoken and diplomatic Nino (Georgia), our rock star, Hermanto, aka, Hug-a-Manty (Indonesia), my very first friends from the Balkans; Natasha from Macedonia, Maja from Bosnia (and Rwanda), Nuria from Barcelona, ever smiling Madonna (the Philippines), Dhruti, Jill and Cloe, my sisters from England, Michelle from Ireland, my American brothers Travis and Scott (father Christmas) and the enigmatic Basema from the Netherlands. I have gotten used to learning a lot from Sharada (Nepal), Patricia and Karin (Australia) and their vast experiences in the humanitarian work over the years. Andy, my favourite Police Officer from Australia has been great all the time even though he has now adopted a Bruce Willis look-a-like image, at least according to one story-telling Fellow, Hope Tichaenzana Chichaya from Zimbabwe.
I look forward to the International Field Study trip to Colombo and Jaffna in Sri Lanka at the end of next month. From the previous meticulous planning and successful execution of the Field Study to Northern Thailand that took us to Phra Yao and Chiang Rai Provinces that included the Golden Triangle of Lao, Myanmar and Thailand, Chulalongkorn University is gifted by having hard working and professionally dedicated staff. They make us feel at home. From Prof. Surichai, Dr. Vitoon, the motherly Krit, the smiling Oy, the meticulous and jovial Cartoon not forgetting Pat, the ever friendly lady who serves us teas, Ning, the Maid and the others behind the scenes. Don’t I just love the Thai nicknames?
Am pretty much sure that by the end of this Fellowship, we will be better equipped with a lot of knowledge and skills, to make a difference in our societies, in our own little way, just like the Hummingbird, from the refugee crisis in Syria, Afghanistan or South Sudan to the persecuted Rohingya Muslim minority in Rakhine State in Myanmar or any other type of conflict. And as the old African Proverb says; if you think that you are too small to make a difference, then you haven’t spent a night with a mosquito!
Finally, as I leave my room #2005 on the 20th floor of the Chulalongkorn University International House, and just like the BTS Sky train that snakes its way from the National Stadium with the inter-change at Siam, making stopovers at Chit Lom and Phloen Chit, I disembark at my final destination, Nana, along this famous Sukhumvit road, on Sukhumvit 11, Mulley`s Sports Bar – to watch my great Manchester United FC take on Southampton in the Emirates Football League Cup Final at the mighty Wembley Stadium.
Khob Khun Krab Amazing Thailand, the land of smiles and overflowing hospitality, where people`s dreams come true!
Dan Noel Odaba – Kenya
Rotary Peace Fellow – Class # 22