After another eventful morning at the centre, as the afternoon began rolling in, instead of heading back to the hotel for lunch, everyone including the VIVPS volunteers together headed to a nearby pagoda in a beautiful hilly and peaceful area some 10-15 minutes from the centre. We also reunited with our 3 fellow comrades who had been toiling away all morning helping with the preparations of lunch and cleaning. We walked up the long twirling brick stairs up to the beautiful pagoda to see our 3 comrades laboriously sweeping away at the floor. You could just feel the power from their sweeps ripple through the air and hit you in the face like a huge wave of…power…just kidding, they were just sweeping, not battling demonic monsters. We were all welcomed to the pagoda with a divine banquet for lunch led by the female monk living there who we addressed as sý cô,which translates to female monk. Following lunch we all gathered around for our second workshop which was about the culture and role of women and girls where we got to listen to some incredible stories some of the Vietnamese female volunteers had bravely and kindly chosen to share with us. Some of their stories were of breaking social barriers and some were of immense emotional, physical and mental suffering. There was no doubt about it, the stories touched everyone, even I couldn’t hold back my tears. Hearing the stories really opened our eyes to the reality of women living not only in Vietnam but in many developing countries, and it also proved one other thing, that women have the strongest of wills and the toughest of hearts. It was one of the most inspirational and pride-filled moments that I’d ever experienced not only because despite some of the most toughest situations a woman can face, these women had ploughed through it and were sitting in front of us with smiles on their faces telling us how happy they are now, but also because a lot of their stories hit really close to home for me with my culture. I also think at that moment, our appreciation and respect for Terry multiplied tenfold because for many of the women there, he and his organisation were the reason for their road to happiness. After the Vietnamese women’s stories, we all had an opportunity to talk about some of our own experiences, and found quite a few similarities in the views of the status of women and girls in cultures from developing countries and areas. But I think, what we all took away from the sharing of stories was a heavy heart full of pain for their sufferings, admiration for their strength, and pride for where they stand now. Never before had I ever been in a room full of such incredible women. Thinking about it now, I think it’s safe to say…who runs the world?... GIRLS!
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