Hi! I’m Emma and I’ve recently returned from representing the Innovative Research Universities (IRU) at the Humanitarian Affairs 5th University Scholars Leadership Symposium held in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. I had the opportunity to meet future leaders from all over the world – I was one of 700 delegates from 47 different countries. Throughout the week we were able to connect and share ideas with so many inspirational, passionate and kindhearted people. The theme of this years Symposium was “dream it, plan it, do it”.
The 7-day Symposium began with a city tour, where we had the chance to visit the National Museum, the Royal Palace and the Tuol Sleng S21 Genocide Museum. This gave the international delegates an important introduction to Cambodia.
Over the next few days we were inspired by motivational speakers from around the world. Some of the speakers had set up and were running their own NGOs – including Ibu Robin Lim who runs a natural birthing clinic in Bali, Indonesia; Pushpa Basnet who looks after vulnerable children in Nepal who would otherwise be raised in prisons; Geraldine Cox, the founder of the Sunrise Children’s Village in Phnom Penh, Cambodia; and Ponheary Ly, who has set up the Ponheary Ly Foundation that is based in Siem Reap, Cambodia.
We also heard from other speakers that spoke on themes such as ‘living an extraordinary life’ by Pallas Hupe Cotter, ‘making of a young hero’ by Pamela Wigglesworth and ‘finding your calling’ by Dr C. D. Singh, who runs Science of Life Studies NGO in Cambodia. All the speakers were very generous with their time, and delegates were able to meet with them and ask them questions over the course of the week.
The most memorable part of the experience was being involved in the Learning Journey, a one-day humanitarian volunteer project that exposed delegates to real-world poverty issues. We had the opportunity to visit Sunrise Children’s Village, Science of Life Studies or the organisation that I chose, Pour un Sourire d’Enfant (PSE). PSE is a non-profit organisation dedicated to provide food, medical care, general education and vocational training to maltreated, destitute and uneducated children in Cambodia. At PSE I had the opportunity to work alongside other delegates with Cambodian children who suffer from intellectual and physical disabilities ranging from cerebral palsy, burns to vision loss. We spent the morning playing with the children and conducted aquatic therapy before lunch.
I was able to develop my skills as a leader, work with children and be inspired by motivational speakers from around the world. It was certainly an eye opening and fulfilling opportunity.
A video of the Symposium can be found here: 2014 University Scholars Leadership Symposium