I go to Antigua hoping to find new sisters, support and inspiration from powerful women who have championed the causes of peace, women and Mother Earth. I seek a circle of women with the force to blow new winds across this world.
My journey to Antigua starts from Vietnam and a flight for freedom to the U.S.
As a young girl-scout leader living in Vietnam during the war, I participated in evacuating villagers from fighting areas to refugee camps set in safer places closer to the cities. On one occasion, I was told to take a bleeding young mother and her child from the truck to the makeshift hospital. They were so small that I could carry both of them in my arms. Inside the hospital, holding the child and watching the nurses operate on the woman’s wound in the public hallway, I knew that my life would be about protecting women and children like these.
Later, I became a refugee myself, and fled Vietnam for my own survival. With the knowledge of the language and the culture, I returned to work in refugee camps in South East Asia. There, I learned of horrific acts endured by women during their escape. From holding the hands of women rescued from pirates or the hand of a mother whose child was dying, I felt their unbelievable strength and tenacity.
In the U.S., I evolved from helping with the resettlement of newly-arrived refugees to becoming a community organizer. Brought together, refugee women from different countries, races, and backgrounds could plan and act for their future and the future of their communities. We created small women’s organizations across the U.S. and a network to support each other. We gathered each year to stand in a circle and celebrated our sisterhood. We reminded each other of more women in need everywhere in the world.
After thirty years in exile, I went back to Vietnam and worked with young women at risk of being trafficked across the border. I cried as I watched the unfairness of life these children faced in the 21st century. I also witnessed their courage and willingness to risk unknown dangers for the sake of their family.
Today, with the Women’s Environment and Development Organization (WEDO), I continue to be inspired by the strength of women and the ways in which they affect change. Raising awareness on the disproportionate impact of climate change on women is a critical part of our work, as temperatures rise, land disappears and water becomes scarce. Unfortunately, women who have been managers of natural resources and have adapted to environmental changes for centuries, have not been allowed to be part of the solutions. We need more allies and support for our voices to be stronger.
Reflecting on my personal journey and the highest points of despair in my life, I have heard voices that have told me to keep on walking, to look up at the sky, and to believe the road ahead is safe. I discovered that I am watched, protected by many people, visible and invisible around me. They are friends, relatives and unseen higher beings. Their words are the wind that helps lift me to higher horizons. I learned to listen to my own inner guide and walk in faith, even in times of darkness.
I believe there is the protection and sacred in me. I believe we all have the strength, the protection and sacred in each one of us. We just have to find ways to discover and unleash this force. I am searching for the connections that can bring us all together to create an ever-growing circle of women. Together we can bring new visions, new ideas to protect those who are weaker than us and to safeguard our Mother Earth. That is why I am going to Antigua.