Student Christian Movement Singapore
Discussion Forum


About Us | SCM Activities | Joining SCMS | Links | Discussion Forum | Newsletter
Reflection on our Dec98 Trip to Thailand
Not being smart-alecky, Im quite a veteran in exposure trips. But, in every exposure trip, there is always something to learn from, jolting me out from complacency which I so tend to fall into once I get on with my everyday life. I have learnt a couple of things in this trip, and I guess they will probably stay with me throughout my life journey. Looking at other contributions from those who went for this trip, the strength, love, and compassion of the people with Aids or of those who are working for them are often mentioned. Our members seem to be so over-awed by the people they have met in this trip. But, I would like to salute to our members too. To me, they are as strong, as loving, and as compassionate as those whom they have come across with. Whenever we visited a patient with Aids, or children whom parents died of Aids, I cant help but noticed the gentle loving compassion they felt for the children and patients. I could see their genuine happiness as they played with the children, in a world of communication without languages. I could see their sadness, when they said good-bye to the children or the patients. And, last, I could see their strength, when they struggled to come to terms with the experience and the reality of it all. Our 9-day trip, was filled with joy, inspiration, frustration, sadness, and contemplation. It drew out our strengths, as well as many life-lessons - relearnt. I have come to appreciate my members more, that they have so much strengths and love, which I often over-looked. A salute to you all, my friends!
It was my first exposure trip with SCM although I have been with the movement for a number of years. Over the years the movement has inspire me to question about life, the society and maybe humanity. This trip have been a fruitful, depressing, and of course enjoyable (enjoyable because of the sincere, fun and inspiring people that I have met) one. The images and memories I brought back with me will stay and hopefully change the way I live my life (my own). And it will take more than just the few words I wrote here to really express how I feel... First of all, I believe that what I experience during the trip is not as bad as what some other places on this planet is going through, famine, drought, war and so on...things we so often read about or see on TV. But being there myself is nothing compare to reading and seeing it in the comfort of my sofa or bed at home. I have tremendous admiration for the people who I have met on this trip. People who have spared little for themselves by putting others, often total strangers, above themselves. Some of them who are going through the same unfortunate fate as those they are helping. Often I realized how ignorant I am as compared to them and some of them have hardly had any education at all. Children here in Singapore are indeed fortunate. They can dream about what they would like to be when they grow up, doctors, lawyers, engineers and so on...and it saddens me to see the children could hardly dream about what is going to happen the next day. There are also those that are facing the danger of being forced into prostitution, to be treated as toys, object of lust for the people who say needed the kind of enjoyment. (Children at their age other places are watching cartoons, movies, and eating at fast food outlets. Ironically, the government has to come up with schemes to help them lose weight.) Aids, the fate of those who are unfortunate enough to catch it as they indulge in casual sex with people they know or prostitutes. Retribution...maybe? Sadly the story does not often end there, as the disease is often spread to the families unknowingly. And when the husbands dies from Aids or other related diseases, the families are left to bear the burden of the suffering cause by the incurable diseases. Children are again the greatest victims as one can imagine the fate of those who loses their parents at such a tender age. What I have illustrated is but a small piece of an enormous puzzle. And its hard not to try and see who is the real culprit, the people who runs the sex industry, the people who patronize the industry, the people who allows such industry to go unchecked or people like as who prefer to be ignorant of such problems.
Frankly speaking, I have been quite out of touch with local events of the last few years, so every time I step foot on Singapore, it is a little bit like being tourist. I was really looking forward to our exposure trip to Thailand, my first after all these years. I guess I did not have many expectations of what we would achieve from this trip except that it would be a good opportunity to get to know everyone a little better. I was like a tourist (complete with camera) on a whirlwind tour of the hilltribe and AIDS situation in Thailand. My two dominant feelings about the things we saw on the trip are despair and hope. Despair because of the inevitability and complexity of the problems, but hope because of the people and NGOs are tackling the situation step by step.
I am 18 this year and currently a student waiting for my o level results. :o) On the whole of this trip, I find it very enriching for me as in Singapore we seldom see these kind of cases and also there is still stigma attach to it. Nobody wants to talk about it or probe deeper into it to understand the real importance of how deadly aids can be (it is a taboo thing). Everyone here tries to ignore about aids/HIV issue. However, in Thailand, everyone seems to be so liberal about the aids/HIV affecting his or her own people. Open talks, sex education, prevention, advertisements and etc are some of the ways to spread the aids/HIV education through the whole country. For those people who are affected with aids/HIV, they are so optimists about their conditions. They still continue their daily way of life just like, going to school or going to work and etc. in other words, they are not tied down by their illness. So whom can they thank for by making aids/HIV an awareness issue? Thankfully, there are actually volunteers or social workers or civil servants to help these people. The government and the King play an important role in it. It is like everyone in Thailand is all involved on this issue. They work hand in hand to tackle the problems. All I can say is that I admire their courage and this is something that everyone should learn and look up on them on how they tackle their aids/HIV problem.
This exposure trip to Thailand has been meaningful to me in two ways. First, I had the chance to come into contact with some PWA volunteers who are working in the Aids Counseling and Training Center (ACT center). It was my first contact with PWAs and it was heart lifting to see how strong they are. Despite their own problems, they have committed themselves into helping others who are in the same situation. In addition, some of the people working in ACT Center are senior friends of SCM and to witness their dedication in what they do for the PWAs is inspiring too. Well, what Ive seen and heard over there will always be a reminder to me not to take things for granted in life. It is not uncommon to hear remarks like "Money not enough" in Singapore, but we really have to be careful about using these words! To many, these words just mean that we dont have enough money to commit to more material comforts. However, in Thailand, that means that they dont have money for bare necessities such as medication etc. More importantly, this trip also makes me look beyond my own circle of life into life at large. Besides pursuing our own goals, lets spare a thought and actions!!! for those in need.
Who am I? Geegeee...hmm...I don't think I'm good in talking about in a way, I will be contented in just mentioning the fact that I'm a final year student doing statistics in nus... My experience in Thailand... So often we expect ourselves to be transformed overnight, to be more sensitive, spiritual and humble after seeing something that is not within our scope of life... And I guess if each of our life is like a picture waiting to be formed...then I guess what we have seen/felt/heard in Thailand are pieces of jigsaw puzzle. Some pieces maybe just there, waiting for some other bigger pieces to come along, so as to form a bigger picture...others maybe able to fit in but the picture may not be complete and looks confusing or blur... And I believe God has plans for His children and very often, so lack of patience, we hurried God. Gently, God has asked us to wait...but sadly we may just lose the faith and do it our own way... In the same way, to really talk about my experience and what I have learnt can be tough because I may not be able to comprehend fully or even appreciate what went through internally and may come out eventually. And what I need, maybe just patience and faith to allow the seed that has been sowed to grow... Yes, I do feel bitter...when I see the sadness and sorrows in the eyes of the children...and I wonder what happen to the spark in the eyes of every child... Yes, I do feel grievous...when I see the emptiness and loneliness in the eyes of the women and men...and I wonder whether they have been crying w/o tears and in silence... And I do not know whether I have been feeling even bitterer or more grievous of something else...that is not within our control... My View of HIV Hmmm... I know of someone who is a PWA...Interestingly, I do not know him well but I have learnt a lot from him... I guess whatever he has said, written and painted has a resounding effect... there have been much painfulness and loneliness in them which I just reflect upon... He used to live a wild life, irresponsibly and now, he said he realize "his life is not his only". In his seven years of illness, his friends deserted him...his family members could not accept the fact...he felt lost, he thought he would go crazy. He said he can understand what Vincent Van Gogh had gone through and I guess that's when he started painting...and his paintings protrude into his state of mind...the sense of rejection and insanity... Very often we feel that there is a purpose for everything in life...and it does make me wonder whether there is a purpose to the emergence of HIV and Aids... Are we being called upon to be the witness? Witness of the sexual immorality and exploitation of this era...where the emergence of HIV and Aids has brought the issue up front? Are we, after so long of avoidance and covering-up of the "scandal", learning to face it now...? Will it be better then, if such diseases will never emerge? Will then be a greater sexual exploitation and immorality...? Frankly, it does make me wonder too, by introducing the use of condom to avoid Aids, are we passing the right message...
Some thoughts after these time since our Chiangmai-rai Trip What to begin? How to begin? Where to start? Should I make it a travelogue or more thought-filled issue-centered essay? Then again, an essay? I would think thrice. Well, whatever whoever is supposed to be reading or going to read, what I am about to write, will be part of a collection of experience of those few of us who had the fortune of taking this unforgetful sojourn to Northern Part of Siam. Through those nine days that we shared together, in itself, it was another wonderful experience as not everyone in the group know each and everyone until this trip. For me, having gone such a trip just about two years back but with another different group of students and friends, I was in a way looking forward to find out how much have changed or have not changed in this short time. I soon discovered both. By and large, for Chiangmai, nothing much has changed; the Night Bazaar, the ever-popular pasar malam for tourists is still around. Perhaps, the one thing that did strike me was that there are many Internet shops flourishing around and even my favorite restaurant, Om, a vegetarian one which is also mentioned in 'Lonely Planet', also provided Internet services for their guests at 4 baht per minute. There are two computers in the restaurant, which was not part of the place when I first visited two years ago. Well, if you are one in the human business, you will not want to be left behind. Then, again, I must say this is very much of a choice for the owners of the restaurant. From my perspective, as far as their food is concerned which is the main thing, it is still as delicious and reasonable in price as the previous time (Well at least this did not change). Kuo Yo selling time; I strongly recommend to anyone to try this restaurant if visiting Chiangmai to get there just find your way to the famous Thaipae Gate and then ask around (there is a CD shop just two shop unit away). So much so about Chiangmai, a big city, Chiangrai is relatively less build-up and busy. At least, the impression was such when we arrived. In Chiangrai, it too has its own local night bazzar of course. Unlike its big cousin, this bazaar is a fraction compared and somehow, I personally preferred this one. The bazaar can be generally divided into three sectors. The first is when you first entered from the main road where you will be greeted by our flea market type of displays of various goods. Among some of these proprietors, there are hilltribes people and I would say mostly women and some kids. I dont think I will describe what some of the things for sale; too many - from natural stuff to imitation T-shirts. There could easily be about 30-40 such businesses. After this alley sector, we then come next to a more structured and organised compound of the bazaar. Right in front, there is a stage for performances with tables and chairs for customers to have beverages and food. Adjacent to this stage area, there are a few rows of stalls selling various things. So much abour describing the place, why I somehow enjoy this bazaar is because other than its size where you would not get too tire after walking through it, it was also that it was never very crowded like its big cousin down south where you would knock in another person every other minute. Well, this time round, what I used to enjoy when visiting this small bazaar, to my surprise, has somewhat disappeared. The place had changed quite dramatically. The bazaar had expanded to easily twice the previous size. The alley sector had spilled over to another alley behind. There are now two stages; not side by side but the second one is sited about 50m away and in between the two stages, there are more stalls and in addition a few mini-pubs spring up in the bazaar. The place is now quite noisy with loud music being played most of the time. Somehow, as I looked back, this expanded Chiangrai bazaar and the many other changes taking places since my previous visit, left me wondering how are the people and their livelihood affected. I guessed there are many many more questions which I do not think I will be able to find out the answers. However, translating this back to Singapore, our small island state is also constantly going through changes in many aspects. If one is to go oversea and returned after 3-4 years, I am sure one can find many changes had taken place amidst ones absence. Of course, one may argue that for a country like ours, changes are deemed if not necessary then important for us to keep us ahead of others so that we continue to maintain or have an extra edge in as many aspects as possible. I just have one question at this juncture and that is "Surely, in going through and having all these, there is a price that we must pay and What is this PRICE that we are paying?

The Student Christian Movement of Singapore brings together students and young adults whose faith motivates them to respond actively to the issues of the world today. SCM Singapore was founded in 1939 and is part of the World Student Christian Federation - a body which consists of SCMs from more than one hundred countries from all parts of the world.