Guest blog by Tim Campbell
“Fascism is cured by reading and racism is cured by traveling.”
-Miguel de Unamuno
In the other blogs, my teammates did a great job of explaining the emotional aspect of our journey together; about the warmth in all of our hearts seeing the never-ending smiles all around us, especially when travelling each day on bus rides to and from the worksites or various events.
They’ve described the bonding we all felt working side-by-side with our homeowners as well as the fantastic Habitat Vietnam staff who were our indispensable glue throughout our stay. As such, I will focus this last blog on broad themes my wife Keli and I experienced.
Keli recalled the above quote when we were discussing one of our key takeaways from the trip, namely how getting to know people from other countries and cultures breaks down walls we build, or some aim to build, both figuratively and physically.
We were in Vietnam as the mid-term election occurred. Border security and other aspects of immigration were important topics during the political campaigns and throughout news and social media. Europe and elsewhere are also debating this topic.
It struck both of us how different opinions might be if more people had a chance to meet the citizens in the countries being debated. A universal truth we’ve found throughout our travels, particularly so on Global Builds, is how overwhelmingly the same people are throughout the world.
We have so much more in common than the visible cultural differences that receive so much media focus. We just wish we could somehow bottle the feelings that come from getting to know others, as we did while working and visiting school children, so we could give it to others who will never have opportunities like ours. Hopefully the stories, photos, and other memories we can now share with those around us will touch others.
A personal motivator for my participating in the last two builds in Cambodia and Vietnam was to contribute in whatever way I could to the on-going healing between our nations for the damage that occurred years ago. I don’t mean this as a political statement.
*photo from Global Village build in Cambodia 2017*
The majority of the citizens in both countries weren’t alive during the time of conflict, so promoting a positive and loving reputation for the U.S. was an opportunity I couldn’t miss. The old saying “actions speak louder than words” truly applies in this situation. Our actions made a difference in ways not possible with words.
Conversely, I think I speak for the team in saying we were blown away by our reception in Vietnam, especially in Cao Lanh. Hearing complete strangers thanking us for visiting their country, seeing them wave at us on the buses with beaming smiles, or loudly cheering as we entered classrooms not only filled our hearts, but left us hopeful for the future. Regardless of what may have happened in the past, or what politicians may do or say today and beyond, people in both nations want to move forward and our actions spoke loudly to this end.
Finally, Keli and I want to say how grateful we are to Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity for giving us the opportunity to join their teams the last two years, particularly since we moved away from the Twin Cities a few years ago and now reside in Dallas.
My two terms on the Board were rewarding for the work we all accomplished, but also for the relationships we established. I can think of no better way to rekindle past friendships with former board members and establish new ones with current members than doing such impactful work in an area of need that is common passion to us all.
Thanks to my team and everyone at Twin Cities Habitat and Habitat International for all you have done to make this build a lifelong and forever treasured memory.