This week has been another favourite of my stay in Montana. The most substantial part of this blog will be my reflection of what have I gained from the cultural and professional exchange under economic empowerment program.

A brief reflection on program coordinator and fellowship

As far as my professional is concern, I think I have been matched to the most suitable professional fellowship. Jan Tusick is a role model for me in many aspects. Her active role as the director of a local non-profit organisation has enabled her to support the local food movement in Montana, through cooperative development and food safety practice for food processing industrial. This has effectively contributed to the sustainable of local organic productions in many communities. This is a kind of impact that I see myself perusing through working as a community development worker.

Jan shared with me that if we are to run a successful NGOs, it requires us not only to have a good planning and effective approach to execute those set goals, but being a genuine leader is a significant requirement too. Leader must know when to lead, understand employees’ dynamic (what they do well and don’t) and therefore can create an effective teamwork. Leader must also have ability to spot a diverse form of conflicts and know when to intervene.

Jan is not only my professional coordinator but also a host family. She has helped me to understand about what it is like to be living in a stranger house, yet feeling like being at home. The mean to this is cooking and sharing common value. Cooking Lao food almost every day has been my most favourite moment in Jan’s house and because I love cooking and able to share flavour with Jan’s family, it makes me feel as if I have not been distance from home and my culture. In fact, I am able to share my beautiful culture and traditional value through kitchen and dinning table.

Pursuing for changes with less expectation

Economic empowerment program has provided a great experience for me to learn about many skills such as marketing, communication, and international trade and leadership. To me, it is important to bring back something (knowledge and skills), which potentially can create positive changes in wider community.

Today afternoon, I had a chance to visit the Timeless Seed and the Eighth Wonder Heirloom Rice and was inspired by Ms Mary Claire Hensley, who deserved to be praised due her audacity to save a sacred rice of ethnic community in Phillipines. She has not only highlighted the success of cooperative business in protecting the terrace rice production, but she also improves that changes can never come so easy.

In trying to succeed there are many times that we encounter failure, but it does not mean we lost. This is because it can be lessons learn to over challenges in the future. Even sometimes, failures serve to be an inspiration for others to start making some changes, just like Janet Rankin. She was an inspiration for many others to pursue for peace, for younger generation to demand for women’s right, including the women’s right to vote. Although she failed to run for a second congressional term (before World War I and World War II), but she lived long enough to see the table turn around.

I think when I go home this time I have many things to share with my colleagues and partnership network. I am positive that I will be able to articulate some of skills and ideas into practice. Although, I am still uncertain to whether it will succeed, but I do believe that changes will come eventually.

Soukanlaya Rattanavong



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