By Vu Thi Phuong Thao, Vietnam
On one of the last days I was with the Five Valley Land Trust, time seemed to pass by more quickly than usual. When a staff member asked about the first thing coming up in our mind when we recalled the last two weeks, I literally could not made up my mind on only one single thing. Perhaps there were more than 10 things jumping around my brain at that moment.
So many vibrant discussions with so many interesting people have inspired me and Phonepasith, my paired fellow, to meet even more people and shared more about our work. We have found both common grounds and new wonderful things to learn from highly abstract issues of human rights and minority rights protected by ACLU, broad advocacy campaigns on cleaning up the river watersheds of Clark Fork Coalition, and specific organisational issues of financial management and fundraising at Five Valleys. The meetings with Missoula City government and Missoula County government were also hallmarks in our journeys, as Patrick O’Herren, Chief Planning Officer of the Community and Planning Service of Missoula County confirmed their appreciation of the civil society’s contribution:
“We are very lucky to have very good relationships with non profit organisations. They help combine the voices of many individuals and many groups and present them to our Commissioners. And they have the expertise and capacities to solve the problems that we don’t have. Many good things in this county have been done as a result of the collaboration between the government and the nonprofits”.
A substantial part of his talk was related to nature and environment, the common interest of local people, and also the biggest contribution of local nonprofits. In this ‘Zoo Town’, nature has really come to me when we drive through vast conservation easements maintained by the Five Valleys Land Trust and when we work diligently at the PEAS Farm to transplant herbal seedlings. From these encounters I realised I had been too far apart from the nature. Enjoying the green mountains and forests, seeing the snow in the highest peaks of the region, watching bisons, elks and deers roaming around, I have heard the call of nature, and from deep inside I want to respond to it.
More tempting invitations keep coming everyday, making us both excited and exhausted. Still, our thirst for information and experience never ends, as it provides us with food for thought to make more meaningful changes to our home society.