We are fifteen individuals coming from five different countries, bound together by a loose, artificial community called ASEAN. We have different backgrounds and hold different viewpoints. We came to the United States as strangers, knowing nothing or little about each other. Days by days, we learn to bond each other with jokes and gossips. But we identify one thing we share and we treasure that only yet significant common ground.

We are all dreamers.

We are Cambodian artists who believe that Arts can bring about Social Change. We are an entrepreneur from Phnom Penh who supports women’s enterprises in the country and dream of a better generation of female entrepreneurship. We are a filmmaker from Laos, working tirelessly to promote values for younger people in the country. We are women from Laos and Myanmar who fight daily and tough battles towards gender equality and to eliminate racial discrimination as we believe that everyone is created equal and your sex or color skins, or your origin does not dictate your future and we are proud of our gender and names and backgrounds and nobody could force us to give up those treasures. We are also a Melayu peace activist from Pattani, whose country is marred with violence and conflict but we believe that such tragedies do not necessarily overlay the beauty of culture and arts of our country. We are a Thai lawyer who works to help urban refugees and a Thai legal activist who spent time to learn Karen language so that we can help the people across the border who seek asylum in our country, ignoring people’s discouragement about our jobs as we hold firm that nationality does not prevail over humanity. We are also a young director from Hanoi with a big dream of Vietnam and a Vietnamese future generation, an ecologist who promotes sustainable lifestyle in an emerging country, or a soft-spoken woman who cares about orphanage because our father used to be an orphan as well. And we can be a human rights lawyer in Saigon who looks around and humbly realize that we are not alone in this lonely and unusual road.

If this isn’t nice, what is?

We come to Missoula to to be empowered and Missoula empowered us. We will leave Missoula with a thankful heart and an eager mind to come back and bring about changes in our societies. We met great people, made a long lasting friendship, and we will collaborate. We believe that despite all odds, our dreams are big and truthful now we know that it is possible. Look around us and we know that we are not alone.

If this isn’t nice, what is?

We are not ashamed to call ourselves Missoulians now as Missoula is a paradise for dreamers. And we are all dreamers.


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