Now I Can Fly

We Grow Tremendously.

Sarus enables us to re-define curiosity, what it means to be thirsty for fresh ideas - how the urge of truth seeking gives us a lively burst of energy. Some of my fellow alumni once said the following about how Sarus re-awakens their childhood curiosity.

"I never thought about it. But you said we should always ask "How?" and "Why?". And that changes how I study in school. I learn so many new things." - 2011 Sarus Alumni

"I learned to see the world so differently. Every single thing is fascinating and interesting. I never realized how easy it is to be curious and have fun with it." - 2012 Sarus Alumni

Want more examples? Just ask any person who participated in Sarus programs. When a person is curious, stereotypes can be changed.

Un-Comfort Zone
Giving personal, direct, constructive feedback to a friend, trying foods of another culture, reaching out and learning about strangers of other ethnic groups, being in a new country with a group of people from other cultures. Most of the Sarus alumni experienced these things for the first time with Sarus. For myself, these 'adventures' outside my comfort zone made me who I am today - more confident, more respectful, more humble, more thoughtful, and more adventurous. When we challenge ourselves, often time we learn different stories than the ones we were told, and most of the time we overcome our fear of taking action. The further I step out of my comfort zone, the more I realize how much power I have to pursue things I believe in. I may have never thought that I could live in another country and contribute to community development there. Two of my best childhood friends have never been out of our small town, Can Tho. Many of my classmates have married (some with children in their early 20's) and started settling down because "this is how it is supposed to be." Without Sarus, I may never have thought about the other possibilities.

Being oneself. Going after what you believe in and dream of. Authenticity is not only liberating, but also empowering for us. In our circle of trust, our Sarus community, we share our true selves, our real feelings and deep thoughts, our fears and dreams, our vulnerability and courage. Because of some features of the society we were raised in,  many of us have never had this type of freedom to be truly who we are. Sarus was the environment, the culture, the space to be authentic and true. Think about the metaphor of a bird having to learn how to swim when it goes to the school of fish. Now imagine how I feel realizing that I could shred the tags and heavy societal pressures in order to be myself, and do what I really want to do in life - to fly instead of having to swim (if I was a bird).

We Connect to Others like Never Before.

Non-Violent, Direct, Open, Constructive Communication
Non-violent, direct, open, constructive communication builds a strong connection and understanding between any two persons. If it happens in a group, a team is formed. If it happens in a community, it creates significant changes, impact, values and hope. In Sarus, I experienced this non-violent, direct, open, constructive communication for the first time. It made me understand and bond with other human fellows the way I had never known. I expressed my thoughts and feelings to my parents about our relationship for the first time in a circle meeting communication approach that I learned from Sarus. My parents were surprised at first, but they opened up and shared their vulnerabilities to me. We had the most 'family' moment I could remember.

Sharing Cultures and Stories
Every time we learn about another person's stories, we are able to better distinguish personal culture from group culture and ethnic culture. We get the chance to discover that all humans are the same and equal. We are all capable of having the same emotions and we all want to be understood.

On the other hand, every time we share our own culture with others, we understand ourselves a little better. We even start to be critical about what we were told in the first place - challenging our own ideology. Revising what we believe gives us a chance to filter and distinguish stories from stereotypes, active belief that we formed from passive belief that was cultivated without our examination, and truths from myths.

When both of these things develop, conflicts can be transformed, and progress can spread.

Written by Phan Uyển Nghi , Sarus board member and 2011 alumna