30 young environmental leaders from 14 provinces and cities across Vietnam, just had an unforgettable week at the Vietnam Climate Leadership Camp in Binh Thuan Province. It was the 4th time a climate leadership camp had been organized by CHANGE/350 Vietnam to train Vietnamese youths to become climate organizers and campaigners, and the 2nd time under the name “Vietnam Climate Leadership Camp” or VCLC. The camps in the previous years (2013, 2015, 2017) inspired and trained Vietnamese youngsters about the climate crisis, and how community youth groups could do their own community events to raise the awareness about climate change, air pollution, as well as promote renewable energy as a key solution to tackle both the climate and pollution crisis.
For VCLC2018’s location, Binh Thuan Province was strategically chosen, as this province hosts the country’s largest coal-fired power plants complex Vinh Tan, and at the same time it’s where many wind farms are harnessing wind energy from the windy coastline. Fortunately enough, Phan Thiet University in the province generously offered their spacious venue for the 5-day camp.
Having much experience of organizing the camp in the previous years, the camp’s organizers built a curriculum that they felt “the most proud of” for VCLC2018. Creatively designed sessions provided the campers with sufficient understanding about the crisis the world was facing, and the potential Vietnam has for the renewable energy revolution. The campers were trained on how to design a strategic campaign in a way they had never known before, how to mobilize funds and resources from a community, and learned how the grassroots climate movement in Vietnam can and should use creative communications and arts to do climate campaigning in challenging political contexts. But beyond that, the campers had the chance to discover their true self, their leadership style, learned how to recognize and appreciate diversity in their team, so they can become a true community leader.
And this year, VCLC had another specific mission. As Rise for Climate was coming close, the camp aimed to prepare the campers for this global campaign. Community organizing skill trainings and arts workshops were inserted in the busy schedules, and the campers were provided with much time and space for brainstorming ideas for RISE Vietnam. Initial ideas ranged from the very feasible ones like organizing climate workshops and talks in local schools, to super futuristic ones like to clone a climate hero in the country.
“Vietnam is one of the country most affected by climate change, and at the same time, many of its cities are suffering from another crisis: air pollution. Yet the government is planning to triple the current coal power capacity by 2030. I believe that in order to influence the government’s policy, voices have to be heard from the communities, especially those at the front lines. That was how we chose provinces from where we picked the campers. We will make sure these youngsters, upon return to their community, will get enough inspiration, motivation, as well as knowledge and skills to organize their community to join our grassroots climate movement. And we are committed to assist them with both technical and financial supports, for their action plans,” said Hong Hoang, Founder and Executive Director of CHANGE, also a former 350.org East Asia Co-coordinator.
VCLC would never be complete without a field day. The campers had an opportunity to visit a wind energy company, and their mind was blown with how magnificent the wind farm was.
“This is really amazing! Now I believe this is the way Vietnam should go”, “The wind turbines are incredible. I am impressed that Vietnamese companies have the technology and capacity to build these giants!”, “My province is very windy. I should tell our leaders to try to attract investors to build a similar wind farm there”, were some of the expressions of the campers on the day.
VCLC2018 had a positive yet emotional closure when the campers finalized and sealed their signatures of commitment on a timeline of activities for RISE Vietnam. The activities include production of a documentary on renewables potentials in Vietnam, a media launch, flashmob performances with hand-painted traditional hats carrying RISE messages, workshops and debates in universities and schools, making of RISE configurations from recycled materials, a “climate corps” stunt, and extensive social media exposures on various pages and channels. A highlight will be a music video of the song “Rise for Climate”, joined by over 10 Vietnamese singers and kid talents, and produced by a production company Novel. The song was composed by Thanh Bui, the famous musician and singer who also composed 350 Celebration for 350.org’s Global Power Shift in 2013. Being in both English and Vietnamese, Rise for Climate song is expected to go viral both globally and in Vietnam during RISE, and for a lot longer, to call for global unified actions to stop the climate crisis.
VCLC2018 has inspired the 30 campers in such a way as never seen before. Here are some of the touching reflections of the participants before they departed to go back to their home towns:
“I come from the central highlands, where people never cared about climate change, because we all used to think that climate change would only affect coastal provinces, until recently when our district was severely hit by unusual rainfalls and floods, causing severely damages for local people”, said Van Le from Dak Lak Province. “Climate change will kill us all, if we don’t do anything about it”.
“VCLC has turned me into a whole new person. From a selfish person, now I am committed to working for the benefit of community. I am happy I’ve eventually found my passion, and I know what path I will be taking from now on”, said Hoa Nguyen from Can Tho Province.
“VCLC has helped me realize no matter who you are, where you are from, what your background, as long as you care about the environment and commit to take action, you’ll create an impact that this world needs to solve its current crisis”, said Trinh Nguyen from Khanh Hoa Province.
“VCLC is not a training camp, it is a loving home where we get all the love, despite the differences, and inspiration and motivation to fight for what is right”, said Thu Pham from Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC)
“My major at university is environment. I came here thinking there would be nothing new to learn. But I learned so much!!! I realized I knew too little about the world problems, and I never knew we as youngsters could do so much to solve them”, said Tuyet Ta from An Giang Province.
“VCLC changed the way I think about climate change, and inspired me to “save the world”. I plan to set up 350.org Quang Tri, so I can tell more people in my province about climate change and engage them in speaking up for our sustainable future”, said Phuong Pham from Quang Tri Province.
“I am working for a bank. I have a decent income. But at this camp, I met so many inspiring young people who care about the environment and the community more than some income. I think I know where I would like to work next”, said Huyen Nguyen from Binh Duong Province.
“I never knew Vietnam is part of the global climate movement. Before VCLC, nobody told me young people from a small village like me can make an impact on such a big issue like climate change. I will share what I know now with my university and my community. If we work together, we can reverse the crisis and go back to the safe 350 ppm level”, said Cuong Pham from Binh Dinh Province.
“I am so excited about the plan we’ve built for RISE in Vietnam. It will definitely represent the voices of Vietnamese youths, which I want to be heard by the world leaders. My hometown has been hit by sea level rise. There’s no more time to waste!”, said Tem Nguyen from Ca Mau Province.
“VCLC is where I feel I am not alone. Now I dare to take bold actions because “the people united will never be defeated”, said Phuong Vo from Quang Ngai Province.
“VCLC has convinced me that community has power to solve their own problems, and now I plan to engage my community in our next campaign RISE”, said Ly Bui from Gia Lai Province.
“VCLC has wholeheartedly empowered our spirit to raise our voice for Mother Nature. Together we will rise for climate!”, said Linh Duong from HCMC
“And this is all it takes for Vietnam to RISE,” said Hong Hoang.