Differences that Bind
Differences that Bind
Mai is happiest when she finds meaningful ways to involve the community in the stories we tell. She gets a thrill at seeing a story transform people’s lives. Mai loves to sing in church, bake at home and eat anywhere.
Friends have a way of opening up your mind and heart. This is never truer than when you are vastly different from each other.
The more diverse your backgrounds or unique your life experiences, the more you learn. Be it a new way of looking at the world or a new appreciation of how others live– friendship is the gift that sows acceptance, empathy and understanding – qualities so needed in today’s world.
For International Friendship Day 2019, Our Better World (OBW) spotlights friendships that reach out across seeming barriers of race, age, religion, nationality, disability. These special friends help us appreciate and celebrate our differences.
It was a long-distance tandem cycle ride in the Nilgiris in Southern India that forged the friendship between Kristin and Angmo.
Chhonzin Angmo from Himachal Pradesh, India, lost her vision at age eight. But don’t waste your pity on her, because she has learned to carve out a life without limits. To give you a sense; when Angmo heard of Adventures Beyond Barriers Foundation (ABBF), without ever having cycled before, she signed up and completed the gruelling 550km+ cycle ride through the challenging Himalayan terrain.
Kristin Peters from Minnesota, USA had spent over 25 years working for NGOs outside of the US. An avid runner, cyclist and swimmer, she discovered that participating in sports in an inclusive adventure group fulfilled her and quickly found ABBF when she moved to Delhi.
After that first cycle ride, Kristin and Angmo ran in the Delhi marathon together, started swimming on a regular basis and getting together for social events. They share a friendship that supports and leans on each other.
She was watching an OBW video in Singapore about Hasan, a Syrian refugee in Malaysia. But she didn’t stop at just being a passive observer of the refugee crisis. Farhana got in touch with Hasan, and together, started organising various projects to help the refugee community.
A sincere, beautiful friendship blossomed, built solely on wanting to do some good.
They first met in the most unlikely of places: the ICU burn unit.
When Ivan from Singapore saw 22-year-old Rahman from Bangladesh, Rahman was bandaged like a mummy. An accidental explosion at work burned 73 per cent of his body, leaving Rahman with a 20 per cent chance of survival. But he not only survived, he thrived; with the help of Humanitarian Organization for Migration Economics (HOME), where Ivan was a volunteer.
You know what else thrived? Their friendship. Although Ivan is old enough to be Rahman’s father, he learnt a lot from Rahman’s generosity, resilience and positivity.
Books sparked this friendship and was fuelled by learning.
Abdullah was an Afghan refugee who co-founded Refugee Learning Center (RLC) in Puncak, Cisarua, Indonesia. Nila was the founder of Taman Bacaan Pelangi (Rainbow Reading Gardens), an NGO nurturing the love of reading in Eastern Indonesia, by establishing children’s libraries in remote areas.
Soon after Nila’s first visit to RLC to donate English books, Abdullah became a good friend of her family. He would take the long commute to Jakarta to visit them and recount stories of his family’s life as refugees.
Inspired by Abdullah’s experiences and her visits to RLC, Nila decided to write a children’s book about a friendship between an Indonesian girl and an Afghan refugee.
Maria from the Philippines was the former domestic helper of Thomas, a Singaporean. When Maria settled back in Bulacan, north of Manila, after her stint in Singapore, she kept in touch with her former boss and would often ask him to send over food and used clothing.
Thomas and his family made the trip to visit Maria’s home to find out how she was doing. That was how he discovered that Maria was using the items he sent to help impoverished children in her hometown.
Thomas and Maria are now co-founders of Willing Hearts Orphanage. Maria runs the orphanage and Thomas supports and funds it through his thrift shop in Singapore. Not only has their friendship endured, it has evolved into one that serves the needs of others.
Do you have a friend like that too? Someone who is from a community vastly different from yours? Someone whose life experiences you can’t always relate to but whose friendship has expanded your mind and heart? Write a blog about it! Click here to pitch your story.