Final reflections from World Council

20 October 2015

Frances Crimmins, Executive Director and Louise Billman, Manager of Early Childhood Services, show off the cool peace sign pens gifted to World Council delegates from YWCA Taiwan.

Frances Crimmins, Executive Director and Louise Billman, Manager of Early Childhood Services, show off the cool peace sign pens gifted to World Council delegates from YWCA Taiwan.

A delegation of YWCA Canberra members, Board Directors and staff are currently at the 28th World YWCA Council in Bangkok, Thailand, as part of the YWCA Australia delegation. They will be participating in knowledge sharing, collaborating, and setting the strategic directions for the movement for the next four years. We’ll be sharing their reflections and experiences through our blog. Below, Louise Billman, Manager of Early Childhood Services, shares her insights from Thursday 15 October at World Council. 

Attending this year’s World Council event in Bangkok has been so many things – exhilarating, exciting, exhausting and eye opening just to name a few.

It’s hard to put into words the buzz you feel when you’re surrounded by over 400 women who dedicate their life and work to making their communities a better place, but the word ‘electric’ comes to mind.

I remember attending an Australian AFL Grand Final in 1999 and for me, this Council experience feels a lot like that. I’ve met so many incredible people over the past few days and each of them has left an impression, impacting significantly on the person I will be when I land back in Canberra.

As someone who has always identified as an advocate, the ‘feminism journey’ for me has been an interesting one and I guess I’m fairly new to identifying by the ‘F’ (feminist) word, especially  in comparison to many of the amazing women that currently surround me.

But, if this is what it feels like to be part of something that genuinely makes a difference in every corner of the globe, from South Sudan, to Palestine, Japan to Geneva and Australia to the newly affiliated Armenia…. then I’ll be a member, an advocate and a feminist for life.

Today I had the absolute pleasure of taking a group of women from seven different countries on a field trip to the YWCA of Bangkok’s Day Care Centre in Din Daeng.

This field trip was most certainly a highlight of my World Council experience so far, and standing in the middle of the Din Daeng service I felt more at home  than I have since I left Canberra. (I guess this means I’m in the right line of work back in Australia!).

Our hosts from YWCA Thailand were incredibly gracious in answering all of our questions, being patient and so incredibly kind in allowing us to walk around the grounds of the Piboon Prachasan School, sharing the story of how this service in the ‘settlement’ community came about.

On arrival it was obvious that the early childhood service was a happy place, with children all lying on beds for their rest time. The service currently caters for 52 young children from 2-6 years of age, providing uniforms and a Christian Montessori curriculum that has a strong focus on developing skills like personal hygiene, literacy, maths and Christian ethical values. The Din Daeng settlement is a vulnerable community, the school grounds being surrounded by commission housing, where families’ very livelihoods depend greatly on services like that provided by the YWCA.

It was incredibly surreal to walk into such a peaceful place and watch Thai Educators participate in a daily ritual that happens every day in our early childhood services in Australia. We also utilise many of the teachings of Maria Montessori and the resources provided here for some of the most vulnerable children in Bangkok could have just as likely been laid out with care in the same way, for the children in our Winyu service in Canberra.

Much of the language YWCA of Bangkok President, Miss Lantip Dvadasin used when sharing about the service was familiar to me – we chatted about ratios, curriculums and the life skills that are a priority for improving these children’s lives once they leave the centre. It was amazing how quickly cultural differences faded away when we were all chatting about children and education.

The YWCA of Bangkok are clearly making a difference in this community, providing critical early childhood education and support for vulnerable children and families.  In 2014 and 2015, YWCA Din Daeng Day Care Centre was awarded the ‘Outstanding Private Day Care Centre’ award from the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security.

Our delegates that attended were thrilled to be able to get an inside glance at how early childhood programs here in the vulnerable developing communities of Bangkok support the Din Daeng settlement and it was truly exciting to chat about how each of us contribute to children in our own communities.

We all came from such different places, from Australia, Rwanda, Switzerland, Malaysia, Solomon Islands, Finland and the United States.

We all participated in early childhood in very different ways, from teaching music to  delivering ‘scouts’, to child and family programs to early childhood education services.

Interestingly though, we were completely united in many of our struggles, united in our passion and experiences and collectively agreed on the urgency we felt for early childhood education to be acknowledged and supported by every community, globally.

YWCA’s make a difference to children and their families all around the world.

Today’s field trip was just one example of when women activate their combined energy and great things happen in the community, for the most vulnerable.

My gratitude and warmest thanks goes out to the YWCA of Bangkok team – your hospitality and welcoming nature has helped send this Educator home with renewed faith in the power of when women unite!

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