Biplab Mahato (India)

Coming from a village background into an international team has helped me to grow, and accept myself. Reflecting on the four absolute standards of purity, honesty, unselfishness and love during the quiet days I found a blockage in my heart. I wrote letters of apology to my parents, admitting to watching pornography and wasting their money. This helped me understand purity and set me free to communicate openly with AFL friends. During fieldwork I met people who had a big impact on me, one man helping villagers in India and another who lost his place in the Cambodian Government for fighting corruption. These people inspired me a lot and instead of just thinking about my own ongoing business venture, I commit to work as a volunteer with IofC over the next two years and to not take part in any corruption in the future.

After AfL, Biplab has started an after-school in his village and banded a group of youth to do constructive service for the village and has developed a small team to answer their rural area’s many problems.

Phan Thanh Tam (Vietnam)

I grew up with a negative feeling towards Muslims, all Ihave learnt about them is war and terror. However, my feeling towards Muslims completely changed when I visited Malaysia and Indonesia, two Islamic countries. I realised that even though we held different beliefs we had the same heart for loving and there are many things that connect us: our difficulties, our hope for a peaceful life; our passion to contribute to society. Seeing the Muslim girls pray was such a pure and beautiful moment for me and I admired their discipline to pray five times a day. I made deep connections with Muslims friends.

Yue Zhang (China)

In AfL everyone shared from their heart about their feelings, struggles, conflicts, appreciations, apologies and complaints. It is amazing how transparency and honesty can set the spirit of the community free. I felt a deeper connection and trust within us and we became more like a family.’

To live and work in this community with the same people day and night for 7 months, has not been easy as I am an only child and don’t often get close to people. I experienced anger, frustration, and discouragement in the group, but found that this was also the best time to know myself more and learn to accept who I am as a whole. Riyanto Sofyan, an Indonesian business man had a big impact on me as he chose to stand for what was right, no matter what the cost. His words reaffirmed my direction that if you balance what is right, then you will find your strength. For me, it is to be a source of happiness, wisdom, and peace. The interaction with Riyanto is just like a downpour of rain on the dry land for me. His words reaffirmed my direction.

Song Hee Lee (South Korea)

Listening to other people’s stories gave me strength to be open about my own. Sharing my story, I was able to acknowledge that I am still bitter towards my father. Ten years ago he left my family and I have never seen him again. I developed anger and hatred toward him, but during AfL I began to see not only my pain but my brother’s as well. I wrote a letter of apology to my brother and have consistently shared my thoughts with him during this journey. I asked myself, do I want to be stuck with my pain and blame my father forever or see it as an opportunity to grow? I have now committed to pray and plan to work with young people who have family problems. I am slowly discovering that my pain can be healed through serving others.

Nejla Azima (Canada)

Joining AfL was a way to escape from what I liked the least about society, but I cannotrun away forever. It is time for me to act on what fuels my spirit. Looking back I realise that I was tired of all the competition and greed for superiority. I need to find people who reach beyond their personal needs, care about others, and whom I could trust so we can engage each other on the issues of our concern and work towards creating solutions.

Julia Kutsmida (Ukraine

On AfL I did not change as I wished or find all the answers to my questions. Instead I received a toolbox on how to make my life more full and the ability to share this with others. All 23 years of my life I wanted to show my strong side and prove to my parents they are good. I denied admitting my unhappiness, because I felt I had no right to do so. Through having time in quiet and meeting new people I began to understand myself more deeply. Then I saw my father had grown up without parents and as a child I felt loneliness in his heart and I accepted I am afraid of loneliness. I experienced that all people need to express themselves, to understand and to be understood on a deep level. I want to bring something in this area with children’s education.

San San Tay (Malaysia)

I have grown up as a Buddhist but have not really understood its practice very much. In Thailand our team attended a Buddhist workshop which cleared up a lot of my confusion on what to believe. After AFL I intend to formally commit myself to Buddhism and follow the ways of this religion.

In the next two years I will volunteer with IofC to work in youth development and training as well as building trust between the different ethnic groups in Malaysia.

Deborah Sullivan (Australia)

From the first moment I heard about AfL I knew I had to be part of it.This is because of my interest in restoring dignity and respect for people who suffered abuse and to work towards greater understanding and respect between the sexes. There is enormous suffering all across Asia but my vision has grown through meeting the many wonderful people living lives that make a difference in this area. I believe the values of IofC can bring great collective healing in these areas, as they have in my own life.

Chui Cheng Ng (Malaysia)

Two months in Taiwan and China helped me to understand the Chinese more. As one born in Malaysia, I always felt closer to these countries. I was surprised when I began to cry at the apology of a Japanese friend to the Chinese for the atrocities that happened during WWII. The apology inspired me to find out more about my grandfather’s experience and the reason for him moving from China to Malaysia. I want to give time to developing the relationships between Chinese communities and the rest of the world.