Arriving in Mekong School was just like home sweet home. It was so familiar as if it was not the first time Ive been here. Studying and living under the same roof, we are a big family.

Vietnamese Student, EarthRights School Mekong  

This June, we welcomed the tenth class of students to the EarthRights School Mekong with an evening of celebration.  The school became a microcosm of the Mekong Region as new students and alumni shared traditional song, dance and food from each of their countries.  EarthRights School students’ cheerfulness is always infectious, but this evening at the school was especially joyous.  Several alumni and friends joined the festivities, and we celebrated together as one family.

This year’s class is made up of 12 students that represent each of the Mekong countries. They bring to the school a variety of personal and professional experiences, from working with communities to incorporate local knowledge into environmental protection initiatives to raising the awareness of the indigenous peoples’ rights, to advocating for migrant workers impacted by foreign investment projects.

 

The strength of the EarthRights School is drawn from this diversity of experience and knowledge, as teacher Nikki writes about here.  The unique contribution each student makes is not only celebrated, as it was on this evening, but actually relied upon to enhance the experience of the whole.

Nyein Tun, EarthRights School Training Associate, said:

They amaze me when I hear their stories and see their actions and their energy towards working for human rights.  Even though I did not physically experience what they are doing, I can still feel it through their passion.

At the end of their time at the EarthRights School Mekong these students will have the skills to match this passion.  Over the next six months they will receive intensive training on environmental and human rights law, international financial institutions, extractive and mining industries, and Mekong River dams.  They will receive support from EarthRights International legal and campaign teams as they conduct field studies in their respective communities. When they graduate in December, these students will be prepared to protect and promote earth rights all over the region, as existing alumni are already doing.

Vireak, an indigenous youth activist from Cambodia, leads the crowd in traditional song and dance at the welcoming of the tenth EarthRights School Mekong class.

The alumni present at the ceremony offered generous advice to the new students. One Lao alumni from last year’s class said:

The Mekong School was an opportunity for me to open my heart and know more about the issues in my country and other countries in the Mekong Region. We have the opportunity to learn from each other and work together as a network to protect our region, our Mekong, our river.

Eager for the transformation that awaits them, the new students expressed excitement for the training to officially begin. One Vietnamese student said:

With the training program at the EarthRights School Mekong, I will gain more working skills, advocacy practices and a broader network for a long term process of promoting participatory rights of local people and strengthening local voices. I am so grateful to be here.

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