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#CONVERGE2: A Virtual Adventure of A Lifetime to the Philippines, Malaysia and Vietnam

Why should cross-cultural learning and collaboration stop during a global crisis? With the success of #CONVERGE, our vision to bring undergraduates together virtually to create lasting positive changes on the lives of communities around the region continues, despite on-going travel restrictions.

The Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS) Centre for Experiential Learning (CEL) hosted a group of 57 students from 17 universities in eight countries across Asia for #CONVERGE2 , a virtual exchange programme from 30 November to 18 December 2020, with the support of National Youth Council.

Over a span of three weeks, #CONVERGE2 explored three main themes: Community based tourism, social entrepreneurship and sustainable business development. Participants worked in cross-cultural teams, collaborated with community partners to learn about, and design solutions for local communities in the Philippines, Malaysia and Vietnam, where community-based tourism were adversely affected by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Community partners - MAD Courses (Philippines), Native Discovery (Malaysia) and EVG Group (Vietnam) - delivered a series of workshops that equipped the participants with the knowledge of social innovation and design thinking skills. 

Highlights of the #CONVERGE2 include embarking on virtual tours and cultural experiences (traditional dance, art and cooking classes) led by the community members, and interaction sessions with the communities.

On the final week of #CONVERGE2, participants received mentorship from the community partners, and worked together to develop sustainable social impact projects serving the community. Participants presented their ideas to members of the local community for feedback.

One project idea was to develop a business opportunity though sustainable bamboo-based products. Empowering the Orang Asli community to utilise their natural assets to earn a sustainable income, while promoting and preserving its indigenous culture.

Here's what the participants shared about their experience at #CONVERGE2:

“Working with the various partners and the communities through #CONVERGE2 has changed my perspective of rural communities in Southeast Asia. Communities such as the Orang Asli have all the necessary resources and skill sets to work with the natural assets at hand to get out of the poverty cycle. It was interesting to hear the real-life challenges the indigenous community faced and develop solutions in partnership with Native.” - Esther Kimberly Oh May Lin, Year 2 Early Childhood Education Degree, SUSS.

“I like that we engaged closely with the community, not just by being exposed to their culture but also understanding more about how we could help them in the long run.” - Adrian Holdago from De La Salle University, Philippines.

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