Bringing inner values to play in daily life

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A "˜living values' trainer from New Zealand inspires and is inspired by Vietnamese

Trish Summerfield (R) joins in an event themed "˜Water and Life', organized by the LVEP to help young people aware of the important of water in daily life. The program lasted from August 2012 to January 2013

She is no longer afraid of crossing crowded streets in Vietnam.

And she has a license to ride a motorbike herself, navigating the traffic of Ho Chi Minh City streets with the same degree of comfort as driving a car on empty streets in New Zealand, where Trish Summerfield comes from.

Tongue in cheek, she says she even finds it easier to drive in Ho Chi Minh City.

Summerfield has been living in Vietnam for 14 years now, and it has been an experience with the "most unforgettable" memories.

Perhaps Summerfield has more than a fair share of unforgettable memories because of the unusual work she has been doing here helping people living in misery and hopelessness to find their "inner values" and improve their lot.

She first came to Vietnam in September 1999 as a volunteer for the Living Values Education Program (LVEP) developed by the non-governmental and non-profit Association for Living Values Education International (ALIVE International), a worldwide community concerned with value education.

Back in New Zealand, Summerfield was an English teacher, but she had for long been interested in the rather abstract concept of "values", one that is typically paid rhetorical homage to, but never really a subject taught in school or college, unless you were a philosophy student delving into ethics, morality and so on.

Summerfield says she "came to understand that the seed of creating positive relationships and making positive choices that would protect our planet for future generations lay in making choices based on positive values like respect, tolerance, responsibility and cooperation."

LVEP, which provides professional development courses and educational resource materials to help educators help people explore and develop their own values, had offered the young Summerfield an opportunity to dedicate herself to help children, youth, educators and parents to understand, develop and share values in daily life.

Ever since she joined the program in England as a volunteer trainer, she learned how much the understanding of inner values can help a person develop belief, hope and confidence, enabling her/him lead a better life.

One incident that deepened her understanding was the sad end of a friend, Martin, who had always been teased and boycotted at school. Martin chose to commit suicide. The thought struck Summerfield that if only Martin had been given a chance to learn about living values, he would have learned what values he had inside himself to overcome his problems.

After she became a trainer in England, she decided to make her way far to the East, and chose Vietnam as her destination to develop the program.

"Coming to Vietnam offered me the opportunity to explore values on a more full-time basis along with allowing me to fulfill a lifelong dream of living in an eastern culture."
Her first intention was just to stay in Vietnam for one or two years working as a trainer. The rest, as they say, is history. Vietnam has definitely become her second home, she says.

She says the Vietnamese people have never stopped inspiring her with "their friendliness, dignity, courage, optimism, flexibility and passion for learning." It has been and still is an honor for her to live in Vietnam, she says.

The LVEP Vietnam was established in 2000. Today, volunteer trainers of the program have conducted 3-4-day trainings for over 18,000 educators, social workers and psychologists throughout Vietnam free of charge as a community service. 

"A number of the educators who have been trained in the program have also, in turn, used and are still regularly using our activities with their students; so in this way thousands of children and young people in Vietnam are benefiting from the program," Summerfield said.

In her training courses, Summerfield encourages a lot of discussion and interaction between the students. While she does not speak much Vietnamese, she can understand a lot of it. She also has several translators who support her, and anyway, "a lot of our classes are taught by Vietnamese teachers."

Summerfield says feedback from students is very important to her, and she feels most fulfilled when people who had suffered low self-esteem and been unable to see any value in themselves tell her that the program has allowed them to love and respect themselves, and "reconnect with the beauty of life."

One of her trainers, Van, has facilitated courses with thousands of youth at the Student Cultural House and Van Hien University, Summerfield said.

Many participants enter the course carrying a host of challenges in their private and family lives.

"Following the course they write in the feedback how the course has enabled them to develop a much more positive and stronger vision of their lives, greater empathy and understanding for their family and friends; strengthened their values and empowered them to face daily challenges more effectively," said Summerfield.

Along with her staff, Summerfield collaborated with Vietnam's national channel VTV2 to create, over four years beginning in 2007, 140 programs called "The Gift of Life."

The programs, which targeted the youth, parents and businesspeople, are still being aired on some local channels at the moment.

"People regularly come up to me on the street and tell me how the programs have made a valuable contribution to their lives."

One such "funny memory" she has is of joining the end of a long line of passengers waiting to use the toilet on a road trip she took to Cambodia by bus.

"I had a small concern that my bus driver may leave without me as all the other passengers were already on the bus. After a few seconds of being at the end of the line, many Vietnamese women in front of me turned to me and asked me to go first. When I asked them why, they replied because they regularly watched our TV Program and that it had helped them so much in their lives."

The global Living Values Education Program (LVEP) is a comprehensive values education program. It offers training, a practical methodology and a wide variety of experiential values activities to educators, facilitators, parents and caregivers to help them provide the opportunity for children and young adults to explore and develop universal values and associated intrapersonal and interpersonal social and emotional skills. Educators of the program are asked to reflect on their own values and create a values-based atmosphere.

Its curriculum includes 12 Living Values Activities: peace, respect, love, cooperation, happiness, honesty, humility, responsibility, simplicity, tolerance, freedom and unity.

The implementation of LVE is facilitated by the Association for Living Values Education International (ALIVE International), a non-profit-making association of organizations around the world concerned with values education and is supported by UNESCO and a host of other organizations, agencies, governmental bodies, foundations, community groups and individuals.

ALIVE groups together national bodies promoting Living Values Education and is an independent organization that does not have any particular or exclusive religious, political or national affiliation or interest.
LVE is currently used at thousands of sites in more than 60 countries throughout Europe, Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and the Americas.

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