Asian Leaders Institute Concludes with Human Rights Studies in Miami and D.C

"Thanks #YSEALI and the U.S. Department of State for broadening my perspective and widening my horizons. It is indeed a life-changing experience." - Hamilcar Chanjueco Jr., Fellow from the Phillippines

Last week, the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Institute concluded their educational study tour with a trip to Miami Beach Fl. where they examined pressing issues surrounding immigration and refugee programs in the southeastern United States. After spending three full days in Miami, the fellows flew to Washington D.C. to experience the picturesque museums and historical treasures that the city has to offer while studying conflict management.

Miami Beach, Florida


To kick off the study session in Miami, the fellows participated in a walking tour of South Beach followed by a cultural tour through Wynwood, Miami’s art district, and Downtown Miami. Students admired the colorful and impactful art of the famous Wynwood Walls. Much of the art depicts social, political, and economic conflicts faced in the United States that mirrors the conflicts the fellows are facing back home in their respective countries. The overwhelming sensations of the city were facilitated by the diversity in its culture, attractions, shopping, food and people.

The following day, the cohort started early with a meeting at the Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Miami, Inc. to learn about the charity’s inspiring community work helping immigrants and refugees. The harsh reality of the dwindling number of centers and participants due to the current political atmosphere in the U.S. was numbing. Against the odds, the center still continues to fight for the rights of immigrants and refugees in Florida.

"Despite the actions of the administration towards refugees, non governmental organizations are actively working towards helping them integrate into the community," said Alicia Chng Li Bin, a Fellow from Singapore.

Students later participated in a Miami Trail Tour and Walking Lecture lead by Dr. Linda Johnston, Executive Director for Siegel Institute for Leadership, Ethics and Character and Professor of Conflict Management. Students listened as Dr. Johnston explained the impending future of Florida’s pan handle. In 20 years, experts predict that much of the Pan Handle will be completely submerged under the Atlantic Ocean. Dr. Johnston covered ways that the community in Florida works towards prevention and asked students to reflect on ways they could address ethical environmental conflicts.

The cohort rounded out their studies in Miami with visits to the Florida Immigrant Coalition/Asian Services Center and the St. Thomas University Human Rights Institute where they listened to engaging lectures from local human rights leaders focused on immigration and refugee programs and advocacy in the area. Some of the topics included housing, healthcare, education and employment.

The group left Miami the following day to depart for their three-day stay in Washington D.C. While the drastic change in temperature was an adjustment, the students experienced no shortage of incredible sights and experiences in our nation’s capital.

Washington D.C. 

"It is a privilege for us to be a part of YSEALI community contributing our own passion in making a better future. We are not from the same part of the country but we are all a part of the same story which brought us together here in the U.S.," March Wisarut Onpratum, a Fellow from Thailand.

The Washington D.C. tour commenced with a visit to the United States Institute of Peace. In honor of International Women's Day and Women's History Month, the Fellows watched “How Film Captures the Roles of Women in War and Peace,” a documentary film that dives into the depiction of women in film versus the reality of their roles in issues of war and peace. The Fellows listened to a presentation from Abigail Disney on women’s led movements in conflict zones: “Women ruin war, that’s the point.” The Fellows championed the role of women in today's society and applauded the women's movement that continues to empower women in the U.S. and abroad.

"The goal is a pluralistic approach in peacebuilding, in all social movements. We don’t want to leave women behind as we champion for peace, environment, mental health, disability rights," said Kloyde Caday, a Fellow from the Phillippines.

Afterward, the group enjoyed a guided tour through the U.S. Capital Building where the Fellows had the priviledge of attending a Senate hearing as Senator Johnny Isakson's guest. 

The rest of their stay in D.C. included a presentation at Funds for Peace, a meeting and presentation at the U.S. State Department, museum visits (including the infamous Smithsonian), walking and shopping tours. With so much to see and do, unsurprisingly students felt as though there was not enough time to experience everything the city has to offer.

Symposium in Singapore

After spending five weeks of intensive studying, with heavy hearts the fellows said emotional goodbyes before departing home. They will have the opportunity to reunite in May at a Regional Symposium in Singapore The Symposium, which will include KSU students and KSU’s Winter 2016 and 2017 Fellows, will focus on ASEAN challenges and opportunities, leadership and professional skills, and relationship-building and networking, in addition to featuring a keynote theme of environmental leadership in Southeast Asia.



Fellow Spotlight: Hamilcar Chanjueco Jr.  

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