By: Xavier Alpasa, ICNC-SI Class of 2016

Hope.  This is what one immediately experiences as the ICNC Summer Institute commences.  Imagine being in the presence of 48 outstanding Social Activists from over 35 countries in one space!

I travelled all the way from the Philippines to Boston bringing with me a complex and extra-challenging issue of battling what we consider the world’s largest land-grabber, Aurora Pacific Economic Zone (APECO), that I needed some boost myself and I was not disappointed when I heard each participants’ background and advocacies.  Some of my new-found friends even got arrested and incarcerated countless times that they have practically lost count.  How’s that for courage?!

Hearing there were more than 300 applicants for the limited slots made me realize this select group is a force to be reckoned with.  Instead of feeling intimidated with peoples’ accomplishments including personally meeting President Obama, the welcome cocktails made everyone at ease especially with the Ice Breaker that immediately bonded the cohort.

Excitement was in the air not only for the action-packed schedule peppered with rich topics but we also looked forward to hearing each other’s triumphs and challenges in the journey.  The new segment IGNITE inspired everyone with the personal stories of 8 speakers that each actually got a standing ovation.

As if the more than 12 hours of Day 1 sessions were not enough, people even managed to go to a nearby bar to have an extra fellowship that allowed deeper sharings about socio-political dynamics of each country that allowed a natural experience of solidarity.

In all of these, my big take away is hope.  One that I needed and continue to need which I surmise everyone experienced as we opened this year’s ICNC Summer Institute.