Participants Blog hosted by Center for Conflict Studies at MIIS

Category: Khwanhatai (Ploy) Kongkapetch

Reconciliation through Movies

We had a few sessions about reconciliation and how important it is for us, as peacebuilders to understand the process. I found that this step is extremely difficult and challenging to understand, after the session I have been thinking about what are the other ways of remembering?

I came up with Movies.

There are so many movies about war and disaster, but are these really helping people to remember?

There are so many questions come up in my mind.

How effective are they?

How accurate are they?

Did they ask the victims before they make the movie? would they say yes to someone who is going to make a benefit out of their love ones’s dead? and what are they getting from letting them do it?

The Impossible is about the 2004 Tsunami

UNITED 93 is about 9/11 attack

Closer and Better Water Than Ever

A statement “water will be closer to us in the future” had a really bad impression to me. I thought it was not true. Have not I seen those protests around the world? There was no way water will be closer to us in the future. I thought “it was only going to be further from us.” The session by professor Jeff Langholz has proved me wrong. So many water conflicts arise all over the world, it is everywhere and the shared root of the problem was that there is not enough for everyone.

Professor Jeff asked us before he started his session if we believed that water will become closer and cleaner for us. None of us showed our hands. He asked us that what if we can produce water by ourselves, just like how we use the solar cell for electricity, will we come to the end of water conflict? Technology, to me sounds like something new, something more modern, something complicated and something that furthers us away from what we did in the past. Using technology to produce water sounds so strange to me, professor Jeff kept going on his presentation, it was so amazing that I felt like I was watching a TedTalk more than listening to a lecture. He talked about all these new inventions that would help us to keep water for ourselves. It seems so surreal to me but this is happening, I was wondering how come we did not think of this before? How many lives we could have saved? It was clear to me that technology definitely doesn’t mean something new, it could be something as old as harvesting dew but adapting it to our lives.

Black Sheep Redemption

The evening session we had with Willie Stokes was about the Black Sheep Redemption project. Willie told us about his life story, how we got involved in gang and went to jail. He is a former gang member who is now encouraging at-risk youth to stay out of gangs. He grew up in Salinas and growing up seeing violence and eventually trapped him into the gang life, it took him years until he decided to leave the gang life style and started helping other youth who might be in the same situation he was in.

I have to admit that my prior knowledge about gangs was not very accurate. I thought even though a person grows up in an unsafe environment, he can still choose to be out of it. Yes, it was partly correct but I was not thinking of how hard it is to get out of the environment that he grew up in. Willie’s story has shown me how easy it is to fall into the cycle of violence. It took him so many years to drop out of the gang, and it was very impressive that he is now helping people that were in the same boat as him. There are very little that I know about the organizations that help young people who involves in violence, especially gangs, but dedicating himself for creating productive members to the community is truly amazing. A short session we had with Willie was very inspirational and powerful, it has encouraged me to make the most out of my opportunity and reminded me to always give back to the society.

Shared Values

During our first few days, we talked about the Alligator Story, the story is about how is right or wrong in a situation. We had to make an agreement with the group and it was very challenging to do so, we had very different perspectives, the story has many different sides to look at and we have different values that we hold onto ourselves. However, this week we had an awesome opportunity with the Resource Center for Nonviolence. We did a task of choosing our most important values, there was a long list of options for us to choose from individually. Later on we were put into groups and received a task of coming up with the most important five values that we all agree. Due to the variety of the options we had, I was expecting a little bit of a debate and discussion about them; but surprisingly we did not have any of those.

There were three values that all of us have put on our lists so we easily agreed to pass on those three into our group lists. Then we only had two to choose from; everyone went around and said why they thought those values are important, it did not take us long to emphasize and come to the conclusion. This activity was very impressive. When every groups share their values, we had about 3 in common. One of them was “to have equal opportunity for all”. We had a really interesting discussion on that; is this value got chosen because of we are peacebuilders? would this value still get chosen if the task were given to the different group of people? or is this a universal value?

To conclude this activity, my group was the only group that has chosen “to live in a safe community”. The instructor asked us why, my group mate Lamis responded that she herself grew up in an unsafe community, and it is very hard to grow up and even harder to make a change for a better world. Education, health care and a lot of things might not be easily access to in those communities. This later leads to a mutual agreement on this value that it is extremely important and most people would not see it since it is something that is really easy for us to take for granted.

Behind The Wall

The visit at the prisons in Salinas would be one of the days I will never forget. In the morning we went to the Salinas Valley State Prison, at this place we did not have any interactions with the prison. I did not know what to do and I did not know how to feel. The differences between level I prison versus level IV prison were very obvious in my eyes. Inside the level IV prison, I can feel the intensity and a much less tranquil atmosphere around me as well as very visible racial divisions between the inmates. We spent our afternoon the day before with Julia Reynolds talking about Gangs of Salinas which I found really useful when we went see the real setting situation the day after. One thing that bothers me when we visited the State Prison was that we really were there just like a tourist, we listened to what the officer said, looked wherever he pointed for us to see. I personally felt very uncomfortable the whole time I was there.

However, this turns out really different when we went to the Correctional Training Facility. We got there a little bit late and went in a big room that was filled with inmates, one of them was standing at the podium. It was cleared that our arrival has interrupted whatever that was going on, it took us a while to sit ourselves down and then the presentation continued. They were presenting the project Common Ground; the inmate conducts survey in different areas of interest. Their presentations blew my mind away.


The majority of inmates are white. 

The majority of the inmates grew up in a both parents household. 

The majority of the inmates had a job that they stayed in for more than six months. 

One value that they all think it is the most important, was love. 

They completely broke the stereotype with just one powerful presentation. 


After the presentation, we broke into groups. Everything happened pretty quickly, I was not prepared to work this closely to the inmate but at the same time I was excited to hear more from them.

“You can sit here, we don’t bite” was the first sentence one of the inmates told us, we obviously did not know what were we doing, we did not know where to sit. After I heard that, I moved over and sat next to him. Before they started their group activities, they asked who we were and what were we doing there, we explained and they told us about how nerve-wracking it was for them seeing us walking in. They did not know that we were coming in.

“You guys walked in, we didn’t know what was going on. My friend up there looked at me and I was like, I don’t know, so I signaled him to start his presentation over so you guys can hear. It’s scary.”

It sounds like they were not ready for our arrival. However, the inmate that was telling me this was sitting really close to me before we split into groups, I couldn’t help but observed him during the presentation. He looked so calm, he looked like it wasn’t a big deal for him that we came it. My observation was totally wrong according to what he told us later on. I was surprised on how he acted so differently from what he actually felt. I had such a good time with my group, it was very fun and they really made us feel the welcoming atmosphere. I felt a bit sad inside that we did not make them feel as welcoming when we first came into the room.

It was a day full of emotions. I learned so much during that short period of times we spend there and I wish we had more time, while they were leaving the room they waved us goodbye, some of the people from the group came and gave us handshakes, asking what our names were. They were telling us how important it was for them that we showed up. I still remember the exact sentence they told us. “it’s good that you came in. We got to practice saying things in front of real people, the people who doesn’t dress like us”


I wish nothing but the best for all the inmate with their working towards reentering the community.

Storytelling for Peace

I have always been struggling with storytelling. The concept sounds somewhat easy but it is actually something that takes a really long time to become comfortable with, there are so many things to consider. Telling story about myself is much easier for me to do than telling the story of other people, I do not know where to put my opinion or if I should even evaluate what I experience; I am not sure if that is my place for me to do so. From some of the case studies Amy Hill shared with us; there is a project that lasts five days. I was very interested in how does the Story Center build trust with the victim, how do they break the ice as the victim is not familiar with the organization and especially some victims do not talk about their experience for years. For example, the victim of domestic violence would not share their story until much later, until they are sure that there is a safe place to do so.

The presentation of the language was also very interesting to me. As a non-native speaker of English, I found it very difficult to translate something into English while trying to keep the meaning of the original version. I was very surprised that the organization chooses to represent some stories in their original languages, even not everyone would understand.  Furthermore, one question that was asked by a classmate was also stuck in my head; would it not be better for the victim to keep the story personal? For me, I so strongly believe that telling traumatized story makes it easier for the victim to overcome the obstacle. The organization such as Story Center is not only connecting the world together through storytelling but also providing the victim the safe place to share.


The discussion we had after the movie Parzania was one of my favorite moments during the first week. The movie shows a lot of struggles the family had to go through in order to find their missing son after the attack. I was very interested in what the victim and those who were there during that time dealing with trauma. Can we, as a peace builder, but as well as an outsider be involved in such situation? As Dr.Pushpa has mentioned, a lot of people do not want to talk about it and they want to move on with their lives. While, the other people (such as, us, peace builder) want this to be learned, studied and remembered. In this case, where can we find the balance? How long should we wait before we start to learn about what happened without making the locals uncomfortable? I think of something similar, the movie The Impossible, which is about the 2004 Tsunami; the movie did not come out until 2012 which is nearly 10 years after what happened. After the movie I could think of was United 93, the movie came out in 2006, about 5 years after 9/11 attack. What was the victim and their families thinking of the movies? did the producer ask their comments or opinions while the movie is being made? While we are studying about peace, I do believe that it is important for us to study from the past; But because of there are victims; my question is that how to we do this properly? are we actually doing this in the right way? What if the victims do not want to talk about it, how can we make the process without creating anymore conflicts? and most importantly, should we take the victim wants into our consideration?


After the lecture given by Dr.Siddharth Shah, I started to ask so many questions in my mind. Not only the victims of any conflicts that go through trauma but it is us; people who are in this field, also experiencing trauma both directly and indirectly. This is a major theme added on to my knowledge that how much behind the scenes work the change maker really has to do; we have to be aware of this potential risk.

I read the book Trauma Stewardship by Connie Burk and Laura van Dernoot Lipsky which discusses the exact issue (and I highly recommend the book to people who are working in this field). During one part of the books, the writer talks about the experience of Diane Tatum, one of the author’s social worker friends, that she does not feel comfortable telling the people she works with about how great her life is. For example, when she goes back to work from weekend and the victim that she works with would ask the question how was your weekend? She feels obilgated to tell them how great her weekend was, hence she would always answer “it’s okay” regardless how amazing her weekend actually was. She mentioned that “She downplayed her happiness because she felt guilty that her life was going well, and she didn’t want to flaunt it in front of people who were having a difficult time”. Thinking about this book and what Dr.Saddharth Shah shares with us; this is definitely something we all will experience and I was surprised that I have never thought of this seriously before. My SPP fellows are very passionate about what they are doing and enjoy what they are doing, but when it comes to working with conflict; can we really say that we are happy with our jobs? What care we do to support each other? Peace buidling takes a life time to acheive, will we be happy to work for something that we might not even see the result? This is a question that I will have to explore deeply into. It has not been long since the program started but I have already felt that it has changed my whole perspective towards trauma (especially from the perspective of change makers). I can feel myself stepping outside of my comfort zone and exploring all these new perspectives, and I am truly excited to learn more about it.


Intercultural understanding has always been something that draws my attention since I was a young girl- very young that the thought of going outside of my country did not exist in my mind. I did not know that intercultural understanding could be an area that someone could be interested in, or even actually “study” it. Saying that I’m interested in “peacebuilding” is definitely not something so common back in my home country.

My name is Ploy Kongkapetch, I grew up in a big city in Thailand called Korat. I remember growing up I spent a lot of time reading; I read all the time. When I got big enough to go around by myself the only place I would go to is the library or the bookstore, I did not know what kind of books I enjoy reading because I did not know what the genre was; but the only thing I know was that, I read everything that is about different people and their cultures. I was always curious to learn about the different ways that people lives their lives, life with the snow, life with tribal song, life with haunting, life with farming. I was really interested in knowing more and more, sometimes when I reach the end of each book I would get the feeling of “oh no, please don’t be it, I want to know more” I could go on and on about them. This also links me to what I want to do in the future; I want to work with diverse youth and to have the opportunity to learn from them, to create the environment where they feel comfortable sharing and exploring culture differences.

After I finished my high school in Hong Kong, I have decided to take a gap year with Global Citizen Year, a bridge year program where they offer opportunities to high school graduates to go and live aboard to learn more about themselves before starting college; which later would help to maximize the benefits of going to college. I was living with a local host family in an indigenous community in Ecuador. My apprenticeships were in a local government office where I assisted the after-school programs for children in the community as well as working with the elderly group. I was also working in a local primary school where I give Art classes. I have overcome a lot of obstacles during the year; apart from the language barrier, there was a lot of cultural miscommunication as well. At first I thought I had a pretty good preparation for the year as a UWC alumni but I was very wrong. Being in a country where I was surrounded by locals was very different than being in UWC. I also have posted some blogs there if you are interested in learning more about me.

Here is a video showing a bit of what I was upto in Ecuador:

It was hard expressing my interests to people back home then, not a lot of people are into what I was interested in, not a lot of people see the beauty of diversity like the way I saw it until I went to United World Colleges. When I first found out about what UWC really was, It stunted me. They squeeze the world into one school, into one room and as well put the world into the classrooms; I knew I wanted to be a part of this, which I was lucky enough to be the only one from Thailand chosen to attend UWC back in 2013. I also got the opportunity to do a verbatim theatre project when I was there, Verbatim theatre is a form of documented theatre in which plays are presented to the audience from the exact words spoken by people interviewed about a particular event or topic; the topic for that year was ex-offenders. I was pretty scared that I have to work so closely with the group of people whom I was not at all comfortable with, even though we had a lot of training about how to conduct an interview with them I was still pretty nervous. However, my partner was extremely sweet. We had a nearly 3 hour interview and it was one of the most memorable moments I have ever had in my life. She also came to the play where I performed and using her words, I remember she was crying by the end of the show and had no ideas that her story could even be something else more than just a story, she did not know that I could learn so much from it. It has been over two years and we still keep in touch from time to time.

There was one thing that I could never read when I was young; the story that has anything to do with violence. I would skip the page or scroll down really quick when I saw even a glimpse of a photo of the victims of a war or a photo of protests, this was not the kind of ‘different lives’ I enjoy exploring, it gives me a weird feeling of stomach ache inside my body, it makes me feel sad and guilty of living the life with no violence. However, spending two years of school that has a mission of building a more peaceful future has helped to learn about it, we talked about it, in both formal and informal settings. I started to look at it little by little, observed what people really has to say. I hate that I eventually had to admit that conflict is real, violence is happening and there are innocent victims. I realized that I can never learn about different people or truly master intercultural understanding without learning about violence, conflicts and how to solve them. During last January term, I had decided to take the course called Crisis Intervention and Interpersonal Violence. The class was pretty small and we spent about 30 hours a week for the training, I had a variety range of classmates, they were nursing, law enforcement, athletic training, teaching students. We all believed that no matter which points we are in the society, we will be affected and experience some kind of conflicts and violence and it is important that we are all aware about it.

I hope that the Summer Peacebuilding Program would help me to learn more about conflicts and peace building from a bigger level prespective. I am very excited to immerse myself into this summer program, in order for me to maximize my potential and become a better Global Citizen.

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