Transformational Visit to Cambodia

Cynthia Mulholland (Third from the left) with some of the other Fellows.


Communications Team Member, Cynthia Mulholland, is one of nine participants in this year’s  Mercy International Association – Mercy Global Action’s Emerging Leaders Fellowship. She has recently returned from a transformational immersion in Cambodia.


I had the great privilege of being selected as a participant of Cohort Three of the Mercy Emerging Leaders Fellowship.  This program is described as a ‘transformational experience for women who are passionate about advancing Mercy and Justice’.  The description also says that the ‘Fellowship program has been designed to stimulate creative and critical thinking, promote collaborative leadership and personal reflection leading to a compassionate and communal response to current concerns of our world’.


I am one of nine participants that come from Kenya, New Zealand, Argentina, the United Kingdom, the United States of America, Guyana and the Philippines.  I am the only Australian.


Denise Coghlan RSM with Mercy Emerging Leaders Fellows


I have recently returned from the first of three immersions where we all met for the first time in Cambodia over 10 days.  The base for our stay was the Metta Karuna Reflection Centre in Siem Reap, which is managed by Sister Denise Coghlan, a Sister of Mercy from the Brisbane congregation.



Denise has been in Cambodia for over 30 years working with refugees, people with disabilities and caring for the vulnerable. She gave us a foundation of Cambodian history and culture that provided us all with an opportunity to truly see the faces of the people of Cambodia and to hear the stories of their suffering and recovery from a violent past.



During our time there, we talked and interacted with survivors of landmines, a survivor of the Khmer Rouge, and saw first-hand how they have turned these atrocities into exuding kindness for others.



We had the privilege of meeting and working with local families who by western standards are struggling to live , yet they warmly opened their homes and hearts to us.



We saw great beauty in places such as Angkor Wat, but also in the faces of those we met at local markets.



As we learnt more about the hardships and atrocities that Cambodians have faced, we also saw their commitment, desire and tenacious need for true reconciliation so that they can build a stronger and brighter future for their country.



I heard their words of how they “need to move forward” and “put the past behind them” and what I saw was a community who were genuinely working together to look after their fellow Cambodians while maintaining their strong sense of faith.



So, while my fellow participants and I shed tears over the heartbreaking stories of hardship and suffering, we also shared their laughter, love and excitement over a brighter future.  A future that includes true reconciliation.

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