Change is coming, and you can be part of it.

The Centre of Hand-on Actions and Networking for Growth and Environment (CHANGE) started life as the Vietnamese branch of 350.org. Part of a global grassroots climate change movement, they believe a safer climate and better future can be brought about through harnessing the power of ordinary people and holding our leaders accountable “to the realities of science and the principles of justice.”

In 2013 they were approached by WildAid, an NGO from the USA that works towards reducing demand for wildlife products. The American NGO wanted to enter Vietnam but had struggled to find a locally based partner that shared their vision and had a similar strategic direction. The new partnership brought much needed financial resources to CHANGE, and enabled WildAid to continue their work in Vietnam.

CHANGE’s goal is to bring about changes in behaviour at a community level. Nhi Thoi, CHANGE’s Program Development Manager explains in more detail. “Our strength lies in communications. We aim to address environmental problems through creative media activities and youth capacity building. We also act as a bridge between business, community and government in the formulation of policies and appropriate solutions to pressing environmental problems.”

To help achieve this they have enlisted the support key opinion leaders in Vietnam, including 100 celebrities, who are becoming increasingly concerned about the environment and want to speak out about it. “Our strength lies in numbers. People want to raise their voice but with others their voice becomes louder”, Nhi explains to me, “we create the communities that help them achieve this.”

Their latest project, ‘iChange’, puts these community building communication skills to good use. “We want to create a group of core members that will lead change in their local communities. This will be between 30 and 50 young people, passionate about the environment and making the changes they want to see happen. They will receive leadership training, learn how to build communities and get the most from them, and how to use technology to strengthen communications. We will then build our online community up to 5000 members.” Nhi tells me.

“We realise the restrictions on creating off-line action groups in Vietnam, but through creating communities online, we believe we can bring about real change at all levels of society.”

This ambitious project is the development of an initiative CHANGE lead in 2016. Called ‘Live Simple’, it challenged people to make manageable changes in their life over the period of a month, one change made per week. Weekly challenges included not buying any plastic, only using public transport, saving water or eating vegetarian. Participants were encouraged to take photos and share them on social media using hashtags.

“We believe that to bring about social change we must start with ourselves, that’s why we use an ‘I’ in our new project”, Nhi explains. “we just have one planet, one country to live in and we need to protect it. You have to be the change you want to see happen. Nobody will do it for you. Nobody will save your children, you have to do it yourself.”

Saigon SOS’s party on 18 February at Cafe Restaurant is in support of CHANGE.

www.changevn.orgwww.facebook.com/CHANGEvn.