Chu Wu was an American participant on the Journey of Understanding (our international programme) in November 2012. This is his story:
"The idea of me being a participant on the Journey of Understanding made me both extremely nervous and excited. I was prepared to learn about new cultures, and excited to meet people from all over the world. But at the same time, I was nervous to offend and nervous to open myself up to so many strangers. Encompass gave me an experience that I can deem as amazing and extremely rewarding.
As an out member of the LGBT community, I wanted to share this part of my identity with the group. I knew that opening up would allow me to comfortably speak about my sexual orientation, and possibly educate those around me. However, I was reluctant to come out, fearing the possibility of not being accepted. It was a couple of days into the program that I opened up to the group. That night, we did an activity in which participants crossed a piece of tape in the center of the room if they agreed with the statement. One statement struck close to home. "I have a friend or family member who is openly homosexual" was displayed. When we all found our places in the room, I did not expect so many members to be on the other side since homosexuality had been such a large part of my life.
That Tuesday night ended with controversial, yet imperative discussions. We were all taken out of our comfort zones, defending what we believed in. But these participants, some who once stood on the opposite side of the tape, are individuals who I can now call my brothers and sisters. That week, we opened up to one another, sharing our lives, hopes and dreams. The bond created among us is one that can't be compared to.
During the last moments of our time together, a participant told me that I had changed her previous perceptions of homosexuality. I couldn't help but burst into tears, as I started to believe that I actually could do something good for this world. Encompass provided me the opportunity to be inspired, but most importantly, I was able to inspire those around me. Encompass changed me more the better, allowing me to see that I am capable of creating change. I thank Encompass for giving me the drive and confidence that I possess today."