Educational, powerful, inspiring… even life-changing. Those are just a few of the words that come to mind when I recount my experiences from the past two weeks. This summer I spent 16 days traveling across Southeast Asia with “Together We Can Change the World” (TWCCTW), splitting my time between special corporate events and unforgettable local villages.
The moment I sat down on my initial flight out of Las Vegas, I knew that something spectacular was waiting for me on the other side of the globe. What I didn’t expect, however, was just how much this experience would change me — as a performer, as a philanthropist, and as a person. It brings me so much joy to share these incredible experiences with you all!
Together We Can Change the World (And Did!)
“Together We Can Change the World,” more commonly referred to as TWCCTW, is a one-of-a-kind organization with the mission to empower and educate women and children in Southeast Asia. TWCCTW raises money to support non-governmental groups, like orphanages and schools, across Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Laos, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam.
The organization aims to establish sustainability within Southeast Asia, generate awareness for disadvantaged children and women, and of course, raise money for its multiple charitable causes. They strive to make the world a better place for those most vulnerable, particularly those suffering the effects of war, unrest, human trafficking, and extreme poverty.
TWCCTW was formed in 2008 by Scott Friedman, CSP and past president of the National Speakers Association (NSA), alongside Jana Stanfield, CSP and a group of dedicated professionals who share the mission of empowering and educating less fortunate children and women. Together, Scott and Jana arrange TWCCTW tours throughout Southeast Asia to benefit the organization.
Twice a year, the pair coordinate a group of 10 to 15 keynote speakers who each raise $1,500, as well as donate their time and talent, to present to and visit various TWCCTW causes in the region. Each professional entertainer pays for their own airfare and accommodations, delivers keynotes to raise additional funds, and does charitable events.
This year was the first tour post-COVID, and rather than the normal 10 to 15 speakers, there were just eight — and I was one of them! As a fellow keynote speaker and philanthropist, Scott is someone I’ve known and respected for many years. Scott is extremely respected for his work on stage and off, and is a past President of the National Speakers Association (NSA) of which I am a professional member. So when the opportunity to join TWCCTW for this summer tour arose, I was ALL IN! This trip was a long time coming, and it was beyond worth it.
Four Unforgettable Destinations to Spread Joy
While I’ve certainly had more keynote speaker gigs this year than ever before, I facilitated more of a professional emcee and entertainer role for my time with TWCCTW. Fun fact, the organization has never had a professional entertainer on the trip (in addition to the great Jana Stanfield of course with her magical musical moments) who could perform shows across schools and homes; I was the first! I’d like to think this differentiator made the tour extra special this year (at least for me!).
My unique blend of entertainment includes a variety of clean comedy and physical humor that’s perfectly suited to both children and adults, so the opportunities to perform were endless. It was a great way to break the ice! Even with the language barrier, this trip was a testament to the universal power of laughter.
Take a look at the four unforgettable locations we had the pleasure of visiting!
First, Singapore to Benefit Daughters of Tomorrow
I started the first leg of my Southeast Asia tour in Singapore where I headed to Marina Bay Sands, an incredible hotel located in the southern region of the country. Coming from Vegas, you know that my eyes totally popped when I saw the world’s largest infinity pool! But, there was a lot more in store.
To kick-off the trip, I performed for She Brilliance, a community of successful women mentors and mentees, to benefit Daughters of Tomorrow, an organization that helps women in Singapore gain employment. The audience was absolutely amazing! They were so kind, warm, and welcoming — the kind of audience you always wish to have!
I have to give a shout out to Kim Underhill, for setting up a show I will never forget. And thank you to fellow TWCCTW speakers, Merit Kahn, Jonathan Low, and Cyriel Kortleven, for coming to the event to support me! After my full show, I conducted a Q&A and we did a meet-and-greet. It couldn’t have been a better experience to set the perfect tone for the trip!
“Thank you, Jeff, for taking the time to perform for the She Brilliance Community at Marina Bay Sands on the 18th of July. There was never a dull moment as you demonstrated your skills effortlessly. Your energy was contagious, and your passion was inspiring.
Your life story sparked so much interest listening to how you started on your journey at just 11 years young to performing on the Las Vegas strip for over ten years. Not to mention founding ‘Win-Win Entertainment’ – bringing entertainment to those in need! It was great to laugh, connect and enjoy a live show after so many years.
Thank you for making it so unique! Hubba, Hubba!”
— Kate Sibbett, Co-Founder at She Brilliance
Next, Malaysia for the Malaysian Leadership Summit
After wrapping up our time with the wonderful She Brilliance and Daughters of Tomorrow, we headed to Kuala Lumpur, the largest city in Malaysia. There, I served as the professional emcee for the Malaysian Leadership Summit, ‘The Future of Work: Innovate, Influence, Inspire.” The event was organized by Leadernomics, a global social enterprise, in partnership with TWCCTW.
Having Jeff Civillico as a professional emcee to host our event took our Malaysia Leadership Summit (MLS) to the next level! He kept our attendees engaged and entertained all day from 8am to 6pm. I highly recommend Jeff for any event and summit. His energy levels and humor is infectious and uplifting. Thanks Jeff. You made a difference!
— Roshan Thiran, Founder & CEO of Leadernomics
I had a phenomenal time with the Leadership Summit group, and 100% of the proceeds raised were donated to various community initiatives, NGOs, and social causes in Southeast Asia. The next morning, we visited the Malaysian Social Research Institute (MSRI) refugee school in Kuala Lumpur. It was a full day of classroom visits, lunch with the teachers, and bowling!
Of course, I had to perform a show for the young students… how could I not?! The kiddos were so joyful, despite being in such challenging situations. Looking out into the sea of their little, smiling faces truly made my heart so happy. I would have performed for them all day if I could! Even the simplest tricks made them all squeal with excitement. The best audience ever!
That night, the TWCCTW team split up for individual dinners in the homes of refugee families. I had the great pleasure of spending time with two Pakistani refugees, a father and his 16-year-old son, Farhan. They were beyond gracious with me and shared their story of being in limbo in Malaysia for more than 10 years while waiting for resettlement in another country.
With limited access to schools, healthcare, and even usable roads in the area, this night’s visit really drove home why “Together We Can Change the World” focuses on refugee-specific resources in Southeast Asia. Fortunately, Farhan and I still had lots of fun together, eating, laughing, and of course, juggling! Farhan, you were an absolute natural, bravo and thank you!
Then, Cambodia to Read at Anjali House
I found my heart so full when leaving Malaysia, especially after my time with Farhan and his father. Little did I know, I would continue finding joy among the beautiful people of Cambodia! We traveled to Siem Reap, a northwestern town that’s home to intricate stone buildings and friendly locals. First, we visited Anjali House, a locally-run Cambodian NGO.
Anjali House supports vulnerable children through education, scholarships, and community engagement. Through TWCCTW, I was able to perform for the kiddos, who went absolutely bananas when I balanced a table on my chin! I also got to sit in on some of their classes, like environmental sustainability and yoga, and play soccer with them during recess.
After a rousing 1-0 loss (there were 11 kids versus 3 adults, in our defense), we visited the Svay Check Primary School in a rural village outside of Siem Reap. Here I witnessed a stark level of poverty but found one of the highlights of my entire trip while reading to a classroom of kids. Many of the books were in both Khmer and English, so we could read to each other.
These children were so loving and kind — and boy, did they love my animal sounds! I truly enjoyed just being around such wonderful people. Once we left the village, the TWCCTW crew and I explored the local area a bit, too. During our free time, we went on an incredible Angkor Wat temple tour, adventured on some ATVs, and went bike riding. Beautiful sights all around!
And I can’t forget our team dinner with the girls from Life and Hope Association (LHA), another organization TWCCTW supports. LHA is a non-profit, non-governmental, education-focused organization established in 2005 by the monks of Wat Damnak in Siem Reap. I watched Jana transform a room full of shy girls into a room full of happy, confident girls clapping and singing along — and I even hopped on the box drum!
Jana Stanfield is a saint! She has a gift for bringing people together, empowering youth and building authentic connection 🙂
Finally, Thailand to Visit the Fatima Self Help Center
My last stop on this incredible journey through Southeast Asia was Thailand. I performed my final show in Bangkok, for children at the Fatima Self Help Center, run by Sister Louise Horgan and the Good Shepherd Sisters of Thailand. Sister Louise has been working there since 1965 (!!!) and was an absolute delight to meet and spend time with for the day.
The spinning plates trick is always in my back pocket as a professional all-ages entertainer, mainly because I know the kids love it. With the language barrier between myself and the children at the Fatima Self Help Center, I relied heavily on visuals and interaction. Fortunately, I was able to bring a few children on stage and show them the basics of the trick!
Perhaps my favorite part of this visit, though, was the infamous apple trick. If you’ve ever been to one of my virtual events, you’ve probably watched me juggle and eat apples before… but I don’t think any of these kids had ever seen anything quite like it! They helped me countdown from 10 in Thai — and I could not have asked for better participants!
Reflections from My Time in Southeast Asia
Where do I even begin with my thoughts on this trip? It was beyond anything I could have ever imagined. I felt so present in each and every moment; so much so, that it would genuinely shock me when I’d find myself tearing up at the dinner table or traveling to our next destination the day after a meaningful experience. Emotionally overwhelming to say the least!
I was incredibly inspired and blown away by Scott and Jana every step of the way. I was brought on board to bring joy, but I felt like I gained way more from it — I was so much more energized! As with my work with Win-Win Entertainment, I love to bring smiles to those who really need them. These past two weeks showed me just how much some people really need them.
Scott and Jana have been working towards their mission for more than 20 years, and the issues they’re battling are incredibly complex. From fighting political systems and corruption to breaking down language and cultural barriers, the work they put in every day is truly inspiring. Though I feel my work with Win-Win is equally as important in its own way, this trip made me realize how few barriers I have to building out the Win-Win network and bringing joy to children in hospitals – as compared to the many complex barriers TWCCTW faces. I’m even more pumped to make it happen now with Win-Win Charity! Let’s GO!
I returned from my trip on Sunday, two days before I started up a week of shows at Excalibur. I wish I could have stayed and performed in a few more countries! I realized just how much I missed international travel, which I used to do a ton of pre-covid. This experience with TWCCTW reminded me what a gift international travel is, and what a joy it is to perform for those in need, and to connect with kids and adults in other cultures through the power of laughter.
How to Maintain Momentum for Charitable Initiatives
Each speaker on this year’s tour raised $1,500 in advance for Together We Can Change the World. The organization proudly supports Anjali House, where I was able to perform and play soccer with local children, the Malaysian Social Research Institute, and other Southeast Asian causes. I was able to see firsthand where our money went and meet the people directly impacted.
I also learned just how far the money we raise can go, particularly in countries like Cambodia. For reference, one of the projects we embarked on while abroad was to buy a house for a family in need. The cost of the house? $2,000. TWCCTW donation go a long way toward adding books to a mobile library, creating computer labs at a refugee school, and building wells to bring clean water to a village.
And you can help maintain the momentum!
A donation of $50 provides school books for five children. A $100 donation provides 10 children with backpacks, and $250 enrolls a girl in school for six months. Just think of all we can accomplish! You can make a donation here through my TWCCTW link, or learn more about how to donate a well or fund a scholarship. The opportunities are endless!
Thank You for Following My Journey!
As I finish recounting this trip — replaying the fond memories and reliving all of the incredible sights — I cannot sign off without saying thank you. Thank you endlessly to Scott and Jana for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Thank you to every one of my clients, whose support makes it possible for me to fundraise for such a phenomenal cause.
Most importantly, thank YOU! Dear reader, thank you for tagging along for these unforgettable two weeks. Words cannot express how truly grateful I feel, and I am so happy to have an outlet to share these amazing experiences with you. I cannot wait for another philanthropic opportunity such as this one. Follow along on Instagram to learn where I’ll head to next!
Any suggestions for me? 🙂