Tuesday, January 25, 2011

YDF Spotlight

This whole program was made possible by the great people and facilities at the Youth Development Fund. It is a beautiful facility complete with housing, classrooms, music rooms, and sports courts. They have a full time staff and work with hundreds of youths from across the country. If you are interested in sponsoring YDF or just want to learn more, please see their website: www.bhutanyouth.org.

Thank you again to YDF for all of the amazing support that you have given us.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

A Reflection by Karan, the founder of Saffron Education

There are a few times in your life when you feel you have done something truly meaningful - changed lives, touched someone, or actually made a difference to the world in a very small way. Today, thats how I feel.

I feel, great pride - Watching 6 undergraduate students, from Harvard between 18- 22 years old fly around the world and brave the cold, and eat spicy food, never complaining, always smiling and leading from the front has been inspirational. Reid's energy, Sheba's drive, Emily's quiet sense of confidence, Ujunwa's maturity, Akansha's smile and of course D's speeches, I think won all of Bhutan's hearts over.

But even more so,watching 20 Bhutanese volunteers dancing, singing, speaking and confidently leading has been truly moving for all of us facilitators. The number of times, I have been hugged, congratulated and cheered by people here has been incredible. Gross National Happiness is alive and well in Bhutan and truly the country is in safe and good hands with wonderful people set to lead it as it dances into the future.

Today, standing around the circle where people spoke about the highlight of the camp for them - I was truly moved by how many people spoke straight from the heart and the deep bonds that were developed over 10 days. The ocean of tears, where almost every person broke down and cried after speaking in many waves for me signified greater success then any of the words that were said.

I know many of us will be great leaders but after today am convinced that all of us have been inspired to be better human beings. Today, I realized that life is not really about achievement , applause or accomplishment but is simply about attitude, belief, passion and celebration - How a little will can go a long way.

Bhutan 2011 - Youth Lead the Change has been incredible - and I hope all the people involved will take some of this energy and spread it amongst their communities whereever in the world they may be.

Tashi Delek!

Karan Maheshwari

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Day 3: Vision, Mission, SMART Goals, and Timelines

Monday in photos:
Meeting with our sponsors from DHI (Druk Holdings and Investments, Inc.)
Students present timelines for their social change projects

Students playing the game "ichi mini hoi" in teams

Students gathering the attention of the large group

Students discussing the vision and mission of their social change projects

Monday, January 17, 2011

Ethnographic Local Wisdom Trip & Buddha Point

“To gain knowledge, one must study. To gain wisdom, one must observe.”

Today we had the opportunity to visit a small village on the skirts of Thimpu. We had a fantastic day conducting an ethnographic study: interviewing locals, churning butter, milking cows, boiling local rice wine, and crushing rice grains. We learned a lot of new things including how the villagers boil garlic to help cure indigestion and stomach pains. Preserving culture and tradition was also a theme we discussed throughout the day. After visiting the village, we took the bus to Buddha Point, one of the world's largest Buddha statues. Overall, it was a great learning experience.

A few photo highlights from the day:

Trainers discussing local wisdom with the villagers

Emily having fun with the local children

Visiting Buddha Point with “Youth Lead the Change” trainers
Chai and crackers before our ethnographic research in the village

The team on our walk through the rice fields to reach the village

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Meeting Her Majesty, the Queen Mother and Minister of Education

On Saturday, we had the great honor to meet Her Majesty, Ashi Tshering Pem Wangchuk, the Queen Mother of Bhutan. Her Majesty arrived at Nazhoen Pelri, the venue for our program in the afternoon. We welcomed her with song and dance and presented a Bhutanese dance to her, together with some of the young people we had trained (our dance was shown on national television later that evening). Clad in Bhutanese national dress (kira for the ladies and gho for the men), we told her about our program and our experience of Bhutan so far. She awarded us with certificates, which we accepted in the elaborate Bhutanese fashion fitting for a Queen. Indeed, we were inspired and encouraged by Her Majesty's warmth and support for our work.

Here are a few pictures from our meeting with Her Majesty:

The team with Her Majesty and members of the royal family.

Her Majesty with some of the trainers.

The team in gohs and kiras.

After meeting Her Majesty, we were invited for dinner by the Minister of Education, Lyonpo Thakur Powdyel, at his residence. We had an interesting three-hour conversation in which we discussed Bhutan's and USA's education system in their current and potential future states. We also discussed our program and its implications for Bhutan's young people. Beyond our program-related discussions we talked about our experiences and impressions of the country, his role as Minister, and about our own aspirations. We absolutely enjoyed the home-made meal, particularly the delicious kheer we had for dessert.

Here is a picture of the team with Lyonpo and his beautiful wife:

75+ students arrive for Youth Lead the Change!

Friday marked the first day of our "Youth Lead the Change" Leadership Camp. While we expected expected 60 students to attend the camp, over 75 students showed up and we had to turn away 20 more at the door, as we could not accept more with the number of staff and materials available.

The focus of the day was on understanding oneself as a leader. We were immensely impressed by the students who came to the camp, as well as the trainers who stood up and led the campers through the curriculum. We look forward to the days ahead!

Below are a few photo highlights from the day:

When we walked out of Nazhoen Pelri (the venue for our program) the night before our first day with the participants, we were met by a huge poster advertising our program and welcoming participants to the four days of training.

Many of the participants enjoyed group discussions and opened up to share their life experiences in them. At the end of the day, most participants appreciated how their life experiences so far had influenced their views on and approches to leadership.

Our day usually has two tea breaks where participants can meet new friends. On our first day with them, we (trainers) took the breaks as an opportunity to meet as many of the participants as possible.

This is part of the group of participants who had gathered to offer their definitions of leadership. They shared profound reflections on feedback. One that appealed to many was, "Leadership is not about making followers; it is about making new leaders".

Friday, January 14, 2011

Famous People in Bhutan!

Below are four photos of some of the important people that we will/have met thus far on our adventure:

Llama taught us an important lesson about Buddhism and the idea that it is not a religion but rather a lifestyle. It is possible to a Buddhist Christian or Buddhist Muslim as long as your intentions are right. We have meditation every morning in order to be mindful of ourselves. We are all Buddha and therefore in Bhutan, we all have the potential to be enlightened.

(Llama leading a morning meditation)

Below is one of the trainers leading our group in a lesson. The trainers have grown so much in the last three days and their confidence is amazing. As Harvard teachers, we have been able to sit back and let the students lead each other and it has been truly inspiring. These are important people because they represent the future of Bhutan and all of the many great qualities that it possesses.
(Rajesh leading the trainers in a teachback)

Outside of our hotel window, we can see Planet Gym. It is one of a very few gyms in Bhutan as weightlifting isn't a big part of their culture. Planet Gym is the home of many big time weightlifters. We have been very fortunate to have the opportunity to meet Mr. Bhutan, who has competed in international body building competitions. He is one of the first bodybuilders in Bhutan and is about to have a documentary written about him by a former Harvard student. He has taught us a lot about different ways to train the mind and body.

(Reid with Mr. Bhutan Olympia)

Her majesty, the Queen, is coming to watch us perform on Saturday. She is the President of YDF (Youth Development Fund) our sponsor program, and is a huge proponent of the youth. All of the Royal Family is very dearly loved here and are the most important people in Bhutan. We will be putting on a cultural show, mixing American and Bhutanese culture, as well as presenting on our program. We are extremely excited to have the honor to meet such an amazing woman.
(Ugyen, a trainer and famous singer in Bhutan, and Emily preparing "Stand by Me" which they will be singing for Her Majesty)

Tomorrow starts the first day of teaching the students and we are all extremely excited. The opportunity to meet the above people has really played a big role in effecting our understanding of the community.