Tuesday, January 25, 2011
Wednesday, January 19, 2011
Tuesday, January 18, 2011
Monday, January 17, 2011
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
Saturday, January 15, 2011
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:
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
Thursday, January 13, 2011
Leela’s eyes were bright and energized as she looked around at our group. When she began to speak, her voice was melodious and she spoke softly:
When I was younger, maybe in the sixth standard (grade six), I became a very naughty girl. Even though I was small in size, I had no problem picking fights with kids who were much bigger than me. When given the opportunity, I successfully stole from shops around my school. When my mom was not looking, I even took money out of her handbag. In sum, I was a naughty girl.
Leela pointed to the next drawing on her paper and continued:
But now, I am different. Looking back from the vantage point of maturity and experience, I can see that there were many reasons for why I had become naughty. I think that I now understand the most fundamental reason for the decline in my behavior… the passing of my Grandfather.
My Grandfather was a great man; he was great inspiration to me. He cared for my family, our community, and this country. But even more so, he cared for me. Without him, I was lost. I did not know myself well enough to be something, to be someone - grief took over me. And I chose to be no one.
There was a pause. And then a group member wondered, “Well, you are quite a different person now than who you just described. What do you think brought about this transformation in you?”
Well, after a year, my mother wanted to make more money for me and my siblings. She left our home to work hard in America. I was the only girl in the house because my sister was attending a university – which meant that I was responsible for making meals for my brothers and for cleaning up. Of course, this gave me much more responsibility. I did not have time to wander at the shops near my school. I had no energy to fight with others because I was so tired by the end of the day.
On the whole though, in the absence of my mother, I became more grateful of what I did have, rather than what I had lost. I became mindful of the people I loved so dearly. I became mindful of how hard the people I loved worked. And through the increase in my own responsibilities, I became mindful that I, too, had the potential to be someone.
- - -
For Leela, this story is her motivation to be inovled in Youth Lead the Change. She later told our group that this personal narrative exercise helped remind her how fundamentally she believed in the values of this program. She is now more mindful of her motivation than ever.
In this personal narrative exercise, all the trainers, including Leela, were asked to draw the path of their lives. They made a terrain unique to their life by adding in, for example, houses and places for where they have lived and including people who are involved in important events. Some even divided up their path into chapters.
Then, we spent some time sharing our stories within our teaching groups. Having spent time building our team dynamics and safe space through previous activities, the honesty and openness of this acitvity was quite amazing.
Note: Stories are combined and summarized for the sake of brevity. Names are changed for the privacy of our trainers and youth.
A few photo highlights from the day:
This was especially true this Wednesday. Our discussions with the trainers led to us simplifying half of our student workbook and rethinking just about everything else. Half of the day’s lessons even had to be redesigned due to impromptu changes in the format of our leadership camp. But despite these hurdles, our third day ended up being a great success. We were really able to pull together as a team to figure out the best approach in the midst of new circumstances. And the insights that we received will be indispensable in making the approaching leadership camp very meaningful for Bhutan’s youth.
In addition to cultivating our ability to adapt, we are also learning enormous lessons in compassion and sincerity from our trainers. Probably the most striking thing about the brilliant group of young men and women with whom we are working is that they are a community. Even on day one, when many of them were not yet friends, they were destined to be a community. The thing is, each of them is strikingly compassionate, earnest, eager, and receptive in the way that they treat each other. Being in their presence inspires a sense of joy. It drives each person on our team to want to be a better leader and to strive to set a worthy example for them. It is inspiring to see how devoted our trainers are to the improvement of their country and the enrichment of themselves. There must be something embedded in Bhutanese culture that leads these young people to live so harmoniously and be sincerely invested in each other’s wellbeing.
A few photos from the day:
(Working late into the night; our average day goes from about 6 a.m. - 11 p.m. teaching and planning for the next day)
Wednesday, January 12, 2011
1) Trust: There is a huge element of trust here that is very tied to the country’s priority of Gross National Happiness (GNH). People trust that you will tell the truth and do the right thing. For example, they do not have stop-lights here but instead have round-abouts and trust that people will respect one another on the road. There is very little honking and people are very compassionate and trusting of others on the road. In addition, the prisons here are more like rehab clinics and allow in-mates to go home for holidays to be with their family. They trust that people will come back and they do.
2) Solitude: People seem very comfortable being alone and can sit and wait for hours, peacefully. For example, we went into a prayer room and the friend who took us there just stood outside and waited for us, though we were in there for over 45 minutes. She simply waited patiently outside at the door in the cold for us with no complaints.
3) Compassion & Serving Others: There is a great element of compassion and serving others here that we have not seen in many other places. For example, on our first night in Paro it was a rather cold night and our friend who was taking care of us at the hotel came in and put a heated hot water pad in each of our beds before we went to sleep. It was a small gesture that really meant a lot to us.
4) People of devout faith: We have been struck by the devout (primarily Buddhist) faith of the people here. It has led to a lot of conversation in our team about faith and what we each believe, as we all come from different religious backgrounds.
5) Intentionality & Mindfullness: Intentions are everything here. War is only okay if the intention is to protect oneself, but it is not acceptable if the purpose is to hurt others. There is much in this culture about mindfulness and taking control of the thoughts that fill your mind. As one friend here told us: “You cannot fully control anything in this world but what goes on between your two ears – your mind. No matter what happens in your life, no one can take your mind from you. Control your mind, don’t let it control you.” It has been powerful for us to be more mindful about our actions and intentions.
A few photo highlights below:
In the morning, we gave a formal presentation to members of YDF about our program and purpose in being here. Our presentation was followed by Madame Dorji-Om presenting YDF and a showing short video on their many programs for youth.
For the rest of the afternoon we then met with the 30 trainers that we will be training in the coming four days. We will be working to train-the-trainers before we all work together to teach our 60 students for the Youth Lead the Change Leadership Camp next week. It was amazing to finally meet the trainers in person and hear about who they are and why they are here.
We worked on setting our group norms for the coming 10 days, and also spent a while discussing what success would look like for our youth leadership program. It was powerful to work on these exercises together and come together on our goals for the program. We also played a number of fun icebreakers that we really great for getting to know one another better.
At the end of the day, we went around the room and each gave a reflection of the day. It was amazing to hear what people said and how excited everyone was for the program. Overall, it was a very positive first day and made us all very hopeful for the coming work ahead!
Tuesday, January 11, 2011
But when we climbed up Tiger's Nest, which is 500 meters above ground, we made the impossible possible. Although it was a steep climb that strained our muscles and lungs, we were able to make it all the way to the monastery - and all the way back down - and marvel at how far we had come, both literally and figuratively.
We wouldn’t have been able to make the impossible possible without each of us leading and guiding each other. It was amazing to see the different kinds of leadership at play as we climbed together. Some of us were pioneers, exploring the way through the difficult terrain for the rest of us and inspiring us with their initiative; some of us were mood-setters, keeping up team morale and setting the pace; some of us were healers, looking out for the needs of each other and how to address them; and some of us were guides, keeping us focused and on-track. The very best part was that each of us exhibited these different qualities at different times; we not only played to our strengths but tried to lead us each other in the best ways possible.
The trek also helped us grow stronger as a team, from our discussion on religion and spirituality that began in the car ride over to remarking on how far we came in our hike. We are more comfortable questioning and challenging ourselves and each other. We learned about our team on a much deeper level, and as a result, the bonds between us have become much stronger. It’s just one way being in a new country and a new society –even for such a short period of time--has transformed us.
Sunday, January 9, 2011
Today starts the first day of the training of the trainers. We will meeting with 30 teachers from across the country to begin prepping them for the camp so that they will be able to teach it to the children next week. As we continue to pursue our mission and goals, we wanted to share with you our vision so that you can begin to understand the purpose of our program. We will also soon be posting our incredible pictures from our hike to Tiger's Nest yesterday.
Here is our vision:
At the Leadership Institute at Harvard College, we believe that all worthwhile education is powerful. Its impact must always start at the student, but must never end there. When placed in the right hands, its effects proceed to reverberate across the intricate windings of society, picking up momentum along the way, and leaving individuals and communities forever altered.
As they find purpose in their communities and nurture their capacity to contribute to society by refining their leadership skills, students reach a new level of peace and happiness as their sense of self-worth soars to new heights. These students emerge from the program as confident leaders; this means that some of them will be at the forefront of movements within their communities and policy-making within the Kingdom of Bhutan. Formal service leadership training through Youth Lead the Change will leave students sincerely invested in the prosperity, wellbeing, and governance of Bhutanese citizens. Therefore, students will be devoted to achieving the four pillars of Gross National Happiness, and they will harness the lessons of our teachings for the development of their nation.
Saturday, January 8, 2011
Friday, January 7, 2011
A much needed nap...
After arriving in Frankfurt at 5:30 a.m., we had a five hour layover in the airport. We met up with two of our team members who flew on a seperate flight, leaving just one more who is already in India.
A recap of our expensive but nice stay in Germany:
Breakfast McGriddle from McDonalds...$8
A German Deck of Playing Cards...$23
Finally on our next leg of the trip to Kolkata...Priceless!
Next time you hear from us, we'll be in Bhutan!!
Wednesday, January 5, 2011
Our wonderful sponsors:
Jerry and Terry Averyt
Michele and Tim Breene
LIHC Challenge Innovation Grant
Susan and David Smith
Thanks again for all of your support. You are not only changing our lives but also the students and people of Bhutan who will be forever grateful for the opportunity that you have helped provide. We can't wait to share with each of you our experience in Bhutan.