We were driving in Edwin’s car with the media team from Korean TV MBC who was shooting a documentary about our Brain Education project in Centro Escolar Distrito Italia, where he is the principal, when he turned to me and said “you know, I have so many dreams. I imagine so many good things for the children, the school and the community”. Tell me about those dreams, I said. “One of the things I dream about is having a swimming pool in the school. I can picture the children in the water doing exercise, enjoying themselves and playing with each other. I really can visualize that and it makes me so happy. It would make everyone so happy. They don't have a space where they can play freely like that”.
When we finished the pilot Brain Education project in Distrito Italia, we agonized over how we can help them continue to practice the principles and theories of Brain Education until we can fundraise for a second phase of the program in this school and in 7 more schools in El Salvador’s capital. Our dream was and is to see peace truly created in that community.
But peace is no small dream. Everyone agrees on the value of peace theoretically, but what does it really mean to create lasting peace? Brain Education emphasizes that there is no peace without action. And not just any action, but action that has peace as its only purpose. We need the type of mind that can say at every moment “come what may, I keep putting one foot in front of the other towards harmony and peace within myself and in the world”.
To create this kind of mindset, first everybody has to agree on a goal. After our pilot experience in Distrito Italia, we realized we had heard about a goal that the whole community wants and can benefit from. Everyone wants the swimming pool! During the three months that we spent going daily to the school, we could discover among the kids that very rarely they have the opportunity to go out of their neighborhood or community or the school, and enjoy the nature or play with each other freely. They are always afraid of what might happen in the streets. Having a swimming pool in the school is something that would allow them to have a space for peaceful conviviality, a space where they feel free and safe and at the same time they can enjoy and refresh their bodies and minds. It would give them a motivation while diminishing their reasons to get into trouble.
So we decided to put the Brain Education theories into practice under this shared dream. That’s when we started to look for funds to support the construction of the swimming pool. With a shared goal, working together, we can go through the obstacles that divide us. We can overcome our limitations and unleash the best of our human nature to create true happiness and peace for ourselves and the community we’re working with. And you need a leader that can keep providing hope to everyone involved, someone who believes the goal can be achieved if we work together. Someone like Edwin, who has a sincere concern for the future of the children, school and community and is ready to endure any obstacles that come in the way of their dreams.
The swimming pool construction will start on May 1st. The only condition IBREA has given the community is that they all work together on the organization and the construction of the pool. Everyone, the school community, their families and friends will play a role, including people from different gang groups who are in rivalry. The goal of the project is to help create a real culture of peace in the community.
During the next few months, IBREA will keep monitoring the progress of this project and giving reinforcement education so that they remember why they are working on this together and provide them tools to overcome the stress, disputes and other obstacles they will find in the process.
Do you want to be a part of this beautiful opportunity? We have raised enough funds to get the project started but we need a lot of help to get it finished. Please make your contribution today!!!!
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In November, the IBREA team went to El Salvador to carry out a reinforcement training with the teachers and students in Distrito Italia. They passed their final exam and became officially certified by IBREA!
In 2012, we will continue the education in Distrito Italia, and we will expand to 7 more schools in the San Salvador area. All of the schools have been selected based on their socio-economic challenges and violence indicators.
We will continue with the work of evaluating the impact. The results will be presented to the United Nations (General Assembly) by the end of the year, to serve as pioneering experience for other countries in the Latin American region, Africa and Asia.
Thank you always for your help! Please keep giving and receiving!
The focus in this last month of the project was placed on life goals and motivation. The teachers and students went into deep meditation and breathing to discover what they really, really want. Once their vision was clear, we practiced the process of PDCA (Plan, Do, Check, Action) for them to continue with their own growth using all the Brain Education tools we have given them, and also teach the rest of the staff and students in the School. Some of the teachers already started using the methodologies in their classroom, observing the difference in their students’ attitude to learning and their level of focus. One of the students in our class has also started teaching little kids in her community. Every day, she finds a corner in the street and gathers 8-10 kids. She has really taken ownership; as she helps her community, her own energy and confidence is growing.
Last week we carried out the post-education research. The research will be published by the end of the year. Already through the raw data from the surveys and the focus groups conducted jointly by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Education, we could start to see scientific proof of the positive impact of the program on the groups’ health condition and energy level, capacity to manage stress, motivation and focus. Some evidence is an increase in the average academic achievement of the class we worked with from 6 to 8 (out of 10) and a reduction of their average absenteeism from 9 students per day to 4 students per day (out of 39).
We celebrated the success of the program in an Exhibition at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It included artwork by a renowned Korean artist, Jeseok Yi, reflecting what Brain Education is and does, as well as 50 photos of the project with explanatory text capturing the essence of Brain Education. People from Government, NGOs, Universities and private sector attended the exhibition. The Director, two teachers and a student of Distrito Italia all gave powerful testimonies of their experience. And a group of children sang a Korean song we had been practicing in class called “Arirang” (literally translated as “the joy of knowing myself”), expressing the core philosophy of Brain Education. They were accompanied by student violinists from the School itself.
In the last weeks, we have set the ground for our expansion to 8 more schools in 2012 in the San Salvador area, 4 in the center and 4 in the outskirts of the city. We will also continue reinforcement education in Distrito Italia. The first reinforcement workshop will take place in November this year.
We want to thank once again all of you for making this project possible. You can be proud of pioneering with a new culture, a new way, in this vulnerable community of Tonacatepeque, El Salvador. These three months of Brain Education have changed their lives and the lives of those around them. Please keep supporting the expansion of this opportunity to more children in El Salvador!
“My emotions are not me, they’re mine”. Through endurance exercises and group dynamics, this is what the children and teachers in Distrito Italia have learned during the second month of Brain Education.
The very difficult circumstances in Tonacatepeque generate high levels of stress. Stress can both improve and impair functioning of the brain. During the past 4 weeks, we have focused the education on stress and stress management for better brain functioning. By learning to identify their emotions and traumas of the past, teachers and students have started to accept them and move beyond them, increasing their focus and creativity.
Last week we did the mid-term exam. We measured strength, flexibility, endurance, attitude and focus, in body and brain. The rules were: either everyone passes or no one passes. They all passed! Another highlight of this month was a one-day outdoor training. Children and teachers shared a day together in nature focused on strengthening their trust in themselves and each other while connecting with the Earth.
The Director of the school has shared with us that the teachers are experiencing great improvements. “Manuel is more creative in the classroom (…), Rosibel has improved her interpersonal relationships with other colleagues as well as with the children (…), Oscar has much more motivation with his work”. As for the children, “95% of the children in the Brain Education class have changed a lot, they have a more positive attitude to school and to life and much more self-confidence. They are more relaxed and less violent” he explains.
We continue developing our plans for expansion to other schools in the country. In the last weeks, we held discussions with the Ministry of Education, UNDP and UNICEF, who all expressed interest. Stay tuned!
From all the teachers and children in Distrito Italia: MUCHAS GRACIAS A TODOS LOS DONANTES!!!
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