SENS 2020 Group Photo
Dear Friends of the SENS Program,
This Quarterly Report covers the period from October 15th, 2019 to January 15th, 2020. During that time we engaged in a range of activities, from preparing our 5th annual SENS course to actually beginning the course in January. We are very pleased to report that with your generous gifts to our program through GlobalGiving, combined with assistance from others, we were able to fund 14 individuals from across Asia to join the SENS 2020 course. What did this require?
I. Selection Interviews
We are engaged in a process of cultivating leadership among young Asians so they are better equipped to help create harmonious local communities and to work to mitigate the effects of the global crises of inequality and climate breakdown. With this broad vision in mind, we think of them as world leaders. Indeed, with awareness of the real local and planetary issues, and a commitment to solve them, they may be leaders in a more genuine sense than many famous politicians.
To make the SENS course effective, we need to choose participants who are likely to carry on what they learn with us. They need to be open-minded, able to listen, and committed to working for the wider good (not only their own career or family). For this reason we take our selection procedure very seriously. We begin with student applications, then follow up when appropriate with a personal interview. That interview is carried out by the Director, Ted, and by the Assistant Director, Melissa. [Melissa is an experienced university lecturer in the areas of writing, rhetoric, literature, and the use of language to undo and respond creatively to oppression.]
Through interviews over many months, including during this period, we identified roughly 18-20 students who would be excellent candidates to study in SENS. In fact, interest in the SENS program has been growing, and we were forced to turn away a number of highly qualified students, with a sincere invitation for them to apply to SENS 2021.
The 14 students we were able to fund come from the following countries: India, China, Indonesia, Japan, Vietnam, Thailand, and Myanmar. This group includes students as well as young adults who work full-time. Nearly all of them are involved as volunteers or full-time workers who respond to the social issues that face their home countries and communities.
II. Biennial Conference or Our Sponsoring Network – the International Network of Engaged Buddhists (INEB)
In late October more than 200 individuals from around the world participated in INEB’s biennial conference that took place this year at the Deer Park Institute in Bir, India. This conference is important because it is a place for face-to-face meetings between individuals who are committed to understanding the contemporary world, and the place of spiritual or personal inquiry and social transformation in our time.
It is also the occasion for leadership meetings. In the conference and the leadership meetings, we have the chance to share what we are doing in the SENS program, to invite students and tutors, and to reaffirm the important place of SENS in the transformative programs of the INEB Institute for Transformative Learning.
Such connections have played an important role in allowing us to design and implement SENS programs in other countries around the Asian and ASEAN region.
III. Making it Possible for Students to Come
During the time that we are selecting students and also after completing this process, we become fully engaged in making it possible for those students to actually attend the course. Naturally this involves fundraising, but also working through the legalities of getting passports and visas.
We are delighted that with the help of the GlobalGiving platform as well as generous institutional and individual donors, we could support 14 students to attend our SENS 2020 program. We are deeply grateful for the ease of donation that GlobalGiving makes possible, which includes providing the documentation necessary for donors to receive tax deductions for their donations through GlobalGiving.
At the same time that we have increased confidence from the generous donations we’ve received, we see that we could do much more. If we had sufficient funds, we could easily have accepted four more students to attend. For this reason we will reinvigorate our efforts on the GlobalGiving platform, and think creatively about how we can make all of our fundraising more effective.
2. Documentation & Visas
Here we simply want to say that quite a number of our students come from marginalized communities who are sometimes seen in their home countries as second-class citizens. This means that many of our students need our advice and support to either obtain passports or to obtain the necessary visas to attend the SENS program. Our Logistics Coordinator Topsi Rongrongmuang is the one who expertly guides students from very different national backgrounds (and legal frameworks) to obtain the documentation necessary to bring the students.
IV. Opening Ceremony
Our Opening Ceremony took place on January 12th, 2020. The ceremony is a chance to bring together friends, supporters, and SENS alumni in the central Thai region to welcome new students and to offer an auspicious beginning to our three-month experience together. We are grateful to Dr. Pichai for offering opening remarks, and to Phra Maha Napan, a monk from the well-known Wat Saket and a graduate of SENS 2019, for attending and offering humorous and light-hearted encouragement to the SENS 2020 cohort. The students in the 2020 cohort also have the chance to speak publicly for the first time, saying who they are, where they come from, and what they hope to gain from the program.
V. Beginning the Program
The first days of our SENS program are designed to demonstrate to students that learning a language works well if it is done in a relaxed, enjoyable, and respectful environment. We demonstrate this by jumping immediately into activities that are accessible and fun for the students, and that help them to see quick improvement in their English skills. We also help the students remember their profound intelligence, and the value of the experiences they have accumulated over many years in their own local contexts. Even a highly educated resident of New York or Boston would be incapable of understanding the details of the local contexts that students have come to see and understand over many years. We assist the students in recognizing that their ability to communicate in English also allows them to share the wisdom and insights that they have acquired in their home communities. Furthermore, it allows them to share how difficulties manifest in those home communities, and to observe linkages with the stories of students from other parts of the world. This process in turn constitutes the very first steps in the formation of a worldwide network of young adults working to address and resolve common human problems, and to realize a kind of leadership and community that is based in compassion, nonviolence, and mutual understanding.
On behalf of the INEB Institute Work Team, I sincerely thank you for your continued support of the INEB Institute and its SENS 2020 Program. We are truly grateful to you all that your support is making it possible for us to run such an amazing SENS 2020 program.
The INEB Institute
Students During SENS 2020 Orientation
Academic Director Speaking at the Opening Ceremony
SENS 2020 Opening Ceremony
Students Performing a Sage Ritual
Students Listening on at a Lecture Session
Group Activity During SENS 2020 Program
Academic Director Ted Facilitating a Session
Asst. Director Melissa Overlooking a Group Session
Students During a Group Activity