Train Leaders in Asia for Peace and Sustainability

by Sathirakoses Nagapradipa Foundation
Train Leaders in Asia for Peace and Sustainability
Train Leaders in Asia for Peace and Sustainability
Train Leaders in Asia for Peace and Sustainability
Train Leaders in Asia for Peace and Sustainability
Train Leaders in Asia for Peace and Sustainability
Train Leaders in Asia for Peace and Sustainability
Train Leaders in Asia for Peace and Sustainability
Train Leaders in Asia for Peace and Sustainability
Train Leaders in Asia for Peace and Sustainability
Train Leaders in Asia for Peace and Sustainability
Train Leaders in Asia for Peace and Sustainability
Train Leaders in Asia for Peace and Sustainability
Train Leaders in Asia for Peace and Sustainability
Train Leaders in Asia for Peace and Sustainability
Train Leaders in Asia for Peace and Sustainability
Train Leaders in Asia for Peace and Sustainability
Train Leaders in Asia for Peace and Sustainability
Train Leaders in Asia for Peace and Sustainability
Train Leaders in Asia for Peace and Sustainability
Train Leaders in Asia for Peace and Sustainability
Train Leaders in Asia for Peace and Sustainability
Train Leaders in Asia for Peace and Sustainability
Train Leaders in Asia for Peace and Sustainability
Train Leaders in Asia for Peace and Sustainability
Train Leaders in Asia for Peace and Sustainability
Train Leaders in Asia for Peace and Sustainability
Train Leaders in Asia for Peace and Sustainability
Train Leaders in Asia for Peace and Sustainability
Train Leaders in Asia for Peace and Sustainability
Train Leaders in Asia for Peace and Sustainability
Train Leaders in Asia for Peace and Sustainability
Train Leaders in Asia for Peace and Sustainability
Train Leaders in Asia for Peace and Sustainability
Train Leaders in Asia for Peace and Sustainability
Living Room Converted into Online Teaching Studio
Living Room Converted into Online Teaching Studio

Dear Friends,

Over the past three months we have continued our work on two key projects, the School of English for Engaged Social Service (SENS), which provides group classes in-person and online, and One-On-One Mentoring (3OM), which provides online tutoring to individuals or very small groups of students. Many, though not all, of our students are from groups that are facing some kind of existential risk. In the case of 3OM, we generally work with members of ethnic minorities around Asia who face discrimination and limitations on their speech and actions within their home country or region. In the SENS program we have been running a six-week course for students who bravely continue to do community support and humanitarian relief work inside of Myanmar or in the border areas with Thailand. They carry on this work under a brutal military regime that is widely known to hunt down, arrest, and sometimes murder Myanmar citizens who are engaged in work of this kind.

My primary work over the last few weeks has been to teach the six-week course for young Myanmar community leaders. It has been a moving yet also gratifying experience. It is moving because in many ways the students are like students everywhere, wanting to enjoy life, to learn, and to contribute constructively to their communities. Yet at the same time, they face genuine risks to their well-being and safety. Nearly every week at least one student shares that he or she has been forced by local circumstances to move to a safer area. Occasionally there is also news of a friend or colleague who was arrested or even killed. Arrest can be very serious under the current military, as individuals may be detained under harsh conditions for many years or even face capital punishment for engaging in community support. Such is the reality of life under the Myanmar military coup group, who hopes to terrify the Myanmar people into silence.

This group of Myanmar students from various ethnic groups has been fully engaged as we explore English; practices of listening, mutual support, and self-inquiry; the nature of the current world crisis; and life under the military coup. We have budgeted time so that I can meet with students individually to work on their writing projects, and this has been a wonderful way to get to know the students. Recently they all chose an image that they went on to describe in five lines and then in a final paragraph explain why the image is important to them. This was their first experience of preparing and giving a presentation in our online classroom. I learned so much about their lives and circumstances through their choices and their writing!

As for the 3OM project, in the recent period we have continued to accumulate expertise and experience in organizing it to run smoothly and to meet the needs of the students. For example, when two or three people who are already friends learn about our project and request tutoring, we put them in a class together if their English levels and interests are close enough. With three students in one class, each person still receives a great deal of individual attention, yet the class is enriched by the exchange of experiences and the diversity of questions and concerns that arise from a group of three people. Expanding classes in this way allows us to stretch our precious resources, while still conserving the security and intimate ambience of our one-on-one classes.

A final development that I am very pleased about is that we have been seeing more and more cross-fertilization between our different programs. Now, for example, one of our alumni from the SENS 2021 program, a Vietnamese student with excellent English who had started her own online tutoring program, has begun tutoring within the 3OM program. Another alumnus has been taking the concept of SENS and designing online and in-person courses in their home country. They have done so with great creativity, and they have continued to receive a warm and enthusiastic response from their students, who have rarely if ever had the chance to express themselves so freely or to learn with such unabashed enjoyment.

We will be inviting applications from young adults from around the region for our upcoming in-person SENS 2023 program that will begin January 22 and run through April 8 of next year. In addition to inviting young adults with a commitment to working for social and personal transformation, we will also invite 4 to 6 English teachers who will be able to a) benefit through improvements in their own English, and b) learn new and engaging ways of teaching language that they can apply in their home contexts. In this way we hope to make more widely available our approach to holistic, student-centered, socially conscious, and transformative learning through a focus on English, supporting students’ self-confidence and clarity of vision, and strengthening their leadership abilities.

Your donations have been an essential part of enabling this work. Thank you so much for your generosity in these anxiety-filled times. We are working on building durable and long-term connections of mutual support and ongoing learning with young adults from all over Asia as a way to meet the challenge of these times. While facing tremendous pressure to get ahead so as to ensure their personal or familial security and success, these young adults are choosing to support their communities, friends, ethnic groups, and national futures as an important part of fulfilling their own life goals.

Supporting young leaders takes time. So, when a tutor comes to me and asks if they can continue tutoring a particularly promising student, or gather enthusiastic students together for a focused course of a few weeks, your donations allow me to say “Yes” more often. Thank you for making this work possible! 

P.S. Under current conditions we are unable to share photos of our students. For this report I am sharing photos of my online teaching setup. Thank you for understanding!

Clarity of Sound & Image Helps Us Connect Online
Clarity of Sound & Image Helps Us Connect Online
Depiction of Our Global Crisis Shared Onscreen
Depiction of Our Global Crisis Shared Onscreen
Using the Whiteboard to Study Global Inequality
Using the Whiteboard to Study Global Inequality
Some English Phrases for Appreciating Others
Some English Phrases for Appreciating Others

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Work Retreat, Sharing Experiences as Well as Ideas
Work Retreat, Sharing Experiences as Well as Ideas

Dear Friends and Supporters,

At the end of 2021 we want to express our deep gratitude for your support of our work in these challenging times. Our work has consisted in creating educational spaces that are safe, personalized, characterized by the natural delight of learning together, and capable of cultivating compassionate leadership. We bring to our work a commitment to the universal dignity and value of all human beings, a focus on supporting those who have been excluded or oppressed, and the realization that genuine transformations toward free and humane societies require changes both within individuals and within larger social structures. We believe and have seen that out of these changes the desire and the ability to cooperate for a common future emerges naturally.

The heartland of our work is Thailand and Southeast Asia, but we also reach partners and ethnic or religious minorities throughout South and East Asia. Our primary institutional framework has been the School of English for Engaged Social Service (SENS) and the One-On-One Mentoring (3OM) programs, both under the Institute for Transformative Learning of the International Network of Engaged Buddhists (INEB Institute).

We want you to be aware that in 2022 our work will be making a shift towards supporting leadership of young adults from the many ethnicities of Myanmar. We are inspired by their determination to survive the current deadly violence, to make democracy and respect for human rights the norm, and to chart a path forward to a new social contract of inclusion and mutual respect. Our close partnership over several decades with various organizations in Myanmar (mostly Buddhist and Christian, but more recently also Muslim) means that we cannot ignore the trauma occurring in our neighboring country, or the huge increase in the populations of IDP (internally displaced persons) camps, or the growing numbers who are escaping across the border into Thailand for refuge. Most horrifying have been the deliberate targeting of civilians, the bombing of residences in towns and villages, and attacks on religious sanctuaries, including churches, mosques, and temples.

Reflection on these issues, and how to respond, have characterized the last few months of our work. We saw glimpses of the situation, and how we could help, during our SENS 2021 course. One Myanmar participant who had fled Myanmar in fear for her life wrote the following about having been a part of our program:

Most importantly, the program has been a safe space for all of us. The feeling of being in a safe place helped me to heal. In the early days of the class, I was deeply distressed by the traumatic events that I experienced since the coup. I was in shock, overwhelmed with fear and despair. Looking back myself from now to beginning days, the change in me is very obvious and clear. My inner strength has returned, and my thoughts become clear again. I will uphold these profound personal transformations to continue fighting for the freedom of my country, my people. I will be aware of my privilege and use it to benefit everyone. And I also promise myself to cultivate deeper compassion toward myself and the Earth and the Universe.

Our response to the new conditions that we experience on the ground now could be characterized as a “Focus on Myanmar.” Those new conditions are characterized by threats to physical well-being, violations of human rights, and attempts to shutter democracy and the voices of dissidents. All these conditions are heightened now in Myanmar, thus our shift in focus, yet they are present in various forms and in different degrees throughout the region. Furthermore, large-scale threats like the climate crisis will not disappear of their own accord, but will require united and concerted action. In this context, our work of building cross-border and cross-ethnic ties has never been more important. Thus, even with a Myanmar Focus, we will continue to work more broadly.

Specifically, we will continue to offer personal support, leadership training, and skill building in all the learning communities we foster and sustain. The skills we work to cultivate are listening effectively to each other as well as to survivors of trauma and others in need of help; heightened awareness of the sources of social oppression and ecological destruction; communication in English as a means of creating cross-border and cross-ethnic ties of support and cooperation and of speaking to the outside world; personal and freely chosen goal setting; and moving out of fear and timidity to take bold but thoughtful action.

The three women in the photo on our project page—all of whom I have had contact with recently—demonstrate the impacts of our work. All participants in SENS 2018, the woman on the left, from Laos, is now working for an organization that trains young adults to do COVID-19 preparedness and response training in the Lao countryside. The woman in the center, from the Karbi Anglong tribal lands in the far northeast of India, has worked with NGOs from Mumbai to create a three-month tour of her region that will allow participants to experience and understand the life of indigenous people within the complexities of also being citizens of India. The woman on the right, from Myanmar, is head of human resources for a large humanitarian organization that continues to provide on-the-ground relief in her country.

We are now working with a loose consortium of groups in Thailand who seek to provide support for the education and training of Myanmar civil society leaders both within and outside of Myanmar. One of our first programs under the SENS program in 2022 will likely be an online English and leadership program for members of Myanmar civil society organizations. Please stay tuned for updates and for changes to this project’s main page.

Meanwhile, we hope and pray that you and your loved ones will remain safe in the coming year, and that we will all find appropriate ways to contribute to the many hopeful initiatives occurring across the world.

Sincerely,

Ted Mayer

Academic Director of the INEB Institute

P.S. The photos we have shared contrast sharply with the troubling social and political situation in the region. Our team met on Samet Island for a very relaxing but also highly productive work and planning retreat in early December. This welcome and much needed work retreat was supported by funds from INEB, not by funds donated to this project. Thank you again for your support!

The 1st Morning Meeting of Our Winter Work Retreat
The 1st Morning Meeting of Our Winter Work Retreat
Even Our Thinking Was Fresher in the Open Air
Even Our Thinking Was Fresher in the Open Air
A Moment to Commune with the Earth and Each Other
A Moment to Commune with the Earth and Each Other
Posing with a Figure from a Famous Thai Folktale
Posing with a Figure from a Famous Thai Folktale

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Two Students Enjoying the Power Analysis Workshop
Two Students Enjoying the Power Analysis Workshop

Dear Friends,

I want to begin by expressing my deep gratitude to all of you who have contributed to our project on GlobalGiving. It is your contributions—whether occasional or monthly— that enabled us to organize and run a highly successful SENS 2021 course over the past few months under very difficult conditions. We were able to bring 9 students from Thailand, Myanmar, Vietnam, and a third country. This smaller-than-usual group proved to be highly engaged, responsive, and committed to forming strong ties of connection, solidarity, and mutual support. Your contributions also funded a strong work team including myself, Assistant Director/Co-Teacher (Nilanjana Premaratna), Logistics Coordinator (Topsi Rongrongmuang), and three Volunteer Tutors.

Despite all your generous contributions, we struggled this year with additional costs brought on by the need for quarantine, COVID tests, and extra medical insurance for those who entered the country. Thus it was all the more to our delight and surprise when we learned half-way through the course that our project and fellow projects on GlobalGiving under the Sathirakoses-Nagapradipa Foundation had been selected by GlobalGiving in collaboration with Airbnb to receive a donation to support our work! This completely changed the financial picture for us, and I want to express our profound thanks both to GlobalGiving and to Airbnb for this generous contribution to support our mission of cultivating leadership for sustainability in the Asian region. It reminds me too that due to its regular bonus days and to unexpected contributions such as this, GlobalGiving provides us with an enormous level of net support, even after the necessary administrative fees are deducted. I hope this will encourage you to continue your tax-deductible contributions through this platform.

What Remained the Same This Year?

SENS 2021 carried on our now six-year tradition of providing a 12-week experience of personalized support to our students. This experience allows the students to build their English skills at the same time that they grow in confidence and self-awareness and deepen their understanding of the challenges we now face globally at the wider social and ecological level. At the heart of the program are three keywords: play, connection, and integrity. Play emphasizes the fact that learning in the SENS program is designed to be enjoyable and engaging. While this learning is actually a form of work, it often feels to the students more like play. A big part of their enjoyment also comes from the close friendships that students form with participants from other countries. Connections formed in this way give our program a warmth and ease that can be difficult to find as we face pandemics, the climate crisis, and the many social divisions and inequities that characterize our societies. Precisely because they are at times challenging, these connections also becocme a deep source of learning as students strive to break through barriers that have been built up around every conceivable social and cultural difference. Integrity means that we respect the students’ own choices about how they will respond, while also making vivid the need to respond in some way that is thoughtful and constructive, and that reflects the self-chosen life goals of the student.

Running the SENS program provides a unique opportunity for participants to learn at many levels. Yet it is also a tremendous learning opportunity for the work team. We learn from our own unexpected reactions to people and to events within the course. We learn from the success or failure of what we try to accomplish in the classroom, or on a field excursion. This means that we are learning things that one might not be able to find in any text on pedagogy. I feel we are trying things in this program that put us at the cutting edge of language teaching, and that brings its own delightful rewards. Our approach of taking personal growth and social awareness as the focus of all our English language content allows for a depth that might otherwise be hard to find in a language program. We feel that we are not only preparing the students for their encounters with the international world through developing their English skills; we are also preparing them to live a meaningful life by providing useful information about where we stand now as a species, and by encouraging them to make their own informed decisions about what kind of life they would like to lead.

One area in which we face difficulties every year at the level of language teaching methodology, is how to help students undo habits of incorrect speech or language use with which they have become comfortable, in some cases over many years. We find, for example, that students often do not hear our subtle corrections, as we restate with correct pronunciation or grammar something they had said incorrectly. This forces us to find ways to call their attention to the form of their speech in surprising, enjoyable, and non-judgmental ways. Humor and lightness help, but are sometimes not enough. This year we found some success in sharing on the board a series of statements or questions that we had heard students use over the previous week. Students needed to rewrite these expressions so that they were grammatically correct. This is an old method, but we found it helpful not only as a learning tool but also as a diagnostic tool that could tell us who needed additional help. We also decided that in our next SENS course we would try to focus intensively but creatively on disrupting old but incorrect habits immediately in the first two weeks of the course, so that such habits would have little chance to survive or become more deeply rooted.

What Was Different This Year?

What was different this year was that we had a smaller group, and this allowed for greater personal attention and may have also contributed to the formation of a more cohesive group that often wanted to spend time together. This was lovely to see. This group was also deeply interested in playing—board games, in-class spelling games, badminton, and many other forms of play. I still do not know whether this orientation to play was a response to the restrictions of the pandemic, or an expression of their individual personalities. I suspect that both factors were at play. We accommodated their eagerness for play as best we could and were rewarded by a level of attention and engagement that is hard to find in groups of students. The students took our questions, activities, and challenges with great seriousness, and their doing so created a strong feeling for everyone of traveling on an authentic and shared learning journey in which outcomes were not predetermined.

This year was very different in that we could not take any field trips, aside from a few days of exploration in Chiang Mai following the excellent workshop on power analysis led by Ouyporn Khuankaew. The reason of course was the high risk posed by the growing pandemic in Thailand. The result of this constraint was that we made full use of the expertise of our work team and of our students as well. For example, Assistant Director Nilanjana Premaratna, who had exercised this role in the first and second years of SENS, often designed her afternoon classes in a way that resembled thematic workshops. In one such instance, students had to make decisions about how to develop their imaginary island nation. Logistics Coordinator Topsi led a workshop on how to organize and plan a non-violent action. Tutor Petra Carmen led a workshop helping students envision the creation of an eco-village, and the learning steps they would need to take to actually start or contribute to one. Student Wichai Juntavaro led a workshop on appreciating and relating respectfully with nature. We also invited outsiders to lead workshops that did not require the group’s travel. Toshi Doi led an in-person workshop on how citizens could affect the decisions of financial institutions that sometimes enable harmful development projects, and K. V. Soon led a workshop on digital literacy, joining us over Zoom. Melissa Storms, Assistant Director from the previous year, led two writing workshops on Zoom, and generously offered one-on-one guidance to students as well.

Finally, this year was different because it took place not only in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, but also in the shadow of the extraordinarily brutal and destructive military coup that took place in Myanmar. Our students’ harrowing stories of travel to Thailand, concerns for their families and colleagues, and the news from Myanmar formed a daily backdrop to our classes. One student suffered through seeing a family member paraded on TV by the Myanmar military, in a condition that made it clear he had been beaten while in detention. Such experiences led to a dawning realization that we were not only providing leadership and life training for budding leaders from various countries. In the case of Myanmar we were also providing a safe haven for them—a refuge within which they could live, work, and study in safety for a time.

We are especially grateful to you that your contributions made this possible.

Looking Ahead

The COVID-19 pandemic has not abated in Thailand, as of this writing. For this reason we have decided not to run our regular three-month course in 2022. We love this course and sincerely hope and expect to organize it again in 2023.

Meanwhile, in 2022, your contributions will be supporting our growing online work, and shorter in-person workshops and courses in Thailand when these are possible. Before the February 1, 2020 military coup in Myanmar, we had already been providing both in-person and online courses for our Myanmar friends and partners. From late October 2020 to the present, we have also been working with one ethnic group that faces constraints on their movement due to political repression at home. That work has enabled the development of a small but committed network of tutors who have been providing one-on-one mentoring to individuals from the group in question. We call this program 3OM (One-On-One Mentoring), which has become a new project within SENS. Of great significance for us is that through SENS and 3OM we have also begun training teachers of English in designing humane and student-centered pedagogies that support the critical and creative abilities of the students. This is of course significant because those teachers will help us expand our work to reach new populations.

We now want to expand that work yet again to include students from marginalized groups from across Asia. We would like to offer one-on-one mentoring and perhaps online classes to young leaders who are Dalits, or who identify as indigenous people, as well as to aspiring English teachers from other regions of Asia. We will keep you posted on these developments.

For now, thank you for reading this long report. Without you we could not be doing the work that we are doing. Thank you so much!

Sincerely,

Ted Mayer

Designer and Director of the SENS Programs

Studying Cards with Suggestions on Sustainability
Studying Cards with Suggestions on Sustainability
Sharing Personal Stories and Perspectives in Class
Sharing Personal Stories and Perspectives in Class
Asst. Dir. Nila Welcomes An Uninvited Participant
Asst. Dir. Nila Welcomes An Uninvited Participant
Exploring Wealth Inequality Using Cookies
Exploring Wealth Inequality Using Cookies
Women Reflect on Their Experience as Women
Women Reflect on Their Experience as Women

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The Very First SENS Cohort in 2016
The Very First SENS Cohort in 2016

Dear Friends and Supporters,

Recent events have made us more deeply aware than ever of how much we rely on all of our donors, including those of you who donate regularly or monthly through GlobalGiving. In this report, we will explain what we mean by these words, but first I would like to thank you from the bottom of my heart, as the designer and director of our SENS programs, for what you have made possible at this difficult time: based on the support we have received, our SENS 2021 program is now officially scheduled to run from May 2 – July 22, 2021!

Facing the Challenges of Running Our Program During the Pandemic Era

We all know how much the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way we do things. For schools, universities, and training programs, much of the work and interaction has had to move online. Parts of the world have already contained the pandemic to a very high degree; others still struggle tremendously. Here in Thailand, we are closer to the side of containment and mitigating damage. Thailand currently ranks 116th in the world in terms of number of overall cases. Although Thailand had one of the first known cases outside of China, Thai health authorities managed to contain the pandemic very quickly and effectively through public health measures and restrictions on travel. Illegal border crossings created Thailand’s first surge much later, although that, too, has been largely contained through heightened control of the border, active contact tracing and testing, and now also vaccination programs in areas that were at the heart of that surge.

The School of English for Engaged Social Service (SENS) is a program that relies heavily on face-to-face interactions in the classroom, as well as on field excursions that allow students to meet prominent Thai leaders. Although we have successfully run programs online, the three-month SENS program would quite simply not be the same if it had to be entirely virtual. For this reason, we postponed our SENS 2021 program from January to May of this year. Now, through extensive research, communication with overseas embassies, inquiries into the costs and conditions of quarantine and requirements for visas, we know that we can run our program safely in Thailand. To make this possible, we have shifted more of our scholarship monies to supporting Thais, who can attend relatively trouble-free. At the same time, we have pledged higher levels of support to those who will be arriving from overseas.

This year, the students who make the decision to attend from overseas are truly committed: they must not only arrange for a visa to enter Thailand and a flight ticket, but also reserve a quarantine hotel in Thailand, purchase medical insurance to cover their time in Thailand, get a COVID test within 72 hours of their departure, and likely face quarantine upon their return home. To make all of this easier for them, our Logistics Coordinator, Topsi, works very closely with each student to ensure that they understand the next steps and have all the necessary information. Furthermore, we pledge to support them financially for all costs that they themselves cannot cover. Here is where your support has played such a vital role. When a student says they have $500 USD and no more, we are able to cover all other costs thanks to the generosity of our donors. Often, this is what ultimately allows them to join us.

Is it worth it?

Yes—we feel strongly that it is. The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed many of the underlying crises that the world is experiencing now, including the increasing inequities of the world economic system, struggles for democracy in many places, and deepening stress on the planetary systems that have allowed humans and other species to flourish for hundreds of thousands of years. Whatever one may think of these crises, perhaps all can agree that the world needs kind, creative, and compassionate leaders from every group and community—leaders deeply aware of the challenges we face, leaders ready to respond thoughtfully to these challenges, leaders encouraged and supported to act, not only to fulfill their personal dreams, but also to work hand-in-hand with others to create solutions to the urgent needs of their communities and societies.

This is the kind of leader the SENS program is proud to cultivate.

Due to the military coup in Myanmar, we are not able to bring two wonderful community leaders we had selected, as they are currently unable to leave the country. We have welcomed them to attend our SENS 2022 program, which we expect to begin in January of next year. We will likely be able to bring students not only from Thailand but also from Vietnam and a third country as well to participate in SENS 2021.

We Just Organized Our First Ever All SENS Alumni Gathering

Our applicants from Vietnam are a testament to the growing strength of our alumni community. Our first-ever participant from Vietnam attended SENS in 2020. Upon her return to her homeland, she wrote such a glowing report about our program that we now have some 16 applications from Vietnamese young adults! We do not have the funds to bring all of them, and we need to maintain a balance of nationalities as well, even if we only have three countries represented. Still, the interest from Vietnam has been outstanding, and we hope to bring more of our Vietnamese friends in the coming years. Other alumni have likewise played key roles in spreading the word about the SENS program.

A second example of the strength of our alumni network is that our Assistant Director in 2020, Melissa Storms, organized a meeting of SENS 2020 alumni to talk about how to respond to the dire situation of our Myanmar brothers and sisters. This meeting led to the formation of the SENS Socially Engaged Action Network (SSEAN). This will be a means by which all SENS alumni can come together to discuss and take thoughtful action on issues that require humanitarian and other forms of constructive response.

Finally, on Sunday April 4th we held our very first All SENS Alumni Gathering, which brought together representatives of five years of SENS programs. These included teachers, students, tutors, and staff. This gathering was a chance for members of each cohort to get to know those from other cohorts, as well as to reunite with members of their own. We spent much time listening and sharing stories, both personal and those that reflected on developments and needs in our respective communities and societies. Many of the attendees were visibly moved by being able to meet with other members of the SENS community, both those they knew and those they had just met.

Once again, I would like to thank you for your generous and ongoing support, support that has allowed this group of budding leaders to continue to grow together and to have beneficial impacts on our world.

Sincerely,

Ted Mayer

Designer and Director of the SENS Programs

The 2017 SENS Cohort Visiting an Inspiring Leader
The 2017 SENS Cohort Visiting an Inspiring Leader
A Class Activity for SENS 2018 Led by Lucy Burriss
A Class Activity for SENS 2018 Led by Lucy Burriss
Tearful Goodbyes to a Beloved Tutor - SENS 2019
Tearful Goodbyes to a Beloved Tutor - SENS 2019
Members of SENS 2020 Sharing a Meal in Bangkok
Members of SENS 2020 Sharing a Meal in Bangkok
SENS 2020 Students Work on a Project Together
SENS 2020 Students Work on a Project Together

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New Publication with Chapters on the SENS Program
New Publication with Chapters on the SENS Program

Dear Friends and Supporters,

We remain deeply grateful for your interest in our programs during the COVID-19 pandemic, and for your ongoing financial and moral support. From July to early November we designed and printed our new brochure for SENS 2021 (link below), and began learning how to take our unique approach to teaching language, leadership, and life skills online. During this period, Director Ted Mayer also completed his role as associate editor of a new book just published in late October entitled, Civic Engagement in Asia: Lessons from Transformative Learning in the Quest for a Sustainable Future. This volume includes a chapter on SENS by Ted and two additional short chapters by alumni of the SENS program, one student and one tutor. Finally, we moved forward on the recruitment and fundraising for the SENS 2021 program.

New Online Programs

The School of English for Engaged Social Service (SENS) has been primarily defined by its annual three-month program that has taken place in the early months of the year for each of the last five years. Many of you may not know that we also began to offer courses on site in other countries roughly three years ago. In 2018, for example, the Kalyana Mitta Foundation (KMF) in Myanmar, a member and close partner of the International Network of Engaged Buddhists, invited Ted to run a three-week course at the KMF office in Yangon. Based on the success of this course, KMF and the Metta Development Foundation, also with its main office in Yangon, invited Ted to run a four-week course in Yangon in 2019. They invited staff of other Myanmar partner organizations to join. The first three weeks of this course were offered in “Office Format,” which meant that the staff of these Myanmar organizations would attend the English and leadership course led by Ted from 8:00 to 12:00 every weekday, then continue on with their regular work in the afternoon. The last week was run in “Retreat Format,” which took all students to Metta’s retreat center in Pago, where Ms. Cindy Stewart and Ms. Kham Lao Lyan joined as Assistant Teachers.

Various organizations hoped to run a similar course in Yangon this year, but the COVID-19 pandemic prevented that from happening. Instead, KMF invited Ted to teach a course series online. Ted proposed a pilot two-week online course for KMF to test out the idea first. This is because our teaching within SENS is normally highly interactive, with small group listening sessions as well as much physical movement and interaction within the classroom. We wanted to make sure we could run a similarly effective classroom online. From the end of June until mid-July, we offered 3-4 sessions in three separate courses: Basic English, Writing, and Co-Counseling. (Co-Counseling is the name we use for the listening and mutual support practice that we introduce in our various SENS classes.) These pilot courses gave Ted the time to practice new techniques that would allow these courses to work well. Our judgment, both from KMF and the SENS team, was that doing a full session would be worthwhile.

Based on the success of the pilot courses, KMF invited Ted to teach two courses—Writing and Basic English—for a period of five weeks. They also welcomed him to introduce the listening practices of Co-Counseling within these two courses, each of which would meet twice a week. We successfully ran this course from September 15th to October 17th. This experience helped us to see how much can be done within an online format. It gave us greater confidence in teaching online, and we look forward to doing such courses again, when they are appropriate.

Separately, a program initiated and supported by KMF within Myanmar, namely Education for Peace, invited Ted to teach an online introductory workshop in Co-Counseling in early September. The participants in this course were mostly recent graduates of teacher training programs offered by Departments of Education at Myanmar universities. These students have been through a series of trainings organized by KMF, helping them to rethink their role as teachers in broad terms that include reforming Myanmar education to be more student-centered, and helping to bring peace, sustainability, and self-reliance to Myanmar communities.

This workshop was held on two successive weekends on both Saturday and Sunday mornings, starting September 5th and ending September 13th. We found that the Zoom platform could allow for successful group sessions as well as periods during which students could exchange listening sessions in the privacy of breakout rooms. A number of students have continued to set up their own listening sessions following the course, and they have asked Ted to offer a follow-up to support their practice in early December.

A New Publication with Information and Reflections on the SENS Program

After sharing about our work in the SENS program under the umbrella of INEB and the Thai-registered Sathirakoses-Nagapradipa Foundation in various venues since 2016, Ted had the good fortune to be invited to attend a workshop in August of 2017 on civic engagement in Asia. The workshop, held in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, was organized by the Institute of Asian Studies at Chulalongkorn University and the Indonesian Consortium for Religious Studies. Entitled Civic Engagement for a Just and Sustainable ASEAN: Our Stories and Practices, the workshop gave rise to an edited collection of articles by grassroots innovators, social entrepreneurs, and policy advocates on the work they have been doing. Ted worked on this volume as an associate editor along with Helen Hanna and Jeffrey Luzar, supporting lead editor Mochamad Indrawan in completing the work. This volume has a more personal tone than many works on sustainable development, as the authors reflect on their own learning process as they carried out what were often novel ideas in support of transformative learning and broader civic engagement. We on the SENS team are honored to be included in this volume along with scholars and social pioneers from Japan, Thailand, Indonesia, Laos, Cambodia, and other parts of Asia.

The volume is entitled Civic Engagement in Asia: Lessons from Transformative Learning in the Quest for a Sustainable Future. The book includes one full-length chapter by Ted on what we have aimed for and learned in the SENS program, along with two shorter essays by one of our students and one of our tutors. The book was published in September 2020, and Ted was invited to be a member of a panel at the first online book launch discussion that was held on November 7th, 2020. We are very grateful for the support and learning that we have received by being part of this network of Asian public intellectuals and by participating in the book’s publication and release.

We Are Still Recruiting for SENS 2021, to Run from May 2 – July 8, 2021

We now have 16 applicants for our SENS 2021 course, and we are engaged in selection interviews, further recruitment, and the necessary fundraising. Due to remaining travel restrictions as a result of COVID-19, we have decided to begin the SENS 2021 program in May, rather than the original January to April dates. Beginning in May gives us greater confidence in being able to bring an international contingent, and allows us to put more time into our first major revision of the SENS curriculum. This year we will focus on cultivating leaders—especially women—to take the lead in working for climate justice. Please see our attached brochure to learn more about this program. We are still looking for students and for tutors for this course, and we appreciate any efforts you may make in spreading the word.

Thank you once again for your kind support of our programs. While many aspects of the contemporary world seem to lay heavily on our shoulders these days, we are confident that human beings can find the courage to look honestly at the situation we face, and devise solutions that can allow all beings to flourish. We continue to regard the SENS program as one such solution.

Thank you on behalf of the SENS Core Work Team, consisting of Topsi Rongrongmuang, Lucy Burris, Melissa Storms, and myself!

Sincerely,

Ted Mayer

Ted Participated in the Online Book Launch
Ted Participated in the Online Book Launch
A Screenshot from the Online Writing Class for KMF
A Screenshot from the Online Writing Class for KMF
Learning via Movement in the Basic English Course
Learning via Movement in the Basic English Course
Online Co-Counseling Workshop for Young Teachers
Online Co-Counseling Workshop for Young Teachers
Co-Counseling Workshop for Myanmar Teachers
Co-Counseling Workshop for Myanmar Teachers

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Sathirakoses Nagapradipa Foundation

Location: Bangkok - Thailand
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @inebuddhists
Project Leader:
Theodore Mayer
Bangkok, Bangkok Thailand
$15,945 raised of $50,580 goal
 
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