The only thing constant is change
Posted to: Linda Nowakowski (230) by Linda Nowakowski (230), Tue, 06 Nov 2007 16:51:00 PST
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Tags: buddhist-economics develpment-metrics participatory-development sufficiency-economy
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I have been talking with Christina about the work in Uganda at Opok Farms and we have pretty much come to agreement that we are going to put the breaks on the project for lots of complicated reasons. The main thing we are considering right now is that the peace process is concluding and the night commuter shelters are being closed down. The people are being encouraged to go back to their homesteads and resettle the war torn region. This has brought in millions and millions and millions of dollars of international aid. Everyone wants the money...all of it...and there is major corruption developing in the region to get that money with threats being made against people to attempt to intimidate them into not applying for the funds to increase the size of the prizes. There have been threats made that can and will be followed up on. Children are being kidnapped to demonstrate that an "organization" has poor children in need that would justify their receiving funding. I will probably still work on the Uganda project but it looks like it will be delayed a year because of this danger and I can not place the students I am working with in ANY danger like that.
Meanwhile I have a doctoral thesis to complete. What I want to do is build an indicator tool box for communities to be able to work with to interactively develop progress evaluation tools based on their own definitions of progress. This in terribly important in communities that we are working with that are developing on sufficiency models where there is not a large increase in the traditional economy (as measured by GDP) but there is a large increase in community well-being. These tools would measure well-being on a broader scale than per capita GDP and would consider spiritual growth which we think is mandatory in the development of the sufficiency economy philosophy. I will work with them to define what their goals are in their community and what they believe will define progress, success, happiness and well-being. At the end of the year we will administer the test again and see how the community has progressed toward their goals. The hope is that this will be designed to then provide the community leadership with feedback about what is working and what needs more attention for development of the program in the next year.
During the entire month of October, my students have worked on deep listening skills and loving speech. These tools enable a community to listen and consider other people's viewpoints and conditions in supportive and non-confrontational ways. I believe (and have some evidence) that these kinds of deep communities are valuable as they better enable groups to not only work on joint tasks such as economic development or learning but also provide group support and recognition of the need for personal (spiritual) development.
My students have also spent the month living together, building community and learning in an Asoke community and have some experience in some good income generation opportunities such as cooking for large groups, making organic fertilizer, making a number of different soap and skin care products, making soy products such as soy milk, soy yogurt, soy sauce, tofu, and tempe, making organic dyes, doing video and video and audio editing and some exposure to alternative medicine - herbal medicines, herbal foot baths and compresses used in Thai massage.
The four undergraduate students that I have are 3 students who will have completed their first year in the BBA program. 2 Of those have lived in Asoke communities at least 6 years each. The 4th student is completing her 2 year. All 4 of them are incredible people. They are compassionate, and hard working with integrity and strong moral fiber.
The other graduate student is Aj. Khwaundin who is the founder of the Sisa Asoke learn-by-doing school. The two Asoke students in my program are incredible examples of the power of this teaching method.
My students have learned how to doing participatory action research and how to do research interviewing. They have been taught how to journalize to document their work. Their communication skills are excellent in both Thai and English. I believe that they would be good teaching assistants and teachers if they understand the things they are being asked to teach. I believe that they can act as good role models for the students. They are willing to do what ever tasks are needed to be done.
I have been talking with Khun Vachara Sapsuwan of Bangkok who is trained as a doctor from Mahidol. For several years he has been working on a service project with a group of Burmese refugees (Karen hill tribe people) and a village monk in Tak Province to offer them health care and educational opportunities. He had consulted with me before this regarding establishing a village farm using the King's Sufficiency Economy Philosophy and instituting a learn by doing school. We believe that the research work Khwaundin and I would like to do will be a perfect fit for his project and that our undergraduate students would be able to speed the progress on his project. This will allow us to continue to build on the work these students have already done.
To this end, our plans look to be changing to taking the students to Tak province in March, April and May rather than to Uganda. Christina is still planning to come here to Thailand for the month of February and I am hoping that she will be able to stay a little way into March to be able to join us in Tak to see what we will be doing.
The Uganda part of my research is not canceled, just delayed. My current plan is that I would build the community evaluation tools in Thailand and test them here and then I would go to Uganda March, April, May of 2009. I am currently seeking alternative financing to bring a number of Ugandan's here to learn from Sufficiency Economy Philosophy communities during the coming year.
This has changed my study plans somewhat as it means I will need to speak passable to fluent Thai by March! I start formal Thai lessons this week.
OK...the semester has started and I am teaching Alternative Economics everyday and today is the dean's visit to the Faculty so I need to get moving.
Pray for me - for us.
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