Caux Scholars Program at Asia Plateau 20167-2018

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Curious what our scholars have to say about their time at CSP-AP?  Read more on our inspiring participant stories. We celebrate the lives and achievements of our scholars and want their stories to be heard by sharing their testimonials with you.

This is what they had to say...

Keshab Dahal from Nepal

Keshab during a field visitI am Keshab Dahal from Kathmandu, Nepal. I have completed my Masters degree in Conflict, Peace and Development Studies jointly from Tribhuvan University Nepal and University of Ruhuna, Sri Lanka in 2012. I also hold a Masters of Philosophy degree from the Arctic University of Norway in Peace and Conflict Transformation in 2016. Even though I have been studying and working in the field of peacebuilding for the past 7 years, my participation in the Caux Scholars Program-Asia Plateau (CSP-AP)   was a realization on how little I understand about the issues around me and the world. The program not only made me question my preconceived notions and beliefs regarding the various dynamics of society in multifarious ways, but also pushed me to explore the purpose of my life.  

CSP-AP was a radical experiment-based learning experience. The program helped me to realize that I have lived much of my life in comparison and competition while interpreting the works of others. The morning quiet time during the program provided me a safe space to look within and examine my life. I apologized to my sister for the money I had stolen from her and received forgiveness, this was a result of action inspired from these morning reflections. Being in India, I also dealt with my deep rooted anti-Indian sentiment, and made peace with my Indian friends. I also understood that to live in the world and be intolerant of others' race, religion, nationality is like being born as an Eskimo and having an aversion to snow.

In many reflective sessions, that I participated in during the program, I realized the fact that there are many problems in the world due to the division created among us by various situations. Since we all are part of it, it is our collective responsibility to resolve them in our own small or big ways. While staying in Asia Plateau during its 50th anniversary, I interacted with many seniors from various cultures and nationalities who have been working life long for IofC. I have been deeply inspired by the passion and dedication of the seniors and young volunteers to bring about a positive change in the society in their own ways from scratch. Their lifelong commitments to build a caring world left me with great insight towards the purpose of my life. I also felt that one of the ways to resolve existing social problems is by sharing the vision of the society that I have developed with my own practice. 

Inspired by CSP-AP,  I canceled my trip to Goa and joined a group of IofC volunteer friends to give a year of selfless service to contribute towards higher purpose.  As a result, in the last three months, I have reached out to some 4000 individuals of diverse cultures across India where I have shared my struggles as a youth and my journey of personal transformation. This exploration has enhanced my understanding about the various lifestyles, faiths and living situations of people in various states of East and Northeast India. In this journey, I shared my experience of listening to my inner voice that has been leading me to a greater purpose and responsibility towards the society and the world. The group discussions, role plays, the rich experience and insights from the course leaders during CSP-AP has inspired me to contribute towards the positive change in Nepal. Currently, I am travelling with the IofC outreach team in Nepal and sharing my experience in various communities and institutions. You may follow our journey on Facebook.

CSP-AP has enriched my understanding about the culture for social change and introduced me to the relational path and the fellowships with the community of practitioners. The program has sowed in me three insights; the power of personal change, caring for the change in individual and dedicate my life for the care of others

Overall, in the past three months, I had a deep realization that to be able to heal the wound of others, first I need to heal myself.  Listening to my inner voice and writing down my thoughts and reflecting over them and sharing it with groups has further strengthened the process of realization.



Dailash Lagat from Kenya

Dailash (on the left) with her classmate AngelaMy name is Dailash Lagat, and I'm a 25 year old enthusiast of life and the learning experiences it so aptly provides. My interests range from environmental conservation, education, social entrepreneurship to dancing, yoga, holistic living and growing as a young leader. Currently, I am a co-founder of two social enterprises; Evamor Africa and Book Club KE, all based in Kenya. Evamor Africa is an environmental conservation firm working towards increasing awareness and implementation of problem solving initiatives based on issues related to the use (and often misuse) of natural resources in Kenya and around Africa. While Book Club Ke is a community of literature enthusiasts of varied social and economic backgrounds, of different age groups, who share an interest in reading as well as sharing their light with the rest of the country through collective efforts to improve literacy, apathy, empathy and critical thinking skills by organizing donation drives to stock and build libraries in the country.

My experience at the Caux Scholars Program-Asia Plateau has made an impact in my life, starting from the way I view myself, my friends and family to the ways in which I exercise leadership in the impact making organizations I am a part of. The stay at Asia Plateau provided a serene environment to learn, both inter and interpersonal skills. By being around different persons from all around the world who are all working towards the common goal of peace, leadership and conflict resolution, I was able to view perspectives from twenty one walks of life, more than fifteen speakers, seven wonderful facilitators, three helpful volunteers, a whole center filled with delegates from around the world and one village that welcomed us as one of their own.

After the training program, I have become more trusting of the guidance that comes from deep within, put into practice the peace building and negotiation skills during my interaction with the communities I manage, as well as with my own family members. The teachings given through the program has further encouraged me to be able to give love and compassion unto myself, so as to be able to pour continuously into the cups of those around me. Interacting with the different scholars cultivated a deep sense of empathy within me, an understanding that we all go through the same struggles, and all that we require is peace, love and understanding.

If asked whether I would want to repeat the experience all over again, I'd grab my bag and head back to Asia Plateau with the knowledge that the Caux Scholars Program- Asia Plateau would yet again fill my cup with reasons to be grateful, a renewal of the fire to change the world for the better, great food, laughter, a sense of community with friends who become family from around the world and most importantly, an inspiration to become a better leader and agent of peace.



Lorena Mier y Terán from Mexico

Lorena Mier y TeránMy name is Lorena Mier y Terán from Mexico. I'm finishing my final year of Bachelor in Business Administration. I learned about IofC the first time by applying and being invited to participate in the Caux Peace and Leadership Program in Switzerland in summer 2017. Since I went to Caux, I got excited to be involved with IofC and its projects. I loved the perspective on peacebuilding, leadership, and talking about human needs, knowing that we can find different solutions with cooperation. Next, I had an opportunity to participate in the Caux Scholars Program - Asia Plateau (CSP-AP) in December 2017.

It was a challenging and intense program, where we addressed strong issues such as trauma healing, restorative justice, conflict resolution, sustainable development, leadership, change management, but where we also shared global and personal struggles such as harassment, culture, politics, disabilities, traditions and our stories. It is very different to see what is happening in other parts of the world by having people from other countries explaining what THEY are living rather than reading the news, it changes everything, it makes you more sensitive, more human, andsometimes we find each other living the same thing, even though we live on the other side of the world.

It was a great opportunity for me to increase the knowledge and abilities that I am willing to pursue. The program motivated me to work on myself, in all the activities, classes and also in the quiet times. I was encouraged to create a change in me so that I can change the world,to increase interest and awareness about each person. The diversity of the scholars makes each moment enriching and unique. In a short period of time, we became a group filled with confidence in which I will always feel supported. We had the opportunity to go on a field trip in a remote town, where we could not communicate due to the language barrier. However it was an incredible experience to spend two days with this community that showed us their water conservation strategies and allowed us to help them build a well. We were grateful for how they welcomed us with all the love and warmness.

Here in Mexico, I am active in different groups where I provide leadership and peacebuilding training to young people. The Caux Program-Asia Plateau increased my potential due to the tools and skills they taught me. In the past few months, I have been using and sharing the knowledge and skills, especially in how I work directly with people. The information and experiences we shared during the program increased my sensitivity and interest for others.Since leaving CSP-AP, I took a position coordinating programs that Michigan State University has in my hometown, and one of them is in an osteopathic consulting room. The osteopathic clinic focuses on recovery of muscles, bones and nerves, but treats the human body as a whole. Clinicians stress that everything in the human body is related, pain has a cause, and that there is a past that our body does not forget. CSP-AP prepared me to understand the relationship between our body and our emotions during trauma healing sessions. We discussed the importance of listening and supporting people through their pain and the ways that these actions can help people heal rather than getting stuck in their problem. The human body cries out to heal from past traumas yet much depends on the attitude and willingness of the individual. The experience of having shared time with people from different countries, cultures and religions, enriched my perspective and increased my desire to know and love people who are different from me. I have a renewed desire to recognize the value of each individual and their story. Feeling like you have been seen and appreciated for who you are is an essential step to healing.

This program is life changing. I am thankful to all the people that made this possible. I now see that the beginning of change has to start with me. I will be forever grateful to my incredible family integrated by teachers, coordinators, team and scholars.



Sheila Bira from Uganda

Sheila BiraI'm Sheila Bira, an agripreneur from Uganda. My academic background is in communication, human resource management and procurement. I'm presently pursuing a Masters in Peace and Conflict studies, which I embarked upon after the Caux Scholars Program-Asia Plateau (CSP-AP).

A few days before leaving for Asia Plateau (AP), I resigned my job with the NGO I was working for in search of a more meaningful purpose to life. I was earning a reasonable wage, had good working conditions and benefits, and I liked my job - but I did not feel that I was playing my part in this big game called life. I believed that there was obviously more to life than the one I was living! While I had been exposed to the philosophy of Initiatives of Change through Creators of Peace Uganda, I was not fully engaged in any activities because these concepts seemed rather abstract to me. I wondered how anyone could live by the four absolutes of love, honesty, purity and selflessness. And for me peace meant the absence of war and conflict - I would later learn that this was not so.

The environment at AP was very conducive for learning and served me well for my reflection times. Our facilitators Dr. Xavier and Dr. Florina were amazing and delivered beyond my expectations. The program is experiential and this allows scholars from multicultural backgrounds to find amicable and lasting solutions to the challenges they face. One of the activities we engaged in was a role play.  Scholars were randomly assigned roles and had to work toward a common good even with their differences in cultures and how they respond to conflict.

The role play enabled me to reflect on and appreciate the causes of conflict from different angles. I took on three different roles during this activity, and this opened up my mind to how different each of the roles I took on responded to conflict. I remember one particular incident - I had to convince angry elders about the viability of the construction of the dam in their village. This seemed an uphill task because the village elders came to the meeting with their preconceived ideas and trying to buy them onto my side was not easy. During my reflection time, I was drawn to the reality of the causes of conflict and how easy it is to ignorantly engage in a blame game.

During the 'Conflict Where I Come From' presentations, I became aware that the causes of conflicts faced by the fourteen different nationalities at Asia Plateau were the same, only presenting themselves in different forms. Most importantly, this exercise challenged me to ask and find answers to the conflicts in my areas of influence. While it was easy to analyze the conflict between the Bakonza and Bamba from an outsider's view point, the challenging and turning point was after listening to these presentations, I asked myself these questions: (a) had I in any way contributed to the conflict between the two tribes?, (b) did I have any underlying attitudes and conceptions about the Bamba that affected the way I viewed them?, and (c) could I honestly say I could objectively analyze the conflict between the two tribes?

I found these questions rather difficult to answer, and yet very crucial if I was to move forward with my calling in life.

The quiet time every morning allowed me to seek answers and direction from within myself and from the higher power on what the next steps in my life should be. The trauma and self-care sessions were a healing and learning opportunity for me.

Our visit to the village in Jakhangaon enabled me to interact with and learn from people facing similar problems with those in Uganda. Water remains a major challenge and a cause of conflict both in the urban setting and rural arid areas of the country. I learned that the answers to the challenges people found can be found among them, and that challenges are an opportunity to find sustainable solutions to life's problems.    

After I got back home, everything had changed. I remember going into the city and looking at people as they went about their business and thinking "they are chasing the wrong things in life, there is so much more to life than this". I had found a deeper meaning and appreciation of life at Caux Scholars Program - Asia Plateau and now the busyness of life here felt strange to me. It felt like life was too fast; leaving nothing for enjoyment of the simple things.

I consider myself blessed to come from a country that has enjoyed relative national peace since the 1980s.  But even amidst this peace, pockets of conflicts still exist and continue to thrive because they remain unaddressed. I am glad that thanks to the Caux Scholars Program- Asia Plateau, I am now meaningfully contributing to a legacy of peace in my country and in the world.



Swathi Pottabathini from India

Swathi PottabathiniAll of us keep talking about moving out of comfort zones, but in the process we forget how important the comfort zones themselves are. I was one of them, until CSP-AP happened...

I'm Swathi Pottabathini, a Computer Engineer who went out to pursue the Young India Fellowship--a post graduate diploma in liberal arts--right after engineering and then worked with a grassroots NGO called Samaj Pragati Sahayog in the central tribal belt of India. Currently, I'm preparing for the civil services exams, back home. I've always been pushing my boundaries, and defining and redefining them in every aspect of my life. In the process, somewhere I seemed to have forgotten about caring for myself in the process of being there for others.

CSP-AP happened at a very crucial juncture in my life, when I was going through self-doubt and emotionally challenging times. The bunch of 20 other participants, coordinators and instructors, became family in no time. Never had I ever thought that individuals from such different regions, ethnicity, religions, lifestyles and what not, would share such a space, right from day one. I remember how we had meticulously planned the inauguration, within hours of knowing each other, and how successful it turned out to be. And this coordination continued till our very last day of the program--the graduation day.

There have been immense amount of learning in terms of simulations, lectures, village visit and informal sessions like theater, art, dance and music sessions. Further, the Conflict Where I Come From (CWICF) module gave us a glimpse into the various conflicts from micro to mezzo to macro conflicts that the scholars dealt with in their personal or public spaces. The trauma healing session was one of the most soulful sessions for me wherein a space was provided for us to share our traumas and in the process heal. This was a 'comfort zone'which was like none other, free of any judgments and hesitations and full of care, compassion and listening ears. I feel, this comfort zone further pushed me to understand myself better during the quiet time and other reflection times. Further, conflict and peace had over the 21 days meant deeper things as we not just spoke, or enacted but also experienced it first-hand.

There would be a long list of things that I would be able to jot down if asked about the tangible learnings from the program but in terms of intangibles, I think words would not be enough.

I feel more secure now as I've a family from all around the world, who are a great source of inspiration in being the individuals that they are, and the value they bring to the society through their diverse professions such as social workers, teachers, media persons, agripreneurs, environmentalists and peace-builders. During the program, I had healed in some way and was rejuvenated and motivated to dream big. The people around reinstated my faith in Rumi's quote, "You have within you more love than you could ever understand." And it is this faith that is necessary for people to keep with themselves and spread to others in order to resolve conflicts and bring together a peaceful and prosperous world.

I can't thank all the people associated with the program enough, for just being themselves, sharing themselves with me and vice versa. But still, "Thank you very much!" :)



Daniel Kleinsman from New Zealand

Daniel KleinsmanMy first impressions, upon arrival at Mumbai International Airport, were characterized by the crowds of people, the noise, confusion and chaos. The elevator doors opened and closed several times before our guides could persuade me to push in with my trolley, about which I still felt incredibly uncomfortable.

Of course, the atmosphere at Asia Plateau was in stark contrast to that of the airport. It set the scene for a time of intimacy, quiet, clarity, and the rhythm of routine. That is not to say that it was a gentle or easy experience. It was, in fact, incredibly confronting. Silence, honesty, and intimacy with self and with others, presents one with the plain realities of life. Indeed, these realities struck me as overwhelming, in terms of the differences and conflicts in the world, and the precariousness of the human person.

I also remember the harrowing sights of the poor and suffering people on the streets in Pune. I remember an old man with an amputated leg dragging himself, with difficulty, along the unforgiving concrete. His clothes were worn and dirty, and his face betrayed deep pain. I remember an old woman sitting in the gutter, with a small plastic tray of hair combs for sale. That tray was her livelihood. She was old enough and sweet enough to be my grandmother, and yet this was her pitiful fate. It is not that we do not have poverty or inequality in Aotearoa New Zealand, but it is not so visible, perhaps not so extreme. It is easier to ignore.

Then there was the experience of visiting and staying in a local Indian village. The generosity and hospitality with which they greeted us and made us welcome was moving to tears. At the same time, the apparent inequalities perpetuated by their community structure engendered a cynicism and suspicion. That said, I was not prepared to challenge this, and when two brave young Indian women in our program did so, I felt uncomfortable. I was disappointed in my own inability to engage in this way, and I was ill-at-ease on behalf of our hosts who had welcomed us without expecting to be criticized. 

In the end, I am left with a sense of the significance and sacredness of relationality. It is not only about relationship, but a quality of relationship by which these overwhelming and seemingly insurmountable issues can be navigated. Relationship calls us to respond to the beaten traveler on the side of the road; relationality calls us to transform the road so as to prevent future beatings. Relationship calls us to receive hospitality with gratitude; relationality calls us to express that with a genuine concern for our hosts and for their quality of life.

Relationship called us to journey to Asia Plateau, in curiosity and faith; relationality then sent us back, directed us to go forth and to realize conflict resolution through personal transformation, but with the support of an incredible international community of people. It is as simple and as difficult and as beautiful as that. The challenge now is to do it, and to do it justice, with the quality of relationship that characterizes Asia Plateau - a place to which I long to return.

We come like waves from different oceans
Carrying conflicting notions
Of the world and war and pieces
Of the truth that so increases
In complexity with each of us - 
Our stories teach us thus
To open up our minds and hearts
As kinship of our spirits starts
To teach us what we live to learn:
That we are all as one; adjourn
We do to feel this now in longing
Memories of so belonging
And a sense of presence
In the silence of the morning
And in the glowing light of peace
Embodied in a new day dawning.




Astghik from Armenia

AstghikAs per convention, I should begin my story by telling who I am. And I am happy to say that I am different from the one I was before going to CSP-AP. You can never imagine what can bring real change in your life and how. When I arrived in India, I had lot of fears and a sense of uncertainty, as it was another "different" world for me. At first, everything was unusual, and I couldn't wait that it will become a journey to cherish for a lifetime.

I am Astghik from Armenia. I studied Political Sciences and Conflict studies, and I am deeply interested in culture, history, psychology, politics and social structures of different societies. I am working as a journalist, PR specialist, trainer and negotiator in different programs. My work is connected with people and communications all the time. I never skip an opportunity to know more about the people who live in diverse situations from mine. But there is huge difference between reading about those people and actually feeling and knowing them. I am sure that the most effective way to understand the culture and system in any country is to communicate with people, listen and see their feelings and perceptions. I have participated in a lot of programs, and can say for sure that CSP-AP is a wonderful and unique program, where you can experience how other people feel, think and live. The course creates an amazing non-formal atmosphere where everybody feels free and comfortable to share their personal stories, traumas, cultural peculiarities, life experiences and achievements, express her/his opinion about various situations and be sure that the others are ready to listen and support.

Although the group was so multinational, we lived like a big family during the whole program. The emotions of everybody were very important, and we got to know so many new things about each other's country. I was settled-in, comfortable and in harmony with the environment and people, despite being very far from my home.

At the same time, CSP-AP is an intensive program, which has a very serious academic base and is aimed to give maximum practical knowledge to the participants in a short time. The program includes different aspects of conflict dynamics, relations of systems and people, cultural habits, political processes, socio-economic consequences, identity, psychological factors that affect conflicts and are preconditions of peacebuilding. The faculty members incorporate all these themes by deeply involving all participants in discussions and role plays. This approach helped all of us to be in process of thinking and learning all the time. CSP faculty team has enormous field experience in conflict regions and is opened to share their professional skills with all participants regarding how to relate conflicts and create opportunities of peacebuilding and sustainable development.

I should also want to highlight the place where the program was going on. Asia Plateau is a place surrounded by hills and has amazing nature and energy. It is an awesome place for introspection. Our trainers took special attention of inner work with ourselves. We began the day with meditation or meetings with very interesting people, which encouraged us to think about our life, dreams, opportunities, behaviors and become more purposeful in the way of changing ourselves in a more positive way.

I was also deeply impacted by our field trip when we stayed in one Indian village. The village had problems with water and had suffered a lot because of it. People understood that their inner disagreements hindered the solution of the problem. They found ways to overcome their conflicts and created very interesting watershed structures for conserving and using rainwater in their daily life. It is a great case study of conflict resolution which resulted in the unity of people who came together to create concrete and definite solutions to develop their village, keeping aside differences. They did it and continue to do, becoming a valuable example for other people.

So this program has a huge influence in my inner development and professional growth. These 21 days in India changed my life. I did a lot of introspection and took many valuable tools, approaches and examples that will enrich my own programs and new initiatives.



Polycarpe Kundabandi from Burundi

Polycarpe KundabandiI am Polycarpe Kundabandi from Burundi, a small country situated in the Center of Africa, commonly named the Heart of Africa. It is characterized by troubles due to politico-ethnical issues since the independence: The history of Hutu-Tutsi (the two major ethnicities) that bereaved the country.

I was born in an average family, dreaming to study law at the university because of the injustices done to women. Unfortunately, I could not pursue my dream and decided to take up business communication.

I had never heard about Initiatives of Change (IofC) until I met Marc Bukuru, the President of Youth Gathering Initiators of Change, who told me about IofC and invited me to join this organization. Marc is now a member of Africa Coordination Group/IofC. Once adhered, I got the opportunity to attend peace circle. Later, I worked with an NGO, named "Sustainable Democracy Center" as a facilitator during a workshop where participants coming from different political parties and organization of civil society learned to live together beyond their differences.

Once I heard that I have been selected to take apart in Caux Scholar Program- Asia Plateau (CSP-AP), I was very happy but was unsure of the fees and formalities to actually be there in India for the program. Fortunately, I attended the program and now I'm glad to be an alumni of CSP-AP!

Caux Scholar Program-Asia Plateau has changed my life and gave me a clear understanding of society. Change yourself before changing the world. CSP-AP has really impacted my life. I have learned to forgive myself and others, and now I know how much I can contribute to change my society by the use of the four values of IofC. I have never met a greater family than my CSP-AP family, wherein we shared laughter, tears and pain and I am truly happy about them. Through them, I can reach anywhere in the world. I remember the experience I got studying trauma healing, and how CSP-AP family was united during the time of sharing. I cannot imagine how CSP-AP family were so interconnected, thanks to the quiet time, an ideal time to connect, correct and take direction to follow in one's life, I have learned how to build peace (peace in & peace out).