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India, Uganda and USA: What Can We Learn by Comparing and Contrasting in Youth Development?

As mentioned, in earlier blog posts thanks to my formative United Nations Volunteer experience in Uganda, I’ve spent considerable time and energy as a founding team member of Khelshala in India. In the last couple of weeks, I was fortunate to attend fundraisers at Khelshala in Boston and the The Child Is Innocent in Boston. For both of these non-governmental organizations, this was my second time attending their fundraisers.

Listening to Satinder Bajwa (an engineer by training, turned coach and teacher) and Kevin Schwartz (a pediatric oncologist), as co-founders of their respective non-governmental organizations, I was reminded by other inspirational leaders I’ve heard speak at the Harvard Kennedy School in the social enterprise movement such as Mohammed Yunus of Grameen Bank or Bill Drayton of Ashoka, who have used their talents to improve the lives of the next generation of leaders. The objectives and challenges facing both Khelshala and The Child is Innocent are simultaneously similar and different.

Today, perhaps more than ever, it is possible for young people to make a difference through grassroots activism, social justice campaigning and demonstrating solidarity with those who are disenfranchised. Small steps taken over a long horizon can and do make a difference for organizations like Khelshala and The Child Is Innocent. How and when will you make your next step?

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Filed under Capacity Buidling, Community Development, Education, Grant Making, International Development, Leadership, Networking, Philanthropy, Poverty, Professional Development, Public Policy, Stakeholder Engagement, Uncategorized

What does Peace Look Like?

The 2016 Positive Peace Report by the Institute of Economics and Peace, helps non-experts understand what peace looks like from a macro perspective. I found the diagram below from the report to be a very noteworthy depiction of what the positive elements of peace look like for a nation. I shall not repeat the content of the report, but would like to elaborate on a couple of contemporary issues.

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Source: 2016 Positive Peace Report by Institute of Economics and Peace.

The humanitarian crisis in Syria according to Ban Ki-Moon, Secretary General of the United Nations is “appauling,” with the thousands of deaths, especially young children. The Secretary General and the international community are taking steps for a peaceful solution to the conflict using diplomatic tools and maneuvers for a constructive dialogue that intends to put an end to the violence. However, many innocent Syrians and peacekeepers are being caught in the middle of the violence.

Approximately 5 years ago, I had the honor and privilege of attending a retreat with Thich Nhat Hanh, a Buddhist monk who has authored many self-help books on health and wellness. Perhaps the Syrian government and its people would benefit from listening, reading and learning from Thich Nhat Hanh’s teachings. When a cease-fire is reached by the Syrians themselves, they may wish to look at themselves in the mirror and make peace with themselves. In my humble opinion, by rejecting violence, it is easier to accept peace.

 

 

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Filed under Capacity Buidling, Community Development, Conflict Resolution, Education, Foreign Policy, Leadership, Literature Review, Peace Building, Public Policy, Stakeholder Engagement, Uncategorized

Archiving Sport: How Do Libraries Connect Sport for Development and Peace?

It is really amazing how much there is to learn from being in a library. There are numerous types of libraries across the country on college campuses, in almost every neighborhood as public libraries and then the elite Presidential libraries to identify a few. The Boston Public Library in Copley Square, a newly renovated library in the heart of Boston reaches out to its community in numerous ways.

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Squash Photos of Bostonions at the Boston Public Library’s Electronic Information Kiosk. Photo Credit: T.Mohammed.

On a recent visit to the newly renovated Boston Public Library in Copley Square, I came across a fascinating electronic information kiosks in the main entrance hall. At a touch screen information kiosk, there was an archive of photos of various subjects (including squash photos of Bostonians as seen above) from the City of Boston. If you click on the photo you can see the details.

This impressive kiosk with information retrieval and storage (at a cost to the taxpayers of Massachusetts) is a tremendous leap forward in understanding and connecting the sport for development and peace field to the general public. My suggestion for the many aspiring young professionals in the emerging field of sport for development and peace would be to examine the evolution of sport at your local library. You may be surprised what you find.

 

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Filed under Community Development, Education, Leadership, Literature Review, Networking, Planning, Private Public Partnerships, Professional Development, Public Policy, Squash, Stakeholder Engagement, Uncategorized

Interdisciplinary Approaches to Sustainable Coaching

On a recent trip to Blacksburg, Virginia to visit Tim Baird, Professor of Geography at Virginia Tech who is a college friend from Maine, we took a hike in Jefferson National Forest. During the hike we encountered stunning natural scenery below and shared ideas and thoughts of our respective academic pursuits. At the outset, let me state that Professor Baird’s academic performance and training has won him many awards and admiration from his students.

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Signpost at Jefferson National Forest Photo credit: T. Mohammed

The 2016 Rio Olympics are being broadcast worldwide so I thought I would add my bit of sporting commentary on elite amateur athletes and the rest of us. Many of the athletes have been training rigorously over 4 years or more and aim to reach peak performance during competition at the Olympics. Michael Phelps, Simone Biles or Katie Ledecky are perfect examples of athletes who are reaching peak performances at this year’s Olympics.

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“Water in Stream” in Jefferson National Forest. Photo credit: T. Mohammed

Just like water in a stream (see photo above), my hike with Professor Baird, reminded me of my graduate school readings by Mihaly Csikzektmihalyi, a Hungarian psychologist known for his work on the concept of “flow,” in the field of positive psychology. The concept of “flow” has been applied in sport for development and peace and other disciplines.

According to Cziketmaihalyi and his 2004 TED Talk, everyone, be they an Olympian, student, coach or parent is always striving for their “A” game which means achieving a state of flow and staying in it. While Professor Baird and I are from different academic disciplines – geography and sport for development and peace  respectively- our liberal arts background allowed us to have an interdisciplinary discussion on sustainable coaching.

In Professor Baird’s case he was in the midst of publishing a new research paper on sustainable innovation which we also spoke about in depth. As for me, I am learning how to get “unstuck” and “out of my own way,” to stay in a state of flow in the field of sport for development and peace. Thanks Professor Baird for a terrific visit to Virginia and a meaningful hike!

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Filed under Capacity Buidling, Coaching, Education, International Development, Leisure, Literature Review, Networking, Olympic, Paralympic, Psycho-Social Support, Recreation, Rehabilitation, Uncategorized, Youth Development

Kodaikanal International School Alumni Acknowledged for Community Service in India

Earlier in the year, I traveled almost 24 hours door to door from Andover, Massachusetts to Peermade, Kerala, India to see my maternal grandparents who were not keeping good health and (and have since March 2016 stabilized their health in old age and God-willing will continue to do so). As mentioned in an earlier blog post, it was an opportunity to spend time with family members and reconnect with positive childhood memories.

Near the Main Gate at Kodaikanal International School visit in 2016.

Near the Main Gate at Kodaikanal International School visit in 2016. Photo Credit: M. John

My Keralite cousins organized a trip to visit Kodaikanal International School, one of two international schools I attended as a boy. Thanks to Yvonne Dovlo, Alumni Officer and KIS alumni who work to support Khelshala, a registered charity in Chandigarh, India – we were featured in 7 Roads: The Kodai Alumni Magazine – something I never imagined would happen when I was student more than 20 years ago.

Cover of Kodai Alumni Magazine referencing Khelshala Project.

Cover of Kodai Alumni Magazine referencing Khelshala Project.

During my visit to KIS it was great to reconnect with staff, teachers and alumni who I had shared time with when I was a student there. These sorts of visits are “good for the soul” as my uncle – Tawheed Hazarika, likes to remind me. My cousins and I were lucky to get a personal tour of the school and eat lunch in the dining hall thanks to one of the new teachers.

Attending Sunday Service at Kodai School.

Attending Sunday Service at Margaret Eddy Memorial Chapel at Kodaikanal International School in 2016. Photo credit: M. John

KIS prides itself on multiculturalism and tolerance of all faiths and backgrounds which is expressed in the school’s motto of “unity in diversity.” On the whole, I was delighted to see the campus so well maintained with many improvements too. It was also great to briefly meet Corey Stixrud, Principal of KIS and to know that the school is continually striving for and meeting the educational needs of the next generation of Indian and international students.

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Filed under Community Development, Education, Networking, Philanthropy, Stakeholder Engagement, Uncategorized, Youth Development, Youth Sport

What Can Sport for Development and Peace Learn from the Arts?: Lessons from Angkor’s Children in Cambodia

On Gandhi Jayanti, a national holiday in India to celebrate the birth of Mahatma Gandhi, my parents and I were invited to attend a filming at the Bright Lights Film Series at Emerson College courtesy of Dr. Sughra Raza, a family friend in Boston and editor of 3 Quarks Daily, an interdisciplinary filter blog.

Lauren Shaw, a Professor at Emerson’s Department of Visual and Media Arts produced Angkor’s Children through a culmination of several years of work with her Kickstarter campaign.

As a Founding Member and Secretary of Khelshala, it was an inspiring and humbling experience to meet Sreypov and Phunam, two of the Angkor children featured in the film as well as social entrepreneurs from the Cambodian Living Arts and Phare Cambodian Circus who worked for decades to mobilize the Cambodian diaspora in the United States and elsewhere to empower the next generation in Cambodia.

Sreypov of Angkor’s Children and me at Paramount Theater, Boston, MA.

Sreypov of Angkor’s Children and me at Paramount Theater, Boston, MA.

What can Khelshala and others learn from those working to promote peace, development and human rights through the creative sector?

  • Sacrifice – the founders, artists and community members all had to give up something in their lives for the greater common good.
  • Commitment – staying true in the long term to their social justice cause was not expected, but came from within.
  • Community – an ecosystem of individuals and organizations nurtured the organizers to mobilize the diaspora.
  • Funding – sports and the arts are often first to be cut in public education.
  • Inter-generational dialogue – exchanges across generations in sport and music can keep traditions alive.

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Filed under Capacity Buidling, Community Development, Education, Gender, International Development, Leadership, Networking, Philanthropy, Psycho-Social Support, Rehabilitation, Uncategorized, Volunteering

Propagating Evidence-Based Research for Sport and Development

Over the years, I have been fortunate to attend several seminars, workshops and conferences related to sport for development and peace. Decision makers in this field often criticize practitioners (those who run organizations such as Kidsquash and Khelshala) for the lack of evidence-based research to demonstrate the return on investment in sport for development and peace.

Several years ago in a blog post, I made reference to discovering the literature on sport for development. To keep readers informed and promote learning, my colleagues in the International Sport for Development and Peace Association have mobilized academics across the globe to conduct greater research and study of the evolution of sport and social change. Those interested in learning more can read the open-access articles in the Journal of Sport for Development which caters to a wide audience ranging from students to decision makers.

This Journal is yet to publish research on the work of non-governmental organizations in India, such as Khelshala. Given India’s rising prominence in the global economy, the Trustees of Khelshala challenge students, teachers or professors to conduct field research with Khelshala on physical education, health and coaching as well as other disciplines to not only strengthen our effectiveness but promote knowledge-sharing. There are many possibilities for eager graduate students both within India and overseas to do qualitative and quantitative research that could potentially be published in the Journal of Sport for Development or others.

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Filed under Coaching, Education, International Development, Leadership, Public Policy, Recreation, Stakeholder Engagement, Uncategorized