I recently had the chance to be part of a program conducted by an organisation called PeaceJam in collaboration with WISCOMP. The PeaceJam Foundation is an international organization whose mission statement is “to create young leaders committed to positive change in themselves, their communities, and the world through the inspiration of Nobel Peace Laureates who pass on the spirit, skills, and wisdom they embody.” To know more about PeaceJam visit www.peacejam.org.
The program consisted of workshops, group discussions, activities and a chance to meet noble peace laureate, His Holiness, The Dalai Lama. Day 1 consisted of an opening ceremony in which we did some energising activities and the founders of PeaceJam gave an inspirational speech. This was followed by us being divided into different groups called “Family Groups”. We were divided randomly and so I was with a set of people who were complete strangers to me, but in no time, we got to know each other and realised that we were all here for the same purpose, we wanted to make a change. We also discussed about the life of His Holiness, The Dalai Lama. This was followed by a tea break and some time to socialize, followed by our chosen workshops. I signed up for a workshop about Tibetan Astro medicine. The speaker talked about the ancient Tibetan medicines and how they can provide a cure for everything that modern medicine can. He also spoke about the benefits of using Tibetan medicine some important Tibetan beliefs. The subject matter was very interesting but I thought that the workshop could have been conducted in a more friendly and interactive manner.
After this we were served some really tasty lunch and we (only kids from my school, there were 8 of us) also got to interact with a teacher from a school in Kashmir. This teacher told us about his life in Kashmir and about the hardships they face due to curfew and other things. When we (as in me and my friends from school) asked him what he wanted for Kashmir, to be part of India, Pakistan or to be independent, he said he just wants to live in a place where when he goes out of his house in the morning he doesn’t have to worry if he will return home safely. He told us stories of children, women and men being killed, women being raped and he also shared a personal story of he himself being beaten very badly. He also shared how difficult life got when curfew was going on and how the recent floods in Kashmir had made the situation much worse. His words brought all of us down to tears.
Next, we were to choose a cause we support and make a campaign around it. I chose Human rights as my topic. There were quite a few people who chose human rights and after lots of debate we decided to work on freedom of expression under human rights. We discussed topics ranging from euthanasia to censorship and the right to privacy. It was very interesting to hear different viewpoints and we came to a conclusion to run a social media campaign to create awareness on these topics. After this, we played some games and discussed the ways that we could contribute to our community. It was really great to see soo many young people coming together to agree to make a change and change the way our society sees taboo topics such as euthanasia.
The day ended with a lot of enthusiasm, with the promise to meet the next day to see The Dalai Lama. We also exchanged contact information with each other with a promise to keep in touch and to involve each other if we did start an initiative based on the PeaceJam sessions.
Day 2 began with a lot of excitement to see The Dalai Lama. Upon reaching the destination, we went through a security check and then our host Brett Engle conducted some more energising activities. Then our host asked some of us to share what inspires or energises us. A lot of people came up and shared their inspiration. It was very nice to see people come up and share their personal stories.
After this, The Dalai Lama arrived and gave a talk about compassion and peace and living in harmony with other people. After this, the stage was open for questions. He answered quite a few questions very nicely and tactfully. He also explained some Buddhist concepts very clearly. I found him to be a very humble and gregarious person. It was an amazing experience to have the opportunity to hear him speak and interact with him in such close quarters.
This was one of those experiences that I will never forget. I had a tone of fun and learned soo much.