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View from the Gandhi Foundation Summer Gathering 2014

Room with a view…on the Gandhi Foundation Summer Gathering 2014
by Linnet Drury, 11 years old.

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The Gandhi Foundation Summer Gathering (GFSG) is a great way to combine sharing, peaceful thinking, practicality and ideas on fitting Gandhi’s practices into the modern world. This year we all had great fun exploring the Summer Gathering’s topic “Gandhi and Education” and it was hosted at the beautiful Abbey and its grounds in Sutton Courtney, Oxfordshire.

The GFSG this year had people of all ages (8 months to 80 years!) and people from many nationalities, even from India! We had great fun sharing games and delicious food from around the world. It was also excellent for our discussions as we had contributions from such varied backgrounds, as well as ideas and points of view about education from many different sources. In our discussions we shared our personal experience with education, and it was interesting that those who had experienced the Comprehensive system seemed to have enjoyed it more and met a broader range of people. We looked at how schools have improved, how they can still improve and about how we can include Gandhi’s practices in education even more. We picked up on different styles of education, ups and downs, about home education and learning throughout life.

But the morning discussions weren’t the only way of learning at the Summer Gathering. Through living in a community we find that we learn loads from sharing and having fun. Also individual ideas and thoughts can combine to create a harmonious teamwork that showed through in everything we did at the Abbey. In discussions, we combined ideas to think up answers to questions; in shramadana we worked together to do the jobs for the community; in free time we could have fun together; and in the creative activities sessions we combined our skills to fulfil Gandhi’s ideas on practical work.

GF SG 2014 group shot

We had a lot of fun at the GFSG. The beautiful Abbey (some parts dating back to the Norman period) set in between lawns, woods, orchards and a walled garden, was great for its peaceful and meditative aura and practical facilities. People could camp in the orchard, stay in the modern guest house or in the Abbey building itself. In our free time we set out badminton on the lawn, went on river walks, went swimming in the lido in the nearby town, read in the Abbey library, played games, and just talked on the grass. In our creative activities we did painting, weaving, calligraphy, bracelet making, photography and yoga. We had beautiful weather all week so we could do most activities outside. All the food was vegetarian, and delicious, ranging from salads, pasta and homemade bread to genuine Indian curries. The kitchen always had a great aroma.

We all enjoyed ourselves and with next year’s exciting topic “Gandhi in the Digital Age”, I can’t wait until next summer.

Can you help this Kickstarter Project?

Sandhya with her new legs

Sandhya with her new legs

Can you help this Kickstarter Project?
To make a documentary film showing how the BMVSS, an organisation that makes free limbs for amputees, is giving people their lives back – Stepping Forward from Jaipur by Christine Booth

Forty five years ago in Rajasthan, a young Indian Government officer, Devendra Raj Mehta, suffered a near-fatal car crash. Among other injuries, his left leg had been broken in 43 places – and it was only the skill of his surgeons that saved it from being amputated. As he recovered, his gratitude made him think about the many people who aren’t as fortunate – and he vowed to someday help them. Just five years later, he founded the BMVSS, to give artificial limbs free of charge to anyone who needs one, and to help restore dignity and self-esteem to people who would otherwise be forgotten by society. So far, it’s helped to transform the lives of over a million amputees all over the world.

For further information, photographs and donations click on the link below:

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1519658987/stepping-forward-from-jaipur

Join the Gandhi Foundation

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Why not join the Gandhi Foundation and help spread Gandhi’s message of nonviolence and peace throughout the world.

Click on the ‘Subscribe’ button on our website or download the form below, fill it in and return to us by email or post.

Join the Gandhi Foundation Form

We operate on a small budget funded by your subscriptions and donations. If you are a UK taxpayer you can make your subscription go further by filling out and emailing or posting to us a Gift Aid form.

London Discussion Forum on Gandhi and Nonviolence – a view of the last discussion by Robert Fisher

London Discussion Forum on Gandhi and Nonviolence

The London Discussion Forum on Gandhi and Nonviolence met recently to discuss The Current condition of Women, Feminism and Gandhi. This is a forum to discuss Gandhi and the relevance of his ideals, especially nonviolence, in the contemporary world. Anyone who has an opinion on the subject or has read about Gandhi and wants to share their thoughts is welcome to join. Details of the next discussion forum will be posted on the Gandhi Foundation website, Facebook and Twitter.

GF London Discussion Forum

I came away from this meeting with a number of thoughts on the subject of violence against women which I have set out below in context with some other factors I see at play in this rather complex area and the environment in which we live. That is not to say violence in any form against women is acceptable.

In order for me to put things into perspective I would prefer to adopt a gender-neutral approach to the subject and consider violence against the person rather than against a man or a woman, albeit in the subject of the rape of women, this is a particularly disturbing crime.

The thing that became very apparent to me, were the economic factors in the equation and in particular the commodification of both men and women in an economic system that places a monitory value on all things, dependent on the various attributes that are assigned to it (him or her). “Conflict minerals” and the rape of women to secure control over mined resources and images of very attractive women being used by corporate institutions to enhance & market their particular brand of electronic device, derived from these same Conflict minerals.

I hope & believe these electronic devices will eventually help protect vulnerable communities and individuals everywhere from all types of harm and particularly the types atrocities we see happening in the Congo now & in other places around the world, which will I hope eventually pass.

I also recall the comment made by the (academic) whose name I do not recall, who sat next to me at meetup and who stated that corruption was endemic throughout Indian society.

Corruption being the abuse of entrusted power for private gain.

In a competitive open market economy the incentive for those in power to maintain unfair advantage over those under their control can only exist for a limited period of time, especially in a world where all are connected by a computer device of one sort or another.

The empowerment of all strata of humanity being achieved through online learning and education is just one factor to consider in this connected global society.

It is the responsibility of the strong & powerful to help protect the weak and vulnerable in society and in this respect I see the all-pervasive concept of mutual self-interest being of fundamental importance.

Further to the subject of the rape of women, it is important that our criminal justice system is fit for purpose in dealing with these matters and from what I heard at meetup, it is not. As I have already mentioned I am working with others to develop a number of legal and financial services, which will help address some of the issues raised above but for the time being I must bide my time.

You work in compliance and you will know the incidents of bribery and corruption within banking and other corporate sectors around the globe. Others who sat at the table at meetup had many of the skills and knowledge necessary to help develop some of the systems needed to address these challenges.

 By Robert Fisher

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of The Gandhi Foundation.

Susan Denton-Brown

Susan Denton-Brown

Susan Denton-Brown

Susan Denton-Brown who was Chairperson of the Gandhi Foundation in 2009 sadly died on 28 January 2014.
Her career was teaching Religious Studies in schools. From 2010 she was Chair of the British Friends of Neve Shalom Wahatal Salam (http:/www.oasisofpeaceuk.org), a village where Arabs and Jews live together peacefully and the children are educated in both languages.

Current Chair of the Gandhi Foundation, Mark Hoda, recalls her work preparing a pack on Gandhi for use in schools:

Susan was rightly very proud of this piece of work, which she researched and wrote at Oxford University, through a Farmington Fellowship. Susan also worked with my father and Father Joe Collela to roll out “Dealing With Conflict” teaching packs based on her work with the Neve Shalon project to all schools in this country.

My personal memories of Susan will be that she worked tirelessly and passionately to teach children about nonviolent conflict resolution through both her career and her voluntary work. She was a selfless person with a huge, warm heart, and her hospitality was unrivalled!

Trudy Lewis, friend of Susan, Gandhi Foundation member and one of the organisers of the Summer Gathering said:

There are many adjectives I could use to describe Susan – capable, fiercely intelligent, loving, spiritually deep, a force to be reckoned with and, in essence, an immensely gifted human being.

For information about the teaching resources that Susan created:

A free educational resource pack on Gandhi, designed for school teachers (UK KS3&4), is available in the form of an Adobe PDF file by emailing farmington@hmc.ox.ac.uk and quoting ref. TT186 or click here. Written by Susan, previous Chair of The Gandhi Foundation executive committee, and previously Head of Religious Studies at Tanbridge House School in West Sussex, the resource pack includes six modules which focus on the following aspects of Gandhi’s life and work:

1. Identity
2. Non-violent protest
3. Conflict transformation and mediation
4. Equity in community
5. Environmental issues
6. Exploring spirituality

Each module suggests relevant clips from the movie Gandhi by Richard Attenborough, and then presents a series of exercises for groups and the whole class.

Susan also worked with Mark Hoda’s father, Surur Hoda and Father Joe Collela to roll out “Dealing With Conflict” teaching packs based on her work with the Neve Shalon project to all schools in this country – www.history.org.uk/resources/secondary_news_168.html

 

A World of Limited Resources – The Gandhi Foundation Summer Gathering 2013 by Natasha Lewis

The Abbey, in the little village of Sutton Courtenay, Oxfordshire, was again the setting for this year’s Gathering, a week of attempting to live in the style of one of Gandhi’s ashrams whilst allowing a space for discussion into applying his principles to issues faced in the modern world. The building itself is a perfect facilitator for this event, providing several cosy sitting rooms, a kitchen and dining room dating to the 13th century, and a large Great Hall which has windows that open out into the main garden. The grounds give ample space for camping and sports including badminton, as well as a large kitchen garden which provides much of the delicious food for the week! The surrounding countryside also provides several beautiful walks along the river Thames.

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The Gandhi Foundation Summer Gathering 2013

Although some rooms are available in the Abbey itself, most Gatherers stay in the guest house annexe, which has the advantage of 20th rather than 13th century plumbing and heating! The braver amongst us, mostly families, camped and this year a camper van was also used for accommodation. Thirty Seven people attended over the first weekend, with people coming and going over the next week.

The premise of Gandhi’s ashram means that a great communal spirit is built up throughout the week, with teams taking turns to help prepare meals and keep communal spaces clean. The kitchen is usually the focal point, where children’s (and adult’s!) baking and craft takes place, as well as some of the most interesting discussions about the year’s theme.

After a help-yourself breakfast, the morning session begins with a brief meditation and sharing of information, then continues into the main discussion topic for the day. There is normally a short introductory presentation followed by discussion in small groups and then feedback. This leads into Shramdana, meaning ‘sharing of one’s time, thought and energy for the welfare of all’ in accordance with the way Gandhi’s ashrams were run. Lunch is eaten and, after a digestion break, craft activities begin later in the afternoon. It was Gandhi’s belief that time should be spent on useful tasks, and this period is used to follow his guidance. Crafts available this year were varied, including collage making, art using dried flowers, crochet and watercolour painting. One particularly interesting activity was spinning thread from a sheep’s fleece: we set up a production line including carding the wool, using the spinning wheel to turn the wool into thread and winding the finished wool into balls (and untangling it!). The spinning wheel was a bit trickier to use than I expected and unfortunately my wool alternated between being much too thick and snapping because it was too thin! After supper Gatherers are invited to contribute to the evening’s entertainment which included animal noises, poetry readings, slideshows and circle dancing. Then meditation and time for sleep before it all begins again in the morning!

The topic for this year’s Gathering was “A World of Limited Resources: Inspirations and Challenges in Sharing the Planet” which attracted many external speakers as well as new participants. This meant that there was often a talk in the afternoon in addition to the morning session. The first of these was given by an architect, Sandra Piesik, who is running a project reviewing renewable resources as construction materials, involving over 120 scientists and professionals. Her talk mainly focussed on developing architecture using palm leaves in the United Arab Emirates, and her efforts to rescue indigenous technology from the extinction imposed by the advent of globalisation and modern building practices. She highlighted the fact that concrete is not always the most suitable building material in every environment on Earth, and that there is a huge untapped source of building materials from the palm leaves from plants used for date production, which are currently wasted in the UAE.

GF SG 3

The theme of the first morning session (Sunday) was Sarvodaya. This is a term coined by Gandhi to mean ‘universal uplift’ or ‘progress of all’ and was a fundamental principle of his political philosophy. We discussed some of Gandhi’s other main principles: Swaraj, self-rule;  Swadeshi, self-sufficiency; and Satyagraha, “truth force”, Gandhi’s nonviolent resistance strategy.

Monday’s theme was resource depletion: examining the effects of diminishing stocks of non-renewable gas, oil, coal and minerals on the world. We discussed particular industries’ impacts on the earth and its people, and possible substitutes.

Tuesday focussed on climate change and population from a biological perspective, as the talk was given by an ecologist. Human culture has gradually evolved from a hunter-gatherer lifestyle through small scale agriculture to the globalised economy we see today. However, this has occurred in a period of relatively stable climatic conditions for the past 5000 years, which has lulled us into a sense of false security. We were divided into three groups and attempted to answer three questions. The question for my group was: What attributes from our hunter gatherer and agricultural ancestors should we cultivate and which should we reject? We were also asked to talk about steps we could take to reduce our energy usage both on a personal and national/global scale. 
Ruth gave a presentation originally aimed at actuaries to show that in the economic world it is vital to take into account risks of climate change and resource depletion.

The World Economic System was Wednesday’s subject. Alan Sloan presented us with a thought-provoking presentation on a potential new economic system based on ecological footprints. Conventional money is not directly related to the material world, and he suggested that if the new currency were based on the resources available from the earth then this would help to solve the resource depletion crises we are currently facing, as well as relieving poverty in the developing world.

GF SG 2

Four participants gave presentations on four ‘prophets’ on Thursday. John Muir was an American naturalist whose activism helped to preserve national parks such as Sequoia National Park and the Yosemite Valley. Ishpriya is a Catholic nun who founded the International Satsang Organisation. The Reverend Horace Dammers was the founder of the Lifestyle Movement. Frances Moore Lappé is the author of the bestseller Diet for a Small Planet, which advocated a plant-based diet as being much more conducive to food security.

On Friday we welcomed another guest speaker, a representative of Traidcraft. He gave a presentation on the organisation and their efforts to ensure that workers are paid a fair price for their products.

On the last evening we held a party, which was a sort of variety show with everyone offering their best party pieces. We had old home videos, games, singing, jokes, poetry, a small flute recital and some improvised circle dancing. The evening ended with a small tribute to the victims of the atom bomb in 1945, as it was Nagasaki Day. We went out into the garden and floated tea lights in little paper boats in a large baking tray filled with water, as incense smoke floated up into the night sky. It was a lovely way to end the week, which has been one of the most thought-provoking I have attended.

The Gandhi Foundation Annual Report 2010 – 2011

Report from the Chair for 2011

Over the past year the Foundation has forged some very exciting new partnerships, leading to a series of new events and projects.

Following on from an fascinating presentation by photographer Robert Wallis and anthropologist and campaigner, Felix Padel, on the plight of tribal people in Orissa and Jharkhand at the hands of multinational mining companies, the Gandhi Foundation is supporting an exhibition at SOAS (if you haven’t already done so, please to try and find time to visit it before it closes on 25th June 2011).
Disappearing World Exhibition at SOAS

Gandhi in Noakhali

We can look forward to similarly exciting presentation following this year’s AGM at Kingsley Hall, led by local artist Saif Osmani, on Gandhi in Noakhali. It’s a particularly appropriate time to hold such an event given that this year marks the 40thanniversary of the foundation of Bangladesh.

We are also making good progress in finishing our photographic exhibition on Gandhi, which we will target at schools in Tower Hamlets. I hope to be able to include a lengthy report on how it has inspired numerous children in next year’s annual report.

The Foundation is also funding a mentoring project for Muslim girls at two schools in Tower Hamlets by Mosaic, a charity established by the Prince of Wales.

I hope that both the Noakhali presentation, Mosaic project and schools exhibition will enable The Gandhi Foundation to build stronger links with the local community around Kingsley Hall.

As well as funding Mosaic, the Foundation has funded a two very worthy local projects run by our friends and supporters that promote Gandhian values; a project in Brixton on permaculture, run by Rakesh Bhambri (who brought this fascinating concept to last year’s summer gathering), and a major contribution to the cost of a bus for the Sacred Era School in Ladakh, championed so passionately by our former Secretary, Denise Moll.

Looking ahead, our Summer Gathering theme will be ‘Faith and Sustainability’ and we will be re-visiting St Christopher School, Letchworth, where we had such a good gathering last year. The School’s ethos is very much in keeping with Gandhian values and it’s great to be able to continue our partnership.

Mark Hoda – Chair of The Gandhi Foundation and Jeevika Trust liaison

The Gandhi Foundation Annual Report 2010- 2011

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