Caux Scholars Program Alumni Testimonials

 

Rajendra Senchurey

Namaste from Nepal! My name is Rajendra Senchurey, a Dalit intellectual, currently working as the Executive Director of South Asia Institute of Research and Development in Kathmandu. I have an MPhil in International Peace Studies from Trinity College Dublin and have worked as a researcher under many national and international fellowships including UNESCO. I represent socio-economically disadvantaged community called Dalit (the caste that comes in the bottom of Hindu caste hierarchy) and have always been an advocate to protect and promote Dalits' rights. I am really motivated to devote my life to the Dalit Movement that aims to extirpate caste-based discrimination from Nepal and South Asia.

 

Being Dalit means to live a life below animal. Animals can enter the house of high-caste people, but we can't; they accept the water jar touched by animals but don't accept the one we touch. Even today, my brothers and sisters in villages have to do the dishes in eateries even though they pay for them. In this age of science and technology, Dalit students in rural schools are not allowed to serve water themselves from a common pitcher. The so-called high-caste people wear the clothes and shoes we stitch, but they do not accept the food we offer. We make idols for temples, but the doors of temples are always slammed on our faces. Hindu pundits do not want us to listen to the religious hymns they chant. We are thrashed and also killed for trying to enter the temples. The day I knew that the religion my forefathers and their forefathers followed is so merciless to us, I converted to Christianity which doesn't practice untouchability. 

From the time immemorial, Dalits have been systematically suppressed, oppressed and impoverished for the sake of exploitation. We are obliged to serve high-caste people with our traditional skills for which we only get paid in kind basis. It is, therefore, despite constituting around 13 percent of the country's population, Dalits hold only 1% of the wealth and 1% of its arable land.It is therefore very imperative to liberate Dalits from the vicious cycle of exclusion, poverty and discrimination.

I have got true inspiration from my Caux Scholars Program's friends to be a navigator of changefor my oppressed community. Every day, I remember their collective suggestions "Rajendra, change the narrative!" Yes, it is very important to change the narratives that epitomize Dalits as impure breed born out of 'womb of sin' (as stated in the most revered Hindu scripture, Geeta) and therefore do not possess the quality to be a decent human. I have left no stones unturned to prove that I'm equally capable as non-Dalits. I challenged the hypocrisy by being in a love marriage with a high-caste girl. It was a daunting task as my family could have been victimized and my house torched right under the nose of police administration making another naked evidence of state apathy against Dalits. From the Caux Scholars Program, I learned that to change the dominant narratives and the structures that marginalise and outcast Dalits, we need to change relationships, structures and resources.

This program also connected me with the like-minded people who care about social justice and equality. To take our issues to the international community, I will be bringing a Delegation from South Asia to Just Governance for Human Security Forum at Caux to talk about Dalit issues. This opportunity has been possible because of the Caux Scholars Program connected me with Shontaye Abegaz, the Manager of the Just Governance for Human Security Forum. I truly believe that the exposure has an immense value as we want solidarity for our movement from the international community.

I must underscore that the incessant motivation, encouragement and peer-pressure from my CSP colleagues and mentors have really become a vital energizer for me to keep going. This wonderful opportunity would have never been possible for me without the generous support from the Silvia Zuber Fund. The Caux Scholars Program has been the most amazing experience of my life!

 

Ahmed Abdelhakim Hachelaf

As an education specialist inspired by Dewey, I have always believed that we do not learn from experiences. Yes, we do not learn from experiences… alone. We learn from the process of rethinking and reflecting upon our experiences. Caux Scholars Program for me gathered the best of the two worlds; it gathered a wonderful squad of people who came to Caux with wonderful experiences and stories of success and failure through their leadership and activism. Caux provided the perfect venue for reflection, reliving, questioning and exchanging views on those experiences and exploring new ways of dealing with them. It was the moment where we stepped back, zoomed out and questioned what did not work and validated what worked.

I have a diverse background in didactics, democratization, non-violent conflict and critical pedagogy. The first thing I learnt in education is that I should not only preach but rather walk the talk and practice what I preach thus, along with training teachers, I did my share of activism myself and managed a project on citizenship nationwide, and another for women empowerment in the form of training on IT skills. I also founded many clubs and youth-led initiatives in education settings in Algeria and participated in the training of young NGO leaders with the Bridges Institute that I co-founded. In 2013, I co-authored a book with leaders of civil society in the MENA region entitled: Revolution by Love, where I explained that Education can be the only panacea (or poison) and there we should start if we are aiming at total and sustainable change.

When I was selected to participate in this highly competitive program, I was advised by the program manager to meet with an alumnus who happened to be in the same city where I was. So I did, and when I met him I asked him two questions: My first question was, what do you advise me to do to maximize my time at Caux and benefit most, and second question was: if you have to live the program once again what would you do differently? His answer made me yearn to the program even more. He said that it is an extremely rich academic program with a fantastic professor, and that all the participants of the program are very carefully selected; they are all wonderful sources of information, skills and inspiration. The program not only lived up to that but exceeded all expectations.

When I arrived at Caux I was amazed by the heartfelt welcome, the sense of togetherness and the utter beauty of the place and the people to the extent that it makes it deserve the appellation of very big one human family or a tribe if you will, all value-driven, tender-hearted and well-rounded yet modest and ready to share and support.

Four week of intensive learning, networking, skills’ development and joy made my time in Caux the best of all life. Now, as I reflect back, I think I have gained new perspectives, new attitudes, more clarity of values, and most importantly a supportive network that I am still in touch now and find them sources for encouragement and motivation.   

I have developed an initiative that I refined at Caux entitled: Mouakhat which is an Arab word for “brothering and Sistering”. It is a first-of-its-kind mentorship program for university students in Algeria. Mouakhat is a cultural practice that has faded lately unfortunately and the project aspires to revive it and professionalize it. Thanks to Caux, I have added a layer of conflict resolution to it. If I receive the adequate funding, I shall start with it beginning of next academic year. Other projects include developing a syllabus of education for peace and transformative justice for teachers-to-be at Teacher Education Institute in Algeria where I used to be a teacher trainer. I am also reviewing my second book: The Apprenticeship of Leadership in Schools and wish to publish it sometime next year.

 

Taylor Zuccarello

I began my first trip abroad to Caux, Switzerland naive in my quest for enlightenment. As I boarded my first flight alone, I reassured myself that I had been through plenty of leadership trainings before. However, this program was so much more than I ever could have anticipated. I had no idea the impact or intellectual challenges that Caux Scholars Program (CSP) would thrust upon me, but I am now endlessly grateful.

I was surrounded by professionals, advocates, and academics who embraced me, without question. No second thought was given into my acceptance, and within two days, my CSP roommates and I went from strangers to sisters. Although none of us shared a native language, Andrea was able to giggle at my broken Spanish, and Rasha was patient in explaining the pronunciation of her name. Caux is the only place in the world that has sparked a passion for the level of kindness that I witnessed on the mountainside. Composed of 20 scholars representing 16 different nations, CSP 2017 class was my first experience with true diversity. Some scholars were old enough to be my parents, and I felt so "out of my league" that it sparked an entirely new outlook on my position in the global community. This group consisted of survivors of war, horrendous hardships, and victims of oppression. However, their strength, kindness and generosity overcame every obstacle placed in front of them. I was astounded to find that no matter the race, age, religion, or sexual orientation of any scholar who participated, we felt connected and truly enlightened by our experience together at Caux.

As I finish my time at University, I look back on the skills and lessons I have acquired. CauxScholars Program gave me the best leadership development I have received, and gave me tangible tools to utilize in my future profession. From networking and coalition building, to organizational management and patience, CSP gave this loud American girl a chance to sit back and learn from the world around her. I was honored to be able to work alongside the CSP family, and implore anyone interested in genuine relationships and international cooperation, to participate in this incredible program. Discussing difficult and controversial topics is essential to create a global dialogue that improves the world we live in. By bringing annual scholars together at Caux, professionals working around the world are brought together tocreate solutions. As I continue on my own career path, I hope for the day I can come back to thecomfort of the mountain. 

I reflect on my experience with the Caux Scholars Program, and I am forever grateful for thespiritual and developmental guidance they have provided me. I plan to one day return the kindness and generosity I was given at Caux, but until then I implore every participant, scholar, and organizer to cherish the time you spend. Thank you so much to my fellow scholars, mentors, and I wish the best of luck to all of the upcoming scholars!

 

Dzovag Soghomonian

I was only nineteen when the war in Syria broke out. As a teenager, I was first shocked and baffled, and the entire situation evaded me. For some, it was a revolution, and for others, it was pure terrorism. For me, it was something incomprehensible. What? How? Why? I couldn't analyze it, but all I knew was that people were dying; casualties were all over the country.The fear of being injured and dying has haunted Syrians since 2011, no matter whose perspective or side it was. On the other hand, we still had to continue living our lives. Attending university was a must for me; my Bachelor's degree was a necessity. I later had an internship at the Qatar National Bank, and then started to work at the Central Bank of Syria. At the end of my contract, I suffered from injuries due to a car explosion targeting the bank I worked in.My injuries were not that dangerous. I was lucky enough to have broken bones rather than been left dead. Psychologically, however, I was destroyed. Nightmares accompanied me every night. Fear was haunting me. I can still recall the moment I entered my home with my clavicle bone heavily injured. I could hardly breathe. Every time I closed my eyes, I imagined the explosion, and crying made my chest hurt. Eventually I recovered physically, but mentally I did not. I had to put my studies on pause because I was scared. I flew to Armenia, which ignited a conflict inside me, and generated many questions that I couldn't find answers to. And I never imagined that one day I would have the opportunity to participate in an incredible program calledthe Caux Scholars Program (CSP) that would change my life forever and cure me of inner conflicts that I have suffered for a long time.

Every single day at CSP was a new chapter in my life comprising breakfasts with a large community of individuals from diverse backgrounds; walks to the Villa Maria to listen to lectures alongside 20 participants and learning about identities, cultures, conflict transformation, peacebuilding, and justice; working in groups to apply these theories; pushing forward deepest ideas and thoughts; listening to scholars' presentation about his/her country's conflict; sharing our perspectives about it and respecting each other's freedom of speech. All of this made me realize how lucky I am to be surrounded by people who are ready to make a difference in this world and fight for what they believe in the face of difficulties.

During CSP, I allowed myself to build peace inside of me; I could find answers to my questions with the help of people from different cultures and religions. Despite the diversities between us, we were able to learn from each other and find ways to become kinder people. Every single participant has opened my eyes to a new horizon. They taught me things about myself that I had never imagined. Those people accompanied me in my healing process.What we experienced together helped me to grow emotionally and mentally. Now I know how to control my emotions and stop crying. I have developed my critical thinking. I am courageous enough to apply what I have learned at my work and my personal life. And last but not least, I know that I overcame the inner conflict that was controlling me all this time. I am grateful to CSP for giving the chance to live with 20 amazing participants from all around the world, including a wise Academic Director, a pure heart Program Director and an energetic, and funny Program Coordinator. Since the first day, I poured out my heart before them and later they became my big trustworthy family with whom I shared my thoughts and questions, with whom I laughed, cried, hiked at 2:00AM in the morning to the picturesque Rocher-de-Naye Mountains, with whom I went to Jazz festival and jumped into the waterfalls. Thank you to the Caux ScholarsProgram and Initiatives of Change USA to give me the opportunity to believe that genuinely good people do exist in this world who are ready to lend a helping hand to humanity and bring peace and happiness to the world that lacks in them so much.

 

Jacquie Johnson,

Greetings from the United States! I am Jacqueline "Jacquie" Johnson, a diversity, equity & inclusion strategist, dialogue facilitator, history nerd and place lover. Most days at work, you will find me exploring structures and systems of power, influence and oppression, developing innovative continuing education approaches, partnerships and relationship building, place saving, examining intersections of human history and race relations, and/or integrating cultural context into community development practices in disinvested communities. My ultimate aim is to empower and engage historically marginalized, under-resourced, and (un)served communities in decision-making processes and help individuals and institutions build and sustain inclusive, equitable, safe, and vibrant communities for all to thrive.

I first arrived at Caux exhausted, jaded, and seeking refuge to process my home country's contentious social and political environment and its intense grappling with its past and contemporary divides. Often at the heart of conflict are places that matter to someone or a community and at these same places is the power of healing. Spending four weeks at CauxPalace where one can't avoid the picturesque Lake Geneva and the surrounding Alps, its natural beauty, and hearing the many stories of connectedness to place made that point crystal clear for me. If pushed, I could imagine fighting for Caux and healing just the same. When we think of place it can evoke a range of emotions, anger, fear, love, jealousy - in place we find are our identities and passions. Or, the best description I've heard about how emotions flow through places is in the excerpt from Mindy Fullilove's 2004 book  

Root Shock:  How Tearing Up City Neighborhoods Hurts America, and What We Can Do About It.

places-buildings, neighborhoods, cities, nations-are not simply bricks and mortar that provide us shelter.  Because we dance in a ballroom, have a parade in a street, make love in a bedroom, and prepare a feast in a kitchen, each of these places becomes imbued with sounds, smells, noises, and feelings of those moments and how we lived them.  When we enter an old classroom, the smell of chalk on the boards can bring back a swarm of memories of classmates and lessons, boredom and dreams.  Walking toward a favorite bar awakens expectations of friends and drinks, good times, good food.  The breeze on a certain hillside reminds us of a class trip, while the sun in the garden brings thoughts of Dad.  Try to find the shortcut you use to take to your best friend's house and it is your feet that will carry you there.  The cues from place dive under conscious thought and awakens our sinews and bones, where days of our lives have been recorded.

Buildings and neighborhoods and nations are insinuated into us by life; we are not, as we like to think, independent of them.  We are more like Siamese twins, conjoined to the locations of our daily life, such that our emotions flow through places

, just as blood flows through two interdependent people. 

Throughout my stay at Caux, I was constantly reminded by the people there that we share in our common humanity a concern for place regardless of country, color, creed or stripes. I was humbled to hear first-hand the many ways we navigate contexts in times of conflict, transition and peace. And, I gratefully appreciated the opportunities to examine theories, philosophies, and worldviews often different from my own, network with world leaders, learn about contemporary, traditional and indigenous approaches to justice, and explore trauma healing and dialogue practices to bring about social change in places that matter me.

Within a week of my return to the United States following Caux, my beloved Mom unexpectedly passed away. I often found myself mentally transporting to Caux for strength to face the toughest days and moments in my mourning and healing process. It has also become one of my go to "tools" in processing major life transitions such as my recent move to Richmond, Va. where I will be near my hometown and close family and friends on the other hand engaging in difficult and necessary racial healing and equity activities happening at Initiatives of Change USA and throughout the region. Thanks to Caux, I've embraced a way of life that enables me to embody justice, healing, meaning and refuge in any place, at any time.

 

Tatiana Menjura

Hola, I am Tatiana Menjura, from one of the most diverse countries in the world; characterized by cultural heterogeneity, from indigenous populations to Africans, but also a country marked by decades of a long violent conflict, drug cartels and gross violations of human rights: Colombia.The internal conflict of my country has plagued the lives of more than 8 million victims. There is, nonetheless, a light of hopeas we are implementing a peace agreement with one of the guerrilla groups after years of negotiations. Many challenges are ahead, and many new structures and social dynamics will be built. For me, one of the most important aspects of building peace in my country lies in the recognition of the other and in our innumerable identities. During CSP, I found the space where different identities are embraced and learned that there is always an opportunity if you want to be part of the change.

Today, I remember with nostalgia my class group, 19 strangers who became my CSP family. A participant from Syria/Armenia who possesses the power to overcome any situation, a scholar from Algeria who always has the right words, another scholar from Cyprus who embodies the capacity for change, two people from Ukraine, one an unconditional friend and the other representing wisdom, a scholar from Zambia who has a world to explore, someone from Argentina el poder latino en su máxima expresión, another from the Philippines who will draw a smile on your face, courage from Sudan, purity and utmost respect from Kyrgyzstan, a role model from Afghanistan, a true inspiration from Lebanon, an individual from Pakistan who embodies confidence, two people from Nepal, the first of whom will be there for you at any time and the second one who represents the power of families and transformation, and finally, three people from the U.S. who represent leadership, friendship and the future. To add to the incredible power of our group, our coordinators, facilitators, and instructors from the Czech Republic, Sri Lanka, and the US embody joy, wisdom, and unbelievable kindness.

This is my CSP family, and I am so glad to have had the opportunity of having them in my life. This group gave me the most amazing opportunity of recognizing myself, and for that I am very thankful. I also had the opportunity to facilitate a panel discussion during the Just Governance for Human Security Forum about the inclusive economics SDG goal, which allowed me the possibility to meet and converse with experts on this topic and to research more about inclusivity, equality and fairness.

Caux Scholars Program is a singular opportunity where you can express and commit yourself, and even more, a space where you can find the right tools to apply in conflict situations, through sharing stories, complementing strategies, and understanding communities. Nowadays, restorative processes, memory, and healing are at the core of peacebuilding, and each person in any country can contribute in many ways to a sustainable and peaceful world. I owe the utmost gratitude to all the people who participated in the CSP last summer, and I am confident that all the tools that I acquired during the program will be applied in professional, social and personal spheres.

 

 Kyriacos Jumi from Cyprus,

I am Kyriacos Jumi from Cyprus and am proud to be a Caux Scholar Program alumni of the 2017 class. I attended the program as a graduate student finalizing my Master's degree in international administration with an interest in conflict analysis and resolution. The program gave me the opportunity to be among a group of inspiring students and professionals from multiple countries and regions, which allowed me to enrich my knowledge and perspective on various international topics and events. The program's serene and mountainous Swiss landscape contributed to the uniqueness of the learning experience. Important to note is that the CSP faculty and staff put noticeable effort in

creating a family like environment inside, but also outside the classroom.

I can honestly say that the academic program exceeded my expectations. The multi-disciplinary approach used for teaching conflict transformation and peacebuilding, allowed students of various academic and professional backgrounds to engage in the learning process. Practices such as roleplaying, storytelling, and site visits (United Nations and International Committee of the Red Cross) allowed me to get out of my comfort zone and gave me the opportunity to improve my social skills in an international and diverse setting. Apart from it being an academic program, it became a personal, mental and emotional journey as well, which I would characterize as cathartic and inspiring. I enjoyed Dr Stauffer's lectures; his extensive peacebuilding experience in various countries allowed scholars to better grasp the conflict resolution literature through his own personal examples. Apart from being a great lecturer, I admired that during our classes he was open to listen, but also insisted on learning from the scholars. Adding to the unique character of the program was the opportunity to attend larger conferences at the center where the program is held.

After graduating from the program, I seek to complete my graduate studies and ideally find employment in an international setting or organization, either in the field of conflict resolution, diplomacy or wherever life takes me. The CSP offered me the experience to better connect with myself, but also get inspired and learn from an amazing group of people. I believe that CSP manages to spark and bring to the surface the inner-self and good of scholars

 

Erlan Bakiev

My name is Erlan Bakiev, and I am a police officer.  I am also a part time faculty member at one of the private universities in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. I did my masters at the University of Cincinnati. I received my Ph.D. from the Public Affairs Program at the University of Central Florida, with a concentration in Public Administration. My research and teaching interests include 

collaborative public management, collaborative governance, information technologies, organizational behavior, organization theories and organizational social capital and application of these perspectives in public policy and management. Due to the complex and multi-faceted social issues, I place great importance on interdisciplinary, collaborative, and international approach in scholarly work.

The Caux Scholars Program (CSP) was really a great experience for me. This program gave me a lot. I really appreciated how we dug into the theory of conflict, identity, culture and power dynamics, conflict transformation, peacebuilding and procedural justice. For instance, I really enjoyed the way we learned about the identity of conflicts. This was very important for me because of my field work. A lot of times, I think about who I amif I should take any side in the conflict, or be a mediator or arbitrator.

The exercises we had on the methods of identifying various terms were also very useful. They really illustrated how easily one can identify the root causes, main problems and how the issue (conflict) is expressed. Moreover, all the active exercises and games focused on real scenarios and clearly illustrated practical implementations. For instance, I like the team building exercises which practically addressed the issue of trust and mutual support within the team. Besides the theoretical parts, we had a chance of having wonderful presentations of peers during "conflict where I come from" presentations. All these presentations emphasized how we are all different but also very close in our conflicts. It really opened my worldview on how to identify the conflict, react to it and not respond against it. I realized that conflicts are normal and we should not put them under the carpet but try to address them and look for solutions.

I had an opportunity to be a part of the Just Governance for Human Security Forum which explicitly illustrated the values of Initiatives of Change. The forum brought together people from different cultures, religions and backgrounds. In the safe environment at Caux, people from different religious and cultural backgrounds interacted with each other, participated in honest dialog and created bridges across cultures. It was a great opportunity for understanding world events, their causes and for learning how to work towards solutions. It was an opportunity to meet many individuals who have experienced discrimination and oppression both on and towards them. It was a safe place which allowed listening the stories from the first persons and feeling their emotions.

My CSP experience opened a lot of new opportunities for me. This year, I am planning to join the UN civil police mission and be a part of peace keeping anywhere in the world. I like to emphasize my gratitude for being a part of this wonderful experience at Caux. CSP sincerely lightened my understanding of peace building, justice, sustainable living, human and food security, healing memory and inclusive economics. I really enjoyed it.  

 

Rasha Younes

At Caux, I wake up to the mountains holding the lake-if there is a believing, it is in the music of the water slapping below the Swiss mountains outside my window, like a gentle rocking to the impossibility of standing still. How can I hold this image and be unkind? There is peace here, almost a distraction from the banality of living, a persistent hope that humanity can be resurrected from the violence we can't, on most days, reconcile.

I arrived to Caux after a year of exploring oral tradition and storytelling around the world on the Watson fellowship. A year of being relentlessly hugged by the unbearable kindness of strangers and shaken by the prevailing injustices I bore witness to, across continents, contexts, and histories. As an anthropologist, I have been fortunate to develop a critical mind-set to normative rhetoric, to question legality, forms of governance, and the falseness of a singular justice-and this is precisely the intellectual haven I found at Caux.

I came to Caux with external expectations, "demanding" answers to global conflict from outside of myself, alert for the shortcomings of the program, and waiting for promises to be delivered. I realized, though, that you cannot expect the epiphanies that Caux makes space for. Your time here is an unforeseeable process of becoming, of being only where you are in the moment, and presence is the opposite of apathy. And isn't that a blessing?

To be scratched clean of your becoming for the purpose of becoming again?

It is difficult to envision a space where people from around the world openly and voluntarily come together, and have that space not be revolutionary. Which is to say, this community of diverse thinkers and vulnerable empathy is the biggest success of the Caux ScholarsProgram. This is the place where survivors come to feel safe, carry their heavy hearts and crack them open on the whiteboards of the Villa Maria, share their resilience with strangers ripening into family, and let their tired guards down. There's something about telling your story out loud in a space where people are aching to listen-the vibration of a spoken experience. The anger, sincerity, aliveness. The climbing out of grief. The holiness of breaking. My most gentle lessons here were the stories of these scholars, who taught me that there is such a thing as a non-violent fist, whose work is an urgent resistance, who showed me that love is not for the keeping: it is one perfect sunrise at the top of Rochers de Naye, mourned as it is rising, buried in the present before it is realized as memory.

Transitioning from Caux to my current Master's Program in Anthropology at Central European University in Budapest, I still carry with me the nuanced, multi-dimensional approaches to conflict I gathered at Caux, a worldly solidarity, and a deeper understanding of my positionality as a social agent in my local spheres. Looking forward, I hope to find my place in the civil society sector, working with international and local organizations that serve marginalized communities in their constant resistance. The self-actualization I was granted at Caux allowed me to open-inward, to be moulded by my exposure to multiple realities, to become extendable, dimensional in my vulnerability. If I know anything about this program, it is that you will leave with hearts pregnant with empathy, with the irreconcilable pain and joy that you are not alone in the webs of grief that stitch this confused world together. 

 

Nyambe Mwiyambango

My name is Nyambe Mwiyambango; I'm an international development expatriate and human rights activist with great foresight on tax justice. Originally from Zambia, I'm a Governance and Development expert currently living and working in Uganda with ActionAid International as a Tax Justice specialist. I have for more than eight years worked in the humanitarian development sector and my specialty and interest cross-stitches just governance and human rights, tax justice advocacy and activism, organizational development and capacity strengthening for government institutions and INGOs. I possess a wealth of knowledge and experience in strategic management, youth governance, women's empowerment and gender responsive public service delivery, community integration and social cohesion, public policy, public participation and children's rights governance. Since 2009, I have worked with different organizations and institutions in Southern and Eastern Africa where I had various placements in Zambia, Tanzania, Malawi and, currently Uganda, to bring about social change, justice and peace among the African Community. Also, I'm one of the founder members of the  

 Africans Rising movement for justice, peace and dignity-the Kilimanjaro declaration. 

I climbed up the mountain to the Caux Palace at around 14:26 pm on Sunday, June 25, 2017. At exactly 14:29 pm, I stepped out of the Roches-de-Naye train and I was warmly welcomed by two strong, amazing ladies - Jitka, the CSP program director and Indee, the CSP 2017 Coordinator.

Trust building exercises, problem solving activities, and mutual cooperation laid the foundation for our team spirit. This generated an atmosphere of solidarity and trust for scholars to have honest deliberations about challenging and often personal themes.

Personal transformation is one of the pillars of the Caux Scholars Program, and we were challenged to reflect on our own conflicts and entrenched worldviews. As much as it is a purely academic program, the Caux Scholars Program does not confine scholars to a classroom only setup, but posits to expose scholars to the outside environments, such as visiting the UN Headquarters in Geneva, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and other International Humanitarian Organizations based in Geneva. The fun doesn't end here, as the scholars also have the opportunity to go swimming in Lake Geneva, hike to the top of the Roches-de-Naye Mountain and bask in the sunrise by morning, cycling to France and visiting other nearby countries.

Other highlights from my experience included a lesson on Identity, Culture, and Power Dynamics, which set the foundation for following coursework. Despite the difference in our cultural discernment, race, professions and countries of origin, the glue that held us together was eminent and an invaluable asset to our group's core objectives, as we shared a central belief in law and justice, peace, political freedom and religious tolerance among other things. I have always considered justice, peace and integrity of creation to be an integral part of human rights.

My greatest moment was meeting the strong women in the program - these were women who were victims of gender-based violence but nevertheless incredibly strong, unbreakable, neither reluctant nor petrified to talk about their gruesome past experiences. These women really inspired me to become a better women's rights activist. They challenged me when I claimed to be a feminist as they have a dynamic and very strong view about feminism. The Caux ScholarsProgram transformed the way I view the world today. We learned about different cultural narratives of identity - racism, negative ethnicity, heritage, religion, socio-economic statuses, and the underlying principles of methods of conflict resolution to prevent latent conflict from escalating into violence through open dialogues and consensus decision making. This transported us to a topic on different types of tools for conflict analysis and working towards transformative community conferencing and creating a just society.

 

Pranay Raj Shakya

Up in the clouds, in my Swiss home there I was again, Initiatives of Change - Caux Palace. The beautiful view of magnificent mountains and stunning lake lead me towards déjà vu

moment from back home, of the beautiful lake city of Pokhara, Nepal. I compare and cherish the memories of my homeland and reflections on how close the resemblance could be through nature and belonging. This past summer, I had the privilege to live in the mountain house for a months' time with inspirational 20 individuals from 17 countries as a Caux Scholar.

Caux Scholars Program(CSP) offers young scholars, advocates, volunteers from various walks of life with an opportunity to explore the transformation of intricate, multilevel conflicts around the world. I was one of international scholars developing my skills, knowledge and learning on peace building, conflict transformation, good governance, sustained dialogue, justice and reconciliation. Each day would start with one of the scholars facilitating a reflection time where we also got to learn various things from mindfulness, spoken words, yoga to salsa from one another. The first half of the day until lunch was academic sessions where we discussed concepts, models and elements of conflict transformation. We discussed issues around identity, culture, power dynamics, conflict styles and its analysis. The second half of the day consists of 'Conflict Where I Come From'presentations prepared by scholars where they exhibit the conflict and its possible causes, style, time line and dynamic. My presentation was on caste system in Nepal and its present challenges to young people. 

Caux Scholars Program also gave me an opportunity to work as the wider organizing team for Just Governance for Human Security Forum along with the other scholars as CSP course work. Thescholars had an exceptional learning experience organizing, attending various plenary and special concentrated sessions based on Just Governance's six pillars; good governance, care for refugees, food security, inclusive economics, sustainable living and healing memory. One of the most intriguing sessions I attended was the Armenian, Turkish and Kurdish dialogue where I also got a chance to contribute as participant to encourage the young people present in the room, who were still very much within several burdens from the past; on the Turkish side as a part of the oppressor and intergenerational running traumas in Armenian segment of the attendees. Among all the tensions, it still was inspiring to see how the young people from both nations were present in the room to find a way forward where they shared many stories of their friendship and how Caux Palace is the only place where both sides can meet without any stress of their own safety, stereotypes and/or pressure from their own respective sides. I learned how it is necessary to forgive yet not forget as this is the only way forward to heal people and their traumas for a better tomorrow. I also got an opportunity to work towards the Human security X certificate within the Just Governance conference.

Caux Scholars Program 2017 was focused on restorative justice, sustained dialogue, conflict transformation and reconciliation. I attended the full course where it was a perfect balanceof theories, philosophies, worldviews driving notions of peace building, restorative justice and reconciliation through discussions, forums, simulations, singing, storytelling, reading, case study and more. It was an absolute privilege to be a part of this course. I would highly recommend this to any individual who is working toward creating a positive change in their community, to help them understand conflict and how to transform it towards inclusive peace. 

Apart of the conference I had some valuable time with my friends who are now my

global family, doing various activities like cycling for 6 hours from Switzerland to France, hiking up to Rocher' De Naye' mountain starting at 2 am to see the sunrise together, swim in Lake Geneva with my roommate, watching sunset with deep reflections and understanding of life while

exploring own self.

 

Abigail Ballew

My name is Abigail Ballew, and I am a macro social worker. Originally from Virginia, U.S.A., I recently completed my master's degree through Virginia Commonwealth University, where I worked with a community-based nonprofit to provide support services for refugees. My focus is on program planning and implementation, and I am passionate about helping groups, organizations and communities thrive. I engage dialogue facilitation to bring people together across divides, and have worked in human services through adoption, school social work, and with youth and adults with disabilities. Currently, I live in Richmond, Virginia with my husband, Joshua.

The Caux Scholars Program (CSP) is a truly transformational experience. The intentionality to select scholars from diverse backgrounds and varying fields adds value and depth to understand broad approaches in addressing social issues. CSP gave me critical practice and confidence to work within multidisciplinary settings. With a background in human services and social work, my exposure to theoretical frameworks and approaches to social issues and conflicts had defined parameters. CSP provided me with a foundational understanding of peacebuilding and conflict transformation approaches and theories that challenged and expanded my perspective. IofC's emphasis that 'personal transformation leads to social change' increased my understanding of the roots of social issues. It gave me the knowledge and practice to try different tools and techniques in approaching conflict.

While academically excellent, CSP is also so much more. One memory comes to my mind: the day we took a field trip to Geneva. I and two other scholars, one from Algeria and the other from the Ukraine, found ourselves sitting on a bench by a train platform, deeply absorbed in a thoughtful dialogue on spirituality, faith, and our beliefs about an afterlife or paradise. Several moments into our discussion, we realized that we had become so deeply engrossed in the conversation that we had completely missed our train! While we felt terrible for giving our dear colleagues near panic attacks by temporarily losing our group, there was a sense that we had created a sacred space on that train platform. These sacred spaces, supported by CSP's safe environment, applied learning, and relationship building focus, fostered opportunities for true healing and growth in transformative ways. The journey that began at Caux has continued beyond the program, and the impact has guided my time and focus moving forward.

I was first introduced to Initiatives of Change USA and its core values by participating in the Community Trustbuilding Fellowship two years ago. I am thrilled to announce that I recently accepted a position with IofC USA to work within the new  Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation initiative in Richmond . I am excited to use the conflict transformation and peacebuilding tools gained through CSP to engage as a macro social worker in relational trust building and racial healing work to address the historic and contemporary effects of racism within the United States. I thank you sincerely for your support of the Caux Scholars Program: the work that began at Caux continues to grow and transform me as I seek to make a positive impact in the world.

 

Stephen Jae Fontanilla:

I am Stephen Jae Fontanilla, a 27-year old Filipino. I finished a degree in Consular and Diplomatic Affairs from De La Salle- College of Saint Benilde in Manila, Philippines. Currently, I am studying law in Santiago City, Philippines. I would like to thank you for supporting me, and other scholars in this year's Caux Scholars Program. The experience was life-changing. Currently, I am a part-time instructor of undergraduate college students in the Political Science Program teaching subjects within the International Relations field such as Introduction to International Relations, Comparative Politics, and Special topics in those areas.

To be honest, I was reluctant to participate in the Caux Scholars Program when I was accepted. I felt that I would not be able to participate well in the program due to its intensive and in-depth approach. But after finishing the program, being a Caux scholar was a life-changer and an eye-opener not just mentally, but also physically and emotionally. The program equipped me with so much learning not just from the academic staff and the organizing team, but also from the scholarsthemselves. While I do have a more standardized approach to conflict and conflict resolution because of my background and current study in law, CSP has introduced me to different approaches. The academic experience was intensive. Lessons from Dr. Carl Stauffer and our guest lecturer, Dr. David Anderson Hooker were really challenging as they brought out understanding conflict, conflict resolution, restorative and transitional justice, and creating personal narratives. There was even a time where I questioned myself, as I felt very small in the discussion of the many problems faced by the world. But at the end, CSP taught me that to change the world, it is not how big or small a person is; it is how an idea resonates to effect change.

One of the best parts of the program was meeting and living with the scholars. Each of us learned from one another, understanding the different cultures and backgrounds throughout the month. Having a roommate who has a different cultural and religious background helped me widen my understanding of people. From seasoned peacekeepers, to education specialists, and members of non-government organizations, the diversity of the cohort created not just a huge network, but also a new and supportive family. It was an honor to meet many world leaders such as Dr. Cornelio Sommaruga.

I am using my new knowledge from CSP and sharing it with my students. I am also hopeful that in the near future, I will work in the international field such as international NGOs or the United Nations.

 

Ganna Zakharova:

My name is Ganna (you can pronounce as Anna) Zakharova. I am a Caux Scholar alumna of 2017. I could not believe that I will ever be able to participate in the program, because I could not afford it. I am a Social Work graduate student, International and Community Development stream in Calgary, Canada. But I am also a Ukrainian internally displaced person from Crimea, Ukraine since its illegal annexation by Russia in 2014. I study thanks to a full Canadian Ukrainian scholarship and survive thanks to two part-time jobs as a research assistant at the faculty and as a receptionist at a Ukrainian Youth Association, Calgary small sports social enterprise. As an IDP I know what is uncertainty and constant fear for your family feels like, so I can relate to other 1,6 million IDPs feel in Ukraine, many of whom have a much worse plight.

 

I am dedicated to contribute to peace and prosperity in Ukraine and to support and resilience of our people who keep resisting, despite the foreign invasion, and the ongoing war in the east. By some miracle and help of Initiatives of Change Canada, I was able to fundraise and  participate in the Caux Scholars Program. It was a very powerful, rich and unforgettable experience, learning from which is still emerging in my mind and soul. I would like to share some insights in this amateur poem:

 

I want to find my inner strength 

And to stop crying very night;

My peace of mind among the stress

Is all I want to be defined

 

It's hard to say now who I am,
My piece is lost in two different puzzles - 
The world I grew up in Crimea before the war,
And now - uncertainty on the 'another planet'

 

Whenever I feel overwhelmed and scared,
I turn into that little rural girl,
Whenever I get tired of being scared
I find the power to turn the engine on

 

In Caux I got the inspiration among the desperation
Of my Scholar peers living in this screwed up world - 
As long as people like my Caux Scholars family exist/resist
I still have hope that consciousness and sanity succeed 

 

With Daya's help in Caux I had a powerful insight,
That pain and anger should no longer be my tools,
That happiness and courage from now on
Will be my driving forces to move on

 

I understand it, and I want it, YES!
I want to do so many things, fulfill so many dreams!
But when I see my displaced mother's pain and tears,
Empowerment rolls down right out of my sleeves

 

My values are to be a decent human being,
To fight injustice around and in the place where my roots grow
And looking in the eyes of our perished heroes 
I pledge to change myself and country - this is what they died for...

 

My dream is just, sustainable and prosperous Ukraine,
Where people of all groups thrive, 
I'll do my best to prove - the fight is not in vain,
I'll do my best to learn and gain this Canadian degree

 

I want to learn all theories and skills,
Create my own trauma-based community development approach 
To learn about local veterans' supports, contribute here 
And to vets' families and children at my 'home'

 

It's interesting how the oppressed people can relate,
When I see pain, I feel it from inside.
I realized - the other side of power is abuse,
No matter, what ideology you use

 

I wish to find an answer for Ukraine: 
How to avoid getting sucked by the aggressor,
And not to fall in global corporate abyss 
Since that colonization has never been deceased

 

I don't know why some people think I have the power - 
I was asked to find 15 million to house IDPs,
And I can't even afford a transit for my father and mother.
I think, I'll do my family safety project first,
And then get down to what makes my life worth living for...

 

Whoever can, please support Caux Scholars program,
It helps to realize: "I'm not alone",
We feel each other, we grew into each other's souls
It's like a micro demo version of so diverse, 
But peaceful and supportive world.

 

 

Madiha Sayani:

My name is Madiha Sayani, and although I was born in Pakistan, I have also spent several years of my life living in the United Arab Emirates and Canada. I recently finished my undergraduate studies in Peace, Conflict and Justice Studies and International Relations at the University of Toronto, and am now doing my Master's degree in Development Studies at the London School of Economics.

Before heading to Caux, I was expecting the Caux Scholars Program to be a rigorous academic program that would allow us to get a better grasp on the practicalities of peacebuilding and conflict transformation. Little did I know, however, that it would turn out to be so much more. The CSP turned out to be a very rich experience for me, not just academically and professionally, but also mentally and emotionally. I appreciated that we were encouraged to use our creativity to apply the theories we learned to case studies, and I feel I really benefited from the fact that Dr. Carl Stauffer, CSP Academic Director,  created an open classroom environment where we were encouraged to speak our mind and discuss how we felt about what we were learning without fear of judgment. In terms of topics of study, I particularly enjoyed the week of narrative transformation with Dr. David Anderson Hooker. It made me realize that the personal narratives that we are taught to fit ourselves into really define our role in and relationship with the society around us, and that transforming these narratives is actually possible. However, while the academic component of the CSP was definitely great, the best part of the program for me personally was having had the opportunity to get to know so many lovely people. I feel extremely lucky to have met and formed meaningful relationships with such a caring group of people. Even though there were highs and lows in our group dynamic, by the end of the program we had become like a big family. I know that even though we are spread out all over the world, we will be there to support and root on each other through good and bad.

After I finish my postgraduate studies next year, I would ideally like to work somewhere in South Asia or the Middle East. I am passionate about gender-related issues and hope to find employment in either an international or grassroots level organization that works in the field of gender and development (specifically the economic and social empowerment of women) or towards the reduction of gender-based violence in these regions. Having said that, I strongly believe that "everything happens for a reason", and am open to finding out where life takes me, be it in the direction I currently want to go or on a completely different path. 

 

Andrea Lugano

Greetings from Argentina! I am Andrea Lugano, scholarship recipient for the Caux Scholars Program ‘17. Growing up amid social conflict and economic adversity in my home country, I realized early on the power of peace, justice, and human rights advocacy in enacting change, and embodied these principles in my personal as well as professional life. This is why I have dedicated my academic career toward the betterment of people’s lives

through the pursuit of medicine. I received my medical degree in February 2016, and throughout my studies, I remained determined to actualize my final goal of working for human development and public health. As a result, I was always willing to extend my academic training to the applied scope of my community, by volunteering at an NGO called Grupo Misionero Tola, which provided health services to rural communities in my province

and the North of Argentina.

My journey to Caux began a year after obtaining my degree. I was introduced to the Caux Scholars Program in February 2017, after having just arrived from my first experience abroad in New Zealand, where I had been learning English and working in an Italian Restaurant. After a six-month transformative experience, I returned home a new person, with a wealth of life lessons, unforgettable connections, and a greater command of the

English language. Having expanded my linguistic and international horizons, I knew I was ready to mobilize my new-found skills toward my passion: humanitarian work. While looking for my next adventure, I stumbled upon the Caux Scholars Program on a Facebook page about scholarships, volunteering and international exchanges, and after learning about the program and the NGO on the Initiatives of Change website, I knew that I had found exactly what I was looking for. In CSP, I found the opportunity to learn about the social frameworks of justice, which although not directly related to my medical background, is deeply related with my profession and the way I seek to perform it. I immediately applied for the program, and

after a short while, I received the happiest news that I was accepted.

My previous trip had left me without any savings, and it seemed that raising funds to attend the program was not going to be an easy task. I searched for support through my university, at public agencies and local NGOs, but without any success. However, I did not give up and held onto my faith in my community and my vision for change. Indeed, through the alumni scholarshipand the resilient collaboration of my family and friends, my goal was finally realized. Looking back, I am filled with blessed gratitude toward my mom, who contributed by selling her hand-made jewelry on an instagram page (@ citrino.plataygemas) that my cousin designed, solely for promoting the products to raise funds for me, and toward my friends, who contributed everything they could and organized a raffle to secure more contributions.

I realized that I was not alone at home and would not be alone at Caux, because I carried with me a part of each of these incredible people, without whom I could not have had one of the most awakening experiences of my life. Arriving in Switzerland, and just before taking the train from Montreux, I met two other scholars who became a part of my new family--one became my sister, and the other one an unconditional friend. Finally at the Caux train station, I was welcomed by Jitka’s emanating love and patience, Indee’s genuine company and happiness, and Carl’sneverending wisdom. It was briefly after that I met the rest of my new family, people with whom I shared priceless lessons, grounding theory, and countless experiences; people who continue to be a support net which I count on; people that I will always be grateful to have met.

The knowledge I gathered, the people I met, the peace of the Caux mountains, the connection with nature, and the ability to bask in the spirituality of a safe space made this month an unforgettable time in my life. I gathered all of this life-changing energy and much more that words cannot capture, and I brought it with me from Caux to try to apply in my daily life at home.

Currently, I am working as a gynecology and obstetrics intern and continuing my studies in English, while holding onto my vision of developing a global interdisciplinary professional team which contributes to human development through public health. Although the path to becoming a doctor is long and often difficult and tiring, I look back and I see all of the hurdles I have already leapt over, and I keep going, adopting as a motto a quote from the

Latin American writer Mario Benedetti, which always drives me to keep going, because if I had surrendered, I would not have been able to participate in CSP'17, and today I would not have all the professional and personal tools that this program gifted me:

 

Don’t give up, please don’t give way,

Even if the cold burns,

Even if fear bites,

Even if the sun sets,

And the wind goes silent,

There is still fire in your soul

There is still life in your dreams.

 

 

Sahar Fetrat

When I arrived to my room at the Caux Palace, I looked out the window, and I felt the ice melting inside of me. The stillness of the palace reminded me of how unstable I had been. This is where I felt that I was melting by act of kindness; this is also the place where I was held, picked and stacked together. The only place you are held, guarded, and hugged without any demands in return.

I am a feminist and an activist from Afghanistan, a country known for its 40 years of war and conflict. When I was asked to talk about a conflict in my country, I could not choose between the many options I had. I knew I was conflicted inside and out, but to choose one among many struggles seemed unjust. I came to the Caux Scholars Program (CSP) when I was broken and left vulnerable by loss. In a matter of 4 months, I lost my dear friend in an attack in my University, and I lost my mother on New Year's. The pain had left ice in my hands and had hardened my heart, but CSP was where I met the physicality of my trauma. And that is where I allowed myself to shed tears and feel the lightness again.

Caux was a mystery at first. How could the world's problem be discussed in a Palace in the heart of Mountains where only peace echoes? Later, I realized that the beauty of this place is in its open arms and the way it holds the most vulnerable and broken of us. During CSP, I realized that peace-builders and activists need to rest too; that we need to inhale the fresh air, breathe, question, allow to be questioned, and hold the privileged ones accountable.

At CSP, I realized that privileged and underprivileged, first world country or third world country, we all struggle to survive. As peacemakers, we have conflict and struggling as our common denominator and hoping for a peaceful world is our common goal. 

By the middle of the program, I already knew that the countries that I was getting to know about, resembled the beautiful faces of 20 peacemakers and activist from different parts of the world.  Some of them struggling to stay alive and looking for peace and some resisting and challenging all forms of oppression. I met activists who were peacefully fighting inequality, racism, radicalism, fascism and were thinking beyond themselves.

I learned about restorative justice when I was in disbelief. I struggled to understand the possibility of dialogue with the oppressor. Thinking of my own fight for gender equality, I learned from my fellow scholars what it means to wear the pain and power of a nation on your skin, in the middle of your heart and soul, and to exhibit and reveal it to others who are just as conflicted, as pure and as resilient as they could be. Later, the countries of the people I spent one peaceful month with were no longer just a country in the map; they were the arms of the people I have been healed with.

Almost a year later, I am now graduating from the American University of Afghanistan, determined to make a big shift from studying Business in undergraduate to study Gender Studies during my Master's. I wish to empower myself to do better for marginalized and oppressed society with these different degrees

When CSP program ended, coming out of that comfort zone was just as difficult as saying farewell to the program team and my fellow scholars. The world outside seemed much colder, but I had been empowered to face that coldness and yet stay warm. I will forever be grateful for this experience and I truly believe everyone deserves to have this priceless opportunity.

 

To see testimonials from Alumni of other classes, click below:

2016 testimonials
 
2015 testimonials
 
2014 testimonials
 
2013 testimonials