I’m delighted to say that Mihirini de Zoysa has agreed to write a guest blog for me. Mihirini is from Sri Lanka, and I met her last year when she and my daughter Rowan were doing an MSc in Responsibility and Business Practice at the University of Bath.
When I read about the I Can project, I pestered her to write about it for my blog, and she not only graciously agreed, but wrote the following in double quick time.
The power of simple random acts – how the I Can project started in Sri Lanka
It’s February 14th, St Valentine’s Day, and I am browsing the net, going from one link to the other, without a particular destination, enjoying tidbits from the cyber world.
I happen to come across an interesting TED talk http://on.ted.com/88Xq. It’s about a school in India (Riverside School) that has started a program called I Can, where children aged 8-14, working in small groups, are empowered and inspired to become agents of change.
It’s a simple concept. The children are asked to pick an issue that bothers them, that they want to change, and then they are given a week to make the change.
The impact and results are amazing. From cleaning up garbage, to making cities child-friendly, to stopping child marriages, to teaching their parents to read and write, no issue was too big or too small. Kiran Sethi, the lady spearheading this project, sees the potential and starts taking the idea to other schools in the state and then across India. It gathers momentum and start spreading all over … Pakistan, England, Canada, Bhutan.
Coming back to my random web surfing. I tweet the link. My dear friend Bishan Rajapakse in New Zealand picks it up and is equally inspired and does more than tweet it. He writes to Kiran praising her for her work and saying it would be amazing to start this in Sri Lanka.
Kiran replies. Of course – You Can! Bishan puts me and several others in touch with her.
In the meantime, I have been meeting with a group of my friends, who are depressed and disheartened about some of the political and social issues in Sri Lanka. We wanted to get out of the apathy we were in and were looking for practical way to engage with social issues and the community, to bring in values, empowerment and good governance.
I Can seemed like an ideal way to engage with children, teachers and the education system. We pick up the idea, and today we are running several pilot projects – with amazing results.
Children have been involved in teaching English to other less privileged children, stopping bullying in schools, cleaning up a garbage dump and convincing the municipality to give a job to an unemployed person known to them etc.
It’s amazing what children will do when adults believe in them and they believe in themselves. The teachers are amazed, too. Children whom they have hitherto written off as being ‘naughty’ and ‘undisciplined’ have worked the hardest and shown their true potential in their engagement with the project.
Our approach to the project has been quite informal and unstructured. We are not approaching schools through the formal authorities (such as the Ministry of Education). We have used our personal contacts within the school system to gain access to school principals. We then meet them, present the idea and start a pilot project running.
From this our contact base is growing. Our current limitation is the number of us working on this project, just a handful of friends who have ‘day jobs’. So we are talking to extended networks of friends and colleagues and trying to ‘infect’ them to take on the concept and principle. This way the message would have a ripple effect in the system. Where it began (from what we know, it was Kiran in India) would no longer be important. The project would take on a life of its own, and keep spreading as long as the need and energy was there.
So what’s the moral of this story?
A simple random act can often have an unpredictable chain reaction and create change!
A tweet. An email. A contact and introduction. A group of friends.
A change initiative that is empowering children to believe in themselves as agents of change and helping adults to start respecting the passion and action of children.
I did not know at the time I tweeted the link that it would connect me to a social change initiative that is growing as we speak. I didn’t realize that this would be a project that my friends and I would start doing.
What was the link?
Each one of us (me, the group of friends, Bishan, Kiran) in our separate corners of the world had one intention – the intention to transform human society, to empower the good humanness in all of us, to believe in children, to believe in the good in the world. This connected us. And simple random acts with this underlying intention connected us. That’s all. Simple.
I can make simple random acts, holding my intention closely to my heart, and see my intentions unfold, and connect with others.
I am not alone.
You are not alone.
Be brave. Be foolish. Make one simple random act of goodness. Share a story. Help someone. Believe in yourself. Believe in someone else. You never know how far it can reach.
Wishing life and energy to your good intentions!
Please do remember to click this to http://on.ted.com/88Xq to watch the TED talk by Kiran. She is truly inspiring and the I Can movement is contagious.
I’m a Leadership Coach, Trainer, Organisation Development Consultant and Facilitator. I live and work from Sri Lanka. I’m lead consultant at Corporate Druids, which I founded 10 years ago. I constantly explore ways to build bridges between ideas and action and to create spaces for authentic dialogue.
My journey and quest is to find a balance between being pragmatic and optimistic about life, humans and the future of the earth.
You are welcome to check out my website www.corporatedruids.com for more stories on our learning and experiences and results about the pilot project and how the project is progressing, and for more about my practice, views and thoughts on living meaningfully.
CORPORATE DRUIDS TM
twitter @mihirini @corporatedruids