A subtropical region, south India, palm trees. Conversations about social projects with peers from Africa and Asia.
Over a dozen hours later the National Stadium in Warsaw, colorful Christmas trees, an ice rink. Blogowigilia.
I’ve changed my sweat skirt and sport sandals for an elegant dress and high heels. Only my necklace from an Indian gypsy woman remained the same.
‘So, Ilona, we’re going to be shocked after we come back home’, after all it’s a different continent, weather and above all – people.
Shock & roll at the National Stadium in Poland
I came back from the airport, took off my backpack, had a quick shower and one hour later I was standing in the kitchen at the National Stadium in Warsaw slicing beetroot with the bloggers for borscht. Borscht for the biggest Christmas party for over 500 (!) bloggers in Poland (called “Blogowigilia”), which I co-organized from India. FROM INDIA.
Blogowigilia in India
Before I reached the Stadium, I spent a dozen or so December days, almost till the Blogowigilia, in a place which made me confused. I mean positively confused and slightly shocked.
It is a kanthari institute in Kerala, south India, in which my peers from Nigeria, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Ghana, Nepal as well as from Europe learn how to realize social projects.
I have never heard of such a place before. Intriguing.
In an ecological campus at the lake
For 7 months over a dozen social enthusiasts from all over the world live in an ecological campus, in dazzling Kerala at the beautiful lake and after that time they come back to their home countries to implement a project.
In the kanthari campus they learn about entrepreneurship, contact with authorities or organizations as well as with media, self-confidence and public speaking.
The lake has its own meaning, because after the classes, it is good to jump into water, relax or do some legs and arms exercises while pulling out lotus flowers from the lake (because the lotus flowers systematically grow on the lake). I myself did not pull it out but I sailed on the lake using a paddle boat and later on I was virtually dragged into water by Sanoj from India.
The power of kanthari
In this kathari the young people learn how to turn their dreams into reality. Dreams of building schools, libraries, ecological places, social centers, making educational programs and implementing changes in the societies they come from.
Many of them have come through a difficult, traumatic situations and now they have their projects on which they are working for a few months.
What kind of project are these?
- blind Yamin from Birma dreams of having her own bakery in which blind people would bake cakes and bread.
- Nelson wants to make books available for children from rural areas in Nigeria.
- Gwen fights for the rights of albino people in Zimbabwe.
- Tijana, as a part of a project, wants to make young Serbian people think resourcefully.
- blind Sristi is a beautiful dancer and she wants to travel around the world and make the blind people visible to the world and the other way round!
If only you could see the passion and commitment these people are filled with when talking about their projects and the passion to help others. I CAM STILL FEEL THEIR POWER.
Kanthari and blogs
Suddenly, I started spreading the idea of my project Blogowilgilia and blogs. I can’t express how much they’ve been told about polish bloggers and organization of a party for 500 people at the National Stadium.
Together we created new blogs, edited templates and texts. This is another proof that blogs connect people.
Kanthari people where present during the organization of the whole Blogowigilia project, asking how it was going and I was present when they were practicing before the Dream Speeches, creating new blogs and taking care of projects.
I think it was the most intensive and important time in this year. You wouldn’t believe how much stress but also excitement did I experience there. So many butterflies in my stomach. I wanted to did my utmost for the kanthari participants and Blogowigilia.
It wasn’t easy. I assume that no “sane” person would go to a different continent for 3 weeks before an event big like this one and then go back two days before it starts. This was the only chance I had to go to India, to kanthari. Something inexpressible was dragging me there. I had to take the risk.
After all, I’ve achieved quite a lot thanks to risking so why don’t do it once again? :)
Luckily, I was surrounded by good people who said ‘Go and we will help you with Blogowigilia, together we can make it!’ – I give special thanks for that to Ania Samsonowicz and Ewa Salamon. Thanks to you Blogowigilia looks so beautiful. I also thank Tomek Kozakiewicz who took me to kanthari.
I wouldn’t go there anyway if it wasn’t for the invitation from Paul Kronenberg and Sabriye Tenbergen – charismatic founders of the Institute. I was deeply touched when I met them personally. You can read more about them HERE
After work we used to sing and dance
In the last week we spent several hours a day in kanthari before our computers. Me, boys and girls from India, Africa.
They were filling in grant application forms for their projects and still practicing the Dream Speeches. That is a speech delivered at the end of the course (look HERE). I was answering tons of e-mails concerning Blogowigilia and talking about all the details with companies and co-organizers.
There is work ethics in kanthari but in the evenings, we used to sing together, dance in our ‘office’ while drumming and playing the keyboard. Such a big energy!
I forgot that we come from different continents. All young, happy because we realize our projects, make the dreams come true and we can stick together.
Polish bloggers on an Indian wall
Our worlds merged.
They merged even more when couple of bloggers form Poland made short videos for the participants showing how to promote a project via blogs and social media
Just imagine polish bloggers that I project on the wall of an Indian institute. That was charming gesture!
- Special thanks to Michał Szafrański, Andrzej Tucholski, Arlena Witt, Wojtek Wieman and Ania Orzech from The Great Orchestra of Christmas Charity for their massive support. (Pictures -> here)
- Our worlds also merged when, together with Tomek, we went to BlogAdda, the biggest Indian organization embracing bloggers, and told them about kanthari while planning a future cooperation.
- Also Brand24 left a Polish mark in kanthari allowing the access to monitoring and by doing this, Brand24 now monitors in India. Thanks.
- Thanks to polish bloggers I found graphic designers who are now making a logo for a project called ‘Reading for change’ by Nelson from Nigeria. I posted on facebook that Nelson needs a logo and bloggers started commenting on it and sharing the status and thus we found people willing to do it.
During the stay in kanthari as well as during Christmas Event for bloggers (Blogowigilia) I once again made sure that its worth to stay with people and for the people! I can still remember bloggers cooking and serving dishes for Blogowigilia, and helping with the organization. They could stay home, buy a carp ot wrap the Christmas presents but they came and dedicated their time to others.
No, I did not experience the coming-back-shock. I guess it is because even in India I was still in touch with Poland and in Poland I have a contact with India and Africa. Okay, sometimes I miss the sun, rickshaws and masala tea.
So who wants to live in India for a while?
Filled with positive energy and impression that ‘together we can more’ I have a request to you.
There is a recruitment to the another edition of kanthari course going on now.
I would really want that someone from Europe or from Poland joined the participants of kanthari. If you or your friend have an unique idea how to change the situation in a certain social group and you want to make this happen, then apply.
Look at my post ‘Apply for kanthari and go to India’ and share it with your friends.
For 7 months, from May till December 2015 you can live in an ecological campus in Kerala, South India, along with more than a dozen participants from all over the world. And it is completely for free.
The course is intensive but between classes you could swim in the lake and think about your project among palm trees.