Photo by Camille Albouy.

Posts Categorized:

From the Field

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    [post_date] => 2020-10-23 10:30:27
    [post_date_gmt] => 2020-10-23 16:30:27
    [post_content] => This webinar is brought to you by the Dragons Global Speaker Series – a program where our global educators share lessons in critical thinking related to current world events.
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On October 18, 2020 Evo Morales's leftwing party, Movimiento al Socialismo (Mas), celebrated a stunning comeback with the progressive candidate, Luis Arce winning Bolivia's presidential election in what could be considered a landslide victory (about 20 points according to exit polls.)

It’s a remarkable turn of events, especially considering that just under a year ago, Morales—the longtime indigenous president and incumbent—was overthrown in a police-military coup who then installed the right wing evangelical Jeanine Áñez as president.

In this webinar recorded in May of 2020, Julianne Chandler, Dragons Latin America Program Director, shares her experience of living in Bolivia as the Coronavirus pandemic collided with the fallout from an already devastating political crisis.

A COUP OR NOT A COUP?

The Fall of Evo Morales and Political Transformation in Bolivia

Synopsis:

The Plurinational State of Bolivia was already in crisis when the global pandemic took hold, after contested elections in October of 2019 incited national protests and the sudden ousting of longtime indigenous president and incumbent Evo Morales. A highly controversial debate about whether or not Morales was victim to a right-wing coup has been overshadowed by draconian quarantine measures and increasing restrictions on civil liberties being implemented by the interim government of Jeanine Añez, no friend to Bolivia’s indigenous majority. As a new round of national elections in Bolivia continue to be delayed indefinitely in the face of the public health emergency, serious questions remain unanswered about Evo’s hurried departure, what constitutes a coup d’etat, and the politics of pandemic under a de facto government in South America’s diverse and often misunderstood Andean nation. This session will provide an outline and assessment of recent events in Bolivia from Julianne’s personal experience living through the political crisis and pandemic.

Presented by:

Julianne Chandler, M.A. Poverty and Development, The Institute of Development Studies. B.A. Anthropology and Latin American Studies, New York University. Julianne is the Latin America Program Director with Dragons and lives in Tiquipaya, Bolivia with her husband and two daughters.

____

Interested in developing your own in-field perspective of Bolivia through cultural immersion, wilderness exploration, and language study? Learn more about our unfiltered and immersive Summer and Gap Year programs here.

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    [post_date] => 2020-10-06 12:24:13
    [post_date_gmt] => 2020-10-06 18:24:13
    [post_content] => I want to tell you about my extraordinary friend Sushil Babu Chettri from Nepal. He’s an inspiration for a whole number of reasons, not least for his remarkable life story. His full firsthand account can be found on the Learning Service blog.

He was born in a remote village in the west of Nepal, but ran away as a child and ended up on the streets of Kathmandu. At the age of eight, he learned how to beg from tourists and avoid getting addicted to drugs, while enduring the violence of street gangs.

After some time a tourist “rescued” him and brought him to an orphanage, but unfortunately, the place was corrupt and abusive. The children had no-one to care for them and had to cook and clean for themselves. They did not go to school and had no healthcare. The kids were not even fed enough and were sent out to beg for food. The owner collected donations from various sources but the money never reached the children.

 

Volunteers would come in and out of the orphanage, never suspecting that they were contributing to the exploitation of the children. The volunteers showered love and gifts on the orphanage kids, but the children found it traumatizing to have a conveyor-belt of caregivers, and when they left the hardships resumed.
At the age of twelve, Sushil was the oldest child in the orphanage and felt responsible for getting the children out. He eventually exposed the situation to an American lady and then made a police report about the conditions in the orphanage. The children were all rescued and it slowly their story came out – none of them were orphans, they had all been trafficked there.
The children all went to an organization that cared for them and tried to reconnect them with their families. Sushil felt he was too old to start school but instead he learned skills like how to use a camera and started making short films. He started documenting the lives of street children through film and raising awareness of social issues such as getting children of Kathmandu’s slums into schools. He only reconnected to his family and returned to his village when he was an adult, finding out for the first time that he had a younger brother. The issue that Sushil campaigns on most passionately is orphanage trafficking. After experiencing firsthand how orphanages are run as businesses in order to attract donations, with children stolen from rural areas like where he grew up, he now hosts talks and workshops with tourists and volunteers – and Dragons students! – to share his experience. Recently he has been trying to draw attention to the plight of children trapped in abusive orphanages during the coronavirus pandemic. In recent months, Sushil has been back in his remote home town documenting the situation of migrant laborers as they pour over the border from India despite the strict lockdown. He has been active in campaigning for aid for them, but also for aid to be given in the right way and to not be tokenistic or vanity-driven. He is also launching a project to build a well in his village in order to support vegetable growing there.
Throughout Sushil’s life, he has demonstrated remarkable resilience. He is friendly, positive, and fun, and is always willing to use his time and voice to help other people. He is an enormous inspiration to me – and as close as they come to a living legend.
Sushil Babu Chhetri is a freelance photographer and filmmaker who is based in Kathmandu, Nepal. His films include Flowers in the Dust and Letter to God. He is also an activist campaigning on behalf of children living on the street and in orphanages. You can follow him on YouTube and Instagram.  
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    [post_date] => 2020-09-08 10:47:40
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    [post_content] => 

About Mbouillé

Mbouillé Diallo currently works in diplomatic security. He is an educator and taught young Senegalese and American students, specializing in language and culture. He is a seasoned Dragons instructor, he led Dragon's inaugural West Africa summer program in 2005 and has been invited numerous times as a speaker and trainer for Dragons staff training. A former radio host, he is very interested in politics and geo-politics, though he is not a member of any political party. He is currently writing an autobiographical book and lives with his wife and four children in Thies, Senegal. A former soccer player, trainer and referee, Mr. Diallo likes to watch soccer games and see his kids play.    

     

Interviewing Mbouillé

Can you speak a little bit about what it was like to grow up in Kolda?

I remember, when I was a lot younger, my parents or people of their generation would refer to the regions North of the Gambia as Senegal, and our area (South) as Casamance. I always wondered why. To me we were all Senegalese. My father served in the army and later the Police of Senegal. We ended up living in Kolda just because my father decided to build his house there. Actually, many of my siblings and myself (as a little boy) did not like having to live in Kolda. Because we wanted to be in the North and be "Senegalese". As I was growing up, I realized how grateful I should be to God and my parents for giving me the opportunity to grow up in Kolda. I am not sure I would have learnt and understood a lot of things. Maybe, I would not have been the same person. Two examples can help explain why I am saying this:
  • People like me who grow up in Kolda are what I call a "Language and Culture Melting Pot". Thanks to my past and experience I speak at least seven languages. In my neighborhood, we were surrounded by families of different origins. Almost in each family, they spoke a different language and had something specific to their culture, religion etc. There were several ethnic groups and each had some specificities. That's why I would do whatever I could to not miss family ceremonies. As such, I was able to grow up learning from others and build my own personality, my future… my life. I am deeply convinced that without this past I would not have had the opportunity to work at the US Peace Corps, Dragons and other foreign organizations, or it would not have been the same. With my background and education, it was quite easy for me to understand others and know that staying or working with someone thought to be different from you is a gift and WEALTH.
  • When I was a little boy, electricity and running water was nonexistent in our neighborhood. We learnt to struggle to succeed in difficult conditions. We would study at night with "lampe Tempete'' (kerosene lamps); and had to pull water from wells to drink, bathe, and do the laundry etc. The legend says that the best civil servants (teachers, health workers, etc.) were mainly posted in the Northern part of the country. My family was considered as one of the wealthiest in the neighborhood, but we loved each other, as friends and played together in the streets as one. We shared food, clothes, school supplies and anything to make friends happy. We learnt to be independent and fight to succeed at school and in society. The one thing I feared the most was going to the bush to fetch firewood for cooking or working in farms. However, by following my friends and seeing how well they were doing, I decided to do the same. The most memorable times of my childhood comes from the moments I spent with friends in the bush, hunting, wrestling, playing games and fighting sometimes. Growing up with that is worth years of school studies.
 

You reached out to Dragons with a grant proposal to fund Dr. Yaya Balde's campaign to purchase Personal Protective Equipment in the Region of Kolda. Can talk to us a little more about how these funds will help healthcare workers and the local population?

Healthcare workers were quite unable to fulfill their daily tasks to reach out to communities in the beginning, communicate well with them, let them know that following guidance given by authorities is key to fight COVID 19. The health system and facilities in Kolda is one of the least equipped in the country. Staff did not have enough tools (masks, gloves, hygiene gels, soap etc). Healthcare officials could not keep telling people to wash their hands if the latter don't have soap or water (in some areas). They used a few radio programs, but being in the field was the best way to communicate with people. Healthcare workers knew it would take time to change people's mind and let them understand that COVID 19 is real and anyone can be infected. The virus can survive anywhere; be it a hot, humid or cold area.  They needed the basic tools and products to help communities fight. The public health system also depends on volunteers, since many health workers are not treated as civil servants and their salaries depend on the fees paid by patients in public hospitals and health care centers. Some health workers unions and hospital managers publicly announced that they might not be able to pay some salaries in the near future if solutions are not found quickly. So, I understood that people's lives are at risk. How can someone who struggles on a daily basis to get the minimum to feed themselves and their family be able to pay for fees in order to be taken care of by public health care? And if the health care workers are frustrated and stressed out, because not only don’t have good salaries, but also they might even be paid, I do not think they will be able to help fight COVID 19 in an efficient way.  I thought it would be very helpful to help with means to anticipate and limit the number of people contaminated or affected. I contacted Dr. Balde and learned that there is a committee in charge that can receive donations. Knowing that I do not have enough income to personally bring a help that could impact, I decided to contact friends who could work directly with him and coordinate donations.  

What is the current state of the Covid-19 crisis in Senegal? How has the virus impacted daily life for most people?

As of today Senegal Registered 3253 confirmed cases among whom over 2000 recovered and 38 died. The government of Senegal has not yet opted for total lockdown. However, we are in a state of emergency and under curfew (2100 to 05:00).  The virus has impacted people's daily life in many domains: In terms of the economy, the majority of Senegalese workers are in the informal sector. The economy has slowed down and many locals have been having problems getting income to take care of their daily needs and their families. This crisis has also shown that the health system is extremely weak in this country as it is in many other developing countries. We realize now that the health system has issues in staffing (low salaries or no salary for many of them), and equipment (absence of masks, gloves, hygiene stuff) etc. More importantly, this crisis shows that good communication, hygiene and healthy diets can save lives and money.   The government voted for a special budget to support needy people. As such, food and hygiene products were supposed to be delivered to families that do not have income within a short period of time. Unfortunately, over one month after the decision has been made, many regions have not yet received anything from the government. The government could have done a better job if they did not focus on political actions that we call in French ‘Du Voyez moi’ (look at me). The minister in charge of this task is travelling and using the government TV and other Medias to show up and pretend that he is doing a good job delivering what the community deserves.  On a positive note, this crisis has pushed some sectors to be creative and work on resiliency. Though we are not used to producing and consuming locally, some sectors have decided to participate in the fight by producing masks, machines, gels etc.  

In your opinion, how effective has the leadership in Senegal been at managing the crisis?

To me there was good leadership in the beginning, in the sense that there was an agreement between the current government, the opposition, and most of the other sectors of the society. They all decided to fight the pandemic together. However, I believe, they forgot to take into account certain realities. Most of the recommendations were to stay at home and follow recommendations made by health organizations and authorities. The communication was done in the way that they focused more on stigmatization than addressing the issue. Many people still consider COVID 19 as shameful. That's why many communities did not want to be moved from home (house/village,city, neighborhood) to their quarantine  places (hospitals, hotels and centers).  Also, in my mind, the decision to move all the patients tested positive was a mistake. Many people could have stayed at home and taken care of. The huge amount of money spent to move and take care of those people in hotels could have been saved for investing in testing, research and equipment.  The decision to follow some recommendations was not adequate. For example, they could have recommended locals to wear masks right at the beginning of the crisis, rather than recommending only sick people should wear a mask. I think that added to the false belief that COVID does not exist.     Also, some local wealthy people and politicians who pretended to bring their own revenue into the fight were not doing it for the sake of helping needy people, but rather for publicity. Why would someone whose aim is to help people get out of the crisis expose the stuff and money he is giving in front of cameras and post it on social media? On the other hand, I came to realize that Senegal might not be as poor as our authorities claim. The amount of money that has been collected from politicians and other private business owners could have been enough to help us tackle the problem right at the beginning. If this money was used in the way it should be, the health system in this country would not have been at this sad level.     

Is there anything you wish people living abroad knew about Senegal?

Senegal is one country with a lot of differences and details specific to peoples’ lives; it’s not fair to say there is one culture of Senegal. Senegal is not a poor country, but communities are not always given the opportunity to take advantage of their resources. The colonial system and history have impacted Senegal in different ways. Depending on where you are in the country, you can see these differences.  As such, the decision-makers should take into account the community realities in order to manage and help this country get out of the hole. So, for people living abroad, the best way to know this country and understand the realities to connect directly with locals, stay with them, travel with them….  Also, the educational system has to change. No community can make progress without a good system of education. And leaders should understand that not only people who are literate in French should be considered as educated people or intellectuals. There are a lot of people who could be good resources, but they are not being asked; if they are, their ideas are not taken into account.

What are your hopes and fears for the future?

I will summarize my hopes in one sentence: I wish the future of this country to be left in the hands of those who have the capacity and deserve it. I am optimistic that the new activist movements that are spreading now all over Africa will help us get to that. Many young Africans now understand that the most obvious guarantee to move forward is real Africa Union…

Anything else you want us to know?

I will be happy to get back to you if you have further questions. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to express myself in a few lines about my country…..    

Dragons Fund is a program of the COMMON Foundation, a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization. All donations are tax-deductible as permitted by U.S. tax law.

 
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The Dragons Fund also helps to raise scholarships for our Summer Abroad, Gap Year, and College Study Abroad programs. Contact us for more details.

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    [post_date] => 2020-07-24 11:29:20
    [post_date_gmt] => 2020-07-24 17:29:20
    [post_content] => 

You'll find no shortage of mask-making videos these days, but here at Dragons, we are feeling especially proud of this version created by our dear friends in Senegal, Papa Laye and Jenny Wagner.

As we continue taking responsibility to protect each other from Covid-19, let's also continue to protect the environment by creating masks from materials we already have. In this short video, you'll learn how to make a mask Senegal Style under Papa Laye's step-by-step and no-machine-needed expert instruction.
  If you'd like to joins us in "masking-up to the challenge," email a photo to us or share one on social with the tag #maskupdragons so we can share your creations with Papa Laye, who would be so excited to see what he's inspired you to make!    
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One email a week. Nothing Markety. Unsubscribe any time. Subscribe to the Dragons Blog and stay connected to the community. ❤️

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    [post_author] => 1530
    [post_date] => 2020-07-07 09:15:18
    [post_date_gmt] => 2020-07-07 15:15:18
    [post_content] => We caught up with Dragons instructors Luke Hein and Kawsar Muhtar to learn more about their art-based project to tell stories from Uyghur people around the world during Ramadan.

Every day during the month of Ramadan for the past two years, Luke Hein makes a watercolor painting and posts it on his Instagram handle, vlfhein. The paintings are renditions of photographs and stories gathered in the Tarim Basin area of western China, and they showcase vignettes of life there: Kashgari pottery, desert landscapes, clay tonur (i.e., tandoor) ovens, street scenes, mosques, and buildings decorated with intricate and colorful mosaics.

Ramadan Watercolors“The Boy Loves Fish”

When he launched the Ramadan watercolor project in 2019, Luke had just returned from a personal trip through the Tarim Basin, located in Xinjiang Province, China. He wondered: was there a way to publicize the challenging realities there without making explicit political comments that could compromise his ability to travel there in the future? Inspired by Chiura Obata, the renowned Japanese-American artist who painted and taught while imprisoned at the Topaz internment camp during World War II, Luke hit upon the idea of raising awareness indirectly. 
I said, ‘Let me just highlight things I love, to build knowledge, to build understanding, and through that to build empathy and eventually connection and love because that’s what going to make people risk to help somebody else, that’s what’s going to make people loyal to other people.’ The project is valuable because it’s not directly critical. That’s sort of the key move.
“I had been carrying around a cakey old tray of watercolors from my days as a home schooler. I brought it all over Indonesia and China, telling myself I was going to paint something.” It wasn’t until Luke arrived back in the U.S. that he finally sat down to paint with his niece. “I just started doing it, I didn’t know much about watercolors,” explains Luke, adding that he “drew poorly” throughout high school before his interest in the visual arts waned.  Ramadan Watercolors“Daily routines in Kashgar’s demolished old quarter” During the first year of the Ramadan watercolor project, most of the paintings were of photographs from Luke’s direct experiences traveling in Xinjiang Province. Luke had just moved back into his parent’s house in Alabama to help take care of his ailing father, who had been diagnosed with cancer five years prior and was now taking a sharp decline. Luke recalls his father coming out every night while he was painting at 2 or 3 in the morning. “I interrupted my paintings to give massages, talk with him, sometimes to be angry with him, sometimes to be curious, to make time to be with him.” Luke’s father passed away about a month after the completion of the first Ramadan project, on the summer solstice, surrounded by family.  “With this watercolor that you can’t control super well, not in the same way you can control a pen when you’re doing cartoons, drawing/erasing then drawing again, these details, freckles, each leaf on a tree… you can’t do that in watercolor. It takes away your ability to control that much. It ended up being a really healthy medium for me. I came to identify it a little bit with some of the ideas I was struggling with over control, two tensions I was holding very tightly to: One, the situation with my father, the other situation with a friend in China I was very worried about. Both of which I had almost no control over, both of which became fused in me and in the project. I was doing a lot of thinking by painting.” Ramadan Watercolors“Like a Kind of Medicine” Though not a Muslim, Luke fasted and observed the other tenets of Ramadan while painting. Says Luke: “It’s no accident that I was doing this during Ramadan. I don’t know a lot about Islam, my understanding is evolving. The act of submission was the idea I was repeating in my head. This isn’t necessarily going to look good. The time constraint was another element: I’m going to do one painting a day. Some of the paintings aren’t going to get done. You can see pencil on some of the places where I didn't actually get to painting because it took me so long, I had to move onto the next one.”  Ramadan Watercolors“Farms outside of Hotan” The last piece of the project fell into place during a phone call with fellow Dragons instructor Kawsar Muktar—a Uyghur woman from Kashgar—during which they discussed parallels between Uyghurs and the Cajun ethnic group. Years of conversations with his bayou-born grandmother sparked an increasing interest in the history of the Cajun ethnic minority. Why, wondered Luke, when his grandmother’s first language had been French, did neither he nor his father speak a word of it?  After suffering targeted violence and forced removal from Maritime Canada beginning in 1755, the mostly Catholic, French-speaking Acadians (or ‘Cajuns’) were deported en masse to Britain, France, and various colonies. Many Cajuns later regrouped and settled in South Louisiana. Historian Shane K. Bernard explains how xenophobic policies associated with the Red Scare, World War I and II, and the Cold War pressured Cajuns to move to the city and assimilate into White Anglo-Saxon Protestant majority. It was during this time that many Cajuns, including Luke’s grandmother, stopped speaking French. Ramadan Watercolors“Please speak the common language”  And yet the Cajun identity didn’t disappear. “In the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s,” says Luke, “ there was this revival of Cajun as cool. Something on the verge of disappearing seemed to gain the public eye. Most of it was through music and food, commodifying those in a way. It became cool to go to New Orleans, Mardi Gras was super cool.” Although some Cajun activists are critical of this commercialized caricature of Cajun-ness, Luke suspects that without this revival, perhaps no Cajun tradition would have survived to reevaluate today.  Hein pauses before adding:  “There is a long tradition in China of talking about something that happened in a previous dynasty as an allegory, a veiled critique of something that is happening currently.” In its second year, the Ramadan watercolor project started to change shape from an intensely personal project to a collective endeavor. Luke explains that he had been reading on critical pedagogy and became convinced of the value of what Paulo Freire describes as a dialogic relationship a teacher or researcher forms with partners in a project. He began asking himself:  “How can I put more control of this project into other peoples’ hands?” The answer came once again from Kawsar Muhtar, now living in Paris with her husband and three-year-old daughter. Kawsar recounts: “My encounter with the Ramadan watercolor project actually started with Dragons (staff) orientation in 2016 when I met Luke Hein. I remember we had discussions about what was happening in my hometown. It felt very nice and connected to talk to someone who had been to (my hometown) before and understands the situation.” During the second year of the Ramadan watercolor project, Kawsar began collecting stories from Uyghurs from the Tarim Basin now living abroad, asking people to share old photos and the stories behind them. Stories and photos came flooding in from Germany, France, Sweden, Japan, the UK, and elsewhere. Ramadan Watercolors“Waiting at the Dress Shop” Kawsar translated the stories and Luke made paintings from the photos. Says Kawsar: “We want this project to draw people’s attention to the land currently being forgotten. Secondly, we want the diaspora community from [Tarim Basin] to share their beloved memories about their hometown and families, to let each other know that they are not alone, give each other strength and encourage each other to go through this difficult time together.” Ramadan Watercolors“Just a Road Near My Home” “Personally, it has been very difficult for me to accept the fact of not being able to contact my parents in any form at the beginning. Especially because it happened right after I gave birth to my daughter when I needed my parents so badly, I had tons of questions to ask from my parents, and tons of feelings I feel after being a mother that I need to tell my mom. I felt very angry for a long time, I cried a lot, it even led to a period of depression when my daughter was a few months old.  Now I am more at peace. When I receive those stories, I know that I am not the only person who lost contact and connection to their families. I think some people need this platform to express their feelings. It is very important.” Kawsar shares a recent message from a Uyghur girl living in Japan: 
Kawsar: Do you miss your father? The girl: If I saw his shadow, I would hug it.
Ramadan Watercolors“The Taste of Snow”
“For me,” adds Kawsar, “the most inspiring part of this project is that I got to talk to the Uyghur people all over the world, listen to their stories and feelings, and feel connected. 
After we started to post our invitation to collect photos and stories, a lot of people sent me their photos and told me about their memories. Some of them didn’t have any photos, but they told me the stories or the feelings which they miss the most. Luke did some paintings based on just those memories, which I think was incredible. A lot of people don't have any photos or memories to share, but they still write to me and express gratitude and say that they love to follow the stories and photos I post every day. One Uyghur lady who lives in Sweden sent me a poem she wrote after she saw our invitation.” Kawsar and Luke hope to continue the project in future years, both as a means of raising awareness about the lives of Uyghur people to an external audience, and as a way of fortifying Chinese Muslims in the diaspora through storytelling during their holiest month. Kawsar and Luke are actively enlisting help to translate the stories into multiple languages, and many of the stories have already been translated into  Indonesian by friend and colleague Umi Akhdadiyah. The pair also have plans to write a children’s book in the Uyghur language using Luke’s illustrations. Below you will find the aforementioned poem and Luke’s accompanying watercolor painting. It is the woman’s first poem.  

I Most Want

A poem on which the painting was based by a Kashgar native and mother of two boys now living in Sweden @miskin.kalip. Translated from Uyghur to Chinese by Kawsar Muhtar, and from Chinese to English by Luke Hein. Ramadan Watercolors I most want to gather the alfalfa clustering in the fields, to return home and make mouthwatering alfalfa dumplings. My eyebrows have become dry and rough; I want the moisture from the Osma grass to draw them into the shape of a heart.   My hair, like my very self, withers and becomes brittle. I most want to smear it with Persian olive, infusing a bit of nutrition, or, even more, I wish to hang against my mother’s bosom as when I was a child and let her to rub me with sheep oil while I absorb the sun.   I want to dress bright and beautiful, put on high heels, stalk the Old Town’s streets and alleys. I hope Kashgar’s rain soaks me through. I’d open my two hands and scream, allowing my tears to fall the way of the rain.   I most want, in the kitchen, before the holiday, to press close to my mother while we bake dumplings, fry pancakes, and meticulously prepare the holiday table. When I think that I was at my mother’s side and never once thanked her, I have ten thousand regrets and want to run off to slap this mouth of mine until it shatters.  
  Luke Hein is a freelance writer and experiential educator working in the PRC, Taiwan, Indonesia, and the US. Luke was raised in Auburn, Alabama AL after his Louisianan parents relocated there from Seattle in 1987. Home schooled until high school, Luke left Auburn ahead of schedule to spend his senior year in China in 2005. He has been returning there since, as a student, guide, researcher, traveler, and teacher. He's passionate about rural places, regions where boundaries blur, and the ingenious strategies people invent to contend with life's challenges. He writes and makes art at Instagram @vlfhein and has a recent article out on The News Lens International. You can hear an interview between Luke and his grandmother at a StoryCorps. Kawsar Muhtar grew up in Kashgar old city and received a Chinese language education until middle school. She worked as a language teacher, journalist, and editor in Urumqi, where she gained valuable experience with Uyghur media and literature. Kawsar continued her studies in London, where she researched the role of mass media in social construction, representation, and understanding of difference and social diversity. After her studies, she worked as a Dragons instructor in China. She now lives in Paris as a part-time editor and an almost full-time mom.  
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[post_title] => Ramadan Watercolors Project: Sharing Stories from the Uyghur Diaspora [post_excerpt] => We caught up with Dragons instructors Luke Hein and Kawsar Muhtar to learn more about their art-based project to tell stories from Uyghur people around the world during Ramadan. Every day during the month of Ramadan for the past two years, Luke Hein makes a watercolor painting and posts it on his Instagram handle, vlfhein. The paintings are renditions of photographs and stories gathered in the Tarim Basin area of western China, and they showcase vignettes of life there: Kashgari pottery, desert landscapes, clay tonur (i.e., tandoor) ovens, street scenes, mosques, and buildings decorated with intricate and colorful mosaics. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => ramadan-watercolors-project-sharing-stories-from-the-uyghur-diaspora [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2020-11-10 19:53:49 [post_modified_gmt] => 2020-11-11 02:53:49 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/ [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 2 [filter] => raw [categories] => Array ( [0] => WP_Term Object ( [term_id] => 638 [name] => From the Field [slug] => from_the_field [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 638 [taxonomy] => category [description] => Featured Yaks, Reflections, Quotes, Photo Spreads and Videos from the Four Corners. [parent] => 0 [count] => 78 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 4 [cat_ID] => 638 [category_count] => 78 [category_description] => Featured Yaks, Reflections, Quotes, Photo Spreads and Videos from the Four Corners. [cat_name] => From the Field [category_nicename] => from_the_field [category_parent] => 0 [link] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/category/from_the_field/ ) [1] => WP_Term Object ( [term_id] => 653 [name] => Global Community [slug] => global_community [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 653 [taxonomy] => category [description] => Featured International People, Places, Projects. [parent] => 0 [count] => 50 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 6 [cat_ID] => 653 [category_count] => 50 [category_description] => Featured International People, Places, Projects. [cat_name] => Global Community [category_nicename] => global_community [category_parent] => 0 [link] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/category/global_community/ ) [2] => WP_Term Object ( [term_id] => 640 [name] => Dragons Instructors [slug] => dragons_instructors [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 640 [taxonomy] => category [description] => Featuring the words, projects, guidance and vision of the community of incredible staff that make Dragons what it is. [parent] => 0 [count] => 36 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 8 [cat_ID] => 640 [category_count] => 36 [category_description] => Featuring the words, projects, guidance and vision of the community of incredible staff that make Dragons what it is. [cat_name] => Dragons Instructors [category_nicename] => dragons_instructors [category_parent] => 0 ) [3] => WP_Term Object ( [term_id] => 1 [name] => Uncategorized [slug] => uncategorized [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 1 [taxonomy] => category [description] => [parent] => 0 [count] => 15 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 16 [cat_ID] => 1 [category_count] => 15 [category_description] => [cat_name] => Uncategorized [category_nicename] => uncategorized [category_parent] => 0 ) ) [category_links] => From the Field, Global Community ... )
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    [post_date] => 2020-06-27 08:00:26
    [post_date_gmt] => 2020-06-27 14:00:26
    [post_content] => This blog post is written by Claire Bennett, a Dragons Instructor who usually resides in Nepal, but who has spent the months of the pandemic hunkering down in Indonesia, after supporting the Bridge Year Program there earlier this year. Claire worked with Lutfi Handayani, Dragons Local Coordinator, to distribute a Community Relief Fund grant in Yogyakarta.

On our way into the public health office in Yogyakarta we had seen a pick-up truck, sirens blazing, full of people in hazmat suits. It was this trip that really opened my eyes to the scale of the pandemic here in Indonesia. Up until that point, the number of cases of COVID-19 in the country that I somewhat unexpectedly have called home for the last few months, seemed to be within reasonable limits. (Although my definition of “reasonable” has been warped by the comparison to other countries I hold dear which have fared much worse, like my native UK.)

Lutfi and I had applied to the Dragons Community Relief Fund for a small project here in Yogya. Part of the grant was to donate 25 sets of PPE to the local public health office. Procuring the suits had been no small feat; they are not available for general purchase, so we had needed to locate the correct material and then take it to a tailor to sew the suits to the required specification. I marveled that the government had resorted to appealing to the public to donate hand-sewn hazmat suits.

To enter the public health office it is mandatory to wash your hands and wear a facemask. We asked one of the administrators where the pick-up truck we had seen was headed. “To collect and bury the body of a seven-year-old girl who died this morning,” was the reply, and we wished we hadn’t asked. Still, she would not be counted among the case statistics as she was still on the waiting list to have the test that would have confirmed it. “Most of the people that die are in the ‘suspected’ category,” we were told. “But we still have to treat the bodies like they had the virus – that’s why we are running out of PPE.”

Our donation was to protect public health workers overwhelmed by the rising death tolls here. It felt like a good use of a very small amount of funds.

[caption id="attachment_157207" align="aligncenter" width="715"] Photo by Claire Bennett, Instructor.[/caption]

 

[caption id="attachment_157205" align="aligncenter" width="715"] Photo by Claire Bennett, Instructor.[/caption]

The other thing we planned to do with the community grant was something we knew would provide immediate relief; giving small amounts of essential food and supplies to those hit hardest by the crisis.
Indonesia is in an unusual situation in that there has been no nationwide lockdown, and no shelter-in-place instructions have been given except for in areas of exceptionally high transmission such as the capital.
The government has declared that a lockdown would be too hard on the country’s daily wage earners, who make up a significant proportion of the population. Despite this, the economic impact of the crisis has hit Indonesia hard, as tourism ceased, restaurants reluctantly shut their doors due to declining demand, construction work has stopped, and markets have closed. A large number of families have lost their only source of income. In my work with Learning Service I have often spoken out against “handouts” as a form of charity, as it leads to dependency instead of systemic change. However in the face of an immediate need such as a natural disaster or, as we have found, economic fallout from a pandemic, there is a need for a stopgap, and when people are struggling to feed their families there isn’t time to make longer-term plans. We decided to focus on the two areas of town that host our Dragons students – Tamansiswa, where the semester program house is located, and Kotagede, the community that hosts the Princeton Bridge Year groups. In both communities, we worked with local leaders to identify families most in need, which ended up being 20 families around Tamansiswa and 19 in Kotagede. The community chief in Tamansiswa also requested us to install a small public hand-washing station to promote good hygiene practices for the duration of the pandemic. The food packages were comprised of bare essentials, to ensure that we were not giving anything that would be wasted. 5kg of rice (of course, we are in Indonesia), cooking oil, salt, sugar, tea, eggs, hand soap, and naturally the ubiquitous “Indomie” instant noodles. The packages were delivered to the community leaders who distributed them anonymously in order to avoid questions or jealousy. [caption id="attachment_157136" align="alignnone" width="2560"] Photo by Aaron Slosberg, Instructor.[/caption]
In lots of ways, the support that we offered with this community fund was minimal: a token of support and solidarity in troubled times. But I also like to think it had a modest impact.
For the relatively tiny amount of just US $525, we were able to make 25 hazmat suits for public health workers, support 39 struggling families with a couple of weeks’ groceries, and set up a public hand-washing station. Along with boxes of food and soap, the Dragons community also offered our community in Yogyakarta a sense of hope in these dark times. A huge thank you to all who have donated so far!    

Dragons Fund is a program of the COMMON Foundation, a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization. All donations are tax-deductible as permitted by U.S. tax law.

 
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[post_title] => INDONESIA (YOGYAKARTA)—DRAGONS COMMUNITY RELIEF FUND IN ACTION [post_excerpt] => Lutfi and I had applied to the Dragons Community Relief Fund for a small project here in Yogya. Part of the grant was to donate 25 sets of PPE to the local public health office. Procuring the suits had been no small feat; they are not available for general purchase, so we had needed to locate the correct material and then take it to a tailor to sew the suits to the required specification. I marveled that the government had resorted to appealing to the public to donate hand-sewn hazmat suits. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => indonesia-yogyakarta-community-grant-update [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2020-06-27 09:07:03 [post_modified_gmt] => 2020-06-27 15:07:03 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/ [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [categories] => Array ( [0] => WP_Term Object ( [term_id] => 638 [name] => From the Field [slug] => from_the_field [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 638 [taxonomy] => category [description] => Featured Yaks, Reflections, Quotes, Photo Spreads and Videos from the Four Corners. [parent] => 0 [count] => 78 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 4 [cat_ID] => 638 [category_count] => 78 [category_description] => Featured Yaks, Reflections, Quotes, Photo Spreads and Videos from the Four Corners. [cat_name] => From the Field [category_nicename] => from_the_field [category_parent] => 0 [link] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/category/from_the_field/ ) [1] => WP_Term Object ( [term_id] => 653 [name] => Global Community [slug] => global_community [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 653 [taxonomy] => category [description] => Featured International People, Places, Projects. [parent] => 0 [count] => 50 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 6 [cat_ID] => 653 [category_count] => 50 [category_description] => Featured International People, Places, Projects. [cat_name] => Global Community [category_nicename] => global_community [category_parent] => 0 [link] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/category/global_community/ ) [2] => WP_Term Object ( [term_id] => 641 [name] => About Dragons [slug] => about_dragons [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 641 [taxonomy] => category [description] => Press, Essays from Admin, and Behind-the-Scenes HQ. [parent] => 0 [count] => 53 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 9 [cat_ID] => 641 [category_count] => 53 [category_description] => Press, Essays from Admin, and Behind-the-Scenes HQ. [cat_name] => About Dragons [category_nicename] => about_dragons [category_parent] => 0 ) ) [category_links] => From the Field, Global Community ... )
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