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The Empty Nest and What Comes Next for Dragons

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Reed Harwood, Executive Director

Dear Dragons Alum Families and Community,

Today is July 1st: Week one of our summer courses. In normal times, students would be getting to know their instructors and peers, tasting and smelling new cuisines, and beginning their Dragons experience. These are clearly not normal times, and this year we are feeling what many of you experienced when your child left home: the empty nest. Until international borders reopen, the majority of our customary work is put on hold; as temporary empty nesters, we are afforded the time and space to look at ourselves in new ways. These past months of crisis have helped us to ask old questions with renewed urgency, expand our vision, and deepen our purpose. I’d like to share these developments with you:

Bringing our work closer to home

At our core, Where There Be Dragons is about discovery of and connection to self, others, and our shared planet through immersive and responsible travel. With international travel on pause, we want to expand our mission to meet new realities. Over the past several months we’ve developed new domestic programs for our SummerGap and Adult participants. We’ve long wanted to bring our work “closer to home.” These courses do just that, allowing us to bring participants in contact with critical issues and impactful experiences in the US.

Supporting communities

  • While we know Dragons will get through this and be stronger for it, the slowdown has acutely impacted many of our overseas staff and partner communities. In response, The Dragons Fund (a 501c3 program of the COMMON Foundation) started a
  • Community Relief Fund to help provide small grants to affected communities in the places we visit. These communities have always been the bedrock of a Dragons education. We are continually inspired by their creativity, strength, and resilience. They continue to teach us how to navigate this complex world.
  • Julianne Chandler, our Latin America Program Director, recently wrote a beautiful blog post about how one of these communities in Bolivia has been impacted by the pandemic and responded in creative ways.


Deepening our work towards justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion

Over the past few years we’ve made tangible strides in more fully articulating and realizing our mission, vision, and values. We hope our actions loudly reflect our words. And yet, as with all things aspirational, the journey is endless. COVID-19’s unequal impact on vulnerable communities and movements like #MeToo and Black Lives Matter remind us of how far we have to go-as an organization, as a country, and as a global community-to actuate meaningful and systemic change. International travel, and Dragons programming, are fundamentally entangled with legacies of colonialism and contain deep inequities. We are using our “empty nest” to develop a long-term strategic plan for deepening our work toward justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion, which we look forward to sharing in the coming months.
Dragons will always seek to provide profound and unfiltered experiences that expose us to the beautiful and painful complexities of our world. Through our shared learning, we can step beyond our cultural and self-imposed limitations, awakening to who we want to be for ourselves and our communities.
Thank you for all your support in the recent months, and over the decades. We look forward to updating you on our programming as it returns.
Reed Harwood
Executive Director

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