In my travels I have had the privilege and honor of meeting incredible people who are doing incredible things in loving and humble ways. Brian O’Toole is one such person I recently met and I’m so grateful our paths crossed. Brian recently put out a book that offers some of his thoughts and honest reflections on the last four decades of development work that he’s been involved with in Guyana, where he has pioneered with his wife. The book is called Educational Leadership: A Guyanese Perspective, and I decided to ask Brian about his book and his work and here’s what Brian had to say:
Baha’i Blog: Can you tell us a little bit about the book? What’s it all about?
We have now been 40 years in Guyana having left the UK as a young married couple. Guyana has proven to be a very receptive country to the Faith with Christianity, Islam, and Hinduism well established in the country. By the early 1980s, Guyana had more than 7% of the population as declared Baha’is. My thinking was: if a significant percentage of the population embraces the Faith and nothing seems to change then what is the point? This led us to introduce a number of development projects in literacy, youth leadership, disability and education to see what it means to try and put the principles of the Faith into practice. The book is a reflection on these efforts.
When I was visiting Toronto, I had pleasure of meeting Gordon Naylor, founder and principal of Nancy Campbell Academy, a Baha’i-inspired intermediate and secondary international school in the quaint small town of Stratford, Canada. It’s a small school with a big impact that aims to foster moral development alongside academic achievement and artistic exploration. Curious to find out more about the school, named after the Baha’i dancer Nancy Campbell, I sat down with Gordon to hear more about it: Continue reading
(Photo: courtesy Baha'i World Centre)
On July 12th, Malala Yousafzai celebrated her 19th birthday. This Nobel Peace Prize winner (the world’s youngest) caught the world’s attention in 2012 when she was shot in the face by the Taliban for attending school and for championing the right of girls to be educated. On her 16th birthday, Malala gave a speech at the United Nations — the first after the attack on her life — renewing her commitment to fight for the right of children to go to school. The UN dubbed that July 12th as “Malala Day” and some have celebrated it since.
Education is a universal right. Abdu’l-Baha states:
The education of each child is compulsory…. In addition to this wide-spread education each child must be taught a profession, art, or trade, so that every member of the community will be enabled to earn his own livelihood. Work done in the spirit of service is the highest form of worship…
The education of girls is a principle distinctly upheld in the Baha’i Writings. It is a subject that I think of often, and it is a subject more complicated than a simple Baha’i Blog article can address. Here are a few of my thoughts about the education of girls and how this goal is linked to the equality of men and women and the importance of children’s classes. Continue reading
There are more parenting books out there than anyone can possibly read in a single life time. They cover everything from sleep training methods, to speciality gourmet puréed recipes, to yoga for little ones. Since I am an incorrigible bookworm, one of the first things I did when I became a mother was to poll other Baha’i mothers about what books really helped them. The following includes many of their suggestions, as well as a few others I’ve stumbled upon along the way: Continue reading
With all the activities going on in the Baha’i world, one of the things we really hope to achieve here at Baha’i Blog is to help serve as a resource for Baha’is and their friends, and that’s one of the reasons we launched our very own YouTube channel.
Our first series of videos on Baha’i Blog’s YouTube channel are called Studio Sessions, and the series has been extremely popular and is being met with a lot of support and enthusiasm – so thank you everyone!
Over the years we’ve had a lot of people asking us to help them with ideas of games or arts-and-crafts they can use for their children’s classes, holy days, or other Baha’i-inspired activities, so now that Studio Sessions is well underway, we’re now launching a new series called “Creative Ideas” to help with just that. Continue reading
Photo: Freedom House via Flickr
The recent news and accompanying images of those who drowned while attempting to flee war-torn Syria has brought the entire world to tears. No matter what their age, background, or religious affiliation, people have been deeply affected by the tragedy and almost everyone has been left feeling helpless and searching for a means to ‘fix’ the current global refugee crisis.
In light of this news, I was particularly moved by the following excerpt taken from The Promise of World Peace by the Universal House of Justice: Continue reading
“Imagine a school where your teachers are your friends and mentors, looking for the best within you, and helping you see strengths within yourself that you may not have known were there…where helping you develop your character is as important as helping you develop your mind…where helping you be the best person you can be is as important to helping you be the smartest person you can be…a school that sees you essentially as a spiritual being, and nurtures the life of the spirit…”
That school exists, and it’s called Townshend International School.
Townshend International is a Baha’i-inspired school located in a town called Hluboka nad Vltavou in the south of the Czech Republic. It’s about a two hour train ride from the nation’s capital, Prague, and its students come from all over the world to attend. I’ve visited the school and I know many people who have studied there, and I have to say that everyone I know who’s attended Townshend International School can’t say enough good things about it, and how the school had a profound effect on both their spiritual and academic growth.
I recently had the pleasure of meeting Vivek Williams, the School Director of Townshend, and I thought it would be great to ask him a few questions to find out more about this wonderful Baha’i-school and to share it with everyone: Continue reading
The Baha’i World Centre has just released a series of 11 short videos commissioned by the Universal House of Justice which are collectively called To Serve Humanity.
The Baha’i World News Service (BWNS) explained that “To Serve Humanity explores, through the diverse voices of a few of the 80,000 young people who participated in the 114 gatherings, the ways in which young people can contribute to the spiritual and material well-being of their communities. As the young participants articulate insights on themes covered at each conference, what it means for their generation to be dedicated to the service of humanity is brought to life. Continue reading
The House of the Bab in Shiraz, one of the most holy sites in the Baha’i world, was destroyed by Revolutionary Guardsmen in 1979 and later razed by the government. (Photo: Baha’i Media Bank)
An issue very dear to the hearts of Baha’is around the world is the situation of the Baha’is living in Iran. There’s been some international coverage about the persecution which Baha’is in Iran face, and many of my friends and colleagues often ask about this. Even a lot of my Baha’i friends are still not fully aware or understand what’s been happening there, so I thought it would be a good idea to try and explain some of the background and the current situation relating to the persecution of the Bahai’s in Iran. Continue reading
When I first heard about Mama Papa & Me, I was excited for so many reasons. The education of children is a tremendously important duty in the Baha’i Faith. In fact, Abdu’l-Baha calls it “among the most meritorious acts of humankind”.
So when I found out that Mama Papa & Me focuses on education during the early years, which is now widely recognised among educators as being the crucial years in which the foundation for a person’s lifelong learning and wellbeing is formed, I was fascinated and wanted to know more about their Early Years Education Programme.
And then, when I discovered that Mama Papa & Me’s focus was not just on the early years, but also on helping parents and caregivers develop the capabilities they need as the first educators of their children, I definitely wanted to know more!
Serendipitiously, a family wedding brought me to London, which is where Danielle Pee, the amazingly talented founder of Mama Papa & Me, is currently based. And so I jumped on the opportunity to sit down with her and ask all my questions.
What started as a conversation about education, parenting and the work that Mama Papa & Me is doing ended up becoming a deeper conversation about capacity-building and the Baha’i approach to community development, as well as an illuminating discussion about what it means, in very practical terms, for Baha’is to attempt to contribute towards the advancement of civilization.
I gained so much from my conversation with Danielle, not just in terms of my own professional interest in education and community development, but also personally, as I listened to the story of her own inspiring journey and the many lessons she has learned along the way. I hope you enjoy this interview as much as I did! Continue reading