Design For Change

Design For Change

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Story of Deki Choden, DFC Bhutan

The Coveted Global Catalyst Series

The proud DFC Bhutan team. 
It had been a year since I visited The Riverside School, and came back incredibly inspired by the many citizenship programs that its students engaged with. It was on this visit that I got to know about Design for Change. I was awe-amazed when I heard Kiran talk about the grand plan for DFC. It was to run in hundreds of schools. I couldn’t quite wrap my head around the size this idea would, and indeed has taken over. And then I heard Riverside’s 8th grades talk about some stories of change, and I knew it was possible, and my confidence grew. I was hooked!

Charity begins at home. Especially when it is the most obvious choice to begin with. I knew that if these ideas empowered children at Riverside, they were surely to work with my children at Early Learning Centre. The first pilot project was entirely the students’ idea: “ELC says NO to packaged food” Of the many problems that the children brainstormed into existence, TRASH was what bothered them the most, and they were not afraid to give up their favorite snacks to rid our school of it. We went to work immediately by taking three steps. First, we formed the DFC Core Team from among the teaching staff at ELC.  Second, we introduced the idea to my students in grades three-through-six.  Third, we commenced the DFC process with the seventeen students who volunteered to “make a change.” We were fired up, enthused, and challenged to begin the process -- even though we weren’t quite sure how we would take DFC beyond the ELC!  Nonetheless, that first year, 2010, we recruited nine schools.

From then on, there has been no going back. We have worked hard to increase the rate of DFC participation in Bhutan.  Most recently, our count has reached eighteen schools!

Design For Change serves to bring mindfulness to our school and our country by aligning with the pillars of GNH in the most natural way. As a case in point, take our DFC Story of “Saying NO to Packaged Food”. Young children leading the way in refusing packaged food aligns with Good Governance or Good Leadership from a young age; when children replace packaged food with indigenous food alternatives, cultural promotion is ascertained; when children refuse to eat imported packaged food from neighbouring countries, and instead promote their own farmers’ local produce, sustainable economic development is secured.  It goes without saying that environmental conservation was on the minds of the children when they decided to get rid of trash or non-biodegradable waste in the first place!

YAC, or Young Ambassadors of Change, ELC’s rural-urban school partnership was established as an offshoot of Design For Change when our rural schools began to show greater interest in DFC. These partnerships, through the pure and true intention of making a difference, have allowed the ELC to experience the joy of giving, and the satisfaction of creating “magical moments” for others. 

The healing power of these moments means that there is no turning back for us. In addition to myself, there has been only one other adult working on DFC.  Her name is Sylive Wolraven.  As a part-time DFC Coordinator, her efforts with others schools in Bhutan, the Ministry of Education and DFC World Headquarters in Ahmedabad have been key to our success.  Sylive is from the Netherlands and recently returned home.  She came to the ELC in 2011 and taught kindness and compassion as a volunteer.  Now, Ivor Hanson serves as our DFC Coordinator (along with teaching part time).  Ivor comes to us from America.  So there are still two of us working on DFC-Bhutan and we feel overwhelmed on a regular basis, but we know DFC is here to stay.

Overcoming fund raising challenges remains our biggest hurdle to date.  We have a key endorsement from the Ministry of Education, and we receive contributions from various corporations and organizations, as well from personal friends and well-wishers. Nonetheless, these contributions are small. We need to build on our fundraising strategies.  We are confident in our ability to overcome these challenges as we have in the past. We recently secured generous funding from The Bhutan-India Foundation, which will help us attend the 2014 “Be the Change” Conference.

The DFC journey has been a remarkable one. There is such gravity in the program, that good things are bound to follow those who are willing to brave the challenges, even at the face of rejection, confusion and uncertainty. The biggest learning through DFC has been my own ability to say, ‘I can’. After all, how could I stay away from the power of self-belief DFC instills in children? ‘I can’ make the world a better place, just like children in Bhutan, as well as all over the world, are doing today!
Bio of the Global Catalyst: 
Deki lives in Thimphu, Bhutan where she is Principal and Proprietor of the Early Learning Centre (ELC) which she founded in 1997.  In 2009, 2010, and 2013, the ELC was declared a top ten school in Bhutan. She has received a Bachelor of Arts from Columbia University in New York and a Master of Arts (TEFL) from Reading University in the United Kingdom.  

Beyond her founding of the ELC, she has demonstrated educational leadership by establishing partnerships with schools in Australia and the United States.  Beginning in 2001, Deki has continued to train and mentor new teachers through programs of her own creation. She has education and child development connections in thirty plus countries as Country Partner with Design for Change.