For the past nine months the Bristol Buddhist centre
have been running the ‘Vitarka Project’
. Kamalamani reports –
In April this year we were successful in being awarded £4,400 from the UK government’s Faith Communities Capacity Building fund. This was to enable us to contribute to the development of a culture of tolerance and mutual respect through outreach work to schools and the wider community
I was appointed as Schools Outreach Development Worker for the Buddhist Centre later in the month and have since been thoroughly enjoying co-ordinating schools work. My main priority has been to make contact with schools, so that they know what’s available to them in terms of visiting the Centre and having visitors to their schools. To give you an idea of what the schools work covers, please read on!
One of my first assignments was hosting a visit from Chew Valley School. This was particularly significant for me, as Chew Valley is the secondary school I attended! We’ve developed a ‘School Visiting Kula’, my hope is that this will build sangha friendships, as well as provide a great capacity for schools – it’s a multi faceted and talented team.
I’ve spent time reviewing existing resources and adding some new resources from Clear Vision
(for example, their DVDs entitled'Pilgrimage: An Indian Spiritual Journey'
and 'Buddhist Centre in the City: A Tour of the Manchester Buddhist Centre'
- both great, interesting film making). I hope to continue this process to build the resources of the kula and to be able to signpost teachers to relevant and interesting resources.
In terms of local networking, I’ve found it very interesting to meet with Bristol City Council’s Social Inclusion Officer, the Interfaith Consultant, local SACRE representatives and members of the Bristol Diocese, to find out what’s already going on in and around Bristol. Bristol schools face significant challenges, with one of the highest rates of exclusion of pupils from schools in the country, and ongoing tensions between some ethnic groups. It seems that the need for interfaith and social inclusion work is greater than ever, to support schools and the wider community.
Earlier in the summer I was a facilitator at the Childrens’ Interfaith conference, run by Bristol City Council. This was a really interesting day and I was particularly struck by hearing children talk so openly about the similarities and differences between their faiths. It was very moving and heartening. I hope this event will become a regular fixture in Bristol’s calendar.The Future
There is a huge amount of scope for the Buddhist Centre to continue to develop its schools and educational work, and I imagine that this area will blossom and grow over the next few years. It would be great to have ongoing partnerships with a high percentage of schools across the city. Potentially, this work also goes beyond schools work, into broader interfaith work, community cohesion and meditation in schools, to mention but a few.
So I thought I would finish with a few of the questions and comments from some of the children I’ve met and enjoyed working with so far, given that they are by far and away the most important focus of this project…“When you’ve been enlightened, can you become unenlightened?”
“Are the three jewels to do with each of the elements?”
“Will the Buddhist lady be black?” (question to a teacher before my visit, from a Muslim girl)
“Do you still cry when you’re a Buddhist?”
“Does Buddhism stop crime?”
“Will you be reborn as a Buddhist if you’ve been a Buddhist this lifetime?”
“We’re like flowers miss aren’t we? Cos we die too…”
Click here for our Autumn schools programme
Labels: Bristol, children, Education, Schools