A qualitative study on the impact of the Learning to Live Together Program throughout Shanti Ashram programs was undertaken in 2015, entitled ‘Systematic Implementation, Monitoring and Evaluation of Learning to Live Together in India.’ The impact across various project goal levels was assessed using qualitative research methods in three areas: the development of children’s critical thinking to be equipped to make ethical decisions; children’s relations with others, and children’s spirituality. The findings are very briefly summarized below.
Development of children’s critical thinking: Findings suggest that the programme contributed to developing children’s critical thinking by challenging their own stereotypes and views. The programme increased children’s capacity to make well-grounded decisions based on ethical reflection and critical thinking. Study findings suggest that the program significantly influenced children’s capacity to propose solutions to conflicts and situations that affect them directly or their communities. As one participant explained, “Going into a mosque and learning about Islam, from a Hindu perspective, was one of the most incredible and life-changing experiences. It is impossible for me to explain the feeling, but so many of my stereotypes were broken down, and so many of my questions were answered.”
Children’s relations with each other: Findings in this area suggest that the program increased children’s willingness to share with others, learn from one another, and work with others. Children reported significant changes in this area, going from apologizing for thinking differently when they are in a group of people whose beliefs and ideas are different to theirs, to sharing their ideas and beliefs without imposing them. Comments like this one demonstrate the change: “Before this experience I had barely met anyone of a different religion or culture. This program broke down all the stereotypes I had and created unity among us as peers.”
Below is a participant testimonial. Ten years ago, a boy participated in the LTLT programme. Today, he is a doctor and volunteers his time for the underprivileged. He credits LTLT for giving direction to his social commitment.
“I walked into Shanti Ashram as an unassuming middle school student in 2006, a child participant in the South Asian Ethics Workshop, wide-eyed, curious, wanting to excel and showcase my talent in all forums. Only later did I learn that this pilot workshop was the beginning of a phenomenal global ethics education drive: Learning to Live Together. Back then, society, poverty and hardship were all topics that I could not relate to. But that four-day workshop impacted me for the long run. Today, as a young Indian I feel the impact it caused has matured over time and has nurtured me to what I have become — a doctor in community medicine and public health who is proud to identify himself as a volunteer in working for the needy and underprivileged.
In 2012, Shanti Ashram, along with its partnering organizations, established the India Poverty Solutions initiative, where children find solutions for ending child poverty. Along with the core team, I worked tirelessly to ensure it reached as many people as possible, including them in the war against inequality. We used piggy banks to encourage children to save and start societal contributions early, food banks and greeting cards. All funds collected were used to grant scholarships and conduct medical screenings. I was with this movement throughout. I had experienced that when thoughts and words synchronize and inspire action, a new beginning beckons and positive change become a reality.
It all began with a school student who attended an ethics education workshop. The synthesis from thought to action, from inspiration to reality, and from a lesson to a way of life that we call “Learning to Live Together” nurtured within me spirituality. I owe it all to Shanti Ashram for bestowing in me Gandhian values, universal brotherhood, inter-religious understanding, peace and respect for all faiths and walks of life.”
This facilitator testimonial speaks of how exposure to LTLT changed her outlook on volunteering and social change, one that has gone on to impact the spirit of Shanti Ashram as she volunteers to verify scholarship applications and actively participates in other projects.
“Since 2010, I have been volunteering at Shanti Ashram. In early 2012, I participated in the two-day LTLT Basic Training Workshop. Later that year, I got an opportunity to participate in the one-week LTLT training program. I completed my basic courses and went on to become a facilitator after gaining experience. I also attended the four day Community of Practice workshop, where special trainers from Arigatou International came to enrich our facilitation with some significant inputs.
I strongly feel that Learning to Live Together has positively impacted the quality of volunteering. If you do not respect, reconcile and empathies with the participants and beneficiaries in any social action, the work will not be spiritual. The participation of volunteers in LTLT always evokes the right attitude towards social action. I have introduced five volunteers here.
I was very hesitant during my initial volunteering days at the Ashram. But my four days at the LTLT program really opened me up. All the learning’s were a hugely transformative experience for this timid girl. It instilled a deep sense of care and love for my fellow beings irrespective of their faiths and other differences. No education has ever taught me this.”
At a glance:
– Children’s critical thinking
– Children’s relationships with others
– Testimonials from participant & facilitator