Alice Project Christmas Letter

 

Alice is now an adult, according to the past parameter of the age of majority. 21 years old! 21 candles to mark a long and sometimes difficult path. From the 75 initial students to the 1100 present ones. From the tiny three-classroom school building in Sarnath to the present three-school structures. The schools are located in three different states of India: Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Arunachal Pradesh. From the five teachers at the beginning to the fifty-three today. Our concern is still the same: Can we guarantee a good future to such a big structure? Will we be able to offer a good quality education with trained teachers according to Alice’s philosophy and methodology? We will come back later to this question. For the moment, let’s say that the year we are going to leave behind has been full of events, some positive and some traumatic…

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Students rummaging in the rubbles looking for… a miracle. On the right: meeting with the Ambassador of Delhi.

Let’s remember the night of the 8th of December 2014, when a fire destroyed both my and Luigina’s rooms and the office too. We suffered serious material and moral damage. Practically 20 years of Alice’s story went up in flames. Fortunately, some months before, we had secured some important documents related to Alice property and research (stories, tales, unpublished books). Miraculously, all the students living in the hostel survived out, thanks to Luigina’s prompt intervention, who woke up at about 1 a.m. when the flames were going to reach her room and she managed to raise the alarm. In that tragic situation the students demonstrated excellent courage and ability to coordinate; working together with the fire fighters to contain the fire and save the school. After three hours, a gas bottle exploded, but everyone was already safe. Once the fire was completely extinguished, the student expressed their sympathy to Luigina, with affection and discretion. Also the neighbors were very supportive, first they intervened immediately to help extinguish the fire, and then they put up resident children till the next morning. We were also moved by the visit of our Ambassador and his wife. They came to the school to express their sympathy, talking with the children and us. When they went away they were moved by the sensitivity of the girls and the boys living in the hostel. Many people over the next days were supportive both with words and endowments. We thank everybody for this wonderful prove of friendship. The reconstruction of the destroyed building is not started yet, however the project is ready and will be carried out as soon as possible, thanks to the generous endowment from Friends of Humanity, which should cover all the expenses included furniture, the repositioning of two septic tanks, the remake of the adjacent resident kitchen damaged by the gas bottle explosion. Since we are talking about Alice’s diplomatic friends, we would like to thank deeply Mumbai Consul General, dr. Ugo Ciarlatani, for the assistance and precious contribution for the issue of Tourist Visa to a group of Tibetan friends, who went to Italy to promote our projects. We thank also the Kolkata Consul General, dr. Cesare Bellier, to have been friend of Alice for some years. We want also greet to the new ambassador, S.E. Lorenzo Angeloni, hoping to welcome him soon here…

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                                               From the left: dr. Ugo Ciarlatani, dr. Cesare Bellier, S.E. Lorenzo Angeloni

Speaking of projects, an association from Luxemburg, Shining Hope, proposed to help Alice for three years, financing some urgent works to ensure the security of some crumbling buildings in Bodhgaya and the construction of a modern school for the children of the nearby villages. A school where students can have the facilities that can be normally find in schools for reach people, reducing the gap between privileged and poor people.

The new school will be built in accordance with the rules of the State of Bihar as we did in Sarnath.

Sarnath school has been recognized by the state of Uttar Pradesh, while Bodhgaya school will be recognized in few months. It is a major step forward for us in Alice. It has been thanks to a huge economic effort and to a great commitment from the supervisors that we have achieved all these results. And for this reason, we want to thank once again all your friends who have supported us up to now. Another important project has been completed in recent months: a solar panels plant in Sarnath school, financed for two/third by the province of Trento, trough the association Asoka from Molina di Ledro (Trento) and for one/third by the no profit organization of Treviso.

Asoka non profit organization cooperated with us for some years, through several events to sensitive the local people and raise funds. The solar panel plant will enable us to reduce the cost of electricity that affects significantly our budget. We hope we can find a solution for Bodhgaya too. Our sincere thank to Asoka group. A special thanks also to the friends who are supporting in particular Chakma Project. For fifteen years we have hosted Chakma girls and boys from Arunachal Pradesh, that belong to an ethnic group coming from Bangladesh, who live in needy circumstances, because they are not recognized as Indian citizens. There are several students who got their high school diploma in our schools and now are studying at university, or that have already found a job as a teacher, in the army, as an employee, in call centers, or as trustworthy people in various companies around India. What are the most important things that they have received from education in our school? Here is what Subha Mangal Chakma wrote us in a recent mail: “The most important contribution you have made in me is “critical thinking and creativity” which is fundamentally essential. Which I feel differ from the other Chakma students today.”

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From left: Graziella Zanoletti; friends from Taiwan who are crossing bridges between sponsors and the school; Rosario Rizzi.

Five years ago, we set up a primary school in a remote village deep in the mountains in the state of Arunachal Pradesh, thanks to the association “Friends of Humanity”, whose person in charge, the dynamic Graziella Zanoletti, not only ensures the continuity of the school, but is also present when the school of Alice goes through difficult times, giving economical contribution (Friends of Humanity) and also precious suggestions full of enthusiasm and wisdom. We offer her to be part of an international group of supervisors of Alice Project, to ensure one future to the schools, regardless to the founders.

We will never get tired to thank a group of friends from Taiwan. For many years, with discretion, they have supported generously and constantly Chakma Project. They are very extraordinary people for their simplicity, sensitivity and courage to support us howsoever. They also support the construction of Maitreya statue.

Another group who deserve to be mentioned is the Azienda Flora of Rosario Pizzi. All the company employees tax themselves monthly to help Chakma Project. (The initiative is similar to the one that has been realized for twenty years by the Cooperative CDM in Florence). A touching example of solidarity! In the end, one special thought goes to Luciana Usellini, and important point of Reference for Alice. With regard to school activities, our research and experimentation go on especially in the field of didactics of English language, Mathematics and History. Since it is not easy to find teachers with a good basic preparation, our school tried to bypass teachers’ difficulties by means of technology. Thanks to some sponsors, we equipped our schools with projectors and computers that we use to show the students short documentaries relating to the various subjects. In particular, two volumes have been published about learning of the English language accompanied by selected video material, after a three-year research. The books were financed mainly by the no profit organization Anjali of Treviso and Shining Hope. There are three more small volumes about simultaneous learning of English, Hindi and Italian.

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We are caring out an interesting research on the use of visualization in math teachings in the first grades of primary school, linked to attention and concentration (see picture above). The results achieved up now are amazing and they have been published for the first time, by Antenna 3, a local TV channel in Italy in the region of Triveneto, during a special one-hour program on “Alice’s Family”.

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To the right – Second line: Natalie Re, with all the staff of Alice’s teachers, who work on the research. Photo on the right: the guests of Antenna 3 during the transmission dedicated to Alice.

 

An Important news: the first teachers’ trainer from the “garden of our school”.

For the first time, after 20 years of activity, Mohan, a former student of Alice, now teacher in Bodhgaya and Sarnath, has led, with a great success, a training course and continuing education course for the new teachers in Sarnath and Bodhgaya.

He shared his knowledge about Alice’s didactics relating to the teaching of History (“circular reading” and not linear), visualized Math (using simple tools like colored stones and lights), English (by singing and Special Program – Philosophy of the Wise Rabbit).

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Mohan in the History room of Bodhgaya school

Another confirmation of the validity of Alice’s methodology comes from Nathalie Re, a French scholar of Neurosciences, who visited our schools for a few-week research. She writes: “Neurosciences confirm that the educational intuition of Alice is correct”.

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                                 Students of class XI and XI in Sarnath

The didactic vision of Alice Project not only is confirmed by scientific researches but also academicals results of our students: this year they obtained brilliant results at the state exam, 100% passed, 90% got first division qualification (excellent). Positive signals for Alice’s philosophy and methodology come from different places, not only India but also other countries. This interest raises some questions to the people in charge of Alice: shall we accept the risk of enlarge ourselves? Here the two different souls of Alice show up: who slows down and suggest caution, the other who on the contrary would accept the risk. It’s understandable that there are different visions, but the aim is to ensure a future to the schools, where everyone works in the respect of students, teachers and people who help us and trust us. We can guarantee that all the endowments to the school are used according to the intention of the sponsors. We would like to inform that none of the people directly in charge of the schools get any compensation for the work done in those 20 years. All the incomes from trainings, conferences, books sails etc. are devolved to the three schools, so that they can go on.

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Judith Soussans, in charge of the NGO, in the studios of the French TV. On the right: Father Tamussi with the children of primary school in Sarnath.

We were talking about expansion. After a 15 minutes transmission on the French national television about Alice Project, a large number of people showed up a big interest in our research and asked for more information. So, a new Alice NGO was born in Paris, with the aim of spreading our pedagogy, through training courses, publications of books and conferences, and in future the foundation of a private school based on Alice’s vision. In May and June Luigina held a training course in Paris and in September – October in Rome.

In a previous Christmas Letter we spoke about Father Tiziano Tamussi, from the “Reconstructors in Prayer”. In his community in Liguria, some training courses on Alice Project and some “recostructors” particularly interested in this educational proposition, they put effort in going deeper through this experience. This year they have been invited to present Alice Project to a school in Genoa and after to work with a group of teachers. In the end of August they organized a summer camp for about 25 kids, following the inner path of Alice Project. The results obtained were positive.                                       There are many requests from university students to realize their thesis on Alice.

Nowadays, a student in Educational Science of Bologna University is completing documentation on the holistic vision of Alice Project and the didactics of the mathematic in relation to visualization and attention. A psychologist from Urbino faculty is doing her training in the school of Bodhgaya to obtain the enrolment in the Italian register of psychologists. She is writing a didactics guide for western teachers who want to know and practice our methodology.

What does it Alice mean in those difficult times? Here is what Giorgia, an ex volunteer wrote to us, after the tragedy in France: “Only now, I can understand how Alice Project is precious and now has changed me. In front of the French tragedy, I couldn’t help thinking of you and what you teach in your schools: forgiveness, thoughts control, awareness, to obtain mind and world peace”.

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On the left: Mauro Scardovelli; in the middle Sushuma, “mother of the residents”; on the right Madam Samia Coupat, French psychotherapist.

A qualified and unexpected comment comes from the famous psychologist Mauro Scardovelli who wrote a review for the book of Gloria Germani on Alice Project, on Youtube (https://www.yotutube.com/watch?v=RUN52pxh1x0). He has textually said: “Alice Project is the school of future, the education that deserves to be saved”. In the meantime the writer Gloria Germani keeps to promote Alice in several conferences. One of the most important was organized in September in Vaiano, Prato, from Terranova Magazine, on “the School that is changing”, to which over a thousand people took part. Recently, two Chakma teachers from Bodhgaya school went to South India, in the state of Karnataka, to attend a yoga course. Also Sanje, the boy who has been adopted by the school, is in the south, in Bangalore, to complete a three-year course on Yoga Therapy.

In the school of Bodhgaya there are as present 21 Chakma boys, and in Sarnath the residents are 31: girls, boys and children. Last April, in the girl hostel arrived Sushuma, a 35 years old lady, mother of four children with a difficult family situation. With her there is Deepu, the younger son who is studying in our school. In March-April the French psychotherapist Madame Samia Coupat, who for many years has worked in her country and in Africa too, proposed some labs to the students of middle and high school. Furthermore, the presence of Madam Samia has been very useful for managing some difficult cases in our hostel. We thank Assessor Verso (Psychosynthesis of Florence) to purpose and support this experience.

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Swami Varishtanand, Lama Monlam. Photo below: Maulana Mohammad Riyajuddin and father Aloisio

During this year the representatives of four different religious traditions came to talk with our students and teachers: Lama Monlam (who lives in Nepal and for many years has followed Alice Project), Father Aloisio (Franciscan from Vinayalaya Asharam in Sarnath), Maulana Mohammad Riyajuddin and Swami Varishtanand (pediatrician and psychologist).

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The meeting with those wise people made us reflect on the universal values which are at the root of all the religious traditions.

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Continue our talks with HH Karmapa’s Trust to secure the future of the school in Bodhgaya. H.H. Karmapa (on the photo during one visit in Sarnath school), who has been our guest for four times, is an important religious leader and he has decided to help our project in the belief that Alice will be – as said the psychologist Scardovelli – the school of future. Two ex students, Ajay (picture above) and Abhey Chakma, teach to the monks of his monastery. Ajay is also in charge of the association Chakma Rural Development, to which are parts many ex students of Alice. Recently the volunteers of the group built the street for the people of villages in Arunachal Pradesh (see picture on the right).

On the 7th of November Asha and Beena, two teachers of Sarnath, participated to part of the meeting “Awakening the light of Dharma – how to uphold Dharma in the world today”, organized by GPIW (Global Peace Initiative for Women), the meeting was held in the BHU university in Varanasi and in the International Nyingma Institute in Sarnath. Honorable guests H.H. Karmapa and Vandana Shiva, religion and Science to try to save our planet. Years ago, Asha and Luigina participated in another meeting of GPIW, organized in Jaipur, Rajastan.

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Sudhakar daughter and Bipin’s twins

And now some family life news from our former students, now teachers in Alice. Sudhakar, English teacher and in charge of the office, two months ago had a beautiful child, called Sud Gound. “She sleeps peacefully and she doesn’t cry” says the mum Sadna, smiling, while she shows her in front of a poster in Bodhgaya School. “My two twins, one boy and one girl – says Bipin Sukla, in charge of the school in Bodhgaya – exchanged the day with the night: during the day they sleep and in the night…they cry!” Bipin has a 7 year old daughter who was longing for a brother. In May, Jogendra Pal (picture below), another ex student in charge of the amministration, got married to Minu, a university student from a good family, as they want to puntualize here. It was a big party for the ex classmates and hostel residents. For him we invert the traditional wish which was used to be said to marriage couples in my place: “wishes and..daughters!”. Infact, nowadays, thanks to the new policies of the governments, girls enjoy more privileges than boys and they have bigger opportunities to find a state job. The wheel turns. Isn’t it?

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We hug two very dear friends, Lorenzo Bonaventura and Camilla Previato (picture above, surrounded by orphanage children of their Ashram), who left India after 7 years of social work in Bal Ashram of Varanasi, where they also founded a school inspired to the philosophical and didactics techniques of Alice. Camilla and Lorenzo were an important reference point for me since we have shared many things. The “Little Treviso” that met from time to time in a famous pizzeria on the Ganga in Varanasi, recharged me helping me to afford the daily challenges with enthusiasm and strength. By the way the two friends will carry on working in the field of education and engaged themselves to be testimonials of our project, together with Luigina, in Italy and abroad.

We would like to remember three people passed away in 2015: the Former Minister of Education Rajbali Tiwari, Roberta Scandellari and Marina Sequi. Rajbali Tiwari, in the past, regularly came to the school in Sarnath to teach to students moral values trough stories. A man of big intelligence and even bigger heart. Roberta Scandellari for years visited and supported our project, putting us in contact with precious people for Alice.

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Raj Bali Tiwari, Roberta Scandellari and Marina Sequi.

Martina was very affectionate to the students of Bodhgaya school and she didn’t forget them in her will, leaving them a generous offer. We remember them with infinite gratitude. But their lack, doesn’t leave a hole in the family of Alice, because they live in our memories and in all the people who took advantage from them. One for all: the child of the photos below.

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You see, in the picture, a child with sad eyes, who shows deeps scars. He is the nephew of the Bodhgaya cook. His story is dramatic. Months ago, his mother had once more an argument with the alcoholic husband. In an act of desperation she poured some cool oil and set herself on fire in front of her children. The youngest tried to put out the fire hugging the mother and he got seriously burned.

 

After around 15 days of cures in a local hospital, he was dismissed. The dust, the lack of hygiene of his very pour house, caused an infection which put in danger his life. We arrived just in time. None of the local hospitals wanted to welcome the child (for the fear he would die). We carried him urgently in the best hospital of Varanasi and we saved his life. Now he studies in Bodhgaya, where the teachers try to help him to elaborate his terrible trauma (see third picture). And the smile comes back to his face (even if sometimes he silently cries, whispering “I want my mum!”). So, we dedicate that smile to all our sponsors. In that smile all our dead friends keep on living.

 

I would like to conclude this on-line letter dedicating to our friends the abstract of a nursery rhyme which I wrote some years ago. It is Alice’s answer and solution to hate and wars. A message of hope for this Christmas 2015: we can change hate in love, through an inner change: the birth, indeed, of the Divine Child in our heart. Says the Old Wise Rabbit to Alice’s student:

 

Remember: all, therefore, depends on your judging;

From there emotions of joy and sorrow have beginning.

It’s you that paint thoughts of every color,

Triggering emotions of joy, anger and rancor.

 

That I want to say, when I talk of I-Creator.

Our mind works like a projector:

It throws out there, unconsciously, its own inventions

Taking them for true and not for pure illusions.

 

“I’m curious: what is out there, beyond the understanding?”

“There is who believes that all exists and who says: nothing!”

Better remain with the certainty of phenomena of percipience

The true cause, I repeat, of all the problems of existence

 

Think that it doesn’t appear to us like it is, the realness.

Because it’s mediated by the senses and the consciousness

The world created by filters is what I palpate

That is my reality that every day I reciprocate.

 

This is the moral: if you don’t feel good and you want change

React, without projections, to hate with the love and absolution.

To hit the source of pain is the only solution

The proud, the revenge and wrath of our I-Creator.

(Translated by Vittorio Lugnan)

 

I thank you, all my dear friends, from the deep of my heart for your support and Merry Christmas from all the whole family of Alice.

Valentino

 

Just few lines to thank all the people, the associations, the schools, the volunteers, who have supported Alice Project for years through their work, personal contribution, organizing training courses, conferences, markets, concerts…participating in the Lottery.                                                                                  I Thank you all and Merry Christmas.

                                                               Luigina

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