Just two weeks ago I was packing my bags and preparing to fly to Charlottesville, VA for "The Awesome Event"; so excited to see old friends and make new ones. For me the joy in hanging out with people who share this understanding is a big part of my motivation for attending a conference. Little did I know what a treat I was in for this time.
First of all, Southern hospitality y’all. I’ve spent very little time south of Washington D.C. and with all the press Charlottesville’s received after the tragic killings in August, I had no idea what to expect. While my explorations were limited, in my four days there I found the downtown area to be adorable (with great shopping), the people warm and welcoming, and the food mouth watering. Egg, sausage, goat cheese and honey hand pie for breakfast? Um, yes please! Pie crust for breakfast?!?! WHY oh why do we not have this brilliant culinary device up north?
The real highlight of the weekend was the conference of course. I found opening night to be particularly inspiring and heartwarming. The three key speakers were:
- Mahima Shrestha - who spoke about the work she does in her native Nepal and how her understanding of the Principles has helped her to bring out the best in the teams of people she works with to create positive and impactful change. With a background in media and crisis communications, Mahima specializes in bringing bright people together to find solutions to complex problems. She's worked with government, multilateral, private and non-profit organizations in a wide range of sectors including aviation, hydropower, tourism, investment climate reform, automobiles, finance, education, telecommunications and healthcare. You can meet Mahima here.
- Dajohn White - a 17-year old from South Side Chicago told his story about living in “the hood” with gang activity all around, a father and two brothers in prison and not knowing whether he, his mother and other four siblings will have enough to eat from day to day. Then he described what he saw was possible when he heard Mara Gleason speak at a the Chicago Peace Summit. Inspired to action, he is the founder of Rebels for Peace, a youth led organization aimed at healing the violence in Chicago by rebelling against the reactive, violent mentality that pervades the community. In partnership with One Solution they recruit youth and educate them about the “superpower” that is their freedom of mind.
At the end of the conference, Dajohn answered the question, “What was your favorite part of the weekend?” with the very simple and on point statement: “All the good vibes, ya know.”
- Jacqueline Hollows - ended the evening by sharing beautiful stories of the transformations she's seen while working with inmates in the criminal justice system in and around London, England. Her stories were such clear examples of the humanity and well-being that resides in everyone, even those that have been deemed hopeless. You can find out more about Jacqueline and her work here.
With an introductory line-up like that, you can imagine the beautiful space, conversations, and insights that followed over the next two days we were together. At the end of the weekend, David Nichols announced his retirement from his role as the Director of the Center for Sustainable Change (CSC) and he passed the baton to Terri Alamo. It was a touching farewell for Dave and his wife Chini and we all look forward to what’s ahead for the CSC.
If you’re interested, you can see photos from the Awesome Event on Facebook.