When the director of the newest Global Campus in northern Thailand enters a room, one’s first impression is of a petite, demure, smiling woman in her fifties. But her nickname, Dang, is taken from the Thai word for the color “red” – a color associated with passion, courage and strength – and it doesn’t take long to realize the name is a perfect fit.
Dang first discovered Global Campuses when Ka, the longtime leader of Global Campus Chiang Mai, invited her to attend a 3-day Global Campus retreat on “Women and Disability” in 2017. As a single mother and small business owner working 24/7 at her beauty salon to provide for her three daughters, Dang barely had the money or time for herself – let alone enough to devote three whole days to an obscure topic. Besides, she already knew everything there was to know about the struggles of being a woman with a disability. What could she possibly have to learn about it?
But Ka is an equally determined woman, and in Dang, she recognized extraordinary promise. Over the course of several weeks, Ka slowly but surely convinced Dang that she should come for just one day of the seminar.
It became a turning point in her life. In the end, Dang stayed for all three days of the conference – discovering, along with many other attendees, that she is not alone. The Global Camps model creates an environment that encourages each person to trust and share their voice, as a means to individual and collective recognition and celebration not of disability, but of ability. The retreat shifted Dang’s attitude about what it meant to be a person with a disability, a person with unique and valuable life experiences. This kindled a desire for more educational opportunities. Moved to take action, she decided to launch a Global Campus in her community, so that she could share with others the profound understanding that disabilities cannot stop one from having a full and happy life.
Dang faced some of the same challenges that other GC directors went through before her – gaining the trust of villagers, figuring out transportation issues, and finding funds and community resources to support campus gatherings. But she discovered her gifts as a leader, demonstrating remarkable resourcefulness and resilience. In just one year’s time, 100 people from 11 villages signed up to participate in Global Campus Chomthong. They have already hosted a series of seminars and community events.
What was it that Ka saw in Dang, that very first day when they met?
Each of us has a personal story complete with challenges and triumphs, blessings and misfortune. How we respond, grow, and transform along the way is a life testimony. Dang’s is one of great daring, integrity and resilience.
Dang’s early years were spent in a remote mountain village, her leg damaged by polio and having lost her mother at an early age. Feeling stuck and without a future, she saw her way out when a small truck laden with household and farming supplies arrived on its monthly stopover. Dang found the courage to speak, and convinced the itinerant elderly couple to take her away to a new life in exchange for caring for them. Without preparation or fanfare, at the young age of thirteen, she left her family that very day.
For four years, Dang worked faithfully for the couple every day from sun up to late evening. Yet as time passed, once again she felt a familiar desperation settle in. Penniless and uneducated, her life was leading nowhere. She learned of a new business in the area, a cosmetology school. She convinced the couple to pay her tuition, in exchange for adding four more years to her commitment to work for them to pay off this new debt.
Just as Dang completed her cosmetology studies, a new change presented itself. An older man arrived on the scene, who did not mind her disability. She seized this chance to marry and move to the near-by big city of Chiang Mai. In the early years of their marriage, her husband was kind and supportive as she started her beauty salon and earned money. However, after their two daughters were born his kindness disappeared, and he stopped working. Controlled by her demanding husband, Dang faced day after day of endless hard work, but then, this was all she had ever known.
Then, a beauty salon customer invited her to attend Sunday services at the Christian church. This was her first ever social experience. It filled her with happiness, and she made plans to take her daughters with her every Sunday. Unfortunately, her husband forbade her from attending. Subsequently, he banished Dang and the girls from their home. In desperation once more, Dang went to the Church and tearfully negotiated to stay at their dormitory with the agreement to pay her rent out of her future beauty salon earnings.
Out of this seeming hardship, something significant shifted in Dang’s life. At long last, she was an independent woman – running a business, and determining her own future. She knew one thing for certain. She was absolutely determined to provide a better life for her daughters than she had had. She knew beyond a doubt that education was the key.
Fast forward to today – Dang’s two daughters are recent university graduates, their expenses fully paid by their mother. She also raised her deceased sister’s child as her own, and sighs with delight to share that her youngest daughter has already declared that when she graduates from medical school, from that moment onward she will care for her mom. For the moment, Dang carries on with her beauty salon and additional work advocating for accessible, universal design. As the director of Global Campus Chomthong, she is recognized by her village as a community leader and is ever aware of her growing self-confidence. She set has many new goals, while also believing that she can attain her personal dream to travel and learn to communicate in English. Resilient as ever.
Authors: Kachakorn Thaveesri and Sheryl Tewksbury
GCF is pleased to announce its' collaboration with Champlain Community Services, Washington County Mental Health Services and Families First in launching three new pilot campuses this spring in Colchester, Montpelier and Brattleboro. This project is possible through a generous anchor grant from Jane's Trust, as well as additional support from Flutie Foundation, the Alma Gibbs Donchian Foundation, and individual donors.
“You gotta stand up and speak for yourself. You have to find your voice.”
Several years ago, Cheyenne had an opportunity to attend a program at a local college. Her brief time there was full of camaraderie and learning. But once it ended, she experienced a sudden void. The loss of support and sense of purpose eroded her confidence and spark. It left her wondering what was possible for her – how to live outside the program, in the rest of the world.
Living with a developmental disability can be an isolating experience. It can be difficult to find a job, to continue learning and growing, to get around, to make friends, and to feel welcome in your community.
Thanks to you, Global Campuses Foundation joins hands with adults who experience disabilities as they create a brighter future.
“I like all of Global Campus. I listen and learn. And I like teaching– making people understand is GREAT!” Global Campuses offer lifelong learning, a platform for continuing education where adults with disabilities can discover and celebrate their abilities, with the support of their peers and the broader community. Participants study what they choose, at a pace and in a manner that works best for them. Because Global Campuses are there as long as participants need them, the profound growth they experience is continuously supported and multiplied.
Cheyenne rekindled her sense of purpose at Global Campus. Cheyenne teaches classes on a diverse and growing range of interests – from painting to knitting, films to fashion, fitness, nutrition and history. Inspired by a peer mentor and fellow campus participant, Cheyenne decided to start her own business. Each week she prepares “snack boxes” – improvised vending machines – for local offices and businesses that don’t have nearby store locations or meal options. She recruits customers, shops for and manages inventory, visits each site weekly, and tracks her profits and cash flow over time.
“Everybody’s gotta do volunteering.” Cheyenne gives back to her community as well, volunteering with Meals on Wheels. Cheyenne lost her own grandmother recently, and through Meals on Wheels, she feels like now has an extended network of family and grandparents who light up when they see her, and depend on her visit each week.
Through her work, through her volunteering, and through the classes she teaches, Cheyenne celebrates her gift for connecting people and inspiring their own joys and passions in turn. Last year, she was awarded “Self-Advocate of the Year” by her peers in a local advocacy group. “I found my voice, and I speak up for myself!”
You joined hands with Cheyenne. With a gift today, you can join hands with hundreds like her as they find their voices, speak up for themselves, grow, and give back to their communities. In January, together we will launch three new campus locations in unserved places like Burlington & Brattleboro, expanding to 12 campuses serving 350 unique participants each and every year.
We can’t do any of this without you. Help us keep making it possible each day!
P.S. ““I love Global Campus. Global Campus is a part of me. It’s what I need.” - Cheyenne
Your gift of $50, $250, $500 or more today, will ensure hundreds of participants each week can learn, teach and grow in classes they create, all year long!
Global Campuses Excited for #GivingTuesday on November 27th, 2018!
What is #GivingTuesday? It's a chance to ensure education and wholeness for all our neighbors after the swirl and bustle of the Thanksgiving holiday weekend! #GivingTuesday is a global giving movement launched by individuals, families, organizations, businesses and communities in countries around the world. Celebrate Thanksgiving Thursday, shop Black Friday, browse Cyber Monday, and remember good causes on Giving Tuesday.
Global Campuses Foundation is participating for the first time. Your support on #GivingTuesday will support ongoing, year-round educational and enrichment opportunities for Global Campus participants. Below, you can read examples of things our participants are accomplishing this semester! And we'll be in touch again next week with exciting news about expansion in Vermont and overseas.
Regardless of the amount of the donation, we are grateful for the support. ClickHERE to make a donation or share the hashtag #GCFgivingtuesday with friends and contacts on social media (you can find us on Facebook here). More coming soon!
GCF is excited to announce Anthea Lavallee as its newest board member! Anthea has almost two decades of experience as an educator, development professional, and nonprofit leader. Anthea holds a Master's Degree in Biological Anthropology, and throughout her career has combined a curiosity about the natural world with an abiding passion for community building.
Currently the Executive Director of the Hubbard Brook Research Foundation, she has directed a range of environmental and zoological education programs in New England and across the U.S. She also has deep experience in the field of disability culture.
In addition to serving years ago as the Development Director for GCF, Anthea served as the first Executive Director of Zack's Place, an enrichment center for persons with disabilities in Woodstock, VT. She has volunteered as a board member and program provider at a variety of organizations serving persons with disabilities throughout the Upper Valley region. Anthea said "I'm delighted to join the GCF board and am proud to advocate for what I believe is a truly innovative approach to empowering people who experience disability. GCF represents a way of thinking about ability that recognizes the full spectrum of skills and challenges that make up every human experience. I carry the GCF mindset with me in every aspect of my life and work."
"We are delighted to welcome, and re-welcome, Anthea to the GCF team," said GCF Executive Director Matthew DeGroot. "Her long-standing commitment to GCF's mission, and her track record of excellence in serving communities in the Upper Valley, make her a perfect fit for helping Global Campuses benefit as many people as possible, in as many places as possible, across New England."
Global Campuses Foundation (GCF) participants and community members attended the GCF Art Show at the Chandler Center for the Arts in Randolph, Vermont which was held on August 15th. The gallery featured art created by GCF participants from all 9 VT and NH campuses as well as the Thailand campuses. Throughout the spring semester, many of the GCF participant artists created paintings that reflected the works of artists like Gustav Klimt's Tree of Life and Vincent Van Gogh's Starry Night. Enjoy the art show video below.
Check out the new Global Campuses Foundation website! We’ve simplified and streamlined our look to make it easier to find out the latest news, happenings and accomplishments. Visit www.globalcampuses.org. Read more
Keeping Winter at Bay With Tropical Spices and Sunshine From Thailand
Every year, Global Campus participants discuss ideas and choose a special topic of focus to explore during the 4-week winter interim session. Winter Interim provides a lively area of study between the Fall and Spring semesters, with the chance to dive deep into a single topic pertaining to cross cultural and international studies. Read more
All Global Campuses are community campuses. They are in the community, they create community, they give back to the community, and they strengthen community. Participants of a Global Campus open up new pathways to engage in authentic, meaningful, and fulfilling relationships with each other, and with the broader community in which they live.
Each semester, Global Campus participants at all 9 New England campuses look for new opportunities to use community venues as classrooms. Teaching in different locations offers fresh perspectives on course topics, and new insights into community resources that GC participants can take advantage of in their everyday lives. Read more
That’s a lot of cross-cultural exchange! Last year, GC Chiang Mai and GC Sangkapang in Thailand prioritized the acquisition of English language skills for their education. We are thrilled that participants have now completed ten months of English instruction offered by visiting scholar Tseofatso Blessing (Tso), a young man from South Africa. Read more
On June 20th, 2017, Global Campus Randolph, Global Campus Bradford, and Global Campus Moretown will mark 10 years of teaching, learning and growth with a picnic & celebration at the Hope Davey Pavilion in Waterbury, Vermont. Participants past and present from these campuses will join together for a day of festivities and fellowship. Read more