New Dalai Lama Fellows Cohort Announced

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New Dalai Lama Fellows Cohort Announced

The Contemplative Sciences Center (CSC) has selected 25 new Dalai Lama Fellows for 2019. This is the first class of Fellows the center has chosen since it assumed leadership of the internationally-renowned Dalai Lama Fellows (DLF) program last year.


During the one-year fellowship, the 2019 Fellows will participate in a unique leadership curriculum and receive personal coaching related to individual social change projects. This year’s group comes from 18 different countries, and their projects address such issues as gender equity in Nigeria, indigenous rights in Colombia, and youth empowerment in India.


The Fellowship, which was founded in 2010, is designed to create a global community of ethical and self-reflective social change leaders and expand their leadership capacities by helping them cultivate greater self-awareness and compassion for themselves and others.


“To do this work in a sustainable fashion—the work of social innovation, social justice—requires that you also work on yourself, on your own resiliency,” says David Germano, CSC Executive Director.


Traditional leadership programs rarely address leaders’ wellbeing or the kinds of social, emotional, and intercultural skills necessary for them to truly flourish and sustain their work. DLF’s Head, Heart, and Hands leadership curriculum integrates contemplative practices to help Fellows cultivate these competencies and develop the skills and tools to lead with universal human values of interconnectedness and interdependence.

“By participating in [DLF], I will be able to hold myself accountable not only to social change I envision for the world, but also the transformation of myself as I grow into the person I want to embody and be,” says 2019 Fellow Bernadette Lim, a student in the UC Berkeley-UCSF Joint Medical Program.


Lim’s Fellowship project is to develop pop-up clinics to provide free, integrative health and healing services to disenfranchised immigrant communities in Los Angeles, like the one where she grew up. Lim, the daughter of Chinese and Filipino immigrants, says she was inspired to become a physician and advocate for equity in health outcomes after witnessing widespread health injustices suffered by under-resourced families including her own.


2019 Fellow Esther Ajari applied to the Fellowship to support her efforts to close the gender gap in education in her home country, Nigeria, where a lack of access to affordable sanitary pads and cultural shame deter many girls and young women from attending school during menstruation. Ajari wants to teach more girls to make their own reusable, biodegradable sanitary pads and galvanize support and encouragement for this endeavor from teachers and parents. She says she’s excited to learn meditation and other contemplative practices to become a more ethical and conscious leader.


Balanding Manneh, a 2019 Fellow from The Gambia, is working to fight hunger, malnutrition, and food insecurity in his country. He founded an organization called Rural Impact to educate and empower individuals and communities to become self-sufficient through agriculture and other income-generating activities. Balanding says he’s looking forward to integrating contemplative practices into his leadership of Rural Impact and learning about the connection between inner transformation and social change.


CSC will welcome the 2019 Fellows along with the graduating 2018 Fellows to UVA for the annual DLF Contemplative Leadership Assembly June 17-21.


“The Contemplative Leadership Assembly gives young leaders the opportunity to connect deeply with themselves and others who are similarly compelled to contribute to profound social change. The Fellows come from all parts of the world and walks of life, with different faiths, beliefs, perspectives, and histories. It’s this diversity, along with several key components of the Assembly, that make it so powerful and distinguish it from traditional leadership seminars,” says Anthony DeMauro, Associate Director of DLF. DeMauro completed his doctorate from UVA’s Curry School of Education and Human Development in 2018. He received his master’s from the University of Pittsburgh in 2011 and his bachelor’s from American University in 2009.


RJ Khalaf, a 2018 Dalai Lama Fellow from Palestine, called last year’s Assembly—the first one to be held at UVA—“a blessing.” He said, “Something I’ve learned from this Fellowship and this Assembly is that when we come together with all of our innovation and all of our compassion and skills and love, nothing, nothing is too big.”


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