Left to right: Matthias S., Jemima G., Kent K., Janet R., Julia W., & Tuquynh T.
Over two months ago, I was invited to attend the Shinnyo-en Foundation’s (SEF) Annual Retreat to represent BK Foundation. Located in beautiful Marshall, CA overlooking Tomales Bay, this retreat brought together an intimate group of nearly 50 intergenerational participants to engage in meaningful dialogue around youth leadership and service-learning. High school, college, and graduate-level participants took on leadership roles of facilitating small group discussions. Similar to the two-way partnerships created by the BK Foundation’s Experiential Exchange, these youth also had experienced leaders cheering them on throughout the three-day event, offering encouragement, guidance, and feedback on their facilitation.
The retreat was infused with laughter and opportunities to bond through fun ice-breaker activities, a talent show, free-form dancing, and even a design-thinking workshop that provoked us to brainstorm ideas on how to encourage more young people to positively engage with their communities. This entire experience reminded me of BK Foundation’s Leadership Exchange event that happened last January, where a safe space was created for participants to tap into their own wisdom and curiosity to allow for deep connection and understanding across generations.
Through the Design Thinking Activity, my team created a prototype of an app that
provided positive incentives when young people volunteer in their communities.
The most meaningful experience for me came on Sunday morning before the retreat ended. We had a group meditation session guided by Jay Gibson, SEF’s Vice President, followed by a silent labyrinth walk. Each participant was asked to reflect on one question: What is your path to peace?
Group meditation session, led by Jay Gibson (SEF Vice President)
Tears welled up in my eyes when it was my turn to walk. I was faced with my past, present, and future as I noticed the participants who went before me, my place in the line, and those who were waiting behind me. There was no running away. There was no where to hide. In that moment of confronting my own fears and feelings of anxiety about where I am at in my life, I couldn’t help but think of my parents, my grandparents, and my ancestral lineage roots in Vietnam who have brought me into this world. More importantly, I thought about the child that I will one day have. What kind of world would I want to bring this baby into? What kind of legacy would I want to create and leave behind?
My retreat experience have led me to a deeper appreciation and gratitude for the community partnership we have with SEF. In the following Monday after the retreat had ended, I woke up feeling inspired, energized, and more dedicated to carrying forth BK Foundation’s mission. I still don’t have a clear answer to my legacy question. I trust that it will come with time. For now, all I know is that creating a world that works for all is my path to peace. It is how I want to live, work, and play.
Article is written by Tuquynh Tran. The Shinnyo-en Foundation has generously given the BK Foundation a grant to support our Experiential Exchange Program and non-profit leadership development collaboration.button