The Montessori Foundation: Empowering and Inspiring the Next Generation of Leaders

This past weekend I had the opportunity to present Amman Imman in a workshop at the Montessori Foundation's west coast conference. This conference, with its theme of "Empowering and Inspiring the Next Generation of Leaders" was the perfect backdrop to talk about the goals and potential of the collaboration between Montessori students and Amman Imman. About 10 people attended the workshop and I talked to an additional 25 people who signed on to the mailing list to stay connected.

When people hear this story - the courage that the children and adults living in the Azawak region embody even as they struggle to survive in a land without water; the compassion and tenacity of Ariane in determining to bring them water; her commitment to forge ahead even after being told by large organizations that they could not offer help until there was water for their aid workers – they feel deeply moved. This is a compelling story. When people hear it, when they see the pictures of the people and the tenderness and beauty in their faces, and hear the stories that illustrate their strength of spirit and generosity, compassion is stirred. I felt my heart open up when I first heard Ariane’s presentation. The educators at the Montessori conference in November felt stirred when they heard Ariane and the students. And each time that the stories are carried forward whether through Ariane, through teachers, or through students, people are encouraged with hope, as the need for help is revealed and the possibility of change is made real and known.

And now, with the partnership of students around the world helping to tell the story of the people of the Azawak and raise funds to transform these circumstances into hopeful realities, this determination is manifesting into something tangible. The installation of the first Amman Imman deep well has already begun to change the quality of life. Hope is now manifesting. The people in Tangarwachane, whom Ariane calls her mother, her father, her sister, her children, are living healthier lives. They are using the water to make bricks to build a school. No longer do they have to spend their time searching for water but they actually have clean water to drink. And as the adults and children in both lands receive and give back the kindnesses through cards and wishes, the story becomes even more compelling.

Tim Seldin, president of the Montessori Foundation, presented a keynote address the first evening of the conference. In talking about Montessori education’s role in teaching students to be the global citizens needed as the leaders of the next generation, he mentioned Ariane’s work in the Azawak and the student collaborative effort as an example of leadership and initiative, modeled by Ariane and carried out by students. Young people need to learn about and discuss the problems of the world but they also need to engage in projects through which they can actively change something. They need real experiences that will lay a foundation of hope to inspire their leadership as they grow into adulthood. Through Ariane’s example the students have a model that proclaims: it is not right that people are dying simply because they do not have water to drink and I am going to change that.

Ariane has taken on a tremendous responsibility in declaring her commitment to fulfill the dreams of the people of the Azawak so that their children have the opportunity to have a future. She is doing it in such a way that the dream fulfilled is not only in the form of water, health care and education, but with the greater vision of preserving their dignity to continue their way of life and keep their traditions.

Ariane has already succeeded. Her initiative to change what was not right has made a lasting impression on the children in both cultures. The image of her courage and compassion will be forever imprinted on their hearts and minds. The message resounds:
Listen and learn.
When there is a challenge, find a solution.
Do not take no for an answer.
When people are suffering and there is a way to help, do help.
Do something.
Tell others.
Be a voice for those that need you to speak for them so that they can speak for themselves.
Children around the world, in every culture, are looking for hope, the possibility that their effort will mean something. By example, Ariane demonstrates that by following through with conviction and vision, transformation can happen and the world can change. And now students around the world have the opportunity to be that example for others. They can the the leaders of the next generation - today, starting now.


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