Deepali Patel started the first Art of Living programs in the Ivory Coast, Cameroon, Burkina Faso, and Senegal. The Youth Leadership Training Programs and the 5H programs she has taught have helped build inroads towards sustainable development and harmony between communities.
“For me it is an honor and a privilege to be an Art of Living teacher. The last 10 years have been the most fulfilling years of my life. The Art of Living touches the very core of human beings and you instantly become a part of them, of their world, their lives. The more I give the more I receive. It has opened up my heart in dimensions I never knew possible. Before, my life was limited to my family. Now also, it is limited to my family, just that my family has grown so big, spanning continents. I never thought that would be possible for me. Sometimes I marvel at all the love that I have in my life.”
CAMEROON, IVORY COAST RECOGNIZE ART OF LIVING'S WORK
"There is no fear. These eight days of the Art of Living program changed our perceptions of each other," says Adama, a member of the Deula tribe in Ivory Coast. "Our ways are so similar, we’re brothers. AOL is playing the role of a peace keeping organization," he continues. Since a few years there has been disharmony between the Deula and the Guéré tribes over land and economic issues. Around 30 members of the two tribes came together for the Youth Leadership Training Program (YLTP) in Ivory Coast in July. After the course, the tribes pledged peace initiatives. Presently one of the tribes is rebuilding homes in a village which they had forcibly taken over and inviting the opposite faction in. The youth have also started cleanliness campaigns and repairing roads.
The Art of Living team, comprising Deepali Patel from India, Philippe Torrella and volunteers like Jacques from Ivory Coast, has been conducting YLTPs, trauma relief programs and spreading awareness about health, hygiene and harmony. Many participants reported being malaria-free after years of suffering two-three bouts per month. Others have found relief from memories of the civil strife and have given up alcohol addiction and report better sleep.
"Initially people were skeptical of us and the courses. They constantly called me ‘the white one.’ Eventually they became very comfortable. These countries have seen immense trauma. Many locals said they had lost their purpose for living," says Deepali Patel, who conducted the courses. "The techniques taught in the course have helped them regain their joie de vivre. We also conducted one at Bouké in Ivory Coast, which is known to be the headquarters of the rebels. Here even the government officials were afraid for our safety but the locals welcomed us."
Recognizing the work done by Art of Living, the Minister of Reconciliation in Ivory Coast personally lends support to the programs. AOL programs have been conducted in French-speaking Cameroon and Ivory Coast since 1999. Last year 25 locals in Saa underwent the first ever Youth Leadership Training Program in Cameroon. Seven course participants visited the International Headquarters in Bangalore and learnt organic farming and biogas production. In June, the Mayor of Saa gifted a hectare of land to AOL which will be used to for organic farming. Locals from neighboring villages have requested training in the same as chemicals have rendered land infertile and biogas is unaffordable. Deepali Patel has also lived in the North-East of India, teaching the Art of Living programs. "We were constantly threatened and found people initially resistant. But then they kept coming back to the programs," she says. "No matter what color we are, every one is searching for inner peace. The course touches the core of a person and that is the same everywhere. The course is universal. It gives you you’re looking for. That’s why we are welcomed anywhere in the world."