Deepali Patel unites warring tribes, becomes an ambassador of change

Civil war, the tension between ethnic groups and poor health care have long plagued Ivory Coast, a country in the African continent. When Deepali Patel, an Art of Living faculty from India and a small team of volunteers began working in this region to resolve issues, they were met with doubts. "Initially, people were skeptical of us and our community empowerment programs. They constantly called me the white one,” shared Deepali.

The change began when Deepali and her team conducted a trial of community empowerment programs like Youth Leadership Training Program (YLTP) in the region.

“Slowly, they became comfortable with us. The locals who said they had lost their purpose of living because of the civil war, came up to me after doing the programs and said they had finally found relief from the memories of war,” she shared.

Many reported better sleep and many even gave up their addiction to alcohol.

Uniting warring tribes

One of the most striking impacts of the program was the build-up of amity between two warring tribes.

Around 30 members of the Deula and Guere tribes came together for YLTP in Ivory Coast.

“After the program, the tribes pledged peace initiatives. Presently, one of the tribes is rebuilding homes in a village, which they had forcibly taken over, and invited the opposite faction in,” said Deepali.

Adama, a member of the Deula tribe and a participant of the program, said, “These eight days of The Art of Living program changed my perception. There is no fear. They (the members of the Guere tribe) are our brothers.”

Recognizing the work done by The Art of Living, the Minister of Reconciliation in Ivory Coast personally lends support to the programs. To raise the quality of health among people, the team has also conducted awareness programs about health and hygiene. As a result, instances of malaria have also reduced.

Leading the change

Deepali has also conducted The Art of Living programs in Cameroon, Burkina Faso, and Senegal. Program participants from Cameroon visited the international center in Bangalore, India, and learned natural farming as well as biogas production.

In June, the Mayor of Saa gifted a hectare of land to the organization, which will be used to for organic farming. Locals from neighboring villages have requested training in the same as chemicals have rendered land infertile. Deepali has also spearheaded change in North-East India. “We were constantly threatened and found people initially resistant. But then they kept coming back to the programs,” she said.

So, what makes these programs appealing across countries?

“The program touches the core of a person and that is the same everywhere. The course is universal. It gives you what you’re looking for. That’s why we are welcomed everywhere in the world,” she said.