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Character Education

NextGen Interns Promote Character Education in Chennai

Carrying out its mission to challenge and empower the next generation to create lives of authenticity, abundance, and altruism, the US-based NextGen Academy sent students to five Asian countries in the spring of 2008 to serve as interns in UPF's Character Education Initiative.

Interns Lily Jones, and Joyce Payer, the interns of Team India, were thrilled upon arrival in the Indian city of Chennai The whole plane had been populated with Indian men, and, as three white women, they felt they stood out quite a bit. However, on the plane and in country, they felt a strong sense of safety, because they found that women were treated with a great deal of respect.

Their hearts were torn by how run-down the airport was and the lifestyles of the people of the city. The interns saw many homeless people living in the streets or in rude shelters like cardboard boxes. Much begging went on. They saw a great deal of suffering, Yet once the "culture shock" wore off, they saw a great amout of beauty in the place.

They were honored to do a little sightseeing. First, they went on a visit to the St. Thomas Basilica. Thomas was one of the twelve disciples of Jesus who traveled to India after the crucifixion. He was martyred while praying on the mountaintop.

They then went to a school set up for young girls from the countryside whose parents were too poor to take care of them. The school houses about thirty girls from ages eight to seventeen. The team taught them songs, games and taught a couple of character education lessons along with skits. From the famous fairy tale of "Goldilocks and the Three Bears", the sensitive children gleaned the concept of forgiveness. When asked if they thought they would really turn into an owl if they were mean and selfish (as happened in the fairy tale "The Baker's Daughter"), the students answered with an emphatic "Yes!"

Lily and Joyce taught songs to the children, including "Oh! What a Beautiful Morning", "Love", and "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands". They were moved by the responsiveness of the girls and how lovable they all were.

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