UW News

April 3, 2008

Compassion is theme as students work during Alternative Spring Break

Lucy Brennan, a UW sophomore in art and the comparative history of ideas, worked with third and fourth-graders at Forks Elementary School during Alternative Spring Break the last week of March.

She’s one of about 140 UW undergraduates who volunteered to work in rural schools and health care clinics across Washington state. In elementary and middle schools, they taught reading, writing and environmental science. With high school students, they talked about college prep, experiences at the UW and the UW’s Husky Promise financial aid program.

Writing this year focused on the theme of compassion, ahead of the Seeds of Compassion events scheduled for April 11-15 in Seattle.

UW senior Bobby Chien, who led the five-student UW team at Forks Elementary, was amazed by the speed and insight of her third and fourth-graders. “Their range of creativity surprised me. They didn’t just regurgitate what we told them.”

The youngsters spent a week writing stories and poems about compassion, then assembling them into illustrated books.

“I was moved by the kids’ readiness to think creatively and work together, and in fact, the experience has inspired me to start making some books of my own,” Brennan said.

UW’s Pipeline Project, housed at the Undergraduate Academic Affairs’ Center for Experiential Learning and directed by Christine Stickler, has coordinated Alternative Spring Break the last eight years. This year’s sites included Forks, La Push, Neah Bay, Brewster, Bridgeport, Harrah, Curlew, Tonasket, Omak and Toppenish.

Dalai Lama’s emissary meets with students

For Lama Tenzin Dhonden, living compassionately is the focus of existence. As peace emissary of the Dalai Lama, who is visiting Seattle later this month, Dhonden is co-founder of the Seeds of Compassion, which is sponsoring a five-day educational event later this month at several venues in Seattle. Twice in March, Dhonden met with small groups of UW students, discussing how compassion can be taught and learned.

“Compassion is the essence of all virtues,” he told the students. “To have inner strength, you must first cultivate compassion, and the more you practice it, the more compassion you find to exercise.”

In a later interview, he mused on connections between public and private compassion.

One shouldn’t expect anything in return for compassion because that’s up to the other person, and expecting something in return will simply disturb one’s mind, Dhonden said.

“You’re not responsible for their mind; you’re just trying your best,” he said.

Asked the proper response to China invading Tibet, Dhonden said, “We should be more compassionate toward the Chinese because they are the ignorant ones. They think things will be solved by killing, by violence.

“We’re seeking rights to preserve our language, our cultural heritage, our ethnic rights and our religion. If China provides those rights, we can live as one family. We seek genuine autonomy.”

The Dalai Lama will speak to a capacity audience from 3 to 5 p.m. on Monday, April 14 in the Bank of America Arena at Hec Edmundson Pavilion. As part of his visit, the Dalai Lama will receive an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from the University. UWTV will broadcast the event live on television and the Web: http://www.uwtv.org/dalailama.  

Seeds of Compassion focuses on educating children, their parents and their teachers about the need for compassion. See this Web site for more information: http://www.seedsofcompassion.org/event.