Finding Community

Pronunciation [kuh-myoo-ni-tee]–noun, plural -ties.

  • a place where wealth is measured in terms of how many people you hold dear.
  • a place where people WANT to hear your problems, because when you are down it creates a rift in the group.
  • a place where isolation is not accepted and resistance to becoming one of the group is futile.
  • a group of people who think as a unit, not as a set of individuals.
  • the object of the Mount Madonna School Ubuntu Project.

There is a philosophy in African culture called Ubuntu which focuses on people’s interconnectedness and human relations with one another. Part of Ubuntu is the sense of community as outlined above. One of the goals of the Values in World Thought Program at Mount Madonna School is learning through experience and this year we hope to gain an experiential perspective on community in relation to the philosophy of Ubuntu. As part of this quest, we plan to travel to South Africa this April to interview Archbishop Desmond Tutu about his life, his idea of community and his thoughts on the values of Ubuntu.

To help us prepare for our journey we have been engaging with several wise mentors. We spoke with author and indigenous wisdom carrier, Sobonfu Some, who embodies a most beautiful definition of what community means from growing up as part of the Dagara tribe in her native Burkina Faso. She inspired us to continue searching for the meaning of community. We also spoke with Margaret Wheatley who is currently doing a lot of work in Africa to strengthen the role of women, and we talked with Peter Block who has recently written a book called “Community, The structure of Belonging.” All have given us gifts for our journey.

With these gifts we are moving forward in our preparation phase of the process. The class has split into four groups, each with a different research focus such as Desmond Tutu, The Apartheid Movement, Culture, and History. As we learn more about the area we will be visiting, our excitement grows. We have begun working with some Non-Violent Communication (NVC) exercises to bond as a group and learn to express ourselves positively so that we will be able to manage when the inevitable challenges of the trip arise.

I am really excited about our project, however I am overwhelmed by how much we have to do in the short amount of time we have left. The class is generally very productive, which helps, and everyone seems to be really pumped about the trip. The group dynamics are very positive and each person is contributing to the group. Mari is spearheading the fundraising aspect of the trip, and having immense success. Her note follows.