Sunday, May 8, 2016

Building Physical Learning Ecosystems, one Village at a Time

As we are settling in Toronto, one theme that we have been conversing about is that of gratitude and appreciation. To this end we came to reflect upon what makes it possible for Ubuntu Learning Village to be where it is now, from an appreciative standpoint. We ask our-self: What does it take to build a physical learning ecosystem ? Our own learning shows us that some of the key resources are place, networks, and people with an openness to understanding each process, undertaking and outcome as an opportunity for learning.

Resources are the tangible and intangible inputs that make creating possible; the entirety of the materials, skills, and ideas that constitute the physicality and energy of a place. Three of our most valuable resources are ourselves (Ubuntu residents), the land and our growing network of support.

Place speaks to the need for land, upon which to build collective living and gathering spaces, and from which to derive livelihoods. Land gives us food, water and materials to build shelter. It holds the memories and histories of all our relationships: to nature, to animals, to our ancestors and to our indigenous knowledges and practices. Our wellness is intricately intertwined with that of the land, meaning that the care we show it comes back to us. This understanding is a fundamental principle of Ubuntu Learning Village. The 80 hectares of land we build upon is rich with trees, animals, bees, rivers, and natural medicines. The land is our teacher, elder and keeper, who guides our vision and therefore our collective decision making at the village.

Networks refer to the preexisting and potential connections between people and communities with common visions, or engaged in complementary work. The network of friends, family and organizations that have supported us with funds, materials, ideas and important connections has helped our vision materialize in ways we never imagined.  We are grateful and humbled by the outpouring support we received from Kufunda Learning Village, the SWB Aeroplan Miles Program, the Fortress Farm community that surrounds Ubuntu, Dzimbanhete Arts Interactions, the Edelweiss Motel, Tirikoti Arts and many friends and relatives in Zimbabwe, Canada and elsewhere. Networks are essential venues for collaboration, intercultural exchanges and knowledge sharing. More importantly, when networks of people committed to social and environmental justice become dense – such that the ideas and practices of those within them align – change truly happen.
People who have made Ubuntu Learning Village possible are many, from within  and outside of Zimbabwe. The Ubuntu residents who are currently on the ground bring a unique set of skills, talents and dreams, not to mention, they are all incredibly hard working, good humored and committed people. To the folks who have come to Ubuntu, to build, thatch, deliver materials, donate musical instruments, teach mbira and marimba, install solar panels, and affirm that what we are doing is important and meaningful, we are very grateful. We are excited to continue building relationships with groups and individuals who share our vision, as the materialization of Ubuntu’s physical learning ecosystem unfolds.
As we continue to reflect upon our work at Ubuntu Learning Village, we carry with us a deep appreciation for learning and all who made it possible for us to have the opportunity to learn, which is essentially a thread that emerges out of an  appreciative core.
Nadia Saad and Moyo Rainos Mutamba

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