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Feb 24
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A New Year, A Fresh Beginning

Carolyn Mandelker, photo by Terry Rudderham

Shambhala’s Executive Director, Carolyn Mandelker, looks ahead to the Year of the Water Dragon. She shares Shambhala’s plans, her excitement, and the challenge of funding Shambhala.

Carolyn, what do you see as you look ahead to this new year?

For those of us who work and volunteer in Shambhala, the new year represents a fresh beginning. While we continue to build on our previous aspirations and significant efforts, we also try to articulate new ways in which we would like to focus our energy in the upcoming year — the year of the Water Dragon. I’d like to highlight some of the areas that I would personally like to offer further support. I hope this will give you a further sense of where your money might go, if you are able to contribute to our ambitious Shambhala Day fundraising drive this year!

You have an extremely demanding position as Executive Director. Could you tell us what that’s like?

For me personally, I spent last year trying to understand what an Executive Director does! I was hired full time. I felt I had learned a great deal about how to serve centers and groups as the Director of Practice and Education, but how could I best serve centers and groups in this new role? I was greatly assisted by receiving funding for a half time executive assistant (Melissa Howell) and a full time Director of Center and Group Support (Anna Weinstein). I hope that the leaders of all our centers and groups, and possibly community members as well, feel an increased sense of support and communication over this last year because of these new positions that were funded by you — our community — last Shambhala Day. We have many more ideas for working with you that we are hoping to put in place this coming year!

So what do you see as you look ahead to the Year of the Water Dragon Year?

There’s a lot! Let’s begin with Practice and Education. In 2011, we were able to hire Andrea Doukas to be the full time Director of Practice and Education, and also to pay Acharya Lobel for his full time work developing courses, teaching, training teachers, working with our young sangha and many, many more things. At the same time, in the last few years, the Sakyong began to assign specific portfolios to certain acharyas to assist with the development of the newer aspects of our culture and practice. Acharya Eve Rosenthal is now the chair of the Acharya Council. Acharya Suzann Duquette is our Rupa Acharya (developing our understanding of forms and rituals). Acharya Judith Simmer-Brown is the Dean of the Teacher Academy (working with the development of the Shastris and teachers in general). Acharya Dale Asrael is the Dean of the Meditation Instructors (working on enriching the training and support of the meditation instructors). Acharya Michael Greenleaf as the Wealth Acharya (bringing the teachings to our understanding of generosity and wealth). These acharyas are all working in these capacities as volunteers, in addition to their other activities of teaching within the mandala, having families, and (some) working to support themselves financially. They are all really inspired to move forward with this work that the Sakyong has asked them to do; they are equally dissatisfied with what they have been able to accomplish in this past year. We would like to help them by hiring a half time administrative assistant to take some of their administrative load!

What about our urgent communication needs?

A major aspect of communication that we really want to focus on is Multicultural and Multilingual Development in Shambhala. Last September, we asked Sophie Leger to conduct a survey as a first step toward a better understanding of translation in Shambhala. The hope was that this initiative would help improve our multilingual services. She interviewed 34 individuals from 21 different countries between the end of September and the beginning of December 2011. Most of them were coordinators of their local translation committees; the rest were individuals with key positions in the translation world. Her report is extremely comprehensive, and gives us a very full picture both of: 1) the incredible, yet painful achievement of the people all over the world who work with translation with little to no support from the center of the mandala, and 2) the many ways that we can support multicultural and multilingual development in Shambhala so that we may have a diverse society without linguistic, cultural and socioeconomic barriers.

In order to progress in this work, we need to commit to supporting this area. How wonderful if we could say to those who have volunteered for so long to develop translations for dharma and governmental documents that we are ready to support their work, so that our teachings become more available to people around the globe! This is a key area that needs funding this Shambhala Day!

In 2011, we were incredibly fortunate to add another key position within in the Kalapa Executive: The Director of Communications. One of our members, a former center director who has been is the communications profession and was willing to volunteer on a full-time basis stepped forward to help us develop an overarching strategy for communications in Shambhala. That’s Larry Barnett. There is a wonderful recent article in the Shambhala Times highlighting all the work that is being done in Information Technology (IT) within Shambhala, and the Kalapa Council blog also has a piece highlighting the steps that Larry and others have already taken to update the way we present ourselves to the world and the way we communicate within Shambhala. This is a key area that needs funding this Shambhala Day. Please read these articles to see what we are up to!

What about our young sangha, the future of Shambhala?

Only about 6% of our worldwide Shambhala members are between the ages of 18-30. When a young person enters Shambhala, they are much more likely to stay if they find a peer group. Some centers have begun to work on this, but not with the consistency and focus that we would like to see across Shambhala. We already have some excellent work being done to make Shambhala more accessible to young people (particularly in Europe because of the funding of the European Donor Group and Sophie MacLaren), and to develop younger people as teachers and spokespeople for Shambhala (Acharyas Lobel and McLellan). At this point, the Sakyong, the President and I feel that this is so important that we intend to form a council to focus on the development of young sangha. We would like to fund a full time position to help move this forward.

We heard there would be new support for the Dorje Kasung. Is that true?

Yes. We have taken the bold step of hiring a full-time Executive Officer for the Dorje Kasung. This will really strengthen the ability of the senior command to ensure far better coordination and information flow throughout the entire kasung. This is helpful to the whole mandala as the kasung provides the protection for the teacher, teachings and the community. Providing this support is long overdue, and I am so thankful that we have been able to start doing this!

Funding seems to be key issue in moving forward. What can people do?

I feel we have a real chance of reaching our goal. It will take all of us giving to make this come true. The Shambhala and Society report shows that so many of us are already giving our time, energy, and support to the world. If you could also make a financial offering to strengthen the core of the mandala, I know we can accomplish so much more in the Year of the Water Dragon. If you have already made a gift to raising our international budget, then you will be getting a very heartfelt “thank you”. If you have not made up your mind as to whether you will make an offering, we have posted all the information we hope you need to make a well-informed decision on our new Kalapa Council blog. Every amount offered will make a real difference and put us within reach of our goal.

And if people want to give now?

You can click right here to give right away!

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