WYSE International Leadership Programme – application deadline looms

Boxing Day 2008 I left my Nanny’s house, said good-bye to the family as they continued with Christmas celebrations, packed a bag and caught a flight to Sao Paulo, Brazil.

The next two weeks were sprinkled with some of my life’s most defining moments. Two weeks earlier I’d been offered a place on the WYSE (World Youth and Social Enterprise) ILP (International Leadership Programme). I jumped at the chance to get away from dreary UK, explore a new country and do some much-needed ‘soul searching’. I learnt so much about myself and developed such fantastic relationships there I often wish I could relive those two weeks again and again. I had the time of my life.

There is now less than a month to go before the deadline for applications for the 2011 WYSE ILP which is taking place in beautiful Lucca, Italy (28th July – 12th August).

WYSE’s world renowned International Leadership Programme provides a unique and inspirational opportunity to:

  • Develop your leadership potential through team projects, personal reflection, physical activities, deep discussion and the arts.
  • Explore the underlying causes of global problems, and develop a social entrepreneurial approach.
  • Identify your values and guiding principles in order to gain a clearer sense of balance, purpose and life direction.
  • Develop an international network of friends and peers who wish to collaborate and make a positive difference.
  • Increase your understanding of the influence of and relationship between individuals, local NGOs and international organisations such as the United Nations.

WYSE International is a global charity that supports young people with vision and awareness, who care about what’s happening in the world, and want to do what they can to make a positive difference. We promote visionary leadership capable of responding to evolving world needs such as peace, human rights, democracy and sustainability.

People who have attended WYSE in the past have found the experience extremely beneficial, and have come away with a clearer sense of who they are and where they are heading in the future.

If you are 18-35, passionate about making a positive difference to the world and seeking purpose and perspective I strongly encourage you to apply.

For more information please email ilp@wyse-ngo.org and WYSE will send you a full Information Pack with programme brochure, self-assessment (for you to check your suitability) and application forms.

‘WYSE is a gift, accept it and cherish it.  It will help you grow into the best person that you can become’ (Hyatt, Kuwait)


Peace & The Phoenix

I wrote this piece on the long plane journey from sunny Sao Paulo, Brazil back to miserable London, UK back in January this year. I’d been out there on an International Leadership Programme with WYSE and my hardnosedcitygirlself had really struggled with a lot of the introspective reflection required. It was the amazing people I was surrounded by who got me through. Reading this now. I still have a lot to learn and a lot to work on. And that is life.

I am eternally grateful to my WYSE family, and of course, the beautiful Phoenix.


For my WYSE family…

I want to let you all know I was wrong, and I am at peace with admitting it! I feel joy!

Peace IS within me. It is shining brighter every day.

It has been there all along, It was just buried deep down, covered by all of the hurts and pains I’ve stored and bottled. Being within a community of such wonderful, warm and beautiful people- all of whom projected peace from within (whether consciously or not) has shown me that peace I was looking for outside of myself was actually already within. And it didn’t need to be sought and ingested but actually needs to be unearthed and drawn out. I DO know what peace looks like – it is pure light. I DO know what peace feels like it is warm, and it is light. It’s just been a long time since I made time to find and identify peace within me.

I have been so busy, for so long, being the externally focussed pragmatist that I am, that I hadn’t made the time to check out my own interior. So cobwebs had formed and dust had gathered, to the extent where I initially struggled to get open my own front gate, let alone my front door.

I’ve spent the last few weeks, viewing your luminous houses, seeking sources for the peace I have desired for as long as I have ignored my inside. I have seen your radiant houses glow, pulsate and at times you have consumed my vision with your beams. Through clean sparkling windows I saw well maintained burning fireplaces and shimmering chandeliers, illuminating the outside world. I reluctantly looked over my shoulder at my own neglected house, with its dirty windows and shady garden. But then some of you started to pay attention to my aloof house, and some of you took the time and made the effort to ask challenging questions, speak cleansing words, share enlightening stories or give warm encouragements. It was then I risked opening up my rusty garden gates to you. How glad I am that I did. A number of you just stood in my garden and beautifully shone, lighting up its darkest corners, and flowers started to grow. I watched in amazement. All this time I thought pure independence was the way forward. Some of you served so beautifully you wiped the grime from the windows of my house with your own bare hands. I was speechless. Beyond overwhelmed. I saw out of the corner of my eye a faint glow shining through my windows’ internal layers of dirt. I smiled. I felt hope.

Your light shone a light on mine.

One stunning individual amongst you, who shone so brightly she near blinded me on first sight, walked confidently and directly up to my front door, turned to me and smiled. I nearly fainted with fear. She was so bright, so brilliant, so dazzling, I pried open my front door and let her in, despite its internal state. She was my first guest for a long time, and a Princess at that. I was almost ashamed of my abode’s state, how much of a mess it was and how much tat I had thrown about the place. But she didn’t judge me, and I felt safe with her. I felt so liberated I openly wept.

She held me and a warmth filled my core. She gently lit a match on my palm and gave it to me. As she walked around my rooms, she sometimes danced, sometimes laughed, and sometimes just took my hands in hers and looked at me. My heart leaped. Wherever she trod, her footprints made the rubbish at her feet so ugly, so insignificant, so unnecessary, I just had to set it alight. As she roamed, and I lit piece after piece, I began to feel lighter. I sighed. As the junk burnt, beneath it I found gorgeous lamps, torches and pretty candles, all inscribed with my name, all a part of me. I started to turn them on and put the candles in the darkest spots. They illuminated more junk, and I realised this was a major task, that might take my whole lifetime to fully complete. The brightness and the vividness were pure freedom. I started to wash the insides of my windows, I wanted to share with all my newfound light. I felt peace.

Perhaps while I cleaned, my light could shine on others.

I felt so elated. So strong, so free. So alight, so light.

She had seen all my junk, and yet still she took my face in her hands and told me I was truly beautiful. Outside I could hear your warm words reinforcing hers. I believed. I felt faith.

I then realised not only had I rediscovered peace, I had rediscovered trust.

I looked outside my clear windows and there you all were, in my garden, smiling and waving and telling me you could see my light and that it was growing in strength and intensity, I felt overwhelmed. So grateful. What amazing grace. What peace. What love. What life.

I turned and looked at this beautiful angel with flames in her eyes. She who I let dance in my house and who sung to my heart. She who’s presence doused my junk with gasoline, who gave me the match and showed me how to breathe worthless ashes into fiery flames. I want her with me always.

As purifying flames grew around me, and I felt cleansing heat on my back, she rose and transformed before me into a glittering bird so bold and beautiful the flames paled in comparison. Feathers aflame with the colours of the rainbow, I discovered a new beauty. A wild and free beauty that was not to be contained within another’s house, but was to rise and soar, to fly to new heights and spread the freedom of flames to others.

As she took flight, I wondered how I’d manage, how I’d cope without her song, how I’d enjoy life without her presence. I closed my eyes and tears rolled down my cheeks. I opened my eyes, and saw a feather dancing in a flame. I felt her warmth, and faintly heard her song. In love, in spirit, in peace, she was still with me.

I wondered how I’d manage without your support, without your encouragement, without your examples. In love, in spirit and in peace, you are all still with me, waving outside my window and smiling your beauty my way, your kind words ringing in my ears. A family of love and understanding. A family of peace.

What beautiful gifts.


12th January 2010