The Asia Rural Institute (ARI) has worked for over 45 years in leading nine-month courses in their Rural Leaders Training Program. ARI’s mission statement is “To build an environmentally healthy, just, and peaceful world in which each person can live to his or her fullest potential.” On average, 30 students take this nine-month course each year, coming from throughout Asia, the Pacific, and Africa. The participants receive training in sustainable agriculture through integrated organic farming techniques, as well as community building, and servant leadership workshops.
With ARI’s hands-on approach to learning, the participants have the opportunity to practice what they learn in the classroom on their 12-acre organic farm. This enables ARI to produce the majority (85-90%) of food consumed within the community. Both classroom and hands-on training focuses on food self- sufficiency, long-term environmental management, and climate change awareness.
In addition to agriculture, ARI prides itself on its attention to social justice. Gender balance, inclusivity, and empowerment are woven into the curriculum and training throughout the year. In the classroom, inequality and the marginalization of women is a topic addressed frequently.
The graduates of the Rural Leaders Training Program return to their home communities to help lead local agricultural communities in transforming local practices toward sustainable agriculture which makes the best use of the local human and natural resources. These graduates help to create a bright vision for the future in their home communities.
The Asian Rural Institute (ARI) has determined that renovating its women’s dormitory is crucial to continuing its commitment to gender equity and optimizing participant experience at their agricultural training programs. Damage caused by the 2011 earthquake, along with aging of the building’s fixtures and wall materials, has left the women’s dormitory in a state of deterioration. The condition of its facilities is rather uncomfortable due to poor ventilation, mold, and barely-functioning appliances.
To the leaders of ARI, giving due attention to the state of the women’s dormitory is not only a call for renovation but also a statement that they take seriously their goal of maintaining a 50-50 ratio of women to men participants. Over thirty years old, the dormitory has housed hundreds of female leaders from around the world as they cultivated the skills and leader-mindset necessary to support their local communities.
The dorm’s restroom renovation plans include installing four new shower units, in addition to setting up new walls, fixtures, ventilation, and lighting. The kitchen of the dorm will receive new walls and appliances. These improvements will be made with sustainability-minded design features to reduce ARI’s carbon footprint, as well as use durable, easy-to-clean materials that will allow the use of environmentally-friendly cleaning supplies. Staff and volunteers alike will take part in renovation efforts, and ARI hopes that the project can be completed by the end of this year. For ARI participants, the dormitories are part of their experience of developing a community, one of the fundamental concepts taught at ARI. A welcoming dorm is a welcoming home away from home.