While not directly tied to the Busta project, QUEST, actively participated in the International Democratic Education Conference (IDEC) held in Kathmandu, Nepal, in October 2023. During the event, QUEST organized a session focused on inclusion, encouraging children to actively contribute to fostering inclusive practices.
As an illustrative example of their past initiatives and to initiate dialogue, QUEST presented a sneak peek of the BUSTA project activities spanning all three countries and diverse contexts. The participants comprised children from Santa Fe, Kathmandu, Seoul, Bangalore, and Pondicheri. Notably, the theme of training therapy animals emerged as particularly captivating for students, proving to be a highlight for the younger age group at the conference.
The session progressed into a lively exchange, with participants expressing their reactions to the showcased videos. Engaging questions were posed, such as how the videos made them feel, their interest in acquiring similar skill-building experiences, which activities intrigued them the most, and how such experiences could be integrated into their school and living environments. This discussion prompted animated responses, with each child eagerly sharing personal experiences, memories, comments, and even photos circulated around the room.
The discourse expanded to encompass the Nepalese students’ unique relationship with sacred cows, leading to discussions about school related experiences with elephants, buffalos, and bats. This workshop stood out as the only instance where Nepalese children passionately shared their feelings and convictions, particularly regarding vegetarianism and their strong connection to cows—a perspective that contrasts sharply with the exploitation of cows in many Western countries. Parents present expressed delight at witnessing the cross-cultural exchange among the children. The enthusiasm was so palpable that no one wanted to conclude the session. To capture the ongoing dialogue, I suggested that all the children share their stories on camera throughout the week. For the adults seeking more in-depth information, I encouraged them to join QUEST as members, ensuring access to the forthcoming impact report and guidelines from the BUSTA project. These resources would empower schools to replicate similar skill-building experiences within their own settings. Additionally, I informed them about the upcoming release of the BUSTA documentary on the subject.
Although the discussion focused on animals more than on traditional notions of inclusion related to disabilities, the exploration of other life forms emerged as a powerful catalyst for engagement and generating interest about these topics.