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Himalayan teacher inspires Rochester students

The Resilience Project’s youth mentor Hugh van Cuylenburg spoke to Rochester Primary School students on the importance of gratitude and mindfulness in their lives.

GRAHAM WILLIS August 8, 2014 3:01am

Hugh van Cuylenburg speaks to students.


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Teaching at a remote Himalayan school for six months gave youth mentor Hugh van Cuylenburg a new perspective on life.

Immersed in a culture where people appreciate everything in life, no matter how meagre, Mr van Cuylenburg returned to Australia where he set up The Resilience Project, a group which focuses on the importance of resilience, gratitude and mindfulness in life.

Before an audience of grade 5 and 6 students at Rochester Primary School last week, he spoke of his time at the Himalayan school.

Using photographs, videos and a collection of amazing anecdotes he had the audience spellbound.

He first went to India to attend a cricket academy and there he visited a one-teacher school in a slum.

The school had one teacher, one classroom and 130 students.

Learning only one in 20 were selected to attend school was a turning point for Mr van Cuylenburg. He left the academy and took up the teaching job in the Himalayan desert.

The story of a young boy who was always happy impressed the students.

The boy had no family, no possessions yet he was grateful for everything he had in life, even the cardboard box he used to sleep in a gutter.

‘‘The happiest people are those who practise gratitude,’’ Mr van Cuylenburg said.

Mr van Cuylenburg also spoke to Rochester junior footballers about the importance of resilience and mindfulness.

He told the boys resilience was the ability to manage difficulties and bounce back from adversity.

The visit was organised by Bendigo Health’s carer support services community development worker Julie Bright, who has worked closely with wellbeing co-ordinators in all district schools.

Rochester Primary School teacher Leesa Ross thanked Ms Bright for the chance to hear Mr van Cuylenburg speak.

Mr van Cuylenburg is also the chief executive of Step Back Think, a group which highlights the need to stamp out senseless violence.

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