The Nicole Sangsuree Barrett Scholarship Fund
Nicole Sangsuree Barrett was an extraordinary young woman who left a legacy of love, creativity, beauty, and activism. We have established this scholarship fund to honor her spirit and support other activists to have the opportunity to participate in the Buddhist Education for Social Transformation (BEST) training program in northern Thailand. Sangsuree graduated from the first cohort of BEST in 2014 and was on the faculty for the second year of the program at the time of her death.
Our goal is to fund three BEST scholarships through this campaign, in Sangsuree's memory.
Who Was Nicole Sangsuree Barrett?
As a songwriter, artist, musician, puppeteer, farmer, and teacher, Sangsuree gave herself completely to the cause of liberation and justice for all beings. She fully embraced her own identity as a mixed-race, queer woman.
Sangsuree earned her bachelor’s in theater arts and women and gender studies from the University of Oregon, and completed a graduate degree at Portland State University just this past year. She taught an urban farming series at Portland Community College and worked as a waste reduction educator. In Thailand, Sangsuree studied seed saving and natural building at Pun Pun Organic Farm, and she became deeply involved with the work of the International Women's Partnership for Peace and Justice, based north of Chiang Mai. You can read more about her many accomplishments in this article by Heather Spalding, director of the PSU Sustainability Leadership Center, who worked with Sangsuree.
Sang's love of the earth was palpable and some of the greatest gifts she gave to all of us were rituals and songs that helped us to re-connect with the wisdom inherent in nature. One of the last songs Sang recorded, with the help of Emma Carroll, was "Fistful of Bones," her original song woven around a beautiful chant, "Earth My Body."
Beyond all this description, Sang was simply unforgettable -- someone who had the rare gift of shining herself while at the same time creating space for others to come forth and shine. As one friend put it,
"She spied your highest potential, your unseen sides, and knew exactly how you need to be encouraged, 'C'mon now, I see You in there, show me. You don't gotta hide.' Sang was an activist, but her most potent social change work was surely made through her every day interactions, insatiable curiosity for people, loving kindness and whacky humour. Plus uncanny inability not to begin accidental-jam-session-talent-sharing-celebrations that go all night."
Sang was only 34 years old when she was killed after being hit by a car in Chiang Mai on the night of July 17. As news of her death spread, the many communities she was part of have come forward to express their great love and respect for her, and to connect with each other. This, too, is part of Sang's legacy -- a growing awareness of our points of connection and an aspiration to support the work of healing and liberation going on in many quarters.
What is the Buddhist Education for Social Transformation Training Program?
"Through the BEST program, I am exploring engaged spiritual practice and deep ecology. I am committed to walk the path of sustainable living in China, no matter how lonely it may seem to be, because I feel so much support from the peaceful, joyful spirits here at IWP, expressing so much lovingkindness (especially Sangsuree)."
~Fang, BEST 2014 participant from China
The Buddhist Education for Social Transformation (BEST) course is an innovative yearlong training that is focused on transformation of individuals, communities, the environment, and the world.
The program is open to anyone seeking a Buddhist perspective in his or her approach to personal development, social justice and social change work. The program is organized by International Women’s Partnership for Peace and Justice (IWP), based in Chiang Mai, Thailand and builds on IWP's experience working with social change agents from the grassroots to the government levels over the past 15 years. IWP was co-founded by Ouyporn Khuankaew and Ginger Norwood in 2002.
Course participants come from all over Asia as well as other parts of the world. Graduates and current students are from Australia, China, Colombia, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand, and the U.S.
The course is founded on the pillars of non-violent activism, spiritual practice, and anti-oppression feminism. The course is intended to support participants’ integration of spiritual practice and social action, grounded in structural analysis and an understanding of the interdependence of personal transformation and structural change. The intention is to form a strong community/sangha among participants as they journey through the yearlong program together.
Nicole Sangsuree was part of the first BEST course in 2013 and graduated from the training in June 2014. She had stayed on at IWP in July of 2014 and was teaching yoga to the new BEST cohort and supporting them in many other ways at the time of her death.
Your contribution to this fund will help to provide full-tuition scholarships for three people to participate in the 2015 BEST course. Tuition for each student is $800 for the full year of training, all-inclusive (housing, food, course fee, mentoring)... $800 x 3 = $2400. Any funds raised beyond this goal will go to offer more scholarships to applicants in need of financial assistance to enroll in BEST. There are generally between 12 to 20 people in each BEST cohort, many of whom are working in NGOs and coming from low-income communities.
"During my stay in Thailand last summer, I attended a training program called Buddhist Education for Social Transformation (BEST), where I had the privilege of meeting and becoming friends with several extraordinary women from all over the world. Sangsuree was one of those women. She was many things - activist, singer, poet, writer - the list goes on. Most importantly, she was generous, creative, beautiful, funny, light-hearted, passionate, accepting and one of the most kind-hearted individuals I have ever met. While her physical body has left us, her spirit lives on and her light continues to shine brightly in our hearts. I feel honoured to have known her."
Other Ways You Can Help
If you're not able to contribute to the scholarship fund at this time, you can still help out by sharing the word about this campaign with others via:
- Facebook, Twitter, other social media -- use the sharing buttons at the top of this page
Word-of-Mouth... write about it, tell others!