Happy Bitis Ambassadors Retreat: October 2018
On the 1st of May 2018, ELI signed a 3-year MOU with Vietnamese leading shoe company Bitis, starting a three year process to bring Happiness and Wellbeing to the company.
This was kickstarted with an executive retreat in Nam Cat Tien in August, co-led by ELI founder Ha Vinh Tho and ELI members Minh Khanh Tran, Hai Nguyen Phuoc with the support of ELI friends Thu Ha Tran, Hang Mai, and Giang Dang.
From October 18th to 21st, ELI team members Hai, Khanh, Ha and Hang led a three-day GNH Ambassadors retreat with around 40 members of the Bitis team.
The retreat was held in the forest area of Nam Cat Tien, bringing Bitis team members together in a natural environment and out of their daily context of the city, the energy of the environment allowing all participants to reconnect to themself, to their colleagues and to nature.
On the first day, we all together set our intentions for the three days ahead, naming the way in which we would like to contribute. At the start of the retreat we introduced the larger intention to offer this space as an opportunity to share and listen to each other on a heart level, meeting each other in a different way than every day at work, listening to each other’s experiences as people, rather than just as colleagues.
The ELI team introduced the three connections to self, others and nature as the pillars of our Happiness, beginning with the importance of happiness skills, and Mindfulness as the foundation. We gave a chance to participants to reflect upon what brings them Happiness, and to make a “life map” in order to assess where they currently place themselves, allowing them to recognize the many elements already bringing Happiness to their lives.
The strong links between the different members of the Bitis community created a great energy, and this together with the space allowed us to ease participants into the practice. It was great to see how curious and eager to learn participants were.
We were blessed by nature to have the perfect conditions to head into the forest the second day. We were impressed by the commitment of all the participants to leave their electronic devices aside for the time of the retreat to really enjoy being fully present in and with nature. We practiced mindful walking all the way to one of the oldest trees (over 400 years old) of the forest, and came as guests, respecting nature. We walked to the river area where we spent one hour by ourselves, in silence, leaving all our belongings behind, spending time with the beings of nature, the sky, the rocks, the trees. We ended the solo time with a mandala, joyfully returning to C’est la vie.
Participants showed a lot of interest in the basic practices of Mindfulness, as beginners to the practice, asking many questions. We introduced Social and Emotional Learning, beginning with the foundation of self-awareness, leading to teaching about dealing with strong emotions and the importance of cultivating positive emotions such as gratitude and compassion.
On the last day, we shifted the focus to what first steps could be taken in order to bring this practice to the working environment. Hang Mai and Quyen co-led a session using the example of Xanh Shop integrating the values of GNH throughout the business. Quyen shared her vision for Bitis with her team, building upon Hang Mai’s sharing, reflecting upon how to bring Happiness and Wellbeing in a way that is adapted to the Bitis context, company culture and reality.
We also took a moment to share about the Happy Schools project, as Bitis has been a very generous donor and contributor, participating in the creation of resources and materials in Vietnamese for the project. This vision for collaboration between Happy Bitis and Happy Schools also includes the Happiness and Wellbeing of the children of Bitis employees, and projects involving a nature camp and a sensory park are being discussed.
Each sub-team had a moment in order to reflect upon how this could be brought to their department, and to make plans to support each other’s practice. Based on this reflection space, they co-created a plan to develop this within their department in the upcoming three months.
The retreat ended with a closing circle, sharing one thing that each person was grateful for and planting one seed into the Bitis “social field”, allowing the connection between all ambassadors to consolidate around a shared sense of hope for the future and for the establishment of Happy Bitis.
We would like to extend our deep gratitude to Quyen for her vision, her generosity and her deep commitment to bringing Happiness and Wellbeing not just to her company, but to the larger community. We would also like to thank the Bitis organising and logistics team for all their time and joyful dedication to the organisation of this retreat. We would like to extend our thanks to ELI friends Ha from ALL, and Hang Mai for their longstanding friendship and for their contribution to this project. Finally, we would like to thank Xứ Sở La Vie Est Belle, where we held the retreat, a beautiful volunteer-run community space. The founders Phuc and Philip base the space on the values of affordability, wellness, and living in harmony with nature.
With gratitude from the ELI team