Q: Why is kanthari important to you?
Paul Kronenberg (PK): Turning on the news at night, the news anchors start with “Good Evening”… In the next 10 to 20 minutes you are asking yourself… Is it really a ‘good evening’?
And after the news is finished, do you see people jumping into action to do something about what they have just seen? Unfortunately, not many do. Why? Because they are distracted by Hollywood, Bollywood and Advertisement.
Luckily though, there are people who had enough and because of that, they stand up and kick into action.
We call such a changemaker a “kanthari.”
A kanthari is also the name for an extremely spicy chili. Actually, one of the spiciest in the world. A chili that has medicinal qualities. And that is what the world needs, a bit of spice but at the same time some healing, too.
Q: What inspired you to start kanthari?
PK: In 1997, I met Sabriye Tenberken in Tibet. Sabriye, who is blind, developed the Tibetan Braille Script and was in Tibet to explore how she could start the first school for the blind. About one year later, Sabriye called me up to announce that she was going to start. I decided to join her in this journey and quit my job the next day.
Five days later we were back in Tibet. We worked in Tibet for 19 years, starting the first preparatory school for the blind, a vocational training center for the blind, a Braille Printing Press, and a proactive or self-integration program.
Our training center was a place where the students gained skills and confidence so they were able to integrate themselves pro-actively into regular schools, colleges and universities, or they would integrate themselves in society either by being employed, self-employed, or becoming an employer.
We knew that we would not be able to be in Tibet for the rest of our lives, so we looked for leadership training centers where our students could learn how to run an organization so they could take over our positions.
When we didn’t find any courses that would take students who did not have any specific degrees, we decided to start our own leadership training center. And that is how the idea to start kanthari was born. In 2006, we started the construction of a green and eco-friendly campus in Kerala, South India. And in 2009 we welcomed the first kanthari participants.