The Resilience Project

The Resilience Project

A few months ago, long before we had even heard of Covid-19, I watched a young man being interviewed on breakfast TV. I was so impressed I went out and bought his book which was equally impressive. 

Hugh van Cuylenburg was a primary school teacher who spent 12 months volunteering and living at an underprivileged school in the Himalaya. He came to realise that despite the underprivileged community the children were from, they were remarkably positive. By contrast, back in Australia Hugh knew that all too many children struggled with depression, social anxieties and mental illness. His own little sister had been ravaged by anorexia nervosa.

How was it that young people he knew at home, who had food, shelter, friends and loving family, struggled with their mental health, while these kids seemed so contented and resilient? He set about finding the answer and in time came to recognise the key traits and behaviours these children possessed were gratitude, empathy and mindfulness.

When he returned to Australia, Hugh set about studying and researching how to help our young people gain this resilience. He set up a programme which he took into schools, Melbourne Storm Rugby league club and then the wider NRL. He spoke to Richmond Football club and the programme then spread to other AFL clubs; the Australian cricket team; and schools and organisations all over Australia.

The full title of this book is ‘The Resilience Project: finding happiness through gratitude, empathy and mindfulness’. As one review of this book said “Happiness is not the end result of what you have, but of the person you are and what you can do for others. Daily practice of gratitude, empathy and mindfulness as illustrated in this book take you a long way to achieving this”.

The Resilience program follows what it calls the GEM method, practised daily

1. Gratitude
– what are three things that went well for you today?
– what are you looking forward to most about tomorrow?

2. Empathy
 – think about someone you know who is going through or has gone through a tough time.  What could you say to them?

3. Mindfulness
– Go for a walk and think about three things you can see, three things you can hear, three things you can feel.

Overwhelmed by the demand for him to speak to groups and schools, Hugh took on a partner (Martin Heppell) to help with the presentations. My daughter-in-law is a teacher/leader at Knox Grammar School.  Because I had talked so much about this remarkable book, when the school engaged Martin Heppell to help set up their resilience project, Michelle invited me to come along and hear Martin speak to the parents. He spoke for two hours non-stop without any notes to an audience totally engrossed I what he was saying.

Now that you have time on your hands at home, this is a book I recommend you read.