Santa Fe Living Treasures – Elder Stories

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Gaylon Duke & Zenia Victor

Honored October, 2009

Gaylon Duke & Zenia Victor

They are teachers, foster parents, counselors, mentors, guides, administrators, peacemakers, healers, and visionaries.  Zenia Victor and Gaylon Duke are quiet community builders who continue to break down barriers among people and bring understanding and engagement to the world.

A friend wrote that Zenia and Gaylon believe that once a young person is exposed to cultures other than their own, their lives will be changed forever, for the betterment of mankind. Zenia has a background as a translator, art teacher, mediator and is a world traveler.  Gaylon is also a seasoned travelor, with a degree in special education.

A decade ago, Gaylon and Zenia  combined their love for youth and teaching through travel by generously sharing their personal resources to create the Bali Art Project.  Each year, eight teenagers, many who would not otherwise be able to travel,  experience  a five-week summer study program in Bali. Immersed in the culture and Balinese way of life, they learn dance, music,  art, and ceremony. But most importantly, these students learn about themselves and gain a new appreciation of the world.

Parents have written.....”the experience has nurtured students to believe in their dreams... increased self-reliance and sense of responsibility... they are becoming true world citizens embracing the core values of diversity and respect... Gaylon and Zenia’s  gentle attention has changed so many kids in need of a kind word and an understanding soul.”

The transformation in the students is best expressed through their own words...”living here (in Bali) has really instilled a passion for living life to the fullest....I want to see more, smell more, taste more, hear more, and feel more than I ever have in my life.....this experience opened my eyes to the rest of the world...the more we all understand  each other, the more peace there will be...I consider Gaylon and Zenia my closest adult role models...I have become more empathetic and caring to the world......I see me with a different attitude, with more compassion... being in Bali has taught me to live in the present, to be aware of my surroundings.. I’m more aware of other people’s feelings. For the first time in my life, I feel like I have connections all around the world... I realize anything is possible...I know now that people are the same everywhere in the world, despite diverse cultural surroundings... Bali is a hand print on my heart.”


Story by Margaret Wood

Photo © 2009 by Genevieve Russell