Saturday, February 19, 2011

Argentina Miracle

In 2002 I went to an International Association of National Youth Service conference in Buenos Aries dealing with national community service programs from around the world. I was there on behalf of the New World Foundation of New York.  The 1999-2002 economic crisis in Argentina had left the country in a terrible state. Most of the middle class had been wiped out and the poor made poorer. Labourers from surrounding countries that had once come to the city with their families for work now found themselves stranded due to the financial collapse. The children of these workers were often left on their own. Turning to each other they formed street gangs that were responsible for crimes such as robbery, muggings, murder, rape, drug abuse and so on. Many of these gangs were made up of pre-teen kids. These kids had lost any sense of moral codes or ethics and had become (what I used to call) psychopaths or what is now called anti-social personality disorders.


Before the conference I, with many of the other participants, went on a tour of various community service projects around the city. At one such project I witnessed something I felt very strongly, was nothing more than a human miracle. The project was a school that had taken in many of the migrant children from the area that were part of gangs.  The school looked more like a prison with barbed wire all around it, but it was amazingly turning these delinquent kids back in human beings and then giving them an education.  The school in the early years had suffered from much of the kinds of behaviour these kids were used to doing, such as murders. There was a high number mentioned. You could not teach these kids at this phase of their detour of life, for they had no attention span. So the basic method of approach was to get the boys to play soccer and the girls to play broom ball.  As they started to develop a sense of team work, the older children were given the roles of teachers to the younger. The process offered the kids a way to get their abundant energy out while giving them a sense of family and cooperation. Eventually they were put into small groups for classroom study. Each little step was calculated to return these children to the social world.


The teachers were the real miracle makers of this story. Often having little or no pay, suffering at the hands of the kids held a tenacity that kept them to their mission. My admiration for them is endless. We got to meet and talk with some of the kids that had went through the program (with an interpreter) and marvelled at the fact that in the end, they were just kids, like any other kid you know who wants to play, have friends and a family. It was this event that was inspired my career of doing organizational development for citizen sector organizations (also known as Non-profits or NGOs) and it still motivates me to find and practice beauty and peace in this world.


I am an OD advisor sponsored by VSO and has presently finished a two year posting in Barmer, Rajasthan, India and will shortly undertake a one year posting in Chengdu, Sichuan, China.

February 18, 2011


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Friday, February 4, 2011

This is the End

As I quickly approach the end of my two year posting in Barmer, Rajasthan working at SURE I have been reflecting on what I was able to accomplish during this time. My exit report lists two pages of items that I feel (optimistically) were positive changes and relationships that I was involved with. But while I do cherish these accomplishments, I was not totally satisfied when I left SURE the first time (back in June 2010 to work with VSO India and the UNDP on a special project in Delhi) as my main suggestion, one in which the SURE leadership agreed with, was that a new Executive Director be placed in the organization, offering them a new level of professionalism and fund raising capacity, was not met.
VSO India had lined up three CSOs in Jharkhand for me to work with and I began my preliminary work with them when Mr. Mag Raj Jain called me to ask me to meet with him and Lata Kachhawaha  (Secretary and Joint-Secretary respectively) in Barmer.
At that meeting they told me that they now fully agreed that a new ED was needed at SURE and would I come back to recruit one.  Well I did return and cutting to the chase, Mr. Amit Sharma from Jodhpur was selected for the post, one in which he too accepted. So if I may toot my own horn at this time, this was the proverbial feather in the cap of my work and I leave SURE on Feb 14th with a nice sense of completion and am satisfied that if Mr. Sharma and SURE’s Executive Committee can work with each other, then SURE will flourish to the potential I have always seen in it.  I wish them all the best good luck.

Next: Chengdu, Sichuan, China at the Chengdu Urban River Association for one year. Stay tuned for a new BLOG on this adventure.

Traveler, there are no roads, roads are made by travelling. – Spanish Proverb

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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

New Hindi Word

2 am, Jan 19, 2011,  Barmer, Rajasthan
I just learnt a new Hindi word: Bhukamp
It means earthquake.
5 minutes before my neighbours told me this word, I was fast asleep. My bed woke me, it was shaking back and forth. I woke instantly with full alertness and felt the whole building shaking. I headed to go get Mike up (he had just arrived the evening before) but then shaking stopped.  I heard the sounds of voices on the street and decided to let Mike sleep and went out. The whole neighbourhood was out, lights were on all over, dogs were barking. That’s when I learnt my new word.

Ok, for those of you who are thinking, well it’s a good thing he’s shortly leaving that area and heading off to China, reconsider: the area I’m going to, Chengdu, Sichuan is a earthquake zone. A few years ago 69,000 + people died 80 kilometres away in Wenchuan County where the building codes were not to earthquake standards as in Chengdu. Feel better now?


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Thursday, December 23, 2010

Update: Leatherman Returned

Woke up, got out of bed, dragged a comb across my head…
Went outside to find my Leatherman multi-tool on the floor of my front porch.
All is well. No questions asked.
Every person, all events of your life are there because you have drawn them there. What you choose to do with them is up to you. ~ Illusions, by Richard Bach

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Of Language and Personality

I was asked to give a one hour talk at the local boys college on language and personality. Ok, you can stop laughing.  The boys, and three girls were 19 years old, in a intensive one month course to develop their English skills and their personality. The purpose for both of these aspirations was so that they could get a good job. At least that is what the course description said and what they told me when I asked. Needless to say I tried to inspire an additional message: that being they were doing this also for their own personal edification, to be able to expand their communications, networking, and knowledge skills etc..  They had never heard of Mr. Shakespeare and I mentioned that learning English would give them a window on literature in the rest of the world that rarely happens to students here.

But I arrived and the professor gave a little speech and then asked Jarrina (a girl from our office, and alumni from the school who came along with me) was asked to introduce me. She didn’t know this was going to happen but got up and introduced herself and then me and I was very impressed with her, she who normally is a shy quiet young woman who sits and does her work at the office, to speak so easily and calmly.  Then the professor got up and flower lays were given out, the school principal came in, two photographers and it began to feel like the circus was in town. The introductions and ceremony took twenty minutes off my scheduled talk, but that turned out to be just fine.  I figured if I could get the kids to talk we could easily spend an hour in discussion.  But as much as I tried and jokingly threatened them with poor grades for the course, I only got 3 of the 20 or so to speak up. But they were very respectful and attentive. I tried to make as much eye contact as possible and one young man responded at the end telling me my talk was wonderful, beautiful and grateful. That’s a lot of “fullness”.  I’ve been asked back.

“In order to live free and happily, you must sacrifice boredom.

It is not always an easy sacrifice.” ~ Illusions, by Richard Bach




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