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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