Friday, January 28, 2011

Visiting the Rotary Club in Shaker Heights, OH

School children in Nepal's Rasuwa District

Tuesday February 1, 2011 at 7:30 morning I will be attending a meeting and giving a powerpoint presentation to the Rotary Club of Shaker Heights, Ohio.

Thank you Shaker Heights Rotary!
I will hopefully be receiving support and advice about our Library Project in Nepal.

About the Library Project: Shree Nawabijayee Mahendra Secondary School is a recently constructed school in the Rasuwa District of Nepal.  These students are in desperate need of reading materials.  When I visited almost one year ago in March 2010, the school had only the one small bag of books that I brought to them from my blog friends and neighbors. Your contribution is going directly to the building and stocking of a library for this school.  Not only will 320 students be able to use this library, but the library will also be made available to the 1500 inhabitants of the  nearby villages. The Joy Foundation is the non-governmental organization (NGO) in Nepal overseeing this project.

Budget Details in US Dollars:
Cement 30 bags, cost $400
Sand 180 bags, cost $430
Skilled builders, 50 people, cost $290
2 doors and 6 windows, cost $500
Furniture, cost $500
Concrete, cost $40
The community will provide volunteer labor to assist in the construction of this building.
Once the building is complete our goal is purchase 500 books through
Room to Read valued at $500.
We would also like to deliver 2  laptop computers valued at approximately $350 each.
Total Goal - $3360
The Joy Foundation
Total contributions including PayPal are currently $1259.49.  Thank you for your contributions.  We are making progress.

To see who has donated and learn more about this project, click below:

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

An Optimistic Future

When it comes to the future, there are three kinds of people: those who let it happen, those who make it happen, and those who wonder what happened.
 John M. Richardson, Jr.

Learned helplessness is condition in which a person has learned to behave helplessly because of their circumstances and experiences in the past.  Martin Seligman, PhD,  and others have found that even when conditions change for an individual,  they continued to believe that they had no ability to help themselves to a different future. What does this mean when it is applied on a cultural level, especially in places like India and Nepal, where there are lingering caste systems, or in any country of great social disparity?

Recently, I was listening to Anand Giridharadas, who was raised in Cleveland, Ohio, telling about an experience he had while visiting India.  He was at a dinner party with several guests attended to by servants as is the custom in India. Later that evening he needed to deliver a mattress to his host.  When he returned to the house he was wearing shorts and a T-Shirt.  The house servant thought that he was a lower class delivery boy and addressed him as such.  You can hear the pod-cast of his story here.  The servant clearly had an image of his place and the place of others in this world while the American born Anand could slide easily between different stations in life.

Our world is going through an amazing cultural shift right now in part because of our sudden access to global information.   Chavez said, that, “Once social change begins, it cannot be reversed. You cannot uneducate the person who has learned to read. You cannot humiliate the person who feels pride. You cannot oppress the people who are not afraid anymore. We have seen the future, and the future is ours.

Martin Seligman continued his research and found that just as you can learn helplessness you can also learn optimism. We all can.  We should not allow ourselves to be limited by the expectations of others, nor should we restrict our future to imagined boundaries.  Have courage and dare to dream big!
*For some very special friends.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Changing Perspective

I took my place in the back seat of the rust stained white station wagon next to a nervous and foul smelling sheep dog. I had a suspicion that the brown stuff matted into his fur with burrs and small twigs was not mere dirt.  Fortunately for me, he did not move about the car at all but instead was working intently on removing all of the interior plastic and foam from the door on his side of the car. The middle aged couple in front of the car was friendly even if loudly opinionated about everything and nothing in particular.  Mrs. Pheasant, a gray haired dumpling of a women whose eyes rarely focused on anything but just sort of rolled around lazily, produced a paper bag containing a bottle of gin from the floor of the car.  We were only 20 minutes into our hour and a half trip to the cape and already she was offering a swig to her husband who was driving.  By the time that we reached the ferry in Hyannis both of them were pleasantly inebriated and ready for the jolly ferry ride to Nantucket.

When I was 17 years old and a recent high school graduate from a small farm town in Ohio, my mother dropped me off in Marlboro, Massachusetts, with a friend of her friend who owned a summer home at the far end of Main Street in Nantucket.  The plan was that I would be able to live in a safe environment with cheap rent while I found a summer job so that I could make money for college.  I never told my mother that the sweet couple, the Pheasants, who picked me up had 15 kids jammed into their little house all paying $50 a week in rent.  I shouldn't really say that I stayed in their house, my bed was in a shed similar to one that you might find at the Home Depot that looks like a tiny little barn.  Three girls shared this space.  Two were in bunk beds that fit perfectly to the depth of the shed and my bed completed the L to theirs along the length.  At night, my suitcase would go on the floor and in the morning I would put it back up on the bed so that we could get to the door.

I loved it!  I was independent, surrounded by kids from all over the country.  I worked at least two jobs a day, sometimes more, and often bathed in the ocean in between jobs because there was only one bathroom for everyone.  I rarely saw the landlords,  who had usually passed out cold long before most of us returned from our jobs during the day.  And, I made plenty of money to take to school with me in the fall.

Flash forward 20 years.  I was visiting a young woman whom I had originally met in Nepal.  She was working for a hotel on Cape Cod.  I was appalled to find that she was living in a hotel room with 5 other girls.  Each one of them was paying $100 a week rent to the landlord who was also their employer.   Just about all of the money that they made cleaning the rooms went to rent and food.  After the airfare round trip to the US from Nepal, these young women would have less to take home with them than they had at the start. At first I was furious that they were being exploited this way.  I was sure that it was not legal.  But the young woman asked me please not to say anything to anyone.  This was her chance.  If she could demonstrate that she would play by the US rules, she might have the opportunity to return to a different job in the US someday.  After a few moments reflection, I could understand that what she was doing was really not very different from what I had done at about the same age.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Anonymous from Nepal

Ganesh, the remover of obstacles.
I received this message today January 3, 2011 on a post from May 4th, 2010 The Little Children are Suffering:

I was born and raised in Kathmandu, I never had any chance to travel these corners inside Nepal. It is such a shame how imbalance the whole situation is within a same country regarding education and household. I belonged to a rich family background and I was given good education Now I left my own country and living here in one of the world's most developed country using expensive notbook trying to realize what went wrong? I believe all most everyone who are from kathmnadu as well as other cities from Nepal don't know the situation around such a country side or may be they try to ignore it. Because of the Anxiety of life, no one cares about it. And the politic and all the politicians are not capable of anything beside making money for their own. May be around 20% of population or less pays tax. And all most everyone who were given good education are already out of country as I am. But for me it was not my decision to leave my own country. Anyways I love my country and I love my children too and for there sake I cant go back. But I will do something good to those children out there I promise. May be one of them will realize about it before it's too late. otherwise the story will never end. Thank you. 

There is so much grief and doubt in this message and I really felt compelled to respond.

Looking to the past can help us to understand why something is happening in the present, but I am a firm believer that the future is determined by how we choose to envision it.  If we cling to a vision of the past what do we aim for?  Where is the goal?  We must begin with a vision of the world that we would like to live in, then make our plans and set about creating the vision by changing our own actions.  Nothing happens without effort but it is only our own effort that we have any control over.

Remove the obstacles, the blame and guilt, and believe that you can make a difference.  You can!  You merely have to begin.

THANK YOU! to all of you who have contributed to the Library Project in the Rasuwa District.  Together we are making progress.  To see our progress and see who has contributed, click here.
To make a Pay Pal donations click here.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year! The Ritual

I went looking on the web to see what New Year's traditions I could find and from that I have created my own ritual:

Write on paper the vices that I wish to part with and burn them in a fire.
Write my hopes for the year on another piece of paper and tie it to my wishing tree.
Pass out lots of kisses to friends and family with warm wishes for peace and prosperity.

And Sing a Song!
Auld Lang Syne by Robert Burns
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And auld lang syne?

For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,
We'll tak a cup o' kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

And surely ye'll be your pint-stowp,
And surely I'll be mine!
And we'll tak a cup o' kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,
We'll tak a cup o' kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

We twa hae run about the braes,
And pu'd the gowans fine;
But we've wandered mony a weary fit
Sin' auld lang syne.

For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,
We'll tak a cup o' kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

We twa hae paidled i' the burn,
Frae morning sun till dine;
But seas between us braid hae roared
Sin' auld lang syne.

For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,
We'll tak a cup o' kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

And there's a hand, my trusty fiere,
And gie's a hand o' thine!
And we'll tak a right guid-willie waught
For auld lang syne.

For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,
We'll tak a cup o' kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.