Sunday, August 30, 2009

The six phases of service

The road to spiti is one of the bumpiest roads we have ever been on, reading is sure not easy, but how can you pass up the most beautiful place on earth to not reflect and think. One of the materials that we read while traveling was an analysis written by Caryn McTighe Musil regarding service in higher education, while reading this piece many thoughts ran through our minds, our initial reaction to what we had read led us to think about service in the world and our particular task. We began to think that at many times one will ask how can we make a difference in the world, In order to make a difference it is not necessary for all to travel thousands of miles. Many times help is needed within our own homes, our own neighborhoods, and at times even our closest and dearest may be in need. Wherever we stand there is always an opportunity to serve. We are currently carrying out service in India, It might not seem like an easy task, and it sure is not, but service has become part of our daily lives. Outlined are the 6 phases of service. They have given us a clear look, at what type of service we are providing.

There are six basic expressions of citizenship:

Exclusionary: is the service of serving yourself.

Oblivious: The drive by service act, not really knowing what you are doing or why you are doing it. Just being put in a situation where you are expected to serve.

Naïve: Not thinking of the culture or surrounding of the people that you are serving. Just thinking that your way of life is the way every one lives.

Charitable; Can be multicultural service act, but. It benefits the givers feelings, and the sufferers immediate needs but does not empower them to better their life.

Reciprocal; A resource to empower and be empowered by, it can be influenced by legacies of inequalities. The act will benefit society as a whole in the present.

Generative; Changing the outlook and possibilities’ of a community by improving knowledge and quality of life. it benefits everyone now and in the future.

It was very interesting for us to read this analysis because it seems that we could relate to each topic spoken about. The writer expresses her feeling on all the different degrees of citizenship saying “the faces of citizenship are indeed phases.’’ We have been able to witness YMAD go through all 6 of these “Phases”. The fist time traveling to India being totally oblivious to what we were doing and entering into. Next being ignorant to the people and their native ways and trying to give them the comforts of our life when it was not comfortable for them at all, and realizing that the charity we were rendering really might not have been as empowering as it could have been. For 5 years we have been learning, growing, and morphing through each phase. It is to the point where we finally understand our purpose and our goal. To teach and motivate young people worldwide that they can make a difference in their own communities and in the world. It is to bring education and the skills necessary for children with little to no hope of bettering their life to become effective leaders in society. We don’t just work in India with orphans because it feels good; we are Generating and building the future.

We are currently working on a model orphanage. One that teaches the attributes that are taught in our yearlong trainings with high school students. These attributes are integrity, vision, the ability to inspire, courage, service, learning, forgiveness, and gratitude. In most cases the orphanages here in India are a place to eat and sleep. There is no education outside of what little schooling the children get. They have no responsibilities or respect for their possessions. They are not taught they can change the world. That they can be whatever they want. They are looked down on as outcasts in some areas. There was a school we went to once where the orphans couldn’t go in the classroom, this because they could not afford uniforms. These students were found under the stairs away from all the other children studying. We are committed to empowering these children so that they can make a difference now and in the future.

Nefi Alarcon and James Baird

Sources Cited

Musil, Caryn McTighe. "Peer Review, Spring 2003 Educating for Citizenship". American Colleges and Universities. 08/25/09

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Spiti - The land of the unexpected

I have learned that whenever you find yourself in a new and unknown culture, be prepared to find the unexpected. I have been surprised in many ways. Before I came out to Spiti I was warned by our guide Eris, to prepare myself for the unexpected. Spiti is a very unique and distinct place. You can say that at an altitude of about 4000 meters, you are definitely in one of the highest and most remote places in the world.

Our first day we are greeted to a first class breakfast, everything from homegrown honey, to the best fried eggs, you can even go for the hard boiled eggs, it is surely a good welcome, as I am eating, I am warned by our friend Eris, “nefi you are in one of the highest places in the world, the altitude will get to you, don’t eat too much” I seem to disregard this statement and continue to eat. As the day continues we are shown the facilities where Eris and his team have begun a training facility for local underserved girls in the community. We are later taken to the city center to meet with local individuals, we are supposed to meet the King of Spiti, but he is nowhere to be found, we than go to his home, we find the Princess, but no sign of the king. We decide to meet with the King later. We than go to a rest home they have built for the elderly people. Truly an amazing place the old are now young, they seem fresh and ready to work. At the same place, we encounter the home of an old Buddhist Monk, one who lived his life in a small box and had recently died. As we sat in his small cave, it was clear that this was a very sacred place to all of his friends, and to the Buddhist community. Everything in the room has been kept the same since his death, even the smell is very distinct, it was definitely not something you see every day, but in India, everything you encounter is something you don’t see every day, to a foreigner it’s all new and very different.

After a wonderful lunch, and a great cultural experience, we are headed to the highest village in the world. The village of Kibber, located within an hour from Kaza. As we travel through the desert mountains we stop by a very distinct place. We learn that we are in a century old Buddhist monastery which is a training center for Lamas. We are able to see and go inside various rooms, some we can just see from the doors, others we are allowed to go in. We are shown ancient historical books which are kept at the facility, it is truly remarkable, Eris tells us to choose one book at random and there will be some useful knowledge for us, one is chosen at random, and is read to us by the Monk in charge, we realize the book we have picked is a technical book, with detailed instructions on natural medicines. We do not find a connection to any of us, but we later find out a very interesting fact. As we arrive to Kibber, we realize we are in very unusual place, we are told we are in the highest village in the world. Upon arrival we come across the local medicine man, the doctor who has been said to have the most efficient natural medications available, one who has been observed by many doctors who have come here to see what it’s all about. Many of them are left in awe, and simply just say, it is what you see, we have no explanation. We are than reminded that the book that we had drawn at random was the one with major details about natural medicine. As we sit in the medicines man home, not a word is understood, Hindi is spoken from beginning to end, one thing, we notice is that Eris is doing most of the talking, he is doing a great job entertaining and keeping the medicine man in hysteric laughter, later Eris tells us that he did something very unique, the medicine man needed some of his own treatment, which was laughter, he told us he provided it. By now I am very tired, the altitude is definitely getting to me, I have eaten food everywhere I have stepped foot in, I was warned, but did not take heed.

As we make our descent, we are taken back for dinner, I decide to pass it up, and end the day lying in bed trying to recover, they have almost reached their goal, trying to kill me with food, definitely a prophetic statement. I make sure to use the medicine that always works for me a good old coke, I find out they don’t have any Coke, but Pepsi will be just fine. I learned my lesson don’t eat more than you will burn, a lesson that is mandatory in the Himalayas. Or else you will end up like I did, sick. I recovered very quickly, it is better to learn early than late. And in the Himalayas the altitude does not forgive.

Nefi Alarcon

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

On The Road Again....

12 Hours of the bumpiest hell ever! But it sure was pretty. Nefi and I had the opportunity this weekend to go to the rural village of Spiti, which oddly resembled southern Utah. Spiti Borders China and used to be a part of Tibet so it is a very strong Buddhist community. The journey to this part of the Himalayas was a exciting adventure, full of switchbacks, dirt roads, and two passes over the tops of mountains that ranged between 15,000 and 20,000 feet.

We had the neat opportunity to take a few minutes at Kunzum Pass, the higher of the two. There is a big Buddhist monument that rests at the top of this great mountain. Our driver Cason explained to us a small bit about the monument. He bowed, prayed, and we were off. It was amazing to think of the work that must have taken to build this sacred edifice. It was probably a 25-kilometer hike to the top and 10 years ago in Spiti the only form of travel was by horse, yak, but mostly by foot. So I can only imagine how much sweat and blood went in to that, and why it still is so special to these people.

After the long rough journey we were greeted by our guide Eris an Italian architect, and two man who have opened a girls hostel for the poor mountain girls. During the winter the girls cannot come down the mountains for school due to the heavy snow. This Hostel will be a way for them to receive the education that they so desperately need and deserve.

In Spiti it is tradition to greet your guest with the Local beautiful white silk scarves that has the ancient Tibetan Language written on them. We were told that they were of symbol of peace and friendship. So after receiving the scarves from our new friends we were wisped off to dinner and were met with more scarves. The food was very good, it was the first time we had meat this entire time. They say in Spiti they won’t try and kill you with guns but they try and kill you by feeding you too much. After dinner it felt like that statement would become Prophetic. After a long day of travel and dinner we retired to bed so we could be rested for the next day.

James Baird

Monday, August 24, 2009

Opening our eyes to see the world

I was born in Chile, and moved to the United States when I was 9 years old. When I was 19 I had the opportunity to move to Brazil and live there for a period of 2 years, All of these great nations and cultures have become learning grounds and have truly become a part of me. I have seen and met many great people everywhere I have been to. As I was getting ready for my trip here to India, I thought I had seen everything there was to see in this world, but this first week I have learned that I was clearly mistaken. After arriving here, I have learned that India is a rich nation. I have learned that there are many in need, and there are many who do not have all the opportunities and tools that I have had in my own life. There is one particular thing that has caught my eye. Even though they might not have everything, they are happy. There are some things in life that cannot be explained, nor simply just stated, but the only way to learn is to actually experience them. I was not expecting to see and feel the way I do. Every individual we meet, has a distinct and unique experience, whether it’s the individuals we met this morning while running, or the stories we hear and see each day while we eat with the locals. Its truly an interesting world. So many life stories, so many things to learn. I am just beginning to open my eyes and I am truly beginning to see the world.

Nefi Alarcon

Sunday, August 23, 2009

First day in Kullu and condition of orphanage.

Have you ever been in an intense business meeting where people are yelling and you want get in on the fight? But they are all speaking a different language and you have no idea what is going so you just sit there? Then some one asks you a question and you try and act like you know what you are talking about, after you finish speaking you are greeted with blank stares, silence, and the yelling continues for 3 hours? Well it was a first for me today.

After arriving to Kullu and sitting in meetings discussing how we would obtain the children and a few financial things. We were able to check out the new orphanage witch at one point was a medical store. We have modified it to house 12 to 13 children. The facility looks great there is a big room for the boys with 4 bunk beds and a single bed and then a room for the girls which has 3 little beds. The building is cozy; It looks like a little cottage you would see in the country. The kitchen is a separate building no bigger than a small walk in closet, and the bathroom is still in the process of being built, it will have 2 toilets and 2 showers. There is a good sized yard to play in and the whole surrounding is gated in. Now we just have to fill it with the children.

James Baird

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Let the adventures begin

We have arrived in Chicago, we have sat in the runway for over 2 hours, our plane is delayed, once we finally take off its 9:00 pm on the 19th our 15 hour flight is very calm, but very long. We finally arrive in India at 9:30 pm, on the 20th we have arrived in Delhi. It is hot, and most definitely very humid. This is my very first time setting foot in India. My first thoughts are. I am very far away from home, I don’t know the language, and I don’t know the culture. To make things even more interesting, as we wait for our local contact in India, we realize he is nowhere to be found. As we await, we try using our cell phones, although we find out they don’t work, we have no way to call. It’s a worrisome feeling to be alone in a unknown land, in a very distant airport, with plenty of people staring at you. After about 2 hours we finally were able to get our phones working, and thankfully found our friend who had been waiting for us all along at a different exit. What a relief.

After spending the day in Delhi, we have the opportunity to rest, and also get acquainted with the culture. Rakesh who is our friend in Delhi takes us to his home, there his family has prepared some great food for us, the next day, we get up at 4 am in order to make it to the airport by 5. We are flying to Kullu, this is a really short 50 minute flight, the scenery is spectacular. Kullu is in the middle of Himachal Pradesh state which is one of the northernmost states in India. As we make our descend, we are flying right in between the beautiful mountain ranges.

Once in Kullu, we get a taxi, and make our way on up the road to where we will be staying. What an interesting taxi ride. Definitely very unique. As we drive up the mountains on the one and half lane road, we sure come very close to oncoming traffic, I am scared out of my mind, I make sure to pull my seat belt even tighter every time, cars are flying down, and it seems like they just miss each other by inches, everyone is honking, and no one swerves to miss until the last second. In the end, they always make it out all right, they are experienced, and I would say knowledgeable drivers. or at least I hope. What a great beginning. The adventures have already begun, what more will we experience, only time will tell.

Nefi Alarcon

Friday, August 21, 2009

The Three O’s

Some times in life opportunities come your way and you either watch life pass by or you live it. By taking those opportunities given you, it leads to events that prepare for the next opportunity like some sort of domino effect. I have been traveling to India over the last 5 years for the non-prophet “Youth Making A Difference” each time leading my domino path to this point. My father and I started this organization with the dream of making a small difference in the world. Bringing youth groups to serve in orphanages in Himachal Pradesh. From this little dream, Nefi Alarcon and my self James Baird have ventured out of the comforts of our own home to open a model Orphanage/school in a rural village of the great mountain range of the Himalayas.

It is hard to really know what to expect from this adventure. Wile traveling in India several months ago we came across 12 young children who were living in shed. With little hope of a future, an immediate cause of action was called for. I look at this journey that is laid before us and I can’t help but think of the Oppositions that is glaring us viciously in the eyes. I know that it wont be easy, it already has proven that even before we embarked on our journey. The organization that allows the children to sleep in their shed and makes them beg for food every day instead of attending school is reluctant to allow the children to move due to of politics. Not keeping the best interests of the children in mind is something that I don’t really comprehend. But I reflect often to some words of wisdom called “The Three O’s” given to me by a great mentor of who said, “When Opposition strikes if we are Optimistic Opportunities will be presented before us” so I will hold fast to that, and have faith that all will work out for the best.

-James Baird