Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Change is good, and at times very necessary

Ten years ago In the community of Ghurdour India, an organization that promised great benefits and gave much hope to the lives of its community members was established. Unfortunately after many setbacks a brand new hospital and organization sat with much potential in the dust. For many in the community hope vanished, for others it has become a very long dream. Today due to major changes many are beginning to see a renewed sense of hope.

Ten years ago it was for a short period of six months that the Shambala hospital where we are actually at had a patient, due to lack of funding it had to close its doors and since then Shastra Society has been under a prolonged hiatus. This lack of activity has resulted in loss of trust and support from the community. It has put a blemish and a major hole into a cause that has so much potential.

For any humanitarian work to be successful, it needs to be supported by the community, and needs to be self sustainable. One of the major obstacles Shastra has faced in achieving this objective is itself. After many years in the post of president, self proclaimed “Dr. Wongmo” has decided that for the best interests of the society, change needed to happen.

One of the changes that has taken place is the appointment of a new local president, one who is committed to taking this organization to the next level. Now Shastra is committed to doing what it takes to become a community organization. This change is leaving many with renewed hope. Now in 2009, Shastra has partenered with Youth Making a Difference. The Home for Peace facility has been established and has begun with seven girls.

What some may have seen ten years ago as a great benefit to this community, has once again flourished and has come out of its long pause. This organization is already making a direct impact to the lives of seven local girls, and will continue to positively impact those around here. Change at times can be very hard, but in this case it is essential. Change has brought new hope, new opportunities and most important it has brought results.

Nefi Alarcon

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Don’t be hatin on my girls!

There are just so many things that I have learned from running The Home For Peace and so many problems that I didn’t even think I have to deal with. What responsibilities do you think would be attached to running this facility? it might be cleaning, making sure home work is done, or even making sure hands are washed, teeth are brushed, and discipline is applied. At least that I is what I thought it would be like; I now just have to laugh at my naive notions. There are certain situations that were not even in the realm of my imagination that have happened.

I never really thought how the locals would accept the children and I am talking about the locals under the age of 13. We have faced several problems with teasing and name-calling. There was one day when we were walking back to our place and the girls looked sad and discouraged, we found out a local girl had been yelling at them, making fun of the fact that they were orphans and that they were of no worth. My natural, never before used, parent instinct to kick some kids butt and talk to their parents over came me. The thing is, I never thought of those kinds of problems, we dealt with the situation and things are now worked out. After that situation I have become conscious of the outward image that is being portrayed by the facilities we are running. I have been trying to make an effort not to refer to the “Home For Peace” as an orphanage because of the negative stereotype that is attached with it. What are some phrases you would use? I really am interested in peoples input.

We also have had difficulties with similar situations at school. One of our girls was forced to sit in the back of the classroom. She was having a hard time because she couldn’t see the board, or even hear the teacher. It was really heart breaking for me because she is one of the girls who is the most determined to further her knowledge, she is always studying and school is very important to her. This problem we have was worked out, but the problem lies deeper.

In some ways we face this same problems in America, the general acceptance of people who are in different situations. I have explained to the girls that it wouldn’t be easy living here and that they were the pioneers of something great. Through watching all of these actions something special has happened, the bond between these seven girls has grown so strong in the last month. Though they come from different walks of lives, different stories, and even different casts. They all have one thing in common; they are striving for a better life and that is the thing that has bound them together. It has been neat to see these girls stick up for each other even when it wasn’t the easiest thing to do. Thing are getting better, the neighborhood kids are starting to warm up. To watch these girls deal with these problems has been so impressive, and the connection that they have is a bond of a deep sister hood.

-James Baird

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Where have my chickens gone.

James has been working very hard these past few weeks building a chicken coup, he has done everything from extensive research, and much planning to build the perfect coup. During a visit to putlikohl which is a local village about 7 kilometers from here. We were on the lookout for chickens, luckily we found a place full of chickens for sale. We were able to buy four hens for the Little Home for Peace Chicken Coup, four beautiful hens. I don’t know if any other hens have ever ridden in a motorcycle before, but ours did. Three grown man with 4 chickens on a motorcycle, now that’s something you don’t see everyday, we carried our chicken’s back with pride. James showed a great amount of love for the chickens, he took them under his wings. They were meant for providing eggs for the girls, and giving them a responsibility, They were good chickens, but all of a sudden, this morning james came rushing into the room with devastating news “our chickens are dead” a pack of hungry dogs allegedly broke into the coup, and took our chickens. There was no evidence left, just a bunch of feathers that don’t give any leads. There must have been a struggle, it was a sad day for our chickens.

Nefi A.

The wonderful experiences in Kullu.

After almost 2 months here in India there are 7 girls that are simply just amazing. Together we have experienced much joy. Every single one of the girls is very unique, and very admirable. Even though our work is at times very challenging, our time spent with the girls is always simply just awesome.

Yesterday was pujas birthday, so we decided to have a little party. This party was not just any party, it was a pizza party, filled with ice cream and cake. It was an amazing night, the girls even got to show of their dancing, and were even able to get me to dance. This birthday party was maybe a first for puja. Puja who just barely came into our facilities this week is very smart, and understands English very well. Getting her here was for sure not easy, and did not happen the way we expected it, but having her here is wonderful. After a very hard previous week in the office, we had been hoping that puja, would be able to join us, we had met with her guardian a few weeks prior, but had not been able to arrange for her to come to our facilities. Suddenly all of a sudden as I am walking down the stairs on a Monday morning, I see puja at the bottom of the stairs with her guardian. She had previously been staying at another facility where the living conditions were not as good. Her sister is here, and as matter of fact, her sister was the little firecracker that very much resembled the energizer bunny, nonstop battery life. It has been very nice to have puja, she has been of much help to her sister, and much help to the other girls. She is very happy to be with us. After the party, the girls rested, with a great night of sleep. Unfortunately the next day begun with some sad and tragic news.

Nefi A.

Founders Syndrome

It has been a most peculiar week for me with all of the commotion and confusions of the many different tasks that we have under taken. We have partnered with an NGO in Kullu, called Shastra. Shastra was founded 11 years ago. In the first year they built a huge infant care hospital. After that year the society became almost totally neutralized because of loss of funding. Last May, ten years later, we came to Shastra giving new life and hope to this society that was about to be diminished completely. My father, the President of Y.M.A.D, has a great ability to look past the outward appearance of things and people to see the potential that something or some one has. My father is not afraid of taking risks and trusting people, he truly follows his heart. I wish that I could be able to have this gift, because when I was here with him in May all I saw was trouble.

In India, it has proven difficult to work with the people because of the cultural barrier that stands between us, however we have been able to manage. The real struggle that we are facing now is that we have 3 different cultural views in this organization because the current founder/president of Shastra is an elderly Hungarian women, the great self-proclaimed doctor, “Mother Wangamo.” She has a huge heart and wants to help. Sometimes her loud and colorful personality is a little too much for the quiet reserved people of India. The local community has had a hard time with her so Shastra’s reputation is a little less than good. She lives in the hospital and has for the past ten years, because the hospital hasn’t been running there are several legal disputes going on over the land. This was one “Extreme Makeover” I was skeptical we could “makeover.”

We currently live and work in the “Hospital” and don’t always see eye to with “Mother” (that is what she prefers to be called). Right now we are in the process of changing the view of Shastra and helping it become something greater than it has ever been imagined to be. The potential it truly great and some of the goals we have are to start the Hospital, run a nurses training program, build a school and build a bigger facility to house 60 orphan children. But we are facing a serious case of “Founders Syndrome.”

I was reading an acrticle this week talking about the transition when a founder is handing over their company and the struggles that one will face in that process. And I just had to laugh because it is the exact same thing that we are facing because Mother is Stepping down and Rakesh our YMAD director in India is taking over. One of the things that this article talks about it the level of attachment that the founder has to their investment and how changing things are personal to them. But something needs to be changed in the way things are running because if everything was running perfectly things wouldn’t be this way. It has mostly been a battle for us because Mother is a foreigner here and so there are a lot of corrupt people who have taken advantage of her and they know with her gone there will be no leaking of money, no taking advantage of her to get more money, and there will be a high level of integrity that is expected. It has been interesting to see who has come out of the woodwork and who you can trust and who you can’t.

In the “Founder Syndrome” article there were some great ideas on what we can to the situation. Like having specific strategy planning sessions and support the founder with ongoing coaching. So, I mostly got that communication is so important. It’s too bad that communication is the most difficult thing for mother to do. However, I go back to the faith aspect at this point. I can’t come up with the words to explain what is going on here and what we are dealing with I am simply not that great of a writer. I do know that everything will work out. I trust my Dad and I feel that we can achieve the goals we have set. There have been times I felt we should have backed out of this project; however, now that we have seven little girls depending on us to alter their future, it’s no longer about money or games, it is about real lives, real dreams and real hopes!

=James Baird

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Two Worlds


Today was a very difficult day; we still do not have a warden so that is the role that we have been trying to fill. It is something that has taken us way out of our comfort zone. Making sure teeth are brushed, fixing cuts, applying discipline, helping with homework, and to top it all off we don’t speak Hindi and the children don’t speak English. But what made this day hard for me was that I had to be the bad guy. There is a major Hindu holiday going on right now call Dushara, and this morning the girls were hanging on our arms begging us to take them to the festival. It was just not possible for us to take the girls all the way to the city by ourselves. To make matters worse no one was here to translate for us so I couldn’t even give a good explanation to them why we couldn’t go. Because of this incident I have now become Captain James Hook in Neverland.

There are things missing here, things that we are still learning about, things that we can’t figure out on our own. I have been thinking about what we should teach, how we can apply it, and really what we want this ashram to be like. Not just the rules but also the values we want them leave with, and the positive values that comes from their own culture. Something that we really do need is local support, and we already do have some great local people helping us. It is so crucial because they can help us with the things that we don’t understand. If it wasn’t for our local help there is no chance that we would have been able to do what we have done. There were legal procedures that they informed us about and they took us to the people we needed talk to find orphans.

In creating this ashram it has been a learning process for us. Keeping the culture of these girls is important because it is part of their identity. There are so many beautiful things in this culture, but also things that do not empower people to do good and love one another equally. This is why it is so crucial to be able to work with locals so that we can combine the best aspects of our two worlds. At this point I don’t have all the answers nor do I even have solution to how to run this perfectly. That’s why we are here, and that I know that it is only through the help of our friends we have met here that it will be able to produce a successful program.

-James Baird