Slum Life.

In India, we have the incredible opportunity to visit Dharavi, one of the largest slums in the world. After just moments in Dharavi, visitors feel comfortable and welcome thanks to Krishna Pujari and Reality Tours. This organization, created to demonstrate the positive side of Dharavi, (we try to avoid the word “slum”), exemplifies sustainable tourism and the philosophy of “walking with”. Dharavi is a home for myriad cultures, religions and communities. It is a place of work and rest, laughter and sorrow. Below are initial reactions to a most wonderful place:

 

Slum life. (Written 6.8.2015)

If you successfully read the above title and successfully filled with the anticipated pangs of sorrow and sympathy, then you clearly didn’t experience what I did today.

You didn’t see people hard at work, prideful at work, welcoming us into their world.

You didn’t watch as youth from opposite sides of the globe collaborated in dance, showed vulnerability through inquiry and laughed, and sweat as the initial bashfulness transformed into a unified rhythm of love and admiration.

If you feel bad and shake your head at the dire nature of that word, “slum”, then you forgot to hope.

You forgot about an organization that has successfully and sustainably chosen to give back, engage and inspire through education and language.

If tears fall because you feel guilty about your life of great fortune and privilege, let them. Then dry them to allow your eyes to connect and smile with theirs.

Zoom out to recognize the symbiotic beauty and oneness of us all.

Zoom out to see the rainbow of plastic and fabric and leather as a masterful tapestry of dedicated lives.

Zoom in to investigate your own heart. Your soul. Your duty to walk with all of us.

Now do you see their smiles?

 

From Poland to Nashville, TN. Global change is happening…one relationship at a time.

For the past few years, I have been working with and teaching with Taking It Global, an organization based in Toronto. We work with administrators, educators and students, alike, shifting the current education paradigm to one with global perspective and empathy. A few weeks ago, I awoke in San Francisco at 5 am to teach our course, Education for Social Innovation, remotely to a cohort in Poland. Last week, participants signed in from various locales in Eastern Europe as I sat in a hotel in Nashville. I sometimes have to “pinch myself” when I think about how connected I am, we are, Away 2 Be is to the rest of the world. As our ability to access one another increases, so does our ability to create change in the world. Below is a message I wrote to our cohort after our last session and after being on the road for three weeks:

Hello, everyone! I’m finally headed home after a three-week “tour” and thought of you and our course often. I was able to connect with a sustainable eco-retreat in the Costa Rican jungle, private schools and students in the US taking the first steps toward Global Citizenship and Global Education, and NGOs collaborating with one another locally and globally.

The places I went and the people I engaged with reminded me of the power of community and our ability to find innovative solutions to when we collaborate with one another. I was affirmed in the work we are all doing because I know that I am not alone.

I look forward to our next session and hearing about the conversations you are having in your classrooms regarding the social problems your students hope to solve on local and/or global levels. I have often used the UN Millennium Development Goals to facilitate such conversations. As I’m sure you’re aware, 17 new goals were recently developed at the UN Sustainable Development Summit.  And thus, the question prevails for all of us, “How do we create global change locally?”

Thank you for all you already do in your schools and communities. Ultimately, your efforts do create a positive impact on the world. 

 

Accompaniment. “Walking with” to improve the world.

Yesterday I had the opportunity to speak with parents and students from the Lincoln School in Providence, Rhode Island who are interested in visiting India with The World Leadership School. The extemporaneous words I shared convey the purpose of everything I do as an individual, with companies such as The World Leadership School and Taking it Global and with Away 2 Be.

Namaste! Thank you for inviting me into your school and into your community. It is an honor to be here and to be welcomed. There is a question we often ask the students on programs, and now I will ask you: Why are you here? I invite you to think about that for a few moments. (Silence)

I am here because about eight years ago I went to Nicaragua. In Nicaragua I worked with the Casa Materna, a home for at risk, pregnant women striving to reduce the maternal mortality rate in the Matagalpa region of Nicaragua. In 24 years, over 17,000 mothers have walked through the door of the Casa to ensure a safe birth for their newborns and for themselves.

At the Casa we often walk with the women in the morning. We walk up a rocky hill and share our stories with one another. We ask questions. We engage. We breathe and stretch together and welcome all mothers around the world into our circle. Throughout my first summer in Nicaragua, I taught English to the staff of the Casa. My friends and family kept praising the “good work,” I was doing, but that didn’t resonate with me. I felt so “good” being in the presence of this welcoming community. I asked my dear friend, mentor, and co-founder of the Casa Materna, Kitty Madden, “What am I doing here?” She responded by saying, “Susan, the best thing you could ever do for us is walk with us.” This statement has become a metaphor and a philosophy for how I now choose to live my life.

The reason why I work with The World Leadership School is because they, too, believe in the philosophy of accompaniment. The World Leadership School empowers young leaders to find innovative solutions to the world’s pressing problems. We innovate and create by forming sustainable international relationships over time. In fact, it is the only way to create long-term, global change. The Lincoln School is on the precipice of a paradigm shift in global education and global citizenship because you adhere to these values as well. We are at the forefront of this transition.

I have traveled all over the world and yet each time I am away, the experience is new. I perpetually have the opportunity to see the world through fresh eyes, through the eyes of students and community members walking with one another. On behalf of World Leadership School and on behalf of global change through relationship building, thank you for your willingness to walk with the people of India.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fear of Transformation

This is our favorite piece on transformation and transition. We can all identify with change. It is constant and will forever be a part of our lives. May we welcome all aspects of what it means to change and embrace even the discomfort it elicits whether at home or abroad, fall or spring.

Fear of Transformation

Sometimes I feel that my life is a series of trapeze swings. I’m either hanging on to a trapeze bar or swinging along or, for a few moments in my life, I’m hurtling across space in between trapeze bars. Most of the time, I spend my life hanging on for dear life to my trapeze-bar- of-the-moment. It carries me along a certain steady rate of swing and I have the feeling that I’m in control of my life. I know

most of the right questions and even some of the right answers. But once in a while, as I’m merrily (or not so merrily) swinging along, I look ahead of me into the distance, and what do I see? I see another trapeze bar swinging toward me. It’s empty, and I know, in that place in me that knows, that this new trapeze bar has my name on it. It is my next step, my growth, my aliveness coming to get me. In my heart-of-hearts, I know that for me to grow, I must release my grip on the present, well-know bar to move to the new one.

Each time it happens to me, I hope (no, I pray) that I won’t have to grab the new one. But in my knowing place, I know that I must totally release my grasp on my old bar, and for some moment in time, I must hurtle across space before I can grab onto the new bar. Each time I am filled with terror. It doesn’t matter that in all my previous hurtles across the void of unknowing, I have always made it. Each time I am afraid I will miss, that I will be crushed on unseen rocks in the bottomless chasm between the bars. But I do it anyway. Perhaps this is the essence of what the mystics call the faith experience. No guarantee, no net, no insurance policy, but you do it anyway because somehow, to keep hanging onto that old bar is no longer on the list of alternatives. And so for an eternity that can last a microsecond or a thousand lifetimes, I soar across the dark void of “the past is gone, the future is not yet here.” Its called transition. I have come to believe that it is the only place that real change occurs. I mean real change, not the pseudo-change that only lasts until the next time my old buttons get punched.

I have noticed that, in our culture, this transition zone is looked upon as “nothing”, a no-place between places. Sure the old trapeze-bar was real, and that new coming towards me, I hope, that’s real, too. But the void in between? That’s just a scary, confusing, disorienting “nowhere” that must be gotten through as fast and as unconsciously as possible. What a waste! I have a sneaking suspicion that the

transition zone is the only real thing, and the bars are illusions we dream up to avoid the void, where the real change, the real growth occurs for us. Whether or not my hunch is true, it remains that the transition zones in our lives are incredibly rich places. They should be honored, even savored. Yes, with all the pain and fear and feelings of being out-of-control that can (but necessarily) accompany transitions, they are still the most alive, most growth-filled, passionate, expansive moments in our lives.

And so, transformation of fear may have nothing to do with making fear go away, but rather with giving ourselves permission to hang out” in the transition between the trapeze bars. Transforming our need to grab that new bar, any bar, is allowing ourselves to dwell in the only place where change really happens. It can be terrifying. It can be enlightening, in the true sense of the word. Hurtling through the void, we just may learn how to fly.

*From the Essene Book of Days