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A Journey of Effective Giving
How to give effectively
The first two days were very comfortable: but what would you expect when you stay in a palace? With the buzz of old friends seeing each other again and new friendships forming, the excitement was electric, with people getting to know each other and sharing the deeper truths behind their involvement with the Pioneer Club. There were many moving accounts and many of them had a common thread of wanting to contribute to a great cause and learn how to give back effectively.
With the agenda clear and the goal set, we headed to Ranthambhore National Park to learn more about Project Tiger and the work being done to protect these beautiful animals.
It was on the first safari that a group of lucky members traveling in the same jeep as Roger were graced with the sight of a giant, wild female tiger resting in the dry grass not more than 10 minutes into the drive. The guide explained the rarity of this occasion, “It’s only once in a blue moon that the first animal you see in the park is a tiger!”
A local legend
On the second day we had the privilege of meeting a local legend, a man named Fateh Singh Rathore. Fateh is the original ranger and first field director of the Ranthambhore Tiger Reserve. It was thanks to his efforts in 1973 that Ranthambhore was one of the nine parks selected to be part of Project Tiger.
During a question and answer session, a very poignant question was asked: “Fateh, how do you deal with poaching”?
To our surprise, Fateh’s response did not focus on the need for more prowlers with guns or more patrols to catch poachers. He said the answer was education for the children of poaching families. “It’s a poverty issue,” Fateh explained. “Traders from China offer the tribesmen big money to supply them with tiger parts. The tribesmen hunt and kill the tigers without understanding the bigger picture. It’s a matter of survival for them.”
“What we have done is to set up a series of projects”, he continued. “One of the biggest is a hostel where we provide shelter, food and education for the male children of the tribe. This has a three-fold effect: easing the financial burden on the family, teaching the children the inherent value of the tiger, which from on the other hand, it discourages them from hunting by providing the means to create an alternative source of livelihood; and thirdly, by encouraging them to join the mainstream of society”.
Fateh said some children in the program have expressed a desire to help save the tigers. The next question was, of course, how can we help? Fateh explained that his organization, Tiger Watch, a registered NGO, needs help to support 10 more children to fill the current hostel (capacity of 20). This will allow them to focus on their next project of building their 50 children’s hostel.
In ten minutes we were on a coach going out to visit the children. At the end of the day, we were a group of us supporting the existing hostel and making plans to help and support them to build the next hotel. It was an inspiring and exciting day, to say the least.
Then followed the 60th commemoration of Delhi and Gandhi. This whole experience felt like a poem…
As the coaches pulled into Rajghat, I was taken aback by the size of the monument. It’s only when you get closer that you realize you’re only seeing one side of it. You enter through one of four cool stone tunnels to emerge into the building’s inner sanctum.
We entered the beautiful green surroundings of the Rajghat, to the sound of sitars and the peaceful warmth of the sun on our faces. We took our place on the ground under a bare frangipani tree, just in time to see Sonia Gandhi walking just a few meters in front of us as she paid her respects to the great man who led India to Independence.
As I listened to the many religious representatives sing their devotional songs, I wondered to what other occasion I would have to be invited, so that I could experience the honor of their company and the beauty of their faith and loving prayers. I looked up to see hawks spiraling over the thermals above and let my mind reflect on the freedom Gandhi had fought so passionately for. Here, 60 years after his assassination, leaders from all religions were present to pay their respects. My attention returned to the ground as 200 hundred foot soldiers marched through the gate and lined up against the wall. As the various heads of government, the Prime Minister and the President arrived to pay their respects and lay rose petals at Gandhi’s Samadhi, the infantry saluted in time, responding in a single reflex. The sights and sounds were shocking.
Make me Zero
However, the highlight of the morning came after the service. We were invited to sit with Nirmala Deshpande – Senior Member of the Rajghat Samadhi Committee, and one of the last surviving Gandhians known to have sat with Gandhi during his speeches.
Nirmala told us three stories. She remembered one day when one of Gandhi’s followers asked him what he was praying for. Gandhi replied: “I pray God to make me zero so that I can fully embrace it.” The second story was about Gandhi asking people to refrain from calling him ‘Mahatma’ as he was not happy with the title. She recalls Gandhi, in frustration, saying that if he died standing upright, palms together shouting, “Dash,” then, only then, call him Mahatma. Those of you who know the story of his death know that this is exactly what happened!
Finally, Nirmala spoke of Gandhi’s urging by his political colleagues to evolve their proclamation of ‘Jai Hind’ – Victory for India to ‘Jai Jagat’ – Victory for the World. Gandhi’s vision was not only to unite India but to unite humanity. Sixty years later, the legacy of his compassion lives on in this small and powerful lady. With tears in our eyes, it was time to leave Rajghat and Nirmala, with many promises to stay in touch.
The unforgettable Taj Mahal
From Delhi we traveled to Agra, and again, I am at a loss as to how best to describe seeing the Taj Mahal. Perhaps Edwin Arnold was right when he said that the only way to do this is to divide everyone on the planet into two groups: those who have seen the Taj Mahal and those who have not! Let me just say it is an experience and a sight I will never forget. I’m sure everyone on the trip would agree that they have a deep appreciation now that they no longer belong to the latter group.
Perhaps even more in keeping with our journey was the British poet’s most famous quote: “Not a piece of architecture, as other buildings are, But the proud passions of an emperor’s love Wrought in living stone” That is a monument for women, but unfortunately, respect for women is not a passion shared by the entire nation and which the Hunger Project is now working to correct.
Leaving Agra was when the real work began. After nearly 12 hours of travel, we arrived in Satna, ready for our first meeting with the Hunger Project Team (THP). We were joined by Jim Whitton (Regional Director of THP USA), Cathy Burke (CEO of THP Australia), Anne Gardner (Operations Manager THP Australia) and Rita Sarin (Country Director THP India), along with powerful team members Indian Rinky Chaudari. Ruchi Yadav and Sandeep Naik.
Dedicated to Women
THP is dedicated to empowering women at the grassroots level in the most poverty-stricken areas on the planet. We were privileged to witness the results of a dedicated team in Madhya Pradesh, instilling confidence, self-esteem and confidence in the hearts of women who had grown up without an identity or a voice. As a result of a constitutional amendment giving women the right to a 33 percent reservation in local government, these women are now elected to positions of responsibility in local village councils.
By providing education and a safe open forum of sharing, understanding and communal support, THP is holding the hands of these women as they teach each other about leadership and courage. Women who have felt alone and powerless to address the urgent needs of their families are now rising with conviction and determination to positions of responsibility and transforming entire communities by creating access to clean water, education, roads, medical care and food .
When Magic Happens
As individuals we went to India thinking that we were givers, and as a group, we came away with the knowledge that we had received much more. Effective giving is not what you think it is. It’s not money or time or the right attitude. It’s having the courage to step out of your comfort zone and face issues that are controversial—being willing to go on an inner journey and discover things about yourself that you didn’t know before. It’s about doing all of this in a way that exposes you, and having the humility and confidence to share that with others. That’s when the magic happens.
The unconditional acceptance and generosity of the people we met was so touching. The rich colors, the strength and warm embrace of the women, the courage of the men to accept change and the enthusiasm and joy of the children all had a profound impact. The whole experience taught us a lot about what is truly important in life and gave us wealth beyond words to share with friends and family back home.
With the success of this journey and the growing popularity of events like the Wealth Dynamics Experience and Entrepreneurs Business School, XL now has a tool to not only teach people about the path to wealth creation, but also how to give it away effective.
There is now a core group of Pioneer Club members stepping up to lead and facilitate the next Pioneer Club trip to India in November 2008, with Roger leading another to Africa in February/March 2009.
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