Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Asante Sana from Kaka

Over two years ago, you may remember, I met Kaka, a beautiful soul who guards the volunteer house in Arusha, Tanzania. At the time, Kaka had a family of six who lived in one small room in the slums of the town. Though his home did not provide enough space and was, I can imagine, a struggle for all six of them to live there, Kaka was always warm and inviting, and still grateful for all he had.  He never begged, but kindly asked after seeing his home and his circumstances, whether I'd be able to do something. 
Though I wished I could snap my fingers on the spot and give him all he needed, I knew it would take some time and effort to raise the funds.  My best friend, Gino, eagerly jumped up for the challenge.  Like Kaka, he is excellent at reminding me of the beautiful basics in life.  Working together to make things happen.  Gino, inspiring, humble, giving, ambitious, and so smart, helped us create a wonderful team of contributors.  Our non-profit had not yet been created and these contributors worked with real trust and faith in the mission.  I will never forget them and what they've done for this family.  We reached our goal and helped them move to a larger home that they have continued to build themselves over time.  Talk about self-sufficiency!  They appreciated our help and worked hard with what we gave them. 

Kaka writes often to say thank you.  Thank you to each of you who have helped better his life and that of his family. 

I was fortunate to revisit Kaka since he moved and the family has continued to build their new home.  They are happy, healthy, and so grateful for you!  Take a look!

The bricks Kaka has used to continue building his new home. 

While in progress.
In this photo above, he is holding the blueprint he created for building onto the home.  
Through Kaka's actions, I have learned the importance of loving unconditionally and never giving up on someone.  He never fails to offer his most genuine care to others - always asking about my family and friends - that means you guys.  His relationships are formed in the deepest kind of love, sacred and precious, and so I am forever grateful to you contributors for opening your hearts to better this man's life.  We have successfully reciprocated the love.

Thank you to Kaka's contributors. We will NEVER forget you.  You are a blessing.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

'Tis the Season!

While many of us will be enjoying extra treats this season, delicious chocolates, candy canes, sugar cookies, things that warm our heart and souls... the reality is, there will be many who will go without a meal each day. Do I say this to encourage guilt? No! We should enjoy this special season! BUT we should also understand the facts of the world we live in and ask ourselves how we can give back? What small things can we give up this holiday season to help make a large difference in someone else's life? When we fully understand how much we are capable of, we can excel and encourage others to do the same. Once you understand, you can't pretend you don't ;) That's a good thing!
If you're new to this blog, we've been grateful to feed 145 students at the CHETI school, located in Arusha, Tanzania (East Africa) for two years now.  These students are courageous, bright, and eager to learn!  They have such desire to be educated, to be happy and, most important, to be healthy.
It's been estimated that 38% of the children in this region under 5 years old are chronically malnourished. When we help provide food at school each day, it encourages the children to attend school, to focus and this helps them retain their lessons.  Our goal this year is to raise the funds to feed these students for all of 2012 before it even hits!  What can we sacrifice this season to make that happen?
In the spirit of the holidays and the importance of giving back, I promise to personally match every dollar that's donated toward their food up to $2,000.  You and I will do this together!

Keep in mind, all donations go directly toward the children's food as our non-profit, Global Empathy Now, is run by volunteers driven by a passion for change. 

All donations can be made safely and securely on our website
Below, you can see video footage to learn more about the school and our project. 

Take a look at the Global Empathy Now site for more information. We appreciate you to no end. These children have been successfully fed for 2 years because of compassionate people like yourself! Let's you and I make year 3 another success!!   Thank you SO much and God bless!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

To Practice What I Preach:

I'd like to extend my deepest appreciation to all who've come back to visit and have been interested in following this mission! I've been back from Africa for some time now and promise with everything in me; I've not been neglecting these updates, but rather working harder than ever on setting a strong foundation to our non-profit and its upcoming projects. I have plenty to share, but first things first, I'm here to make what I pray will be a fruitful proposal for you and me, and most importantly, for those we are empathizing with:
If you're new to this journal, we've gratefully been feeding up to 145 underprivileged Tanzanian children at school every day for over an entire year now. I AM IN AWE of all those who've chosen to change their lives. Thank you and congratulations - this would not be happening without you!! As we are working hard to research a project to help develop and encourage a means of self-sufficiency, we must continue to feed these children, who, I am DEEPLY humbled to share, are progressing! I can't wait to share stories and photos. However, this does not mean their needs have evaporated into thin air. We must continue on. It is crucial at this time that we continue to allow for furtherance in their nutrition and, just as important, their education. They still need you and we must keep moving.
But....... there is SO MUCH going on right now in Japan. While we cannot forget the needs of our children, we also cannot close our eyes to the greatly difficult time which Japan is currently facing.

I'd like to make the following proposal: Every single dollar that is donated to Global Empathy Now between now and April 17, benefiting the children's food program in Tanzania, I promise to PERSONALLY match by making a donation toward relief for Japan.

What does this mean?
This means you are not only taking part in supporting the lives of over 100 children in Africa, but you are also encouraging me to donate more toward the critically urgent relief for Japan. I am doubling your donation; I am doubling the causes you reach; the people you touch; and the amount. I am humbled and honored to do this for you and them. So, can we work together? Donate $10 to GEN? I donate $10 to Japan. Donate $100 to GEN? I'll donate $100 to Japan.

Were you thinking of donating to Japan, just haven't done it yet?
Now, your donation can have DOUBLE the impact.

How much can I match?
No, I'm not monetarily busting from the seams in any fashion, but also do not fear the risk and sacrifice of making an adjustment for those who need it most. I will match a total of $1,000. If reached, I'd be honored to re-evaluate what I can and will realistically do from that point forward. Are you with me?

***Please note: I am BLOWN AWAY - Just TWO days after this post, we successfully reached $1,000 - CONGRATULATIONS!!! That means $1,000 for Africa and $1,000 for Japan!! TOGETHER, we did it and CAN do anything!! I encourage you to KEEP on giving no matter what - to GEN OR Japan - there is, of course, still a GREAT need! Do some good! Thank you and God bless!
Give. Live. Be Brave. Empathize. Empower. And be grateful. Every single day is a blessing.

Donations can be made safely and securely through PayPal, by our "Donation" button on the right. Please contact me with questions.

Let's make a difference together. And never, ever give up faith in what you can do in life - for yourselves, your families, and most importantly, the world around you! Get out there and do some good! God bless!

A very special thank you to:
Bob and Paula Chess
David and Judy Lam
Randolph Lam
Hitesh Patel
Marci Rathburn
Bryan and Christina Schindler
Mark Tozzi
Tara, Ashley, and Michael Tozzi

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Maasai Morning

Sometimes we forget that something as simple as the sunrise is a miracle; another chance to see the world anew. In Maasai land, the traditional sheets worn around their bodies (called shúkà) are even more beautiful by day. A kaleidoscope of rich vibrant color folded throughout the land. It is truly breathtaking and makes you even more thankful that this culture has chosen to maintain its traditional customs in so many ways. In a world where we're seeking the fastest and newest, they're choosing the oldest. There's something to be said for getting back to basics. Much beauty to be found there. I'm thankful to have seen a great sense of contentment and liberty in simplicity.The Maasai community is often patriarchal and sometimes, but not always, polygamous. Many have a chief, or Laibon, which is a spiritual leader. Below is the chief of this village whom we had the great pleasure of greeting. As a gift for welcoming us into the community, we brought sugar and flour. I'd like to "borrow a cup of sugar" from these guys everyday. ;) In the middle of the night, it had begun to rain and a man came to take us from our tents to a school building where we could stay dry. "Who is this?" I had asked my friend. "He is the chief's son." he explained. I thought I had met about 6 or 7 of them already. It is not unusual for them to have several wives and therefore many children. Although, a good Maasai friend of mine has wishes to marry only one woman. Another great point that labels on any society or community cannot always be followed.And I awoke in the morning to the sound of a young boy shouting in the distance. Herding cattle. Cattle are incredibly important to the Maasai lifestyle. Traditionally, they would attempt to live off the cattle alone - meat, milk, sometimes the blood, but today it is not unlikely for them to also grow crops and exchange food and goods with other people, etc. Over time, with colonial progression and developments in government, the Maasai have been restricted from certain parts of the land due to governmental projects, the acquisition of private property and farming, and wildlife parks. This has caused a great stress on the Maasai, but many are still pursuing, maintaining and appreciating their traditional customs. They are, indeed, quite peaceful after all. In my time there, it was my impression that the Maasai live quite graciously off the land and have a deep respect for the world around them. It is an inspiration to me, to value what God has already put on the earth, and to use it purposefully and respectfully.
On that note, their homes, called enkaji, are made beautifully from sticks, grass, cow droppings, soil and sometimes ash.
And the women... shy, yet playful and curious. I'm eager to learn more about them. The women are often responsible for all domestic tasks; milking cows, collecting water, cooking and looking after the children. They are adorned in beautiful beaded jewelry consistently made with interesting patterns, bright colors, and shining circular pieces which jingle with each motion. A true sight to see. Long, dangling earrings. Stretched ear lobes. Beautiful customs.
Included in those customs are the circular burns the Maasai have on their bodies. Sometimes on their cheeks, sometimes on their arms. They are a ritualistic marking as one of the Maasai community. When I received mine, it was a symbol of acceptance and being welcome into their community. Some have commented that the burns are given to show strength in that one should not make a noise while receiving one. However, I must admit, mine did not hurt. But, this idea may come from that of the men (and sometimes women) who are not to make a noise while being circumcised. I'm unclear as to whether that tradition still remains.

Truly beautiful children. The flies in the morning are outrageous, crawling near your nose, your ears, your mouth. We took turns whisking them off each other's faces. True friendship right there. But, in all sincerity, sometimes it is as simple as that. The African people, those in the village, the town, the slums, are all so eager to take care of one another and value the aspect of community. I appreciate that more than I can convey and it has inspired me to work deeper as part of a community here. Providing small kindnesses for one another every day can never be underestimated. We can offer the world so much more by starting with simple gestures of love and kindness. We can be stronger and better in that way. Thank you for being here.

Next up: My thank you letter to you all - the recent contributors toward the next Nairobi mission; the children's food program; all the amazing supporters - followed by a year in review. You can change a life forever by slightly altering your own, and you are. I cannot express my immense gratitude toward all who've reached out and made a difference. Thank you for being here; God bless and Happy Holidays!

Thank you, Seth Arkin, for this gracious article: Role of a Lifetime: Heading Back to Africa

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Gift of the Maasai

Everything we need in life, we already have. Within us. That's what I think, anyway. During my time in Tanzania, I was blessed to be taken to the village of the Maasai people. They are, without a doubt, some of the most beautiful, welcoming, open-minded and wonderfully spiritual people I have ever met. Tall, slender, delicate.... yet strong and athletic. But, if you ask me, it's their hearts which are most beautiful. Within just minutes of my arrival, the children rushed over to take my hands and help me unpack. They stood there as we built our tent, ready to help and offer their expertise -- I needed it -- they are incredibly resourceful. Imagine if we were all willing to welcome one another in this kind of way. We're this way as children. Open to whatever lies ahead until we're told not to be. It's funny how much more we can gain and give the world when we open ourselves to all that surrounds us. Their ability to make use of the earth further ignites my passion to get back to basics. The love this tribe showed did not stem from a desire to gain my help nor aid, but rather from a pure form of care and intrigue in my culture; and I in theirs.
(I love the boy on the right ;) "Don't you mess with her!") These people love, in the truest sense of the word. They love you just for being. No matter who you are. They accept you, unconditionally, no matter how "different" one may be - the way a parent inherently loves a child - and it inspires me that these children have that inherent ability toward us. There is no love nor friendship more beautiful, more fulfilling, than one that is honest, seeking nothing in return. This young woman was remarkably beautiful. One thing I long to delve deeper into upon my return -- a relationship with and understanding of the women. They are phenomenal, and I get the sense, know not how beautiful they are. Often quiet and reserved, yet a good man offers them the respect they so greatly deserve. And they marry so young! An entire life together in a secluded village. And they are happy. And they are peaceful. While we're seeking faster cars, bigger meals, better phones - they're living in peace... with all of it stripped away. Want more? ;) Choose less. I love and admire them. A good friend, guide, and volunteer. And then... The sun went down...And you cannot see a THING!
Somehow, I managed to run into this tiny tree.                                                And give this kid major cooties. He did not take well to them. ;)Flashing cameras to find each other.And then, they built a fire for the meal.And treated me like family...It's amazing to sit with a culture so different from your own, and feel so close, so accepted and loved. I cherish and appreciate that more than I can convey. From the Maasai, I've learned, first and foremost, to appreciate and respect the earth around me. Second, not only to have an open mind, but a more welcoming heart. To be willing to love someone as one of your own, even when you have no reason to. What I learned and try to apply to my every day life? Appreciate everything around you, be aware of it and use it to the fullest. You don't have to be in the midst of a beautiful secluded village to do so. You can be in a city, a suburb, a crowded room, an empty room, at work.. Repetez s'il vous plait? At work? Yes. Please. SEE, HEAR, FEEL what's around you. Be open and understand your blessings and what you have to offer them. In a society that promotes staying "connected" by having your email in your palm at all moments while texting and chatting and talking on the phone AND this AND that and.... ;) Sit alone in a quiet peace with another being . See them, really see them... hear them, watch, and appreciate... feel a REAL connection... ;) I promise, you will not regret it. Meal preparations. And then...they danced -- Incredible.Yep, me too...
VOLUME UP! Hear what I heard. The way they use their voices is extraordinary. (Yes, that scream is them).
Thank you for being here!
Next up: More on the Maasai culture, family, and the burn. Take risks, be open, and never stop giving!

Thank you and God bless. ;) I'll be back!