‘ Everything touches everything.” Jose Luis Borge
After 9/11, the world reacted in very kind and humane ways. The best story that I heard was the one from the Masai tribe in Kenya. One of the Masai was living in New York and studying to be a doctor at the time. He returned to Kenya and reported the story to the tribe. Telling stories to the Masai was the way of passing on the news. They hadn’t watched it on television. They didn’t comprehend the logistics. They didn’t know who the bad guys were. They understood that 3000 people had perished in an attack on the United States. They wanted to help. The cow is life to a Masai. They use every part of the cow and treat it as a sacred animal. Fourteen families gave up their only cows as a gift to America. It was a big sacrifice for them. It was a bigger lesson for me. No one is so important that they do not need kindness and you can always do something to help the human condition.
Over the last few years, I have started to travel to third world countries. I always do something. I heard about the first school being built in the mountains in Peru and I cashed in my travelers checks (no easy feat by the way) to help them. I gave pens and pencils to the Embera tribe in the rainforest in Panama. I also taught English for a day. In Cuba we handed out everything we brought in the first few days. After that, I gave away my own things and all my cash. My suitcase to Burma was filled with things for the orphanages including 12 dozen children’s toothbrushes. (I read that it was one toothbrush for a 100 children) I happened to mention to someone I had just met that I was going to buy toothbrushes for the orphanages . The next day i received a text to come pick them up at her office. She always does something.
There are different theories on this. There was an article in Cambodia that the orphanages were not using the things that were donated because if they looked poor they would get more stuff. It is said that America ties its foreign aid to its allies and interests. I have read that if you give money to children begging in the street, their families won’t send them to school.
The best thing to do is to research a country you are passionate about. Find a cause that you support. The most basic causes are food and water. I am passionate about education and I always try to do something with a school. There are many choices- ecotourism, humanitarian, medical, teaching, cultural, conservation, farming and research. You can do it for a day , or a week or a year. There are many international organizations who do good work that accept donations – just research where the money is going before you give. International Red Cross and Unicef are two well known ones. Donate items, money or time. Perhaps do all three. Food, clothing, clean water, medical , household and school supplies are always appreciated. You may not feel that you are doing enough to change the world but you are doing enough to change someone’s day for the better.
In Peru, I gave my boxed lunch to a Quechua woman on the plane. I went to the bathroom when we landed. When I came out, the Quechua woman was standing there. I asked her in Spanish if everything was ok. She nodded. We walked through the terminal and into the luggage area together in silence . We walked over to where my group was and then she left. I thought about it for a long time. I was a stranger from another country. In her culture, people exist by helping each other. It didn’t matter who I was. I gave her my lunch. She made sure I got to where I needed to go. There was no speaking. It is just something you do.