A few of the lessons learned and projects undertaken as part of my commitment to lifelong volunteerism. Growing up in Mid Coast Maine means that I pretty much won the lottery of life when it comes to living in a place that is peaceful and prosperous, and I've always been slightly uncomfortable with this fact. I find that I'm happiest when I find ways to use my good fortune to benefit others, and this blog helps remind me of this simple truth.
Yesterday, I spent the whole day getting a new Flickr account and blog set up for the participants in the "Lives Worth Sharing" photography project, and today, Fundación Esperanza Viva (Living Hope Foundation) in Bucaramanga, Colombia, posted their first photographs taken by child cancer patients with the camera they were selected to receive. This photograph, titled "Saturday Afternoon in Bed" was taken by a young patient on a Saturday afternoon.... I was struck by the contrast between the serious reality of terminal illness and the apparent carefree coloring we hope for and expect during childhood years. You can see more pictures from the project at www.flickr.com/photos/globalopportunitygarden Also, you can visit the Spanish language blog (I'll have the English one up soon) for the project at: Vidasllenasdevalor.blogspot.com
Well, after being back in the United States for two days, it's clear that I had once again deluded myself and others into believing I'd have lot's of time for blog posting, phone calls, trip reports, and email catch up... I was quite certain that having the Colombia trip behind would give me ample time to sit back, reflect, organize and relax a little, but, as was to be expected, the list of possibilities, expectations, and opportunities is at least ten times as long as it was before the trip. Luckily, though, my yearning for some down time has all but vanished, leaving in its a place a renewed sense of purpose and conviction which should be just what I need to get through the remaining Maine winter.
Colombia has always been able to inspire me to raise the bar just a little higher and part of the reason I try to maintain such close ties with the country is that I prefer to hold myself to Colombian standards than to the standards that are often set for me here in the United States. Here, people often hear that I work in Colombia, and are inclined to think I'm making some great sacrifice, risking my life for the sake of others.... However, the 11 Americans who accompanied me on this trip I think now understand that this is not the case. When I'm in Colombia, not only do I feel deeply inspired by the creativity, intelligence, hope and exuberance of the people, but I get to delight in the intricacies of a beautifully spoken language, an intriguing culture, and the most bio-diverse ecosystem in the world.
Ironically, it is not going to Colombia that is the sacrifice for me, but rather coming back. In Colombia, it's easy to be inspired to do the right thing, to reach out to others, to step out of my comfort zone, but the real work not letting that feeling slip away, not losing myself when I come back here and face so many more temptations and distractions.
Sometimes it's so hard to know if I'm really making a difference for people in Latin America, or just satisfying my own appetite for adventure and diversion, but at least now, 11 more people have seen a piece of what makes Colombia so magical.