The Plan for 2013
Update (June 10): The trip to Afghanistan has been canceled due to difficulty with ensuring our security.
Here's the plan for 2013...
India — Continue the Story
In a matter of days, I will return to India to continue the story at the leprosy community I lived in for the entire year of 2011, a place that became like home because of the family bonds that formed there.
See all posts about my work at the leprosy community here.
About five months are scheduled there to pick up where I left off with the group of "loving leaders" I had the good fortune to mentor. What's neat is that my partner, Aruna (to my immediate right, above), who co-facilitated the group, continued to meet with everybody after I left in an effort to keep the spirit of the program alive.
Also, this leprosy community deals with poverty challenges, and a number of its members turn to begging for their daily income.
What if we were to develop an income generating project that could engage those that beg? In other words, create jobs. It's possible but a very complicated and difficult task. Still, five months gives us a solid amount of time to look into it and who knows, we may be able to figure something out.
In addition, personally, I'm going to be stepping it up with my publishing efforts and seize this opportunity where I'll be mostly stationery to get more writing done. I'm interested in getting the "effort less" message out there, as well as in increasing the size of my networks, which could ultimately increase support for Living Smile programs.
Afghanistan — Film Production
Since last year, I've felt some kind of pull towards Afghanistan that I can't fully explain.
Interestingly, two of the three girls who assisted with the sewage project we completed in Nairobi are originally from Afghanistan and we've been loosely discussing the possibility of traveling there to do something.
Recently, I gave a small talk in the Bay Area of California and was approached after by one of the members of the group, a photographer named Unni, who asked if I would check out his portfolio. I did, and was completely blown away by the amazing images he was showing me, like this one of an orphan in Haiti.
It was the kind of work you see in major publications and sure enough, he told me that he does field work for Lonely Planet magazine, which is the largest travel guide book and online publisher in the world.
In addition to Unni's award-winning commercial work with name brand clients, he also has a service side and enjoys traveling to impoverished areas of the world to photograph the challenges being faced there. Definitely check out his mesmerizing portfolio to get an idea.
Unni said he wanted to collaborate. To travel with me somewhere, do a photo shoot, film, so that I would have some compelling images to use to share about my work, possibly helping to increase support for it.
We met over coffee a couple of days later to discuss matching his inspiration with my Afghanistan inspiration, and agreed that we should go there to shoot a 10-minute documentary film.
The basic idea of the film we discussed would be to tell a story touching on the country's rich history and cultural traditions that also depicts a poverty-related challenge in some community, as well as a potential solution. Elements of my personal journey would be woven in, as well as how we would approach whatever the challenge is.
I think this is the kind of story, if properly told and visually communicated, that could open the doors to a more expansive speaking tour later in the year, perhaps even a tour of film festivals.
Kenya — Build a School
I recently launched a fundraising effort to build a school in the Kitui Ndogo slum in Nairobi for 200 kids who are currently not receiving any form of education due to their poverty level.
To date, this would be the largest amount of money I've gone out looking for, as our construction costs total a little over $25,000. Nevertheless, I've got a good feeling about it and am relatively confident we'll start building the school in June.
In which case, I would travel to Nairobi for three months to oversee the construction with my local partners.
This should be a year of remarkable story telling, filled with projects that not only will have tremendous on-the-ground impact but also be instrumental in helping to launch larger scale programs in the future, such as the Seva Center for Community.
Here we go!