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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 live 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 touching accounts and many had the common thread of wanting to contribute to a great cause and learn how to effectively give back.

With our agenda clear and our intention set, we headed to Ranthambhore National Park to learn more about the Tiger Project 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 huge, ferocious female tiger lounging in the dry grass, no more than a 10-minute drive away. The tour guide explained the rarity of this occasion, “Only once in a blue moon is the first animal you see in the park a tiger!”

A local legend

On the second day we had the privilege of meeting a local legend, a man by the name of Fateh Singh Rathore. Fateh is the original ranger and first field manager of Ranthambhore Tiger Reserve. Because of his efforts in 1973 Ranthambhore was one of the nine parks selected to be part of the Tiger Project.

During a Q&A 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 rangers with guns or more patrols to catch poachers. He said the answer was to provide education to the children of poaching families. “It’s a poverty issue,” explained Fateh. “Traders from China offer the tribes people a lot of money to supply them with tiger parts. The tribes hunt and kill the tigers without understanding the bigger picture. It’s a matter of survival for them.”

The value of the tiger

“What we’ve done is create a series of projects,” he continued. “One of the biggest is a hostel where we offer accommodation, food and schooling to the male children of the tribe. This has a three-fold effect: easing the financial burden on the family, teaching the children the intrinsic value of the tiger, which in turn , 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 another 10 children to fill the current hostel (with a capacity of 20 people). This will allow them to focus on the next project of building their own hostel for 50 children.

In ten minutes, we were on a coach going to visit the children. By the end of the day, there was a group of us supporting the existing hostel and making plans to help and support them to build the next one. It was an inspiring and moving day, to say the least.

Celebration of Gandhi

Then came the 60th commemoration of Delhi and Gandhi. This whole experience was like being in a poem…

As the coaches reached Rajghat, I was amazed 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 cold, stone tunnels to emerge into the building’s inner sanctum.

We entered the beautiful green precincts of the Rajghat, to the sound of sitars and the serene 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 walk 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 songs of devotion, I wondered to what other occasion I would need to be called to experience the honor of their company and the beauty of their beloved faith and prayers. I looked up to watch the hawks spiraling in 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 faiths were present to pay their respects. My attention was drawn back to the ground as 200 hundred pedestrians filed 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 on Gandhi’s Samadhi, the infantry saluted in time, responding with a single reflex. The sights and sounds were mind-blowing.

Make me Zero

But 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 Gandhis known to have sat with Gandhi during his speeches.

Nirmala told us three stories. He recalled one day when one of Gandhi’s followers asked him what he was praying for. Gandhi replied, “I ask God to make me zero so that I can fully embrace him.” The second story was about Gandhi asking people not to call him ‘Mahatma’ as he was not comfortable with the title. She remembers Gandhi, distraught, saying that if he died standing up, palms together shouting, “Ram,” then, only then, call the Mahatma. Those of you who know the story of his death know that this is exactly what happened!

Finally, Nirmala spoke of Gandhi’s exhortation to his political colleagues to evolve their slogan of ‘Jai Hind’ – Victory in India into ‘Jai Jagat’ – Victory in the world. Gandhi’s vision was not only to unite India, but to unite humanity. Sixty years later, his legacy of compassion lives on in this small and strong lady. With tears in our eyes, it was time to leave Rajghat and Nirmala, with many promises to keep in touch.

The Unforgettable Taj Mahal

From Delhi we traveled to Agra, and again, I am torn on how best to describe 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 will agree that they have a deep appreciation now that they are no longer in the latter group.

Perhaps even more appropriate for 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” The Taj is a monument to women , but unfortunately, respect for women is not a passion shared by the entire nation, which the Hunger Project is now working to rectify.

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 (THP) Team. We were joined by Jim Whitton (Regional Director THP US), Cathy Burke (CEO THP Australia), Anne Gardner (Operations Manager THP Australia) and Rita Sarin (Country Director THP India), along with strong members of the Indian Rinky team Chaudari, Ruchi Yadav and Sandeep Naik.

Dedicated to Women

THP is committed to empowering women at the grassroots level in the poorest regions of the planet. We were privileged to witness the results of a dedicated team in Madhya Pradesh, instilling confidence, self-esteem and faith in the hearts of women who had grown up without an identity or a voice. As a result of a constitutional amendment that entitles women to a 33 percent reservation in local government, these women are now elected to positions of responsibility in local village councils.

By providing training and a safe open forum for sharing, understanding and mutual support, THP holds the hands of these women as they teach each other about leadership and courage. Women who felt alone and powerless to face 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 the magic happens

As individuals we went to India thinking we were givers, and as a team, we left with the knowledge that we had received so much more. Effective bidding 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 take an inner journey and discover things about yourself that you didn’t know before. It’s doing all of this in a way that exposes you and having the humility and faith to share it with others. That’s when the magic happens.

The unconditional acceptance and generosity of the people we met was so heartwarming. The rich colors, the strength and warm embrace of the women, the courage of the men to accept change and the excitement and joy of the children all had a profound effect. The whole experience had so much to teach us about what is truly important in life and gave us wealth beyond words to share with friends and family back home.

The next visit

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 vehicle to teach people not only the path to wealth creation, but also how to they offer it effectively.

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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