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A Journey of Effective Giving

A Journey of Effective Giving
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How to Give Effectively

The first two days were very comfortable: but what would you expect when staying in a palace? With the buzz of old friends seeing each other again and new friendships in the making, the excitement was electric, with people getting to know one another and sharing the deeper truths behind their involvement with the Pioneer Club. There were many moving accounts, and many had the a common thread of wanting to contribute to a great cause and learn how to give back effectively.

With the agenda clear and the intention set, we headed for 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 who were travelling in the same jeep as Roger were graced with the sight of an enormous, wild female tiger relaxing in the dry grass not more than 10 minutes into the drive. The tour guide explained the rareness of this occasion, “It’s only once in a blue moon that the first animal you see in the park is the 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 warden and first Field Director of Ranthambhore Tiger Reserve. It was due to his efforts in 1973 that Ranthambhore was one of nine parks short-listed to be part of the Tiger Project.

During a Q&A session, one very poignant question was asked: “Fateh, how do you deal with poaching”?

To our surprise, Fateh’s answer didn’t focus on needing more rangers with guns or more patrols to catch the poachers. He said the answer was to provide education for the children of the families that do the poaching. “It’s a poverty issue,” Fateh explained. “Traders from China offer the tribespeople big money to supply them with tiger parts. The tribesmen hunt and kill the tigers with no understanding of the bigger picture. It’s a matter of survival for them.”

The Value of the Tiger

“What we have done is set up a number of projects,” he continued. “One of the bigger ones 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 burdens on the family, teaching the children of the inherent 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 programme have expressed a desire to help save the tigers. The next question was, of course, how can we help? Fateh explained that his organisation, Tiger Watch, a registered NGO, needs help to support a further 10 children to fill the present hostel (capacity of 20). 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 heading out 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.

Commemorating Gandhi

It was then on to Delhi and Gandhi’s 60th commemoration. This whole experience felt like being in a poem…

As the coaches pulled up to Rajghat, I was surprised by the size of the monument. It’s not until you get close that you realise you’re only seeing one side of it. You enter through one of four cold, stone tunnels to emerge in the building’s inner sanctum.

We filed into the beautiful green enclosure of Rajghat, to the sound of sitars and with the peaceful 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 by only metres 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 what other kind of occasion I would need to be invited to, in order to experience the honour of their company and the beauty of their beloved faith and prayers. I lifted my gaze to watch the hawks spiralling on thermals overhead, and let my mind reflect on the freedom Gandhi had fought so passionately for. Here, 60 years after his assassination, leaders from all religions were in attendance to pay their respects. My attention was brought back to the ground as 200 hundred infantry marched in 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 in one single reflex. The sights and sounds were stirring.

Make Me Zero

The highlight of the morning, however, 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 Gandhians known to have sat with Gandhi during his discourses.

Nirmala told us three stories. She remembered a day when one of Gandhi’s followers asked him what he prayed for. Gandhi responded, “I ask God that he make me zero, so that I may embrace him fully.” The second story was to do with Gandhi asking people to refrain from calling him ‘Mahatma’, as he was not comfortable with the title. She remembers Gandhi, in frustration, saying that if he died standing upright, palms together crying, “Ram”, then, only then, call him Mahatma. Those of you familiar with the story of his passing know that is exactly what happened!

Lastly, Nirmala spoke of Gandhi’s urging his political colleagues to evolve their proclamation of ‘Jai Hind’ – Victory to India to ‘Jai Jagat’ – Victory to the World. Gandhi’s vision was not only to unite India, but to unite humanity. Sixty years later, the legacy of his compassion lives on in this small and powerful lady. With tears in our eyes, the time came to leave Rajghat and Nirmala, with many promises made to stay in touch.

The Unforgettable Taj Mahal

From Delhi we travelled to Agra, and again, I’m torn as to how best to describe seeing the Taj Mahal. Perhaps Edwin Arnold was right when he said the only way to do it is to divide everyone on the planet into two groups: those that have seen the Taj Mahal and those that haven’t! Let me just say it is an experience and a sight I will never forget. I’m sure everyone on the trip would agree they have a deep appreciation now that they no longer belong to the latter group.

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

Leaving Agra was when the real work began. After almost 12 hours of travelling, 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 powerful members of the Indian team Rinky Chaudari, Ruchi Yadav and Sandeep Naik.

Dedicated to Women

THP is committed to the empowerment of women at the grass roots level in the most poverty-stricken areas on the planet. We had the privilege of witnessing the results of a dedicated team in Madhya Pradesh, instilling confidence, self esteem and belief into the hearts of women who had been raised with no identity or voice. As a result of an amendment to the constitution entitling women to 33 percent reservation in local government, these women are now being elected into positions of responsibility on local village counsels.

By providing education and a safe open forum of sharing, understanding and communal support, THP is holding the hands of these women as they teach each other about leadership and courage. Women who have felt alone and powerless to address the urgent needs of their families are now stepping up with conviction and determination into positions of responsibility, and are transforming whole communities by creating access to clean water, education, roads, medical care and food.

When Magic Happens

As individuals we went to India thinking we were the ones doing the giving, and as a group, we came away with the knowledge that we had received far more. Effective giving isn’t what you think it is. It isn’t money or time or the right attitude. It’s having the courage to actually leave your comfort zone and confront issues that are controversial – to be willing to go on an inner journey and discover things about yourself you didn’t know before. It’s about doing all this in a way that exposes you, and having the humility and faith to share this with others. That’s when the magic happens.

The unconditional acceptance and generosity of the people we met was so moving. The rich colours, the strength and warm embraces of the women, the courage of the men to accept change, and the enthusiasm 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 trip and the growing popularity of events like Wealth Dynamics Experience and Entrepreneurs Business School, XL now has a vehicle to not only teach people about the path to creating wealth, but also the manner in which to effectively give it away.

There is now a core group of Pioneer Club members stepping up to lead and facilitate the next Pioneer Club for India trip in Nov 2008, with Roger leading another in Africa in February / March 2009.

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