Giving

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Recently I attended my first Dining for Women event. The idea is simple – donate the amount you usually would spend going out to eat and share in a charity potluck instead. This month’s donations go to The Little Sisters Fund in Nepal. When I saw the brochure detailing the extent of the healthcare services provided to women through this program, I fell to my knees.

 

For the last 4 months, I have been particularly self-absorbed by my own survival task post-surgery and can find a billion and one things to complain about with my healthcare and situation. But the reality of medical care for most women around the world is not even an ounce of what I have access to, and this to me – given what I have gone through – is unimaginable suffering. I set up my first recurring donation to Dining for Women, not only for the Little Sisters but because it combines all my favorite interests: women, social impact, food and cooking, and inspiring human potential.

 

I believe this is what it takes for all of us to open our hearts a little more – what we know intellectually, becomes felt emotionally, and then we act. Recently, the current refugee crisis has caught my attention more than other causes have over the years is because it is the largest humanitarian crisis that I have witnessed happening in the present in my own 32 years, and one which will have very far-reaching effects for decades to come. The refugee crisis will undoubtedly reach our doorstep one day and we may not know what to do – be it in the form of a health care crisis, the need for education, a rise in xenophobia, housing or food shortages, a major war, etc. I read regularly the posts here on Humans of New York, he is doing a series on Syrian refugees. I encourage you to follow this. My family and I have decided to donate to a charity on our birthdays and to share with each other the charities we support and think strategically about this.

 

Giving money certainly doesn’t fix any problems from the root cause or systemic level, but it can provide relief and sometimes it’s the only thing we can and must do. One thing I learned from my Mom and Dad is that the world is our collective responsibility and our purpose is to serve the collective in some way. I am lucky to be able to say I have been afforded every privilege as a result of my family.

 

I hope this post will help you make decisions about where and how to give, given the current refugee crisis. I did some research and I found that there are many large organizations like the UN, UNHCR, UNICEF, OXFAM, Save the children, etc providing a lot of relief. These organizations are well funded, tend to get a lot of attention and because they are so large often have more overhead and personnel costs. Of those larger orgs, UNHCR one seems to provide the most direct support from funds donated (at 86%). I discovered though that the following smaller organizations are offering more targeted direct support and the money donated also goes to the ground instead of administrative overhead:
  • International Medical Corps this seems to do a little more rebuilding than Doctors Without Borders
  • Medical Teams international – this group strictly does dental and medical care.
    They also have this great holiday initiative to send kits for infants and families. Because the drop off points are on the west coast it’s easier to donate to them the cost of the kit than to purchase the items and prepare the kits.
  • The Karam Foundation – this organization supports children in meeting their basic survival needs and education. They have an adopt a family program.
  • Migrant Offshore Aid Station – this organization supports migrants on shore with the help of rescuers and paramedics

 

I have made it a priority to engage with my family and friends in not only talking about what is happening in the world, but doing something about it together. It can be fun, meaningful, inspiring and yet also difficult to live in the world together and to face our limitations. All we can do is try to do something, one step at a time. This is a list of charities I support on a regular basis.What I can give to them is minimal, but I have made it a priority to give something on a regular basis and I am proud of the work they are doing, and proud to support it:
-Dining for Women to support causes related to women and girls around the world
-The Jakara Movement to support a movement of Sikh youth engaged in social change
-IDEX, International Development Exchange to support local grassroots leaders
-The Karam Foundation for Syrian refugees

Dreaming While Awake

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I don’t sell gold ornaments or platters filled with pearls. Dear ones, I sell dreams of freedom, if you are interested in buying them. Other dreams come when one is asleep but these come when one is awake, if you are interested in having them. They come once but then they never go away. They last a lifetime. Dear ones, I sell dreams of freedom, if you are interested in buying them.

Bhai Jaswant Singh Khalra quoting Professor Mohan Singh

Work In Progress

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At 1AM last night I was startled by the sound of drilling and the beep beep beeping of construction machines. I shouldn’t have been surprised – for the last year, intensive construction has been in progress around my apartment complex. Every morning at 7AM, and some days earlier, I am woken up by these sounds. The construction workers stand on a 7-foot story scaffold, which is just at my eye level. I can see them, they can see me. It’s predictable and yet each time I hear or see the construction I become a combination of startled, annoyed, disgusted, and exhausted.

Yesterday as I made my ritualistic Sunday night phone calls, I started to look closely at the construction. The heaping pile of mess that each day gets turned into something a little more recognizable but the mess still remains. It was hard not to notice, even amid the mess, the startling growth and progress in a short time. Concrete, metal of all shapes and sizes, wood, cascading bricks. I found an awe in the rawness. I started to look more closely at both the imperfections and the perfections of the growing construction site across from me and there was a beauty in the messiness and rawness of it. It reminded me that we are all works in progress, and my continued annoyance and inability to adapt to the nuisance of ongoing construction was in part my resistance to acknowledging myself as exactly that. A perfectly imperfect, beautiful and sometimes exhausted work in progress.

The Inner Game of Tennis

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Recently, I authorized myself to do what makes me most happy and I made a list of what I wanted to go after. At the top of the list was re-entering the world of athletic sports. Rediscovering the sport of my childhood and adolescence, tennis, without the competition and performance pressure opened up a new realm of consciousness for me.

Everything I’ve discovered in relearning the game of tennis over the last few years has been a metaphor for the way I take up leadership, group psychodynamics and my intrapsychic world. Of course I had a copy of a book my mom gave me “The Inner Game of Tennis” but I had no idea that playing tennis would be so closely linked to these deeper topics.

Last year was all about the power of my stroke, and the preparation to hit the ball. I had developed a habit of swinging my racquet back behind me twice in preparation for hitting the ball which led to all sorts of problems. Preparedness and power dynamics summed up my biggest leadership challenges of 2013.  Continue reading

The Second Level: Underneath the Surface in a 1st Grade New York City Classroom

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Prior to my group relations experience and training, my way of giving feedback to teachers usually went as follows:

Me: So, how do you think your lesson went?
Teacher: (Nervously recounts what went well and what didn’t…)
Me: Okay, so here’s how it really went (Insert diatribe about the good, the bad, the ugly). Next time, do the following (8 pages of notes) and oh here are some resources that can help you (8 more pages of notes). Anything else I can do?

Teacher: *Blank stare*

Needless to say, sometimes hostility and tears followed these exchanges. I wasn’t always able to guide the teachers to see my perspective and show them I understood theirs. I just wanted better instruction, and I gave elaborate – and very good feedback – about the small and large changes that needed to happen. I considered coaching as a type of measured response – input, output, input, output. Except it didn’t really work that way in reality. So, many times I worked alongside teachers, and gave in the moment feedback or modeled technique for them. This worked but I knew it could have worked better. I was successful but only moderately successful, I didn’t reach every teacher the way I wanted to (and as a result every student).

Recently, I coached a new, first year teacher after she gave a lesson. The exchange we had made me see how the group relations experience and training had really helped me on a number of levels, from the subtle to the extreme. After I observed her lesson, we sat down and I asked her what went well during her lesson. It was our first meeting of this kind and she presented a very defensive disposition. She said she felt her directions were very clear, I agreed and complimented her on her meticulous planning and effective materials. But she said she didn’t know what went wrong, something didn’t go quite right but what? How could she improve? Continue reading