Life Change Adventure. What a curious name for an organization. Does it take an adventure to change a life? Perhaps changing lives is the great adventure…
A while back I wrote an article titled, “Has helping others helped me?“ In that article I explored whether or not I felt helping others had helped me, and what it was like to be on the receiving end of the support I so desperately needed. What did I learn? I learned the piece of me that enjoyed helping others in the past had an deeper roots today. Why? It’s not that volunteering, or working for organizations that made a difference, was new to me. It was that the effects of those efforts were no longer theoretical. I knew that I was where I was today, I was as strong as I was after the loss of my husband and becoming an over-night only-parent, because of the support I received from others. It was no longer theory. For me, it was fact.
In my article, I specifically talked about an organization called A Thing For Another (AT4A,) the concept being that changing lives could be as simple as exchanging one thing (money, time, ideas, garage sale items, etc.) to improve the lives of another. My involvement with supporting the locally-initiated Ugandan orphanage, RUHU (Rising Up Hope, Uganda,) through AT4A, and my desire to continue a profitable (and by “profitable” I mean the dividends an individual, community, and global humanity receive when one helps another, verses the substantial cost of doing nothing, or worse, contributing to systems that keep others impoverished,) continued to be a priority for me. Altruism and philanthropy were most significant in my life. Those were two of the top areas where I felt the most alive…whole…complete.
Last Sunday morning, in my Elevation community, I got to share about another initiative that has been close to my heart. I spoke about a dear friend of mine, Nikki, and the work she has been doing in the Onzole community in the northern jungle of Ecuador.
I have known Nikki for a few years. Most of that time she has lived in Ecuador, and yet our interactions over brief visits when she has returned to Canada, and our sporadic email correspondence, continued to draw me in, eager to learn more about how she was having an effect on the community around her.
Nikki lived between two homes in Ecuador, and a third in Waterloo, Canada. She spent most of her time between Guayaquil in the south of Ecuador, and her northern jungle home in Onzole, 10 hours away. When sending me an update this week she was on a bus with a friend from Onzole, and her friend’s 4 year old boy. She wrote:
“(My friend’s) 4 year old boy is lying across me, beautiful black skin, snoring away. This is the life. If you say anything about me, then you must just talk about these precious little wonders that I get to be surrounded by everyday. Without them I wouldn’t be here enjoying what I am doing.”
So what exactly is Nikki doing other than pouring out abundant love onto all the little children she meets?
One project is the development of the Onzole community center.
She continues: “Our beautiful library has been open for 3 weeks now and the kids can’t get enough of it! It is so encouraging to see. Little black fingers that run across the stacks of neatly lined up books until something grabs their attention and off they go to explore new words and pictures. Knowing that none of these kids ever had storybooks growing up, nobody read them bedtime stories, that the only books they have are government issued texts books, puts the uniqueness of this library into perspective.”
Ironically, the same morning I shared this initiative with the Elevation community in Waterloo, the first thing my daughter asked me when she woke up that morning was whether we could go to the library at our local YMCA to pick out some new books.
As a parent who can’t put her child to bed without a bedtime story because she demands one, my mother-heart wanted the kids of Onzole to enjoy the same exploratory worlds my daughter has access to, simply because she lives in North American, and the access to literature here is free.
Some quick research on the illiteracy rates in Ecuador taught me that 9% of the population above age 15, is illiterate. 10% will have to repeat the first grade. 4% of the population are Afro-Ecuadorian, like the little boy and the mother Nikki was traveling with. Of the indigenous population, the illiteracy rate is much higher than the national average, standing at 28%.
One of the reasons developed countries were so advanced, was thanks to the wealthy, philanthropic, Andrew Carnegie, who spent his latter years deploring his wealth by setting up libraries across North America. It is believed that approximately 2,800 public libraries were opened thanks to Carnegie, giving free access to literature to people of all races, income levels, ages, and so on.
John Wood, in his book “Leaving Microsoft to change the world,” said, “I love what Carnegie did, but the weakness of his model is that he only thought about one country. The need for education, and children’s love of reading, are both forces that are universal.“ He also noted that, “The Andrew Carnegie of the 21st century will not be a rich white male. It will be a network of concerned global citizens, and we will create it.”
While I agree with Wood’s latter statement, I’m not sure I would say Carnegie’s model had a “weakness.” I think the beauty of his dream was that he saw America as a starting point, and perhaps had confidence that benefactors like us would realize the rewards, and spread the wealth of free access to literature throughout the world.
Like A Thing For Another (AT4A,) Nikki and Life Change Adventures, has come up with a way, an exchange, that will help build the library in the jungle of Onzole, Ecuador, so others can share the privilege we enjoy of having free access to literature, regardless of creed, race, income, or any other discriminating factor.
How? Simple. Buy a scarf. Buy a book.
Every hand-made Ecuadorian scarf sold will purchase a book for the community center in Onzole, Ecuador.
It’s a tangible exchange. Want to participate? Scarves are $12 each, plus $1.75 for shipping to anywhere in North America. If you’re interested in supporting this cause, please email me to purchase a scarf in exchange for a new book for the library in Onzole.
Together, let’s venture to change lives through a true Life Change Adventure.