“You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”
Mahatma Ghandi’s lovely affirmation is something many of us strive to do, most of the time. The challenge lies in maintaining that yogi zen while your life gets wrapped up with paying the visa bill, fixing the broken shower head, staying current with world news (or facebook, because really how do you have time for both?) and penciling in some time for a social life.
The hopeless, negative image of the world as portrayed by the media causes many people to rationalize their apathetic attitudes for this struggling planet. But not my Grandma Mona. She had faith in her fellow man that this world could and would be a better place if we all devoted our lives to the service of others. Mona did not see her commitment to others as something she could do, but rather something that she needed to do. It was her mission to serve her 7 billion brothers and sisters on this planet. Every doom and gloom case was another opportunity for her to help. Lots of people can support a cause, but Mona kept up a positive attitude and an optimism that was most extraordinary. She was vibrant and eccentric and one of the most socially conscious people I have ever met.
Six months ago I decided to start a free global volunteer database to make it easier for people to combine travel and service. I spent months researching how to provide a simple, one stop shop for people with the time and good intentions but lacking in $5,000 to spend on a three week trip. It turned out to be a much larger endeavor than I had anticipated and I realized that I would benefit tremendously by working with an already existing organization to absorb as much as possible to transfer back to the project.
I’m currently volunteering through AmeriCorps as the Education Coordinator for the Eastern Sierra Land Trust. During this year I will be writing weekly updates on The Mona Visa to garner interest and publicity for the first stage of this long-term goal. I will be my own experiment, my own pilot program. Instead of starting by listing volunteer opportunities on a website, I will be the volunteer.
My project is to volunteer with 12 organizations in various locations with a wide array of missions. Along the way I will maintain The Mona Visa to record insights and experiences working with the groups and living amongst diverse cultures. Afterward I will compile the years of data into a book and have a solid basis for implementing the website.
It’s a long road ahead sure to be filled with many travels and adventures, but according to the ancient Chinese proverb “A journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step.” And a journey to connect the people who want to help with the people who need the help begins with the first blog.
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