Fulfilling a New Year’s resolution
What started out as a vacation evolved into a confirmation that ordinary individuals can and do make a difference when they commit to doing extraordinary things. I’ve had a month of bearing witness to the determination of such individuals and wanted to begin 2008 sharing some of their stories, linking them to activities in our own community and inviting all of us to consider our responsibility and the opportunity to create a more equitable learning environment for the global community.
Back in November, just as I was putting finishing touches on my personal end-of-2007 vacation itinerary and finalizing SAP TechEd ’07 Bangalore plans, I met with James Farrar, who is VP of Corporate Citizenship at SAP and author of the sustainability and CSR blog: Wisdom of Clouds. This coincided with a growing interest of the SAP community members in such matters and plans for the launch of a new area under the Business Process Expert Community called Corporate Social Responsibility.
But here I was ending the 2007 year with personal plans for a full month’s break/vacation itinerary and planning the longest hiatus ever from my engagements with the SAP SDN and BPX community….or was it to be so? Was I to be a voyeurish tourist or an emissary in my travels, or a bit of both.
On Thanksgiving Day, November 22nd, 2007, my 16-year old son, Dahn and I set out for Bangalore with further plans for Cochin, Madurai, Vietnam and Cambodia. Upon arriving in Bangalore, we had arranged to link up with my dear friend Naomi Tocher. Naomi is a Kiwi who, ever since we met volunteering together on a kibbutz in Israel back in 1972, has dedicated her life to working in social services and of late heads support services for interpreters and translators in New Zealand. Naomi, Dahn and I had been formulating our travel plans together. Naomi suggested we detour a bit from the usual tourist stuff and get to interface with locals. She also raised the possibility of our visiting a Children’s home outside of Madurai and perhaps a rehabilitation hospital in Cambodia and made the tentative arrangements.
We agreed, never guessing how the worlds of exotic adventure travel and a more humanitarian and human set of experiences would coincide.
What follows are some journal notes from one of the most intriguing, disturbing, inspiring and moving trips I have ever had the privilege of taking. And truly, thanks to all those that contributed to this enriching journey: family, friends, work colleagues and the SAP Community, which in this hyper-connected world of ours is also a combination of all those entities.Especial thanks to the generous, brave, kind and helpful people of all those places we visited. I hope to tell some of your stories.
December 1st, 2007
We call the Illam “Children’s Home” (orphanage) in Nilakottai near Madurai and ask if we can visit and what we can bring. School supplies? Books? They modestly say fruit. So armed with the only shopping bag at our disposal we head off for the market to buy 70 kilos, one for each child we visit.
More about the aspirations of these children (and their successes) can be found here, but inspiring is the fact that these children, who “come from families that are so poor they can’t afford to send their children to school” are now studying to be information workers and Computer Science, Business Communication and Engineering professionals.
As an employer, SAP encourages its employees to participate in community work and doesn’t insist in any way that it be company related. Although this visit was strictly a personal one, I was pretty pleased that the only shopping bag I had was with an SAP logo and that my T-shirt said “I’m blogging this on SDN”. You know, it was kind of a commitment and a promise to them. Sharing this with you is a tiny act of keeping the promise.
These kids and their care-takers were so inspiring. These kids have lofty educational goals. And they make us believe they will attain them. We came to bring gifts. The truth is we received them. Amazing what ordinary people can do….feeding knowledge.