Change The World By Doing Things You Love

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

On The Expeditioner and plenty of other travel sites, there is an ongoing debate among travelers. It’s more of an agreement than a debate. Plane-loads of travelers not only want to see far-off lands, they want to put their time, talent and treasure towards a good cause along they way.

It’s wonderful to hear about the commendable efforts others are doing. Although at least in my case, I tend to feel a little guilty when I learn about those efforts. It starts slow. You hear about someone doing something amazing and your gut reaction is, “Hooray!” But then you get about two-thirds the way through the article and you begin to think, “Wait a minute, this person is a much better person than me. Crap. Why am I such a waste of carbon?”

That first voice — the “Hooray!” one — is the one you want to listen to. That’s the one that’s encouraging and allows you to be inspired by the good deeds of others to the point of taking bigger steps in your own life and travels to help others. That second voice? He’s a jerk. He just wants you to feel bad all the time. That’s the same voice that says things like, “That girl at the bar? No, don’t talk to her. She’s way out of your league. True, I should listen to that voice sometimes — but only when I’m at the bar.

I’m going somewhere with all this. While I was working in development in Guatemala, I met a couple, Mick and Debora, who founded a charity called The Integral Heart Foundation (IHF).

The organization’s stated mission per their website is:

Creating conscious leaders through heart-centered sponsorship and educational programs which include the development of mind, body, spirit and emotions. We are doing this, not by teaching our students what to think, but how to think for themselves. 

They also do solar. For the past three years they have been working in remote villages, centering their efforts in one Guatemalan village called Mano de León. They’ve opened up two kindergartens this year to promote education at an early age. (Those kindergarten are using some of my old furniture, which I hope is covered in crayon.)

More than providing education at an early age, they have been installing solar energy lighting units in the village that was completely off the grid. People there were spending up to $250 a year on candles. For many families, that was more than their monthly income. Now, 11 of those 21 houses are solar-powered.

IHF isn’t stopping there. They plan to increase safety and the sense of well-being in the community by lining the dark streets with solar lanterns. They also want to power the school, which would allow for more of its budget to be put towards buying educational resources and books.

Something that has always impressed me with IHF is Mick and Deborah’s ability to network with others to accomplish their philanthropic goals. To this end, two riders in California’s Climate Ride 2012, Christopher Porto and Elizabeth Schorn, are using their ride to raise money and awareness for IHF’s solar goals in Mano de León. It’s an example of how the things we do because we have a passion for (bike riding, traveling, racing, tabogonging, etc . . . ) can be used for philantropic ends.

To find out more information and to help Christopher and Elizabeth Schorn reach their goal, click through here.

Mick Quick Explains More About the Solar Bike Ride Fundraiser

From September 9-14, Climate Ride 2012 in California will host hundreds of cyclists and activists from around the world for a 300-mile journey to build awareness of and promote sustainable solutions to climate change.

For this charitable bike ride, Porto and Schorn will be fundraising on behalf of IHF to support the expansion of their solar light program. Known as Project Aurora, this initiative will seek to raise $4,800+ to support IHF’s efforts to raise the standard of living for the 110 villagers of Mano de Leon, Guatemala, by deploying solar-powered lighting on both homes and schools.

The Mayan village of Mano de Leon is located in the middle of a large private coffee plantation. There are about 110 people (21 families) in total. Ten of these families live in single-room structures with tin roofing, and the remainder have cinder-block homes. The residents of Mano de Leon currently have no running water, eight of the homes have no light and only one paid teacher for all grades of 50 children.

The elevation is 6,600 feet, that’s about 1,400 feet above the level at which you can find public transportation. Yet, despite the fact that it is only three miles from the Spanish Colonial city of La Antigua Guatemala, it takes 20 minutes to drive up to Mano de Leon by 4×4. The road is very steep and winding. This also means that if the villagers want to visit the nearest town, the round trip is over four hours of walking.

IHF is an organization that is dedicated to bringing integral education and clean energy to off-grid villages in Guatemala. There are millions of people living in Guatemala that do not have access to electricity and are exposed to dangerous smoke from the candles they use at night. It is both toxic for the families and very difficult for the children to read at night by candlelight.

Porto and Schorn will be using the donations received to source and install solar systems for those facing energy poverty in the hopes of enabling young minds to create a cleaner and brighter future for us all.

By Luke Maguire Armstrong

TheExpeditioner

About the Author

LukeArmstrongAfter setting out to hitchhike from Chile to Alaska, Luke Maguire Armstrong stopped in Guatemala where he spent four years directing the social service programs of the charity Nuestros Ahijados. He is the curator of the high energy humor site Rabble Rouse The World and his book of poetry, iPoems for the Dolphins to Click Home About (available for sale on Amazon.com) is especially enjoyed by people who “don’t read poetry.” Look for his next poetry book, “How We Are Human,” this fall, and his novel “How One Guitar To Save To World” whenever he finally finds an agent. 

(Follow Luke on Twitter: @lukespartacus). 

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