The world of volunteering – 180 degree turn to a new life – travel with purpose.
Do you wonder if it is simply the need to travel, to see new things? Or do you really know in your heart that it is more than that but don’t know how to uncover the call?
If that’s so, my story may resonate with you. But first a warning – reading this could begin a journey for you that will catch your heart and not let go of you for a very long time. You too may shift perspective and begin an exploration that will make a profound difference to you and to the world around you.
So here is my tale:
A 180 degree turn was needed. Although my work as a health practitioner was profoundly fulfilling I knew I needed to be involved in something bigger than myself. But what?
I was waiting for someone to come to me and say: “Why don’t you come and help us? Join our team – our Cause needs you…“ I was waiting for an invitation. Waiting for the offer to step up into a life that was bigger than I felt, waiting to be called – so I could answer the call. But it was just not happening.
Then, seeking fun and the opportunity to enlarge my network with like-minded people I signed up for a seminar cruise with the inspirational Rock Your Life Leaders, Mike Handcock, and Dave Rogers.
That cruise was to be a turning point in my life.
At the first meal I was seated at the ‘Indian table’ – with a group of vibrant, interesting people from Mumbai and I felt like I had slotted into my old home. As the cruise progressed and we got to know one another on a deeper level, suddenly the lights went on for me.
An ‘epiphany’ I guess you could call it – a knowingness that my wait was over.
No – nobody had invited me to anything – I simply realized it was totally up to me. It was my choice, my action that was needed. An invitation was not required. I understood the opening move was mine.
As soon as I made the choice, stepped up and offered my assistance the synchronicities began to unfold.
I had a sense of stepping into the unknown and the world of total trust and letting go. With no idea of what I was to contribute, where I was really going to, or how I should support myself when there. But I knew it was what I had to do.
And I was off to India.
When I arrived in Mumbai in November 2010, I felt like Alice, falling down the rabbit hole! And no I didn’t shrink but in fact I expanded.
I was plummeted from the ordered and clean streets of Perth to the chaos, smells and noise of the big city of Mumbai. On my arrival the airport reflected the chaos of the biggest celebration time of the year – Diwali – the Indian New year – a time of thunderous firecrackers and very little sleep.
And where was my pre-arranged driver?! I searched and searched the signs held up by others – nothing with my name on it. Time to ‘phone a friend’ – uh oh trusty iphone not working on Indian networks! Welcome to a different world Shazar!
Some considerable hours later having somehow found a taxi, negotiated an outrageous price, and survived a hair-raising drive up the express way… I made it to my friend’s house.
And it just happened to be my birthday! What a birthday it was. It was a new year for me, almost like being reborn.
Here I started working with two tireless women who quickly became my ‘Indian sisters’ who are both great supporters of the ‘under-privileged’. The first, Nandini Chandraratnam, supports a Shelter for Homeless Children – kids who have been rescued from the railway platforms, rubbish dumps and street corners –aged 3 to 15.
Even at 4 years old, most of these little homeless ones had already been at work – begging or selling stuff to commuters or drivers. They dash in and out of the bedlam of busy traffic, peddling their wares, and their gang bosses are just a few years older than them. Or they pick through mountains of rubbish on the dumps, running for first choice from the emptying garbage truck – salvaging plastic and other scraps of saleable recycling material – scraps worthless in any one else’s eyes. To see these children’s situation tears at my heart especially when you realize they have just as much potential as any child here in Australia.
My other ‘sister’ Maya Shahani, jokingly calls herself the original ‘slum dog millionaire’. For although now very wealthy, her earliest memories are of a childhood in the slums.
Now she devotes her life to gathering funds to support the destitute women of Mumbai and beyond. She is an incredible connector – and through her I saw the possibilities that can come when you bring the power of influential links to the grassroots movements. She names it civil society – as opposed to government – and looks to this to make real change.
And I was also very privileged to meet and now work with Satish Moon, a practicing Buddhist whose past life as an orphan himself has given him a special insight into the plight of the children in his care at the Shikshan Gram Shelter. Satish is a man of total trust. The vision comes, he says “We will do this” and then the resources for the project arrive. We are all looking on in amazement as his next visionary Strong Village Program begins to unfold. There is no place in his life for questioning and doubt.
These three quickly became my friends and mentors and I left India 3 weeks later knowing my life pathway had shifted and changed radically.
I was now part of a team dedicated to equality and freedom without which humankind cannot survive.
While there, the children of the Shelter had reached deeply into my heart. They had become family. It was obvious that working alongside them to assist their growth into sustainability was a cause of great worth that has the potential to evolve into a model for natural living, connected in harmony with the land, and showing respect for all living beings.
I asked myself: “What was my role in this world? How could I shine a light on the incredible work being done there? How can I share this on a much bigger scale? ” And that’s when I thought of you and that I could just invite you to come and join us.
Lots of people express a desire to go to India and want more than the usual view from the window of the bus but either they are afraid to go on their own – or they don’t know how to connect with local people or how to become involved.
So Maya, Nandini and I are designing journeys with a focus on making a difference. It’s a new way of travelling – called ‘voluntourism’ to combine adventure and fulfillment. And it gives me such a great excuse to return to visit ‘my kids’ over and over again.
We go to the heart of India… places you will love to come … we meet very special people – eat wonderful food, get to hug and touch the children who so much need this love and contribute as well in more ways than you can imagine.
We take you to places that show the real story of India and most of all you will fall in love with our children.
You may well ask: “Can you really make a difference – in this land of burgeoning prosperity, and the incredible paradox of deep poverty, where there are more than twenty-five million parentless children trying to survive?”
We know that the answer to that question is a resounding YES! The way to make a difference is one by one, one person at a time, one act at a time, one choice at a time and all the while, keeping focused on the task right in front of our nose. Our volunteer journeys do just that – giving you the opportunity to contribute with your individual skills and talents to help enrich people’s lives.
On our Sage Journey to India you will work with the children of the Shelter and the women in the villages and the slums. You will get to know their names and faces and they will no longer be just another group of disadvantaged poor but individuals each with their own stories and potential for a life worth living.
Your journey will fulfill your heart’s longing, satisfy your soul and make your life spiral up to a whole new meaning. Come with us and discover the gratitude that arises when your life is enriched beyond measure. Giving brings gratitude that pervades your soul. If enough of us do this we will change the world.