"Giving where we are needed" and KIRF work

I’ve been meaning to post this quotation by John Records, a homeless activist, that describes why I enjoy doing “KIRF work“. I read it in the Sun Magazine last month in the Letters section. Here it is:

“We may have more time than we think we do. And we might find a greater happiness from giving where we are needed than from being entertained.” ~John Records, founder of homeless rehabilitation center Committee on the Shelterless (COTS), from the September 2008 issue of the Sun Magazine’s “Leave the Light On” article.

I like that.

By “KIRF work” I mean doing a service project to help others or help the planet either here locally in Ventura (with an Earth Day beach cleanup, for example) or in a distant community such as in Washington, DC recently or in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

For example, in Chiang Mai we bought an ice cream maker and new freezer for a sustainable business school-based venture set-up by the Support the Children Foundation in December 2006. Our purchases made it possible for them to generate income to fund for their healthy lunch program for disadvantaged children and HIV foster children. The local non-profit Support the Children Foundation is ensuring that this program continues. The Chiang Mai project took a lot of effort to coordinate. I spent days preparing handouts and a poster and did two cookie sales with the Ventura College Anthropology Club to fund it. How did I find the Support The Children Foundation? I emailed friends and family until I found them through my sister-in-law. She recommended me speaking with her former college roommate who is a public health doctor stationed in Singapore and works with the Thai founders of Support The Children, who are a husband and wife team of two physicians who attended medical school in the U.S. Finding them and setting up the KIRF project, fundraising for it, and working in Chiang Mai on this project with our children was a effort. However, we were gong to be in Chiang Mai anyway to visit family so the travel was already taken care of. However, all that coordination took time.

But it was time well spent. The genuine gratitude and happiness of the school principal when he found out about the ice cream making equipment we bought his school made it worth it. Also, it was meeting the kids at the school, meeting the farmer who donated milk for the ice cream at his farm, meeting a local foster care family who was taking care of their HIV+ grandson, and the long day we spent shopping in Chiang Mai accompanying our Thai local experts from the Support the Children Foundation shop was an enriching and heartwarming experience that we will never forget. We still in keep in touch with Support the Children founders. I consider them dear and inspiring friends. The memory of that KIRF work project still makes me happy when I think out it. I am grateful that I had that experience and we made a difference.

That is “KIRF work“.

🙂 A

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Photos from Burma of KIRF school supplies at IDP camps

Disaster relief supplies for survivors of Cyclone Nargis in Burma

Basic living supplies for IDP (Internally Displaced Persons) refugees and survivors of Cyclone Nargis in Burma, 2008.

We just got two envelopes of photos that were taken inside of Myanmar (formerly known as Burma). The photos show children and their teachers at two IDP (Internally Displaced Person) refugee camp schools with the new school supplies we sent them via our local partners. We paid for textbooks, writing supplies, art supplies, mats, mosquito nets and medication for these internal refugees that live on despite the military junta’s animosity and terrorizing behavior against them and their native villages.

KIRFaid.org will be updated soon with a status report and a few of these poignant photos of the modest school houses built of bamboo with thatched roofs and walls of woven matting. My favorite is of a group of about 25-30 kids standing around their teacher, all smiles and with their candy-colored plastic flip-flops lined up in neat rows in  front them. Beautiful.
Here’s one of Mark and I’s favorite quotes:
“Nobody makes a greater mistake that he who did nothing because he could do only a little.” — Edmund Burke

Dalai Lama Quote and Capacity Building in Rural Bihar, India

Fortunate students of one of KIRF India's first free schools for Dalit and lowest caste children in  rural Bihar, 2006 Photo: AR Kirwin

Fortunate students at one of KIRF India’s first free schools for Dalit and lowest caste children in rural Bihar, 2006 Photo: AR Kirwin

“It is necessary to help others, not only in our prayers, but in our daily lives. If we find we cannot help others, the least we can do is to desist from harming them.”

by HH Dalai Lama (from the book “The Path to Tranquility: Daily Wisdom” 1999)