Articulating my WHY

I have been doing a lot of mindfulness work recently.  It isn’t something that I am particularly good at, or something that I’ve strived to make a focus until now.  The work isn’t easy, and it is my tendency to analyze and present facts, letting others form their own conclusions.   In this blog, I’ve always used my opportunities to present content that I hope helps to shine a light on things that are of interest to ParticipAid’s supporters.  It is with this in mind that I am taking a detour this blog to use some of my developing skills to take a look at why I choose to spend my time and energy with ParticipAid with the intent of letting you get to know me a little better and inspire you to take a look at why you count us among your interests.

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Who?

I’m just a normal guy.  I have the same time restrictions, the same fears and the same limitations as everyone else.  I have been very fortunate to have had a lot of opportunities to shape my world view.  I’ve been fortunate to travel giving me an appreciation of different cultures, and a general sense of acceptance and curiosity that give me confidence and excitement in approaching new situations.  I’ve worked, loved and lost people with life-altering disabilities.  I know that life is a gift, and that affirmation drives me to gratitude and action and to try (try!) to be someone who looks to enrich others before myself.  This stuff isn’t easy to do on a daily basis, but the desire to be my best self requires that I reflect and that I look ahead.  I am not these things at all times to all people, but it is a small part of how I get to my why.  Finally, I have an amazing example and partner in Dr. Erin Moore who lives her values each and every day.

What?

I never intended to be a part of ParticipAid.  ParticipAid as it exists today was never going to be a thing.  One event caused a cascade of previously unanticipated results.  The 2015 earthquakes in Nepal set off a series of events that changed my life.  It tested me physically and emotionally.  I had absolutely no idea what I was going to encounter, but I knew that I had to be there.  The experience and the work that we did have been well documented, but needless to say it was a life-changing experience.  The interesting thing about it is that it also invigorated me in ways I had never felt.  This is a tricky emotion to analyze in that context.  There is a certain amount of hubris that can color these emotions that is commonly referred to as a “savior complex”.  It is a humbling thing to reflect on the motivations and the accompanying emotions with this in mind.  For me, it took time and distance to unravel my initial drive, wholly instinctive, and why I wanted to continue the work.  What I arrived at was that I cared about the work, I cared about the people, and I cared about creating something that would eventually outreach and outlast any single action that I could take.  I do my best to keep this top of mind, and I always strive to make sure that my motivations parallel the guiding principles of ParticipAid’s mission.

Our dental team after 2018 health camp in Karmidanda, Nepal.

Our dental team after 2018 health camp in Karmidanda, Nepal.

Where and With Whom?

It’s in Nepal.  It’s in Oregon.  It’s online.  The people in Nepal took me in before any of this.  The folks we work with and for have an instant capacity for generosity, acceptance and warmth that I hadn’t before experienced.  It made my initial decision to hop on a plane into the unknown much less intimidating.  Again, that was an instinctual move on my part, done with very little thought of my own well-being, but knowing that I was going to a place where people were both in need and would accept and help me during their most trying time made it much easier to make the move.

Moving forward, we are so fortunate to be able to share our work with a growing number of people thanks to our service learning trips.  ParticipAid piloted a program last year to bring healthcare professionals from around the world to share their expertise treating patients while participating in a curated educational curriculum.  Participants engaged in cultural experiences, learned about participatory development from experts, and used their skills along to treat hundreds of men, women and children in rural Nepal.  We are excited to grow this program in the coming years by offering continuing education credits to qualified participants starting this year!

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My people are my Why.

My people elevate me when I am down.  I help them when they are down.  I love them, and I want to spend time with them, and we draw strength from each other.  ParticipAid is a team of dedicated individuals who go above and beyond, giving of their time and expertise to improve and expand the organization’s reach.  Nobody involved does this for money or for praises, but because they believe that we can make an impact in the lives of all involved through shared experiences.  My people in Nepal would do it for me if the tables were turned, because that is who they are.  How could I not do the same for them?  Our 2018 service learning participants were able to have a wonderful experience, and I was able to see people, places and things through their lens.  And maybe most of all, I look forward to sharing these experiences with the next generation.  I take so much joy in the thought of using my platform, the opportunities I've been given, and the lessons I’ve learned to introduce my friends, family and others to these principles, people, and places.  To give them the opportunity to listen and to speak and to see.  I am excited to see what conclusions they draw and how it can impact their outlook and (hopefully) inspire them to things that I can’t even imagine right now.

My People!

My People!

In conclusion, I hope that this post helped to share a little bit about myself and my motivations.  I am constantly amazed by the work people do when they find their why.  I would love to hear about your experiences in the comments below, but even if you don’t want to share, I encourage you to take a look at things that inspire you and look into why it is so important to you.  It could be anything: coaching a team or volunteering for an organization or getting up and doing a job that you love.  I’ve found that revisiting my why helps to revitalize me and keeps me engaged when the world gets crazy.  So, thank you, and I encourage you to get out and keep amazing everyone!

Plant Medicine in Nepal

Plant Medicine in Nepal

Back in the village of Karmidanda in 2009 I daydreamed with friends, now colleagues, about a plant medicine farm. In 2010 I started to learn about the local plants, and in 2012 I started making medicine from them. First I chose the ones I recognized from my training in western herbalism, and over time I learned from local people about new plants and preparations, and how to use them for common ailments of the region. I cherish this experience.

Innovation and Maintenance: In Salute of the Little Things

Innovation and Maintenance: In Salute of the Little Things

Innovate: To introduce as or as if new, to effect a change in.

Maintain: To keep in an existing state, to preserve from failure or decline.

I want to take some time to consider the buzzword “innovation” and give some praise to its neglected stepsister “maintenance”.  According to a couple of very interesting articles from Aeon and the Atlantic, the term innovation really gained steam in the 60s and 70s because it was more culturally resonant than the terms “invention” or “progress”.  “Innovation” implied the excitement of newness and creativity, but not necessarily the burden of any moral or social advancement, a perfect compromise.

A Nepali Global Health Experience

A Nepali Global Health Experience

Dal Bhat Power 24 Hour

Rich in culture and tradition, Nepal is best known for being home of the eight largest mountains in the world, including Mt. Everest. Many villages lie in these mountains, where their narrow roads and rugged terrain make them unreachable during monsoon season. This past month, I had the opportunity to travel to one of those villages as part of a 12-day service learning experience from May 28 to June 8.

The Three Universal Medicines in Community Development

The Three Universal Medicines in Community Development

Often when I tell stories about ParticipAid’s origins and evolution, it sounds like a chronicle of my mistakes and lessons learned. I’ve written about failure here on the blog in the past because I think it’s such a valuable tool. In failure there are opportunities to advance your skills, knowledge, experience, and partnerships, but you’ll get none of that if you’re not honest with yourself and others about what you got wrong. I found this to be really difficult in the beginning, as I was attached to unrealistic expectations of myself and the impact of my work. I’ve learned, and am continuously learning, to set more accurate expectations. I hit the mark more often now, but when I inevitably miss it, I know to put my ego aside, search out the reasons, and discuss them with my colleagues. This helps projects flow with more ease and evolve more organically.