GRATITUDE FOR GOOD
A Blog by Gratitude Alliance
We are thrilled to announce the recent launch of the life skills and leadership class for high school students at Bright Horizon Children's Home (BHCH). With the healing skills learned through the Safe Embrace Trauma Healing (SETH) training program in January 2015, local teachers are now equipped with skills to address symptoms of trauma, empower students to develop self-confidence and emotional intelligence, and promote healing, leadership, and personal transformation.
We are incredibly grateful for BHCH teachers' efforts in spreading grassroots healing skills to communities in Nepal.
Our grassroots partners know firsthand that computer literacy can unlock unlimited possibilities - for learning, creating, sharing, exploring, and connecting individuals, communities, and economies to the digital world.
And when computer literacy classes are paired with a psychosocial activity like creative arts therapy, the result is a well-rounded psycho-educational program that develops a broad range of skills while also invoking emotional healing and creative expression.
It's a holistic approach that we often refer to as head, hands, and heart - or, education, skills-building, and healing. An approach that understands that complex problems are not solved via single-issue interventions but rather by comprehensive solutions... and that psychosocial support is foundational to sustainable transformation.
Our partner organization, Lola Children's Home, provides comprehensive support for nearly 30 orphans and vulnerable children affected by HIV/AIDS in the Tigray region of northern Ethiopia. With your support, kids now have access to weekly computer literacy and music classes.
Lola's executive director, Abebe, recently updated us on the progress of this new curriculum which, so far, has been successful in teaching kids tangible skills. Under the tutelage of a mentor who teaches both computer skills and music, they kids now know how to:
A big thank you to our generous community for supporting this program! Your contributions are building confidence, technical and social skills, and healing opportunities that will have a lasting impact on these children and their community!
I was born in Nepal fighting for breath, for my life and my mother’s life. I learned how to fight to protect before I learned to walk. Thankfully, my mom stopped using heroin when she was four months pregnant, though seven and a half months in, the placenta severed, after she fell down the stairs during an earthquake. When I was born, I was four pounds, and told it took months for my arms and fists to relax and unfurl away from my body. At the hospital, they placed me in a proxy incubator, a cardboard box, in a room away from my mom. The first people to take care of me were Nepali nurses.
Mom left Nepal when I was still a baby, and took me back to the states. Four years later, she left her boyfriend, after he hit me and then her. She was like Wonder Woman. She was tough. She was from Jersey. But later she stayed when her next live-in boyfriend, George, hit her. He was emotionally, physically and sexually abusive to both of us. I vowed I’d never be in a relationship that was abusive.
After Mom broke up with George, her free spirit again had air to breathe, and when I was 16 we went back to Nepal.
I met Marilyn. She was a family friend who took over our restaurant in Nepal when my mom left. Marilyn gave up her American citizenship and become a Nepali citizen. She was an 80lb wisp of a woman. From the minute Marilyn got off her motorbike wearing red high-water corduroy pants, and purple tennis shoe, she delighted me.
Marilyn led jungle tours and worked at a shelter for battered women and children. With fierce brilliance, she edited books about women’s rights. When she spoke about the mistreatment of women, her voice grew louder, full of sharply annunciated consonants that I imagined built safe houses. She was strength and comfort personified.
When it was time to return to California, I begged my mom to leave me in Nepal. I wanted to stay and work with Marilyn. I wanted more of what she had, whatever it was. Marilyn saw me and appreciated my gift: the part of me that knew how to fight for, protect and nurture others.
“What if I refuse to get on the plane? You can’t force me.” But, things were finally good between us. I boarded the plane to go back, but left a part of myself there, with a promise I’d go back.
On January 15th this year, I fulfilled my dream.
I am finally in Nepal, at the Bright Horizon’s Children’s Home. There is a view of the Himalayas from the guesthouse we are staying in. I look out at the white-capped mountains surrounded by clouds of pink. Water pours from my eyes. This is my heart opening.
The teachers give me an incredible gift. They bring me back to basics. I speak in broken English and overly expressive gestures. We hold them in a field of agape, unconditional love, and introduce a hugging culture.
I am deeply touched by how enthusiastically the Nepali teachers receive us. The intimacy we create with the teachers progressively breaks down gender taboos. Male teachers test the waters first by hugging us, then each other and the female teachers. Then this spreads to the children.
One of the experiences that moves me the most, is witnessing how collective healing in community is embodied in their culture. By day three of our training, during a tea break, spontaneous singing and dancing breaks out. Instead of going back to class we recognize this as a way they inherently know how to resource after the hard conversations about the symptoms and the causes of trauma. We keep dancing.
I am overwhelmed by the expansive feeling in my heart, and cry from gratitude every day. Layers of old stories that belonged to my family, about being alone, having to fight and work hard to be loved, are shed. Here I am, stepping into a new story of extended family and unconditional love. One that says “being” is more than enough. I leave with my heart full of family, (nane and me) godsons and goddaughters, brothers and sisters.
I healed my own trauma over the past 25 years, so I could be of service in a sustainable way. I am here now. To stand for the end to the abuse of children and violence towards women everywhere, because no woman and child should stand alone. To stand for the reclaiming of our bodies as our own so that all women and children can access safety, comfort and joy. To stand for love and safe physical contact, because it’s what is twisted, misused and withheld in abusive cycles.
This January, with the support of the SETH program, I came full circle, back to my sixteen-year-old intention. I began the work Marilyn inspired me to do. I stayed with her in Swayambhu and took care of her during part of my visit. When I reported how well our training at the school was going, she looked up at me. That familiar toothy grin rose like the moon above the table and shone on me,“That’s great”.
As an incredible epilogue to this journey, Marilyn died shortly after my visit with her, and passed the torch to me. I will carry on the legacy that she left behind, but will include myself in the circle of care. Her joyful presence will always be remembered.
What legacy are you inspired to create?
In 2008, I started working as a camp leader in the French slums. These kids amazed me more and more every day. They brought into my life so much wisdom and gratitude for everything I have.
One thing I learnt from them is that the time you give and the love you share with others is much stronger than any money you can offer.
When I was looking at these kids, I was wondering how such little bodies could be filled up with such big hearts and energy. This one thing that makes them so special is I guess the key of happiness - I call it Hope.
And here is the little secret: Hope is the only light in the dark that makes someone rise up again and get confidence enough to face the impossible.
These kids enlightened me. They were my stars by night, my sunshine by day and the flame in my heart to keep enjoying myself. They changed my perspective about Life. What I considered half empty is now half full. Being positive, understanding, patient and respectful are for me they keys to embrace the world.
Life is not about religion, color, sex, age or money. Life is about Love.
A smile to a homeless person, a hug to a child, a kind word to someone who is sick. Any gesture and attention is priceless. No need for words when the heart is speaking. And here is the miracle: you don’t need to move a mountain to change people’s lives. All that is needed is time and love.
“It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye “
Antoine de Saint Exupéry
I used to think that things don’t happen randomly. There is a meaning in the fate that has been given to us.We do not choose our family, nor our backgrounds. That said, decisions we make can sharply change our lives. At the end, we only get what we give.
Traveling around the world, I realized how connected we are - we live the exact same human experiences anywhere in the world with the same feelings : joy, fear, anger, sadness, love. We are mirrors to each other . Why not help your reflection getting a better image in the future? I think of the other as myself. I don’t want to live in a world led by ignorance and indifference. We need to face people to be aware and grateful for what has been given to us.
Actually, being thankful is the magic trick to enlighten your life. Realizing this makes even me happier day after day.
Hope is now my past, my present and my future :
I hope to let my past behind, to cherish every present days and contribute to rebalance the world in the future.
I will keep dreaming. Because there is Hope.
"Hope sees the invisible, feels the intangible and achieves the impossible."
Written by our summer volunteer
Photo of writer Carol's back yard in Rhode Island
By Carol Anderheggen
It is an icy world where I live. This February has been brutal in the Northeast. That, combined with a compulsion to empty garbage late at night, led me to a wicked slip on the ice resulting in a broken forearm bone. I am now in week three of an eight week recovery, unable to drive or write. I am able to type for which I am grateful!
I am ever grateful for the neighbor who traverses the icy driveway to help me give my cat his daily medicine; the vet tech that does the same to give kitty his fluids; the friend who lives forty minutes away who comes for the mercy run to the liquor store for Vermouth. A fellow poet who picks me up for errands, supper and gets me to the class we teach together once a week.
These are the gestures which make life worthwhile, both when we give them and when we receive them. Love is a circle fueled by gratitude.
By Amy Paulson
Last Tuesday, I returned from Nepal where I spent almost three weeks helping to oversee our trauma healing training, photography, music, and LEGO projects at Bright Horizon Children's Home. My experience was transformational, heart-opening, and deeply meaningful (project update coming soon).
And yet, sitting in my comfortable, heated home in San Francisco for the past week, I've felt a sense of melancholy. I get this way every time I return from field work abroad. I've written about this phenomenon before. I've warned volunteers about it. I commiserated with co-founder Elayne about it on the phone last week. Still, it always surprises me when it happens. Like when I returned from field work in Cambodia a few years ago and drove straight to the French Alps the next day, only to sit in the snow at the top of a ski lift, tears streaming down my face, wondering what in the world all these people were doing gliding on sticks down the mountain.
This time, the feeling hit me like a freight train.
It's hard to describe it. It starts with overwhelming gratitude as I arrive at home, take a long hot shower, then sleep soundly in my warm, fluffy bed - in contrast to the freezing cold bed where I slept at the children's home, snoozing every night under three layers of heavy blankets, fully clothed in thermals, slippers, scarf, gloves, and beanie (those conditions were quite posh compared to the way most in Nepal live). I couldn't muster the energy to shower every day (or even every other day). The icy water was unbearable when the power was out; the hot water supply was limited.
Then, it shifts to sadness. As I look around me at all the people innocently going about their daily routine, I feel confused. I want to shout: Do you understand that half the world lives in poverty? Do you know that many of our fellow humans, including little children, are often abandoned, persecuted, left for dead, or even killed because of their gender, faith, or caste? Do you know that you hit the jackpot being born in ________ [insert: any developed country in the world]?
I wonder, how can the rest of the world continue about their day unknowingly while this terrible injustice of humanity rages on? And, what does it mean that I am also guilty of living mindlessly, coveting material things, not giving thought to others in the world?
At the same time, I feel sorrow that so many people will never see or experience the heart-opening love that I was honored to witness in Nepal. I listened to a student talk about how the oxygen of his breath in deep meditation is like a medicine he gives to his mother. I saw a teacher apologize if he ever unknowingly hurt another person after learning about the definition of abuse. I observed the teachers making human statue examples of what an empowered person looks like, from one teacher standing with palms facing up, saying "thank you, thank you, thank you" to two male teachers courageously demonstrating a loving embrace. And, I danced, sang, and celebrated our aliveness with teachers, staff workers, and children throughout our stay.
By Carol Anderheggen
I am a computer geek but I am also old-fashioned when it comes to writing letters, especially ones which will express my gratitude to someone for their presence in my life. Recently, a dear medical professional, my breast cancer surgeon, retired after fifty years of practice. I had been with him for just about half of his career; he had seen me through thick and thin. In the changing health care industry we have now I think that length of time is unusual and was worth a letter of thanks. Here is what I sent to this wonderful doctor:
"What I said about your being a rock for me and that I would miss you is true but what I did not express is the gratitude I feel for your steadfastness in caring for me. I knew that I could count on you which has been a blessing for me. Thank you for those many years of your medical expertise but more importantly for your sensitivity to my needs. I wish you well and look forward to sharing my writing with you. You will always be the doctor who 'held my hands and thereby cradled my heart'."
This was not an email, nor a Facebook post, nor a tweet. It was a handwritten note in pen on a sweet card. It was snail-mailed. It was from my heart to his.
By Chiara Cerri
I have always loved writing stories since I was a child. I devoured books, imagined other lives, other houses, and other places where life flowed differently.
I was closed in myself and just traveling with my imagination.
When I discovered photography I found out that there was another way to write and tell stories. It took awhile to figure it out, but after the first trip alone I realized that the world is full of stories. They do not need to be invented. They are all there at our fingertips.
You just need to look out the window, leave home, get on a plane.
In the five months that I spent in Brazil I understood a bit more about myself: you can live with 3 pairs of slippers and one pair of shoes for long time. This is probably banal, but not too much. Very often we do not imagine that we are able to take a break from ourselves.
I was living in this favela, the largest in South America, which since 2011 has been "pacified", like many others in Rio de Janeiro. A pacified favela means that almost every day there are shootouts between police and drug traffickers. Blood flowing along the becos (narrow streets of favelas), shots that set the pace of time.
The first time that I saw armed police wandering the streets, I immediately thought about the kids that are living there and I immersed myself in their eyes: every day I see policemen with guns pass in front of their home and live with the fear that a shooting could begin.
How many sad stories can these kids can tell us? Can you believe that despite this they are full of vitality and joy?
When I found Global Alliance Gratitude I understood that this job can give me the chance to use my time better and to combine my passion for communication and social change.
I believe in gratitude. One day I had a simple example of what is. It was evening, I was walking home when I met one of my students: an adult woman who is always cheerful and kind. She immediately invited me to dine with her, I agreed and so we improvised.
We spent a few quiet hours: eating, laughing, joking about the food that was in late, silences and smiles.
When I got back home after awhile I got a long message on Facebook. It was from her. She thanked me a thousand times, that the time with me had been something special.
She told me that something really bad had happened in her life in the days before and she felt dead inside.
The time she had spent with me made her feel better, even though I didn't know anything about her problems.
She was just grateful for that. I asked myself: what have I done that is so important?
Then I realized that it was the time, I just gave my time to a person.
Time we have can be a valuable tool.
By Carol Anderheggen
In this ending month of 2014 I have experienced small but sad endings of my own.
First, my dentist of 30 years retired; a fact which might not occasion any feeling on the part of most folks but I have a mouth full of stories, every tooth has its own special story written by this wonderful dentist. Of course, I wished him well once I recovered from the surprise but I missed his retirement party because I had not opened my mail for a week.
The greater surprise (bordering on shock) was the retirement of my breast cancer surgeon whom I have seen twice a year for over 25 years. He was the first doctor to perform lumpectomies in the state so I went to him on that basis, though I did opt for a mastectomy over the lumpectomy/radiation route. And I have never regretted that choice, not for even one second.
After my last appointment with him I was in tears. Loss of this nature, of someone I care for deeply, is treacherous water for me. “All the old losses reverberate, like bells run out of tune.” So I must be careful to process thoroughly the current pain without getting lost in the old pain.
And where do I end up after feeling such loss? In only the best place one could be—in a state of wondrous gratitude for the life of the person I have said goodbye to whether through death or retirement. The glass is always half full before it is half empty!
By Carol Anderheggen
Every June if the weather and sunshine have cooperated with the 65 year old heirloom peonies my grandmother planted my life is graced with these magnificent flowers. There are so many circling my grandmother's cottage, a cottage I now call home, that I am able to share bouquets around the neighborhood.
I was an orphan found in a Florida orphanage in 1948 by a Navy couple; they adopted me in 1949. Their blend of caring, discipline and military rigidity made for a very difficult ten years until I escaped from the frying pan into the fire of an early marriage.
The saving grace was the new grandmother who moved up from Florida into a cottage on the property, planted her peonies and loved me. These peonies remind me every year of the gratitude I feel toward her, toward the sanctuary of her cottage and even the grace of a young couple taking a chance on an orphan. I am always reminded of this poem by Raymond Carver titled Late Fragment :
And did you get what
you wanted from this life, even so?
And what did you want?
To call myself beloved, to feel myself
Beloved on the earth.
By Rachel Crowther
My friend has just been diagnosed with colon cancer. A ‘mass in my ass’ as she calls it or ‘Mima’ for short. She’s been through a raft of tests, scans, enemas, tattoos, and has just started treatment.
This is one of my best friends, who can talk for New Jersey, got the same things wrong as me in German class and made me feel better about my incompetence, taught me how to eat pizza properly, what Stromboli and Pierogi are (Czech ravioli, and yes, I did need to look the name up, again) and made me laugh so much on the tram, our continence was threatened, more than once.
Now she’s back home in the US and we chat with our group of friends via the power of an online messenger service. That’s how I know the latest about ‘Mima’ and get updates about her diagnosis and treatment. And my strong, funny, resourceful friend has taught me about the power of gratitude, even at the worst of times via her posts and liberal use of Emoticons.
Of course, I’m only human. I want to rage, shout at the universe for letting this happen and shake my fist skywards (limply, I’m not much of a fighter). But I’m also grateful. For our friendship, for the amazing medical staff who are treating this (and laughing at my friend’s jokes), that we live in the 21st century which means treatment is available, and for her humour, which is part of who she is, when things are going well, and during more challenging times. Who knew so many poo and butt jokes were available?
My current mantras? ‘They found Mima; now he can eff off’, and ‘I’m thankful, for friends, laughter and modern technology’.
This is my friend's story, not mine. I asked for the OK to post this and really appreciate her positive response...
As an eBay Inc. employee, co-founder and treasurer, Andy, recommended Global Gratitude Alliance for a Bay Area GIVE Team grant from the eBay Foundation. This essay helped us win the grant for our vocational training project with HIV+ orphans in Ethiopia.
By Andrew Hughes
In 2011, I was traveling in San Jose for meetings at eBay, getting ready for my sabbatical in Africa. However instead of driving to the airport to fly home, I drove myself to the hospital for an emergency appendectomy. Half a year and several infections later, I rescheduled my sabbatical, uneasy about traveling with a constant pain in my abdomen.
The first weeks of sabbatical were tough. I couldn’t enjoy myself, convinced that I had a life threatening gastroenterological disease, despite the doctors confirming that I was fine. And, then I arrived in Ethiopia. I was there to research projects to support through The Gracias Foundation, the nonprofit that I was about to launch (now called Global Gratitude Alliance). The kids we spent time with there are all HIV positive. Most are also orphans who have watched their mothers and fathers wither away in front of them. For the younger ones, you wouldn’t know about their stories just by looking at them. Like all kids, their laughter is music – they just want someone to share it with. For the older ones, the sadness in their eyes is deep. And, the uncertainty they have about the future is real.
We're thrilled to share the exciting news with our community - we've got a new name: Global Gratitude Alliance!
While our mission, approach, and projects remain the same, the new name is a clearer reflection of who we are and what we stand for: our commitment to global humanity, our practice of giving with gratitude, and our vibrant community of everyday activists like you who share our vision for a peaceful and thriving world.
And, this is just the beginning.
Throughout this year and next, we'll be launching some innovative programs and partnerships serving women and children - both globally and locally in the Bay Area. So stay tuned for more news to come!
We thank you from the bottom of our hearts. We are truly inspired by your enthusiasm, love, and support throughout this incredible journey.
With gratitude and joy,
Global Gratitude Alliance
formerly, The Gracias Foundation
PS: The name change doesn't impact any donations - we've still earmarked your gifts for the projects you're supporting! We're also transitioning social media to the new name - bear with us if you still see The Gracias Foundation in the meantime...
(Reposted from The Gracias Foundation, now called Global Gratitude Alliance)
This January, we're turning two! We are thrilled by how much we've achieved together, and YOU are at the center of it all. So, a huge Thank You (Gracias) to everyone! We hope you'll enjoy our birthday video!
By Rachel Crowther (Reposted from The Gracias Foundation, now called Global Gratitude Alliance)
A couple of weeks ago, Amy and I were chatting with a friend over beers after Pilates class. It was a perfect afternoon, exercise, sun and a favoured type of light refreshment! We were having a conversation about The Gracias Foundation, and Amy summed up our philosophy as follows; “It’s about giving from a place of gratitude, not because you feel guilty."
It works something like this: