UPDATED: Link to donate – click here.
I don’t normally make resolutions for the new year. I usually just make adjustments and changes to my lifestyle on an ongoing basis. Knowing what needs to be done and doing it. But something significant happened on Monday. I opened my mouth and some words came out. I don’t know where they came from, but I was somehow perfectly comfortable with it. After sitting with it for 24 hours I came to think of it as my New Year’s Resolution. As of today, I have a new role, new title, new responsibilities. The story begins here.
Remember I wrote a blog post in March of 2018 about 3 remarkable and inspiring people I’d met during the first 4 months of our year-long journey? You can read it here. For me, meeting those 3 people was the highlight of our trip. Yes, I had a great time travelling to 11 different countries. We met a lot of great people that we’re still friends with. But meeting those 3 remarkable and inspiring people forced me to do some soul searching, digging deeper into what I’ve done with my life and how I’ve spent my 60 years on this planet. The self-study was humbling. As successful, healthy, generous and happy as I am, I am not even close to the level of selflessness these 3 individuals emanate.
One of them really caught my attention. Mr. Hartanto Gunawan is the meditation teacher at Wat Arun in Bangkok, Thailand. He’s former CEO, a former Buddhist monk, who now serves as the head of the Community Learning Center there. The center’s mission is helping orphans, poor and needy children/youth and preventing them from abuse and human trafficking through quality education. Talk about inspiring! Anyway, I met with him twice in March 2018 mostly to learn his approach to meditation, which is quite different from all my previous training. I’ve shared what I learned from him, and from myself, with a few people over the past year. I’d be happy to share it with you. Just ask me.
I also admired the work Mr Gunawan was doing at the temple’s Community Learning Center: Intercepting young girls on their way to human trafficking, then feeding, housing and educating them, guaranteeing them a job as an LNA (licensed nursing assistant) after 1 year. The program is amazing. He also integrates meditation into the girl’s curriculum. I felt compelled to share this info, thus my blog post back in March 2018.
When we returned to New Hampshire in Autumn 2018 we gave a few short presentations at the studio about our travels and about Mr. Gunawan and the other remarkable people we met. We were able to raise a couple hundred bucks from donations. Laurie and I matched those contributions, split up the money into 3 piles, and we made donations to Ganga Prem Hospice and Swami Narayan Gurukul.
When we tried to donate money to the Community Learning Center in Bangkok, Thailand it got complicated, Thai banks, fees, etc. I joked that I would have to deliver the money in person 🙂
Let’s fast forward to Summer 2019. Laurie and I are at home considering taking the Winter away, snow-birding somewhere warmer, probably Asia since it’s so affordable and warm. Bali comes to mind so we start the process there. India comes to mind as we have a 10 year visa and we can come and go with no hassles. Getting to Bali from India you have to stop somewhere first. Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Bangkok, etc. Aha, Bangkok. I again joked we could deliver the donation in person. Plus I really liked Thailand on our first visit so I was keen to return, even for a brief stop-over.
Last Friday at 3:30 AM we arrived in Bangkok, settled into our AirBnB, and emailed Mr Gunawan to set up a visit. We arrived at Wat Arun on Monday at 1:30 PM. He greeted us, led us into the meditation room where we started to chat. We talked about our previous visit, and in the conversation he says something like “yes, yes, the article you wrote, we have it right here, thank you so much.” So now I’m thrown off a bit because I don’t write articles and I figure he’s confusing me with someone else. But then he guides us over to the wall of the meditation room, and right there, blown up into a 24 x 36 inch laminated poster, is my blog post from March 2018. I was speechless. He was serious.
We sat and I updated him on my meditation practice and progress. Then he gave us a long, detailed analysis of the 5 aggregates. When the meditation lesson was finished I turned the topic to the school and the girls. He informed me that they had 2 donors, or family foundations in the US, that had been funding the Community Learning Center for years. One of the families had grown old and passed away this past year, so there’s only one source of funding these days. I asked for details: number of girls, capacity of the school, annual cost per girl for the LNA program, operating costs, etc. Each year they need $60,000 to put 15 girls through the LNA program. The program could easily accommodate another 15 girls. Every year there are 100 serious applications for the program. Right now 15 get accepted. I told him I would get to work on raising the $60,000 annual funding. Um, what did I just say? You heard it. I offered to help.
I told him I thought the first step would be getting a basic website set up with a Paypal account for the center with a link for donations coming from the US. He told me a German fellow recently visited his meditation center and had just set up a website and a Paypal account. Yes, you can donate right now, right from your couch. So this is moving faster than I imagined. All I have to do is help find $60,000 a year, or $120,000 a year if we want to educate 30 at risk girls into LNAs every year.
It seems like a lot of money. I can certainly make another donation. You probably could too – right from your sofa. Today Laurie and I are going to personally put up $1000 and use it to match your donations, no matter how small. Let me know when your donation is made and I’ll match it, until our $1000 runs out. Remember, It’s the intention, not the amount – I learned that from Mr. Gunawan)
So that leaves us $58,000 short for 2020. Here’s where I also need your help. Can you connect me with people that have experience with this kind of thing? Can you point me in the right direction? Do have any ideas? Talk to me. I’m all ears. And if you’re ever up for travelling to see this place or the other 2 places I wrote about, let me know, I’ll be your guide. It will open your eyes, break your heart, and inspire you – all at the same time. I’m really passionate about it and I’m really comfortable making my way around Thailand and India. It will be the adventure of a lifetime. It has been for me. Multiple times.
Thanks for listening 🙂
Liaison (unofficial) for U.S. donations to the Community Learning Center, Wat Arun, Temple of Dawn, Bangkok, Thailand.