Do Super Hero Humanitarians Get Glory? Sorry, The Magic Cape Does Not Offer Glory

“A dream doesn’t become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination and hard work.” (Colin Powell)

As of now, we will have reached  a total of 85 drip irrigated gardens this term. 850 people now have access to vegetables all year round, with little water consumption. I’m very pleased with the progress this term. This represents a lot of  sweat and tears. I think next term we will hit our first one hundred gardens easily. I already did site inspections and we have seventeen (17) gardens booked for next fall right now.  The last seven drip irrigated gardens for this term will be set up this weekend. Then it is followup on these 85 families until we leave.  No matter how you dice it up, that is a lot of work, and a lot of fun too. 🙂 I’m more aware of my physical limits now, I can tell you that. Mali has proven that I’m not as tough as I once thought I was.

“The single greatest lesson the garden teaches is that our relationship to the planet need not be zero-sum, and that as long as the sun still shines and people still can plan and plant, think and do, we can, if we bother to try, find ways to provide for ourselves without diminishing the world. ” (Michael Pollan, The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals)

I have site inspections tomorrow too,  and will get to see thousands and thousands of  healthy vegetables growing. However, most will be harvested after I am gone. Unfortunately, I am rarely here for the harvests. No matter; it’s their success story, not mine. My presence would only detract from their accomplishment, credit they should receive from their community.

“Without hard work, nothing grows but weeds.” (Gordon B. Hinckley)

But in Mali’s dry season, not even weeds can grow without the hard work of watering, rendered easy by drip irrigation.

Perseverance is the hard work you do after you get tired of doing the hard work you already did. (Newt Gingrich)

Right now I need  to stick to it. I love the agency I work for- they keep it simple, and flexible. It is not a big agency, and it is run by a volunteer board.  Every term is a challenge to meet budget, even though our budget is very economical.

Let me tell you the story of the very first year;  here’s how it all began.

In 2010, my Agency was struggling to raise funds for a project that had not yet begun in Mali. But how can you begin until you have some funding in place, and how can you raise the require funding when nothing is started yet, right? The daily juggling story of most non-profits.

The launch date was to be January 2011. However, in the fall of 2010 I was sitting at a meeting table (which I try to avoid doing, whenever possible) with the board of directors. They didn’t have enough funds to begin. The board asked me how long I needed to do the set up for them. I said I need three months, from January – March 2011, and things will be be ready to go in the fall launch, no problem after that.

They looked at me and said “It is not going to happen; what is the minimum time you can cram the setup process into?

I said,” If I can’t go for a 1.5 months (6 weeks) I may as well stay home; that is the bare bones of what I needed to pull off a launch of a new pioneer work project for you.  We are starting from ground zero here.”  However, it turns out the agency did not even have the funds to pull that six weeks off.

So I offered to go anyway, knowing that once things are actually happening, funds for the good work tend to start coming in.

So Man Of Peace Development booked us round-trip ticket for a three months stay, promised us for sure the 6 weeks minimum in country I needed. They told me that we will have more time only if financially possible, but that we would probably have to change our tickets to return at the six weeks mark.

My wife and I agreed to give it our best shot. We boarded the plane on January 3rd, 2011, with $900 cdn cash (in Euros) in pocket, MOPD’s account at ZERO…. No money for salary, nothing. I had every penny they had in my pocket in that $900. I had to make contacts, connections, identity our work zone, get permission from the leaders in these regions to come, and present options of where we could house our project. I got on the plane on Monday, with no paycheck for Friday, or any weeks after that.

“The reason a lot of people do not recognize opportunity is because it usually goes around wearing overalls looking like hard work.” (Thomas A. Edison)

We left, and got to work. Three weeks in my wife’s mother unexpectedly passed away and she had to fly home. I finished out the term myself. People started hearing stories about our pioneer project, and somehow a very small wage was paid to me, plus I made it the full three months, and came home to the news that the project now had almost  $15,000 toward the work in the fall.

We had to step out with MOPD, and they did it. How, I don’t know. But they have one kick ass project, is all I can say. Simple, economical, easily repeated, meeting the poor right where life intersects for them, and the organization is lean.

“If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.” (Marcus Tullius Cicero)  ……………….. “It is forbidden to live in a town, which has no garden.” (Jerusalem Talmud, Kedoshim 4:12)

Each year they send us here with maybe 40% of their budget in place. MOPD does not have a big marketing machine. FaceBook Page, Twitter, and a Website that has yet to go online after three years. Yet each year, word gets around enough, people get excited about helping Malian families in a way that does not create dependency. People appreciate  simple, clear, tangible solutions and results. The end result is that the other 60% of the budget comes in while we are on field working for them, and we are able to see the project to its competition each term; barely… but we always make it.

If you follow Man Of Peace Development, you will also notice that MOPD rarely asks for donations. They have chosen to tell the Malians’ stories instead, and let people decide to partner or not. I know when I speak publicly for MOPD, I have never once asked for funding in a public speaking address for MOPD. Why does it need to be stated? Of course we need funding to do this work. I simply tell the story. I appreciate that MOPD chooses to simply tell the Malians’ stories.

But sometimes they just have to let us know where they are at, so people can respond.

This year has been a little more difficult. Right now, we are not sure where we stand.

“If I told you I’ve worked hard to get where I’m at, I’d be lying, because I have no idea where I am right now.” (Jarod Kintz, This Book is Not for Sale)

 I received a call from MOPD’s finance people, and we had a long chat last week. Things are lean this year. The good news is that we have enough funding for all the work projects, and to secure things up until the fall term. The growing work is covered. Phew!

The complicated news is that my wife and I will not be receiving our two week salary the end of January, nor any in February, unless something changes.

 “I’m a greater believer in luck, and I find the harder I work the more I have of it” (Thomas Jefferson)

We’ve done the hard work, and we need some luck now.

This being my personal website, I can tell you what we are doing, I can’t comment on what the Agency might be doing. All I can say is that my wife and I have been online crunching our own personal financial numbers over the last week, to assure things are taken care of back home until we get there.  We have a month and a half of possibly no income. It’s going to be tight.  “You can sacrifice and not love. But you cannot love and not sacrifice.” (Kris Vallotton). How true statement is. If this was about money, I’d be on the airplane right now.

We are in a marketing world, but I am not a marketing person. I like to be invisible. I do not want to speak in crowds anymore. I want to be with small numbers of people, and be left to do my work the best I can under the watchful eye of no one.  I am at the age in my life where I don’t need people’s approval. I don’t need to be anyone’s superhero. But why is it we need superheroes to bring attention to good things?

Is it ever going to be possible for me to come, work hard in Mali, and do my job, without having to be a shiny person, the fundraiser, the promoter, a meeting person, a public speaking person, a leader? Probably not…. and it is causing me to rethink some things. No sense crying….I still have to decide what to do.

“There is always something to lose. But maybe more to gain.” (John Christopher, Beyond the Burning Lands)

“Crying is all right in its way while it lasts. But you have to stop sooner or later, and then you still have to decide what to do.” (C.S. Lewis, The Silver Chair)

“I think our greatest fear as humanitarians is to be forgotten.” (Andy Rayner)

(Comment to a group of Canadians after asking Andy what he fears the most in Africa. What I fear most is to be forgotten back home…. does anyone care about what we do? We don’t want your praise, nor need a pat on the back, but we don’t want to be forgotten.)

One Comment Add yours

  1. Crystal says:

    How could anyone forget you Invisible Humanitarian??


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