When I travelled with a four-year-old a few years ago, the my friend's daughter, she was saying all these wonderfully wise and prosaic sounding things. The most amazing one she said was this seeming realization: "God...and God in me! Same!"
Her natural sense was right-- the deepest spiritual level I have gotten to seems to be that God is in everything, and also in us. In the past, when people have helped me, and been incredibly generous because they recognised our family needed help, it was the God in them, recognising that and being inspired to help. Just now, I spoke for some people living in Cambodia that needed help, and my spirit guided me about who to ask, and when. (My friend Helen is travelling there now, and ran into many people living in poverty, some of whom she has been able to help.) It's the God in me I was listening to.
Above: Grateful people in a small village in rural Cambodia, after receiving mosquito nets they couldn't afford, to prevent malaria, and also some food aid.
If you want to know exactly what I'm talking about, my friend Helen, a girl who had been involved in sacrificing a large amount of her personal time for years handling the funding for the Kaipatiki Project (a conservation and education community group), took a break from her unhealthy life working behind a computer all the time(she also worked as a medical transcriptionist listening to recordings of doctors giving medical diagnoses, from overseas, and typing what they said!) and went travelling.
After seeing some amazing countries, such as Turkey, she went to Thailand so she could stay away longer. Of course the countries where her money would last longer had more poverty, and before long she was caught up in helping orphans, and in microloan projects. When she visited Cambodia she saw great poverty in the rural areas, where the children have to work very hard scrounging in the rice paddies for food, and malaria orphans children. Mosquito nets only cost a few dollars, but it's more than many families can afford.
With money from her family, and mine, she was able to buy a village 47 mosquito nets. However, I was really touched by the situation, and I told my family in Canada about it, and my sister Sabynthe raised money, and my sister Wendy contributed, resulting in about $500 NZ to contribute to the poor villages there, carried out by Helen in person. Her partner raised some money through his connections and family, and I also felt inspired to ask the Kohanga Reo Whanau we are a part of through my kids. So that's another jar!
I am so excited for Helen getting involved in microloan projects (a sustainable solution to the poverty there), and proud of my sister Sabynthe's good-hearted fundraising from her friends. It seems that for fundraising --like teaching of good eco-habits-- it's better to do it close to home.
She currently on her way to deliver a van full of ceramic water filters and mosquito nets to the Krosang Village in the Kampot Province, which will allow them to stay healthy while they fight forward with their lives. But the microloan project, allowing them to buy small parcels of land or weaving looms and so on, is the really long-term solution which will help them continue to provide for themselves in the future.
From Helen Morton's photo album:
"Children at Narith's orphanage - transformed in the new outfits we gave them..."
"Fresh fruit for the orphanage kids - all come from very poor families."
Click here to see more amazing photos on Cambodian life from Helen's journey.
Something else that my intuitive self tells me is that it's better to help to balance the parts of the world which are the most unbalanced first. That is, it's a better use of money to help areas out of the cycle of poverty, and help them to find strength, instead of filtering money to projects within wealthy countries. As tough and cold as that seems, I just view all of us rich people here, some of whom are ill, and those expensive projects we have to save every last man, vs. the countries where just a little bit of our money would go so far.
The biggest problem, in fact, the only real problem that it faces today is that it is unbalanced. Restore the balance, and we don't have any "problems". The salmon will again swim upstream, die, and their deaths enrich the soil of the forest where they die. We will always die, but because of that other life is possible. There is no further "ahead" that we can get than that.
Update from 2011: This is when I first learned about microloans - it was the best thing to come out of this. Helen used the money we raised to buy some emergency food, water filters - longer lasting help - and someone came with them to teach them why it was needed, but most importantly, loaned money through a local village authority to people needing money to start small businesses. One group used their microloan to build a chicken coop, which would then support them with the sale of eggs. After the money is paid back, it can be loaned out again and again to people in the village, managed by local people themselves. How great is that? Clever Helen. Microloans -the best way to go.
Here is a little e-book I made about Helen's experience - as I was really able to "listen" to Helen's experience in Cambodia - to imagine anyways, what it might be like.