Hi Guys,

I thought I’d briefly deliberate  on this summer, as there has been no update since spring quarter…Per our last couple of posts, we are all in different places. I believe and trust Amy is thriving in Papua New Guinea.  I’m slowly trying to come to a good stopping point for my summer research.

Because my campus summer housing contract ended last week, my best buddy Connor let me stay at his house. We’ve been getting a decent amount of work done (documenting summer research projects as well as looking at grad school applications) but most of our days are filled with ravenous eating and extensive napping…what can be more pleasant to the soul than these two pleasures of life, namely, eating and sleeping!

As for the rest of  my summer, I spent it on campus doing summer research with my department chair. I was a bit concerned about working with this most respected figure in the Energy Resources Engineering field, but the guy actually turned out to be mad cool…My topic of interest was the optimal integration of renewable and fossil fuel-based energy resources, with a focus on powering a carbon capture process in a South African-based coal plant using direct solar heating.  My motivation for this was to find a way to combine my two passions of energy studies as well as bringing sustainable development to the continent. We didn’t discover anything too exciting but I have come to a more hands-on understanding of two crucial elements in today modern world, namely, the optimization of processes and making decision under uncertainty.

This technical gibberish aside, I got a chance to spend a week in Winnipeg, Canada for my sister’s wedding. The event was phenomenal and I was most delighted to see my whole family at one place, something that rarely happens these days. I was most pleased to see my nieces and nephews run around but was much more so awed at their very stellar intelligence at such tender ages…as they say, kids these days are something else!

Looking forward, in two weeks time, I leave for a semester at the Middle East Technical University in Ankara, Turkey. I’m very excited to get back on the road…I’ll do my best to blog as much as possible while on the road, so stay turned.

All the best!

RK

It has been….months….

But we are having a resurgence.

To be clear, we did not give up on the dream.  Stanford is a very demanding place and we each got caught up in our lives.  For me, this is my work at the Women’s Center and Junior year madness (20 units a quarter baby) plus trying to figure out honors thesis? or no honors thesis?

I think we are all trying to reorient ourselves and figure out how exactly this is going to work.  A couple things from long ago…so we did not get the grant to go to Zambia…and currently are rethinking the orphanage model and brainstorming other interventions.  Research and meetings with experts have made us question whether orphanages are a sustainable strategy.  However, whose to say we can’t make it sustainable?  At least for now it’s too difficult to tell what the right answer is.  I think so much of that depends on assessing the needs of the community while living there and interacting with community leaders and members.

I can only tell you where I personally stand right now.  I think my biggest challenge with this project is my own doubts about my ability to live, work, and survive in a foreign country.  But like I said…I still have the ultimate goal in mind…I just need to take baby steps to get to that place.  Therefore, I am spending a large part of the next year abroad.

In a few weeks, I will be traveling to Karkar Island, Papua New Guinea.  I am working for Panango, a non profit that teaches English on the Island.  I will also be conducting research on a theatre for development project that I plan to facilitate.  (If you are interested, please see my attached research proposal/paper for a class- warning long.)

Traveling and living in PNG is significant for me because:

Firstly: I am challenging myself to take care of myself in a foreign place.  This is a giant fear and source of anxiety.  I am sure that while I am there I will get sick.  I will get bitten.  I will perhaps encounter a snake, god forbid a shark, and perhaps some falling coconuts.  BUT: I will not die.  I plan to survive this trip.  If only that.

Secondly: I am very interested in exploring a theatre for empowerment/development model. (For fun reading check out Augusto Boal’s Theatre of the Oppressed) I would like to see if this is something that may be applicable to our future project.  I have pushed to turn our project into a community children’s theatre for street kids for some time now.  However, I would like to see and run this to really observe effects and gather future questions about it’s utility.

Thirdly: I would like the experience of living in a community with completely different value systems and learning to operate within that system.  I would like the experience of living away from home without being easily able to reach my mother (who I miss most dearly all the time).

I will not be able to blog while I am there but unfortunately as I will not have internet.  Raj and Robert should keep this going though.  I am also going to be studying abroad in Berlin and Cape Town this year.  Again, these experiences are for personal growth.  I expect to come back a stronger woman.  Fierce and unstoppable.

So…this is just a note saying…we haven’t written in awhile.  But we are here.  Sure, we’ve diverged from our paths.  We all have other plans floating around in our lives at the same time.  But this lingers.  Dreams of Shanti is still strong in my mind and in my heart.  I am working towards bring this dream to fruition.  I am just unsure that at this point in my personal development I am capable of creating a sustainable project that works well.  I do not want to accidentally do harm to the community because I am not personally at the stage I need to be to lead the project.  This is the time in my life to develop all the skills I need so that I will one day be able to break open the world.

In conclusion:

First step: Survive and gain confidence.

I will let you know how that goes.  Stay tuned. We’re backkkk 🙂

Dumela batu (“hello people” in Twsana-Botswana)…

It has been a while since engaging with Dreams of Shanti (DOS). It feels like yesterday in time we were spending countless sleepless nights working on realizing our ideas…to say that time was warped is relating these epic days poorly…similarly, junior year has come and gone in a heart beat. On a personal note, I recently had a nephew, whose now a two year old superman, and nephew number 2 is on the way. I’m not old in human years, but enlightenment through rigorous academic/engineering-based research and family significance made evident by the forthcoming of my nephews and marriage of all my sisters combined with my many lifetimes in Africa…all render me truly an old man in more ways than one.  This said, I seek and relentlessly work to be forever young, within and without.

Upon seeing that nephew number 1 was almost my height,  so to speak,  at age 2 (i’m 6’1),  I decided I needed to do something physically significant and reasurring of my young manhood.  One madness or the other drove me to sign up for the US Half Marathon which, despite having trained for in less than a week, I ran in less than 2 hours, thanks to the beast many know as Connor who accompanied me to show support but instead ran every step of the 13.2 miles….to call this guy a trooper is an insult to his integrity as a friend and a one man zulu impi…

The race was one of many hectic things happening this quarter, including having to prepare for the GRE and taking up and having to drop crazy classes. However, as the days pushed on, although a veteran of real war, life chose to throw some heavy punches my way when least I them expected. With the race in mind as a map to make it, I in turn gave life a war. It is thus that I came up with the truth that when a man has a long way to go, he must run slowly and steadily. To conquer the marathon, this goes without saying…it’s often so in life, but not as easily self evident.

It is this simple realization that drove me to pursue my very best interests, in a time that all else is demanding me to slow down, I have agreed to slow down while at the same time proceeding with more resolution and inconceivable speed…I will spend next year away from The Farm and making the world my playing field by studying in Tukey and Germany.

Slowing down I have, but as far as I can see, the race is mine…and as far as time is concerned, I have surely lost some battle but on the same note, the war is mine…

Other DOS people will be bending the world to their will so look forward to great blogs and stories from us all…streaming live from – can you say – all over the world!!

I am going to do extreme cliff-notes to catch you up on everything we have been up to!

Business Plan/ General Concept:

  • We are moving away from the idea of creating an orphanage and instead looking at creating a program that can operate in both orphanages and drop-in centers.  Our program would be using project based learning to teach entrepreneurship and group cooperation/general life skills.
  • Though our three pillars still exist and entrepreneurship, community service, and education are very important values, we are restructuring the business plan to stress project-based learning as the means in which we hope to achieve these goals. (why? the simpler the concept the easier it is to explain).  With this said, the about section of our blog stands to be updated. Coming soon…

Zambia Winter Trip:

  • We have submitted both grants and are hoping for the best.  We got two good recommendation letters from Anne and Cheryl and I think our concept of studying belongingness in orphanages as it relates to academic success will be well received.
  • We have crazy contacts in Zambia currently.  By hustlin’ we were able to get in touch with the Center for Disease Control Lusaka in Zambia who in turn put us in touch with KidSafe, an umbrella organization that works with multiple NGOs in the Lusaka area.
  • We are currently trying to get in touch with the Firelight Foundation, an NGO based in Santa Cruz that is a strong presence in Zambia.  We hope to hear back from them soon.  They provide an interesting perspective on community-based intervention methods and are a very reputable organization.
  • We have emailed the founder of Street Kids International who by chance is a Stanford Alum of our Law School and was present homecoming weekend.  They also operate in Zambia through the Red Cross.  We hope to hear back from him soon.
  • Mututwa, who hopefully Robert has spoke of in an earlier post (if not, Robert please explain!), is our ground soldier (a Zambia native), making visits to all of the various Zambia organizations for us and helping us plan our itinerary.

In other news:

  • I am planning to visit some project based learning schools in the Mission soon.
  • Check this organization out: http://www.build.org/
  • Mona, my friend and a graduate of the school of education is working on developing technology interventions (for stress reduction) for navajo children with parents addicted to drugs and for children in the gaza strip.  She is very interested in my project based learning idea and I see collaboration happening in the future.
  • I’m speaking at the Student Entrepreneurship Expo Thursday, November 19th, (7:00 pm – 9:30 pm) if you’re interested in hearing more.

Sorry for these teasers.  I hope you don’t feel cheated.  A lot has gone on and I (along with Robert and Raj) will work on providing more comprehensive descriptions of all that has happened soon!

Until then!

Moni (hello in Nyanja)…

We’ve made contacts in Lusaka and are waiting to make arrangements on partner orphanages.  Our immediate focus has been working on respective part of grants. I have been able to make great progress as far as  coming up with questions to be used in our proposed study of the kid’s belongingness, thanks to Tariq and Gylan…two very insightfully balling individuals.

I’ve also started to feel the sting of problems sets, even been owned by some, but no worries,  beasting is how I role!!

Best,

Robert

Hello.  It’s been awhile.  This is going to be a short post but I thought it appropriate to update on what we are up to.  Things have been moving a bit slowly since school begin due to several factors.  One: It takes about two weeks I would say, to remember how to balance school and extra-curriculars 🙂 / Two: Raj was attacked by the infamous swine flu…I also am currently sick, though luckily I think I just have the common cold (still irritating).

But we definitely have been moving- steadily even if at snail pace…

We are working on getting these applications together.  Right now, with help from FORGE’s budget and using our own research, we figure it will cost approximately 3,500/person to be in Zambia for three weeks.  There are four of us, so you do the math on that—quite a sum we have to gather.  Doable, just need to hustle.

Anyway, we have come up with an outline for what both the UAR and Ron Brown scholarship grants will say.  While the UAR grant requires that our project be some research of academic significance, the Ron Brown community service grant wants our project to have immediate, actionable, benefit to the community – though it stipulates that our project can be research based.

The research we formulated (after lots of brainstorming) covers both of these grounds.  We would like to do a study on “belongingness” <–(quick reference wikipedia link) within the orphanages that already exist in Lusaka.  Feeling safe and valuable in one’s community as a child is the first step to growing into a healthy and contributing adult.  We would like to compare results from different orphanages (we’ll probably look at between 4-8) and see if orphanages where children have a high sense of “belongingness” have particular programs or operate in a certain way or have a dynamic staff.  General Question: what contributes to this high feeling of belongingness?

This has significance as academic research as it adds to the literature and focuses on a particular population and arguably can have direct impact on the community as well (as we will be sharing our findings with the orphanages studied, hoping that they might improve their operations).   Also, this ties directly with into our philosophy and mission: Citizenship– what is that if not “belongingness”.  We have our own ideas of practices to integrate street children into their communities but let’s also look at what already exists and is working.  Can we do this with an intensive three week study?  It’s possible, I think.  Studies have been done measuring belongingness before, so scales must exist.  But we will have to meet with an advisor who is more familiar with these things to develop the methodology.

Now, we have about a month to get this together if we want to apply for the UAR November grant: soooo we are definitely not sleeping :/ …our next immediate step: meet tomorrow as a group to split work on grants. Email all possible advisors: namely Ira, Cheryl, and Anne and see who will mentor us and write our letter of recommendation.

My biggest concern with this is whether or not it is feasible to have this together by December.  It’s not very far away and with the Stanford UAR grant at least, I think there has to be some turn-over time.  There’s all these extra requirements such as the Human Subject Protocol which we need since our research will be very interview-based…But, like I said, we will hustle and work for the best.

Final update: Robert and I are taking UrbStud 133 again: Social Entreprenuership Collaboratory and so, working on this project will be part of our homework.  Therefore, expect more frequent updates- starting soon.  We are taking this opportunity to develop the education pillar of our model (since that is what we both decided to do long long ago) with Robert focusing on technology and me on project-based education/school as social development.  Verrrrrrryyyy excited about all this!  We also have Christina, another student in the class, working on this project with us.  She has worked in Kenya before developing school curriculum/programs and is very thrilled to contribute to our group.  I expect she will subscribe to the blog soon so you might hear more from her later…

anyway, I must leave you now and get the rest of my life together as this blog entry is already much longer than I intended.  Good night all!

❤ amy

Hello hello again!  Well, summer is officially at an end with today being the second day of classes.  Raj, Robert, and I have spent the last couple of days readjusting- as can be expected.  I have had quite a task unpacking my room but am now comfortably settled in.

As far as Dreams is going: we will be reconvening tonight to discuss next steps.  Our most immediate next step is sitting down and writing this application for the UAR grant so that we might get funding to make it to Zambia.  We are also looking at ways we can individually contribute to the funding such as having people donate airline miles so that we might offset flight ticket prices and/or the regular get-rich-quick schemes.  I am very confident that we will write a compelling application that will be enthusiastically received by the UAR.

Other updates: Raj and I met with Laura Scher, our Social E teacher in her office at the Federal Reserve in SF a couple days ago.  This was a very useful meeting of course and we walked away with a lot of sound advice.  Here are just a few of the suggestions and recommendations we found useful.

  • How will we structure our research time while in Zambia?  What are our big goals that we hope to meet?  Will 25% of our time be spent trying to understand the orphanages already in existence?  25% spent meeting with US-based NGOs? 25% spent among street kids?
  • What in our model is missing and how will spending time in Zambia help us to fill in these gaps.  Perhaps we might end up with a 4th pillar, for example.
  • How to talk to people we want to take a leadership role in developing pillars of our model?  (Each person should be bucketed into fulfilling a specific role within one pillar) How to get them invested..
  • What are our core values? – what is different from the rest–explicate.  What are we not willing to compromise on…what would cause us to walk away from the project?  What is our particular value add?  If this orphanage does end up costing more money, can we justify additional expenditures?
  • Can we engage the University of Zambia in any way?
  • What personal monetary contribution will we put towards going to Zambia?
  • How should we structure our pitch?  What is our “story?”

All of the questions listed here are things we will be exploring and probably our answers will change as we go…Anywho, I have class now so more later!