Archive for the ‘ Inspiration ’ Category

Rare Footage: “Village of Hope: La Carpio” by Dana Freedman

Beta tester. First in line. Tick-tick-tick-technology…

SEO. SSO. Tagging. Sharing. Liking. Bragging.

Pre-ordering the pre-order. Flaunting exclusive invitations. App updates. Touch screen. Voice activate.

Faster. Smaller. Slimmer. Gotta have it first. Better than last month’s version.

Well you have come to the right place, because here is some footage you will not see any where else. Rare, raw, emotional, and real, the story of how La Carpio. Please take the time to watch and hear these stories, and share if you please.

Village of Hope: La Carpio from Dana Freedman on Vimeo.

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The Fear of Losing the Feeling

Kindergarten Boys in La Carpio

Kindergarten Boys in La Carpio pose for a quick photo before heading back to class.

My mind is flooded with thoughts. Completely inspired by this trip, we all thirst to do more. We handle it in different ways.

It’s been a few days and I still find myself bursting out in to tears at inopportune moments. At a busy toy store in Miami, I began to have a full-blown panic attack seeing all of the children pulling and pushing at their parents. Crying and wailing, they begged for plastic barrettes, Hello Kitty wallets, and the like. I kneeled down to inspect a set of hairpins that caught my eye. My curiosity quickly turned to introspection. My thoughts flew at warp speed. Visions of the little girls in La Carpio mobbing me as I ran out the locked gate to the school quickly flashed before my eyes. They weren’t mobbing me for the box of stickers and toys I was handing out. They weren’t squealing at me in Spanish with tears in their eyes. They were smiling and lining up to simply give me a hug and a kiss.

“Te Amo!!!!”, each of them belted at me before they stepped aside to let the next little one have their chance. Once I realized that all they wanted was a chance to show love and gratitude, I hugged one little girl longer. I will never forget what she looked like despite the throngs of children we met and she will never know how much she changed me.

It was on that last day in La Carpio when I realized something. I did not see these children nor any of the citizens of La Carpio as poor. When I use that word, I mean it in the sense of impoverished or with lack of money. I saw them as rich, even lucky, to be so full of love despite living lives which most Americans would find unacceptable.

Now I am not trying to paint a pretty picture of what is still (essentially) a slum rife with problems. However, the citizens of La Carpio have heart. They work hard. They do not give up even under the most dire of circumstances, and they show respect and gratitude in ways I have never experienced before.

They watch each other’s backs. On many occasions I witnessed older boys take the younger ones under their wings, blood brothers or not, to make sure that the little ones did not get lost in the shuffle. The older boys helped the younger get shoes, toys, and even pose for photos. It was amazing to see. They lean on each other. They know that despite volunteer groups coming in to help them build and grow, that all they have is each other. And Gail Nystrom, of course. She is the humble, brazen unspoken hero of La Carpio. She is another blog post or ten entirely and I will be telling you more about this amazing woman soon.

Like I said, so many things to process and share with the world…

Flash back to Miami. I lost my breath at the toy store and began to feel the tears well up. I shoved my way out of the store and through the thickening crowd in a panicked haze. I grabbed Trenton and told him that we had to leave. Now.

What causes these overwhelming moments? It’s not my first time witnessing poverty. I lived it at one point. It’s the fear of losing that feeling. It’s the fear of forgetting of how those hugs made you feel, of not being able to fully explain it to your friends when you get home, or of losing the motivation to give as you must return to your day-to-day.

It’s the fear of forgetting how much you want to help. For that week in Costa Rica, a bus full of strangers stood still in their lives. Together they made something big happen, and in return they brought home bigger things in their hearts than they could have ever imagined.

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To donate to the Costa Rica Humanitarian Foundation, please click here. A permanent link is now at the top of the blog.

7 Days Left, 10,000+ Stickers, 8 Barbies, and Countless Crayolas

Hello Kitty Sticker Nail Art!

Lots of tiny supplies for mini manicures.

Well the day has almost come and I never expected I would be gluing chunky plastic espadrilles to the bottoms of a Barbie doll’s feet in a frenzy. Thanks to all of the donations, support, and material contributions, I will be toting lots of goodies to La Carpio. Now one of my only worries is actually being able to fit everything. I’d love to give a few very special shouts of gratitude to those who went above and beyond, or gave in a special way (not like you all didn’t).

First and foremost, there are simply no words to express how indebted I feel to all who helped keep me on my feet and stay motivated over the past couple of months. The Lyme has taken a huge toll on my body and being. Without such an amazing supportive network of friends and family, new and old, I probably would have given up the hope to even travel to Costa Rica a long time ago. Thank you to my doctors for putting up with my demands for blood tests and a diagnosis, and for writing letters to the embassy in order to ensure my vitamins would cross the borders with me (fingers still crossed on that one). Thank you to all of my friends for understanding that during this debilitating period of my life, I have not been able to readily commit to plans. Each has been so accommodating by setting aside time for me knowing that I may either be late for lunch or not be able to make it to the movie after all. The little things you have all done, from sending texts to bringing tea, have been sunny reminders of the ridiculously selfless, caring friends I am lucky enough to have in my life.

One of the most difficult parts of this disease had been the day-to-day of not knowing how I will feel when (and if) I wake up. The very busy stylist Alexis Robinson of Vain Salon knew something was up when I was a no-show for an appointment the other evening and promptly had a receptionist call to check on me and squeeze me in the next day. The staff of Vain have been wonderful. Many have made personal donations and have certainly been cheerleaders for this trip in many ways.

I cannot express how grateful I am to my co-workers at League Lab and Underdog Sports Leagues who have quickly become family. Not only have they made generous donations and allowed me to shift my schedule in order to accommodate this trip, but they have allowed me the flexibility to work as my illness will allow as opposed to forcing my body to push itself, in essence making myself much sicker. They have been supportive, concerned, and easy to communicate with about how I am feeling. Without the support they have shown for me in the past few months, I honestly don’t know where I would be with all of this now. It’s a rare and wonderful position to have in a work environment and there is not a day that goes by that I take their trust and moral support for granted.

So what is that photo all about? After raising all of the money for the trip, Trenton and I started putting together toys and little gifts for the children to take away from the experience. We will be hauling down a bag of Barbies, lots of nail polish and glitter for mini-manis, about 25 boxes of Crayolas with quite a few coloring books, a bag of Hot Wheels, and about 400+ packages of laboriously assembled sticker packets. Each packet will contain a small bag full of hand-selected stickers attached to mini handmade matchbook-style sticker notepads. Laborious but worth it, for sure! They are looking great.

Special hugs to:

Dan and Maria Carpenter for their thoughtful donation towards materials.

Elizabeth V. and Ms. SJ Munsson who donated nail polishes and Barbies from a beloved personal collection.

Alexis Robinson for her kind donation towards materials.

Kimberly Ferencz, the human sewing machine, who has assembled the matchbook sticker pads, iPad covers, and big hat for my irregularly enormous head to protect me from the sun.

And of course, Trenton Silva, for trading Honolulu sun for Seattle weather to take care of me this past month and become a sticker cutting pro. ❤

Love you all! Don’t forget to subscribe to the newsletter (at right) to keep tabs of the trip and see your gifts in action. The first 75 to subscribe will receive personalized packages via snail mail upon my return, and one lucky reader will receive a gift pack full of Costa Rican goodies.

To make a donation via PayPal to help defray my personal costs and/or to buy additional goodies for the children, please click this button:

Sticker Factory

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We are madly putting sticker packets and little sticker books to bring for the kiddies! Some of you have inquired about making donations still and/or helping out. You may make a donation directly through my PayPal site in order to help defray these costs and keep piling on the toys! Please click the PayPal button below. As a registered Sole Proprietor in the state of Washington, I can provide you with any necessary documentation. Thanks again for all of your support.

Human Nature will Never Fail to Surprise

PEACE: Sign in Fremont, Seattle, WA

And That's What It's All About

And That’s What It’s All About

Most obvious statement of the decade? The economy sucks.

We have all been affected by it in some way — whether we’ve lost job(s), taken pay cuts, or dealt with the stress of a pink slip hanging over your head as you watched your co-workers clean out their desks one-by-one.

But in the midst of all of our hard financial woes, something still burns inside of each of us. We have witnessed it many times. Easiest and most obvious example to relate to? 9/11. If only for a few hours, we all stood together. And I don’t mean in the patriotic sense. Sure we all heard the anthems, saw the flag until it no longer held meaning, and were saddened every time we lost a friend, brother, or community member who volunteered to ‘fight for freedom’, but the entire world screeched to a halt for a second. Any human with an ounce of a conscience stopped and reflected. Strangers smiled at each other and struck up conversations. Estranged parents and children picked up phones. Some people sat solitary, quietly mourning the atrocity of pure evil that was simply too difficult to even begin to comprehend. But one thing unified us all that day, if even for a brief subconscious moment. We all felt vulnerable, helpless, and inconsolable. We all wanted to do something to help.

9/11 is an extreme example that affected the entire world and changed the course of history, but we all experience things in our lives that have similar effects. We get a phone call. A father has cancer and suddenly we feel guilty for getting angry that we [insert trivial daily life episode here].

During Hurricane Katrina most of us had those same feelings. How could so many lives be lost on American soil? Where was FEMA? Why didn’t the government offer more protection? Our safe American cocoons that took so long to spin again in a post 9/11 society suddenly started to unravel.We slowed down again. Maybe this time we were a bit more numb and used to such large-scale heartbreak. Some gave blood, emptied closets to fill bag after bag of clothes for the victims, while others gave money. Some simply sat and had quiet moments of reflection in honor of the victims, while others swapped vacations in Europe to go to New Orleans and help rebuild. But one thing rang true once again — the majority of us wanted to do something to help.

Wayne Elsey, founder of Soles4Souls, Inc. had these same feelings, first after the tsunami struck Southeast Asia and next when he sat and watched the tragedy of Katrina unfold before his eyes. Although he had helped coordinate about a quarter of a million shoes be delivered to the victims of the tsunami, he felt compelled to keep helping those who faced such sudden tragedy. Through the help of some colleagues and the support of many, Wayne has helped send over a million pairs of shoes to the victims of Katrina. Seeing the impact of the efforts, Wayne started Soles4Souls, Inc. a year later. It has been growing stronger ever since.

When I decided to sign up to travel to Costa Rica with Soles4Souls, I did what I usually do when it comes to matters of the heart. I didn’t think twice. As I actually started to try to raise funds, while juggling my complicated work-fueled life, I became worried. How the hell I would get enough people to hand me money in a time of widespread financial crisis? There were factors working both for and against me. As an Art Director, I worked with teams of brilliant problem solvers at places like Microsoft and Razorfish. I had soaked up enough information about social strategy and using digital media for good. I knew I could apply those skills to help raise awareness and drive donations. I had (and still have) to put in a great deal of my money for things like the initial trip deposit, domestic RT air fare to Miami, as well as lodging, etc. I opened a second savings account early on and made sure I put aside enough weekly to at least cover payment milestones should donations not cut it. I figured I could buy some time at very least.

Then my life rapidly began to change. I went through two layoffs and began dealing with a series of unexplained illnesses. Over the span of three months, I went to 30 medical appointments. My symptoms ranged from debilitating fatigue and intense all-over pain to daily migraines and flu-like symptoms. After being tossed from specialist to specialist and eradicating scary diagnoses one-by-one (MS, lupus, cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, cancer again…), my docs finally settled on Fibromyalgia. Although skeptical, I swallowed the diagnosis and began treating the symptoms of this mysterious illness with vitamins, supplements, and a complete overhaul of lifestyle and diet. No more late nights. No more having “a couple of beers” to watch the game. No more dairy. No more gluten. And the worse part? All of my money and energy went to treating this disease so I could continue to live as normal of a life as possible. These changes were a hard pill to swallow for a woman whom, just six months earlier, was at the top of her game in digi-mobile-touch-dev-design media space. Hop a red-eye to Atlanta for a brainstorming session? Right. I was too tired to get up and drive down the street for gas.

This happened over the course of six months or so. I was doing okay, until recently I started feeling unbearably ill. Told it was the flu and I was going through a Fibro flare, I decided to finally listen to my gut and demand a Lyme test. I had acute Lyme once, while living in Massachusetts at the age of 25. My body has never been the same since. I went through shorter episodes of similar symptoms that I am having now. They are all the telltale symptoms of Chronic Lyme Disease, a much more serious disease that most of the medical community refuses to acknowledge as real. More on all this in what is sure to evolve as a new blog, Why did you become a doctor if you don’t want to help people?

My tests have come back positive. I am waiting for next steps, which are almost impossible to get as most doctors will not treat chronic Lyme due to its controversial nature.

So why bring this all up? We all suffer in some way or another. However, through it all, you came through. You not only came through for me, but for a small population of children in Costa Rica who suffer daily in ways unimaginable to any of us. Every time you made a donation, it warmed my heart and gave me the incentives I needed to push on. Amongst the generous donations of my close friends, there were donations from people I have never met, some that I haven’t seen since fourth grade, and some that I haven’t even heard from since high school.

Despite all the hardships we have experienced, you came through. And I cannot begin to explain to you what that means to me. Every time I place a new pair of shoes on the foot of a child, you will all be there in spirit. Know you made a difference. Know that you may have saved a life.

I am humbled and wish peace and good karma to you all.

More to follow soon…

Jamie Lynn Despres

To make a donation via PayPal to help defray my personal costs and/or to purchase additional goodies for the children, please click this button:

Intelligence Before Courage

Dr. Maya Angelou

Dr. Maya Angelou

A couple of weeks ago, I had the privilege of hearing Dr. Maya Angelou speak to a sold out crowd at The Paramount Theater in Seattle. At 82 years of age, the Dr. is as wild and inspiring as ever. She shared short snippets of some of her life experiences, mostly funny anecdotes peppered with her unparalleled storytelling style. Graceful, charming, and honest, Dr. Angelou is living proof of the immense impact that one person can have on the world.

I remember being a young teenage girl, coming in to my own, gangly and unsure of my prospects in life. My friend Kerri gave me a handwritten copy of Angelou’s “Phenomenal Woman“. These were in the times before you could send links via email to your friends. Those were hard times. I remember reading it over and over, keeping it folded and tucked neatly in to my own poetry journal, rank with teenage angst and unimportant scribblings about boys who broke my heart by simply looking in my direction. Like every teenage girl at some point in their lives, I was lost and scared at what the world had to offer me as I entered womanhood. Would I have the strength to meander through a world that seemed completely ruled by men and the media telling me what I should look and act like? I was never a girly girl. I grew up in a home with Rock and Roll parents. I was never taught how to properly apply make-up, nor was I pushed to wear fluffy pink dresses on Easter. While all of the girls in my second grade photo rocked pigtails and braids, I rocked feathered hair, courtesy of my mother.

“Phenomenal Woman” changed my life, in a way. At the very least it was comforting and veered me in the right direction…

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.

I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size

But when I start to tell them,

They think I’m telling lies.

I say,

It’s in the reach of my arms

The span of my hips,

The stride of my step,

The curl of my lips.

I’m a woman

Phenomenally.

Phenomenal woman,

That’s me.

Reading that poem made me feel like I could do anything — be whomever I wanted. Dr. Angelou made a difference in my life, without her knowing my name or the impact that she was having. She leads by example and inspired me to do the same.

If every person in the world led by example, answered the call of duty when it was not asked of them, the world would obviously be a better place. Sometimes we get so wrapped up in our own lives, the eco-system of the worlds that we have created for ourselves, that we forget to take off the blinders. The world is a vast place. It is a beautiful place. It is not perfect, but we all have a duty to try to make it that way. Sometimes the solutions are easy. Smile at someone who is walking by you, hold the door open for the person behind you, show gratitude. Say “Thank You.” Sometimes there are opportunities to do more. There is always someone less fortunate than you. There is always a person in need of help. It is our job to keep our ears and eyes open and offer it when we can.

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