Monday, July 31, 2017

Making a Difference With the Life You Are Given

Sometimes it can feel like life can move at an overwhelming pace. But it only feels like that when I'm not in control of the events around me that are changing. And that pretty much describes the last 6 weeks of my life.
In a nutshell, I am mostly unemployed, but very actively pursuing 2 unrelated fields, preparing to move (again, but permanently this time), applying to graduate schools, and gearing up for a major humanitarian trip.
It's the humanitarian trip I want to talk about today.

As soon as my job became a thing of the past, I became depressed. It's common and normal to get depressed after losing your livelihood, and having no control over the situation. (It's depressing even when you do have control over the situation.)
But I didn't want to stay depressed. I have a good life. Not having a steady paycheck isn't actually the worst thing ever. I have a good support system. And I have ideas about what I want in the future.
And I also very firmly believe that God is in control of the details. The situation around losing my job was so unexpected and strange that I have to believe it was divinely guided.

Losing my job was God's Will?

Yes. Trust me, it isn't always easy to believe or think that. But I believe that it was. He led me right to this place in life. His Hand was in everything that brought me to Utah and to that job. I have to trust that His hand is in everything that has happened since.
It doesn't mean that everything has been perfect and easy since that day. It's been anything but.
I did have the wonderful and surprising blessing of a great side gig landing in my lap exactly 2 hours after the job ended. I took it. It has been a great situation for me. I've been working as an extra on TV shows and movies. How's that for unexpected and random? Very few people in my life these days were around 20+ years ago when I did that sort of thing before. It was more of a hobby or source of amusement back then. And now somehow it's paying me decent money.
I've been blessed. I've been very fortunate that I haven't hit rock bottom.

The day after I lost my job I started thinking about what it is I really want to do with my life. (I loved my job, and it paid well, and was a good professional experience. But it wasn't fulfilling.) If I had the freedom to do and be anything I want, what would it be?
And the answer came to me very quickly- humanitarian work. Get your hands dirty, make a difference, work to exhaustion, save the world, humanitarian work.
If you know me, you know I've always been deeply involved in different aspects of humanitarian work. But I haven't done something tough or in-depth in several years. I do plenty of volunteer work, but nothing like the work I miss doing. The kind of work I did back in Haiti and Cambodia.
And that's when it hit me. I know where I am needed, I know who I want to serve, and I know how to make it happen.

My dear friend Katie runs a group called Humanitize Expeditions that takes medical teams to various places to do good. Usually it's either Guatemala or Haiti, but this year, for the first time, she's taking people to Greece to serve in a refugee camp.
And she's invited me to go with them.
Specifically I'm going with the team to do some unusual things. First, I do have a medical service background. Many moons ago I was an EMT. I can still take a BP, pulse, and do a quick triage assessment. (Those are skills you don't forget or lose. In fact, when I go to the doctor now, I almost always try and take my BP myself, or at least guess what it is if they won't let me touch the sphygnometer.) So I will be able to support and assist the real medical staff. But I'll also get to put my writing skills to work. I will be interviewing the refugees, taking video, and pictures of them, and sharing them with the world. I want to share the plight of the refugee in an unbiased and true way.
It is so important that we all understand what the refugees are really going through. We don't learn the unbiased truth from the media. They are telling a different story about the situation. They aren't telling the stories of the individuals. And I want to share the personal stories.

Preserving the truth and their stories is so important for all of us to learn from. In the future do we want the next generations to know what CNN or Fox said about the aid or bombs regarding the refugees? Or do we want them to know what led the people to leave their homes and risk their lives just to end up in a tent city thousands of miles away? I believe it's the personal stories that matter. Those are the ones we can learn from.
One special thing I will be doing on this trip is taking a camera that prints instant photos to share with the refugees. If there is one thing I have learned from humanitarian work, and traveling around the world, it is that small children love to take pictures with you. But usually that pictures ends up on your phone, and the child gets nothing. So I'm bringing my instant camera and film so that the children can take a picture home with them.
Earlier in July I was in Germany with Clog America. The group performed for refugee families that have resettled in Germany. I took my camera with me and went through 60 pictures in less than 20 minutes.

When I would first take the picture and hand it over the children didn't understand what was happening. (It was just a white picture.) But once it developed, the kids loved it and would run to show their parents. And nearly every single parent would come up to me with their whole family and ask, "family photographia?" These families that have lost everything as they traversed the world, don't have old family photos with them. The tiny little Polaroid picture I could hand them made them so happy.
The pictures interspersed here are the refugee children from that experience. They were so darling. And they became our instant friends for life. Any time they would see us in town after that they were so happy. I got many spontaneous hugs from small children for several days, all because I took their picture.
Doesn't this little girl's story deserve to be heard and preserved?

I can't do this trip alone. If there is one downside to unemployment it's the limited funds. If I am to make this trip a reality, I must raise more money in order to go. The funds will go to travel expenses for the medical and support teams, and more importantly to medical supplies.
I'm already taking a full suitcase of clothing and towel donations. (My clothes for the trip will have to fit in my backpack.) I have easily 5 more suitcases worth of clothing and supplies I could take with me. But I have to raise the money to pay for the baggage fees. I'm working with the airline to work something out, and I'm working with Best Buy to see if I can get more film donated. But even after their help, I still need to raise more money to make it all happen.

The money raised really and truly goes right to a refugee family. And in return you get to see the pictures of the families they go to. You'll get to see video and hear their stories first hand. What other charitable donation can do that for you? Your donation no matter how big or small will make a difference, and you will get to see the person it benefited.

You can donate through my GoFundMe account here. Or if you prefer, you can send it via to me directly. Donations large or small are welcome. If you want to make a specific donation, the film for the camera is $16 a packet. And I want to take 20 packets or more if possible.
At the risk of sounding like a Sally Struthers commercial, for just $16 you can make a huge difference in the life of a refugee.
(forgive the shakiness of the video- I was also holding a kid on my hip as I filmed it)

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