I visited a Nigerian village in March 2010 and drove up to the schoolhouse the villagers built to house four classrooms. Outside were 75-80 children dressed up in crisp green and white uniforms, all lined up waiting for a teacher. It was 11:30 in the morning and not one teacher had shown up. When I stepped out of the Land Rover, driver by a worker from Hope for the Village Child NGO, throngs of children ran up to me, tugging at my skirt, pleading "Will YOU be our teacher? Will YOU be our teacher?"
They pulled me into a classroom with so much excitement in their eyes I was practically crying with joy myself. I asked them "What's two plus two?" They shouted out "Four!" from their places on the dusty earthen floor. "What's eight plus three?" I asked. "Eleven!" they shouted out again, so proud of their accomplishments. There were no books in the room, no blackboard, no desk for the teacher... and yet every day those kids line up hoping a teacher will show up.
I cried myself to sleep that night thinking of them, and the next day I vowed to help make it happen -- to find out why teachers were not coming and address that problem. Turns out, the roads are nearly unnavigable, so if a teacher doesn't have a four-wheel drive jeep or a motorcycle, s/he can't make it to the school. A 4-room house for the four teachers would solve the problem as they could live in the village, next to the school, all week long, then go to their homes in the town on the weekends. With a little more research from the Hope for the Village Child staff, I found out that it only would cost $25,000 per house if the villagers build it, as they make their own bricks and there is no plumbing or electricity required.
So I came home, co-founded the Livingkindness Foundation and we are now establishing chapters in different cities so people can put their creative energy to use in compassionate ways and we can all help to build the house for the teachers in the village. There are 20 villages in all and the NGO working with them is directed by a Dominican sister, Sr. Rita, who has lived in Nigeria 35 years, more than half her life.
I am not asking "how can I save the world?" but how can I transform my gifts into actions that will matter? We are the light of the world. How can we be brighter, more radiant, not just for ourselves, but for the children who need us? I hope you visit Hope for the Village Child and my Livingkindness site and start to reimagine yourself. Reinvent yourself as a great light, a beacon, a torch in the dark. Reflect on your talents, your gifts, what you love to do, and think about how that can change things significantly for kids who have so little. I will talk with you, work with you, imagine with you... so that you come alive, remember why you came to earth, and get back on the path of self-realization. I believe in the words of Ramana Maharshi, "Your own self-realization is the greatest service you can render the world." I can help you do this and render to the world the gift of a transformed being. I hope you join us.
Please email jan@janphillips if you'd like to start a Livingkindness chapter in your community.
Follow Jan Phillips on Twitter: www.twitter.com/theejanphillips