Five Months On

Five months ago, I left India and the 100 girls with whom I had sweated, laughed, and kiai-ed. I left wonderful and talented project managers who continue to work for these girls’ empowerment. And I also left behind some changes, which I have failed to mention in all this time.

Change 1 – Continued self defense to girls in Babuan. Before arriving in Babuan, the girls there had never been involved in karate. To my knowledge, they had never participated in an organized sport. So, I was it, their first and possibly last exposure to any kind of empowering sport activity. But that just didn’t make sense to me. Sure, Babuan was a far away village, but a weekly or bi-monthly trip couldn’t be that much of a burden. So, before I left, I made some people make some promises. I was assured that my intrepid motorbike driver, Dheeraj, would continue the self defense classes in Babuan. This has continued.

Change 2 – ‘Stranger Danger’. The organization I was there with did not have a ‘stranger danger’ training for the girls. I developed one, going over how to identify bad people, the ploys they use to kidnap, and how to avoid or get away from the people or situations. The information was translated. I don’t know whether it’s been handed out or not.

Change 3 – My presence caused a stir. The karate teacher for the KGBV girls had left for some reason some months prior to my arrival. After my departure, she was mysteriously hired back. : )

Change 4 – I was requested by Kalam to share my thoughts on the organization’s programs at KGBV. Never short on thoughts or ideas, I sent him a list after my return to the States. One of the ideas I had was for the girls to go on organized field trips to expose them to the broader world. I was informed that all girls went on such a trip last week.

Small steps. More to come.

Letter From India

Looking out the front doors of A2W2

The following is a letter I received today from Dheeraj, my intrepid motorbike chaffeur-karate partner-escort:

Ritu is fine and her mother is fine and they are very miss to you
they asked me if where are you this time
Babuan’s cows are very miss you and they are doing not karate so
i am very sad but no probleme because in babuan some girls are doing
karate in self-defents and they are very happy this time.
All student are continue class presentation so i am very happy.”

And I am very happy.

I would like to clarify the cow reference. Cows, as well as dogs, goats, small children, wander freely in that part of the world. As my classes in Babuan were conducted in an alley bordered by a cow pen, there was one time, in the middle of a class, that a cow came meandering into our midst. And I shouted at the cow in Hindi, “Only girls! I only teach girls karate! Cow karate is tomorrow!” which everyone thought very funny.

How Do You Eat an Elephant?

Ever since returning from India, I have felt somewhat stymied. Tons of questions: how can I continue to help? what is the best path? in which country? with what organization? with what money? do I start a non-profit or work with an existing one? is there a NP that is doing what I want to do already? if there isn’t, then what do I need to do to set one up? am I the right person to do such a thing?

And many times I find myself asking: is [x,y,z] going to be enough? And I think I have to stop asking this question, which does nothing but paralyze me, and just start doing, no matter how small it might seem.

My vision for TGTP is big: become a self defense resource for every women’s empowerment organization around the globe. In my trip to India this past year, I proved to myself that self defense and karate are very powerful tools for women and girls in ‘at risk’ environments. It gives them voice when previously they had none. They can physically feel their strength, which gives them confidence. I want TGTP to grow so that women and girls can connect with confidence and strength where it has always been and always will be – in themselves, in their indestructible spirits.

And so 2011 starts, and I find myself agitated, haunted, trying to figure out what to do to make this happen. One bite. Just one bite at a time…

“No one could make a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could do only a little.” — Edmund Burke