I watch in a daze as the computer spits out 3 boarding passes, my head feels foggy and my eyes moist. “Mr. Ryan”…”Mr Ryan”… Exasperated, she not so quietly yells, “Sir, your boarding passes, please move along!” I mumble a reply and move my bags towards the scale. The conveyor belt sucks my bag into the bowels of the transit world and I move towards the security check. The familiar sounds of the airport echo through the concourse. Flights are announced, suitcase wheels creek and groan and loved ones hug goodbye. Soon I’m standing in a a line of strangers, some sad, some happy and some standing quietly in contemplation. Belt and shoes removed, pockets emptied, I’m patted down and on my way. I find my gate and sit and it hits me like it always does.
The gate is crowded, businessmen chat on phones, groups of teenage sports teams in head-to-toe sweat outfits, “Rams” proudly displayed along the back of their pants, jockey for position amongst each other while two young hipsters sit hungover in the corner, too cool for everything. A baby cries, a man coughs, the electric whine of an airport porter whizzes by on a golf cart. The familiarity of the airport is soothing, but I’m sad. Departure days are normally exciting for me but I feel uncertain and uneasy. For the first time in ten years I’m leaving behind a girlfriend, someone that has been my partner and my love and I’m confused. “Good-byes” have been the only regular and constant thing in my life for as long as I can remember. My parents and sister have been at nearly every airport goodbye in Canada and we’ve become accustomed to it. It’s sad and we miss each other but we’re prepared, as this is what we have done for such a long time.
Being in Canada is confusing for me; it’s beautiful and possibilities lay around every corner; it’s my first home. But I can’t find the rhythm. DWP has given me the ultimate travel experience and the ability to be part of a community in one of the craziest and most chaotic cities on earth. I have learned more than I ever thought I would about my personal ability and how to be a positive change in the world and that’s exciting and rewarding.
But this trip is different. Our community in Mumbai, which has been my home away from home for the past 3 years might be on the brink of destruction. Government bull dozers are waiting for the call from local politicians while the thousands of families that line the pipeline await their destiny. For the first time since I arrived in this community, I don’t know what I will do or how I will be able to help. How and where DWP helps will be a new challenge and I will have to adapt and find the needs that need filling.
For the last few months a DWP doc has been in the works but only hrs before my this first flight it was cancelled. Timing was off for the film crew, visas were canceled, flights changed. So now I sit at the boarding gate, a line up of passengers slowly disappear down the hallway and I sit trying to figure out DWP’s and my new adventure….both scary and exciting.
I know that DWP needs to change but I’m resistant. New ideas float through my head but nothing sticks. After 3 years of working for DWP with no pay I realize that it’s not exactly the most prudent life style choice. Spending nine months of the year volunteering leaves me few choices. When I started DWP I wanted to show people that a regular, normal guy without previous non-profit experience could arrive in a foreign country and make a difference to hundreds of people. I have raised thousands of dollars by taking photos and selling them and writing stories of the people and communities I have helped. DWP is unconventional, remaining small, independent with a simple goal to help those less fortunate than myself. On each journey
I have brought with me a loyal following of people across Canada and internationally who believe and trust in DWP’s work and donate the funds that make it possible.
This next several months will be interesting as I try and figure out what’s next for DWP and myself. I know that I want DWP to continue to help people but how I manage the process may change. I need to sort out a way to continue DWP while surviving myself and I’m not quite sure what that looks like….yet.
Three years ago I landed in Mumbai with $4000 CAD a backpack and absolutely no clue about how or where I could help. Schools, gardens, a women’s centre and the funding of hundreds of medical cases and school sponsorships later, I will arrive at the same airport with the same backpack, but this time I have $40,000 CAD and a new adventure in the wings…
India has always had answers for my questions and as I prepare to land I look forward to hearing what this crazy country has in store for me.
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