Victoria B.C., Canada, July 2010
Between Two Worlds
After four months of hard work in the slums of Mumbai, India, I have arrived home, slightly tired, but very excited about re-connecting with family and friends and raising funds and awareness for DWP. The toughest part of being back at home is trying to explain how my trip was and how to sum up months of work in a slum in India. India is tough to describe for anyone. Indian friends describe it best when they tell me, “anything you say about India, the opposite is equally true.” Or, “we live in a country of extreme contradictions”.
That is how my trip was. Confusing, amazing, frustrating, stressful, enlightening, sad and happy! DWP puts me in some very interesting and difficult situations, ones that I don’t always feel I belong in. But, I’m a human being and that is what this type of work demands. It’s about creating relationships with people and actually caring. Knocking down the walls of formality and listening to what people need. I know I will not always be in a position to help, but there is a lot to be said for just being interested in another human being’s struggle. DWP is a crazy adventure with no definitive direction other than to help people less fortunate than myself.
I run DWP in India, not like an organization, but as a person just trying to help. I have faced criticism for not going bigger and being more structured like other charitable organizations, but this is exactly why DWP works. One of my greatest accomplishments is that 90% of the people DWP helps in India have no idea that I am a charitable organization. They just think I’m an eccentric white guy who enjoys learning about them and living in their culture, and who has money to help. Maybe they’re right and I’m OK with that.
DWP is small which enables me to help where other larger charity organizations can’t or don’t want to. My mandate to” see a need and fill it ” enables me to meet people in need in various situations and to act immediately, without the need to call a board meeting or file paperwork. Whether it is a community or one person who needs help, I am able to give them help that day, on the spot, right now.
Less than a year ago, I travelled just to travel, to see other cultures and to see the possibilities the world had to offer.
Creating DWP has allowed me to change from a witness to someone with the ability to change, however small, the daily struggles of the poor. This is not rocket science and I started DWP with just the eagerness to get dirty and the ambition and energy to keep going. What I want people to take from from DWP is that “you” can do this too. You just have to start.
This was my second working trip this year and I’m now just beginning my third fundraising drive. When DWP was just an idea, I received support from friends and strangers in my home city of Victoria, B.C. I was able to leave for India with $4000 of donors hard earned money with my promise to ‘see a need and fill it”. I had no idea how I was going to make this happen but I knew I had too. Fast forward 10 months, DWP has been to India twice, helping thousands of people from Maharashtra to Rajasthan.
DWP and I survived the “not knowing” stage and I am now onto a very exciting future as a non-profit. The beautiful part of this whole adventure is that it is forever challenging and evolving, and 10 years from now things will still be changing. I really enjoy straddling two worlds and being the personal connection between countries and cultures. DWP’s work in India is incredibly challenging and one that demands an 80 work hour week, juggling field work and computer work, keeping the connection going between supporters and the community they’re helping.
Years of travel have made slipping into these two distinctly different worlds easier but never completely comfortable. As a Canadian, I’m always aware of how lucky I am to have been born in a free, democratic country with a high standard of living. I do feel we can always assist those in the world who were not born in a developed country and struggle to make a meagre living. There are many ways to help and it doesn’t always mean giving up a comfortable life and paid work to live in a slum in India. Since starting DWP, people from around the world have offered donations, their time or their expertise in some way to help DWP fulfill the needs of the people I meet. Every newspaper in the world is filled with stories about sadness, hate and oppression, but if the last year has taught me anything, it’s that the human spirit is amazing. Most people want to help one another and I’m forever being humbled by both the people who DWP helps and the people that make it possible.
So, to everyone who reads this blog and follows DWP’s adventures, I thank you, because without your help and support none of it would be possible.
Kane Ryandonate, education, exhibition, fundraising, India, Mumbai, Photography, school, slum, travel, volunteer