What if you found out there was a holiday that felt like Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas combined? Would you go? This is what Diwali has been described to me as. As I turned to google to learn more about Diwali a smile immediately came to my face and the images and meaning of the New Year warmed my heart. Filled with color, hope and optimism this Hindu festival spiritually signifies the victory of light over darkness, good over evil, knowledge over ignorance and hope over despair. Just one day before we depart for India, a six city, fourteen day book tour, I cannot help but be hopeful to share why Every Gift Matters.
How does a small town girl like me get invited to India to speak from the heart about giving? It’s easy. Today is a “Yes” day is our mantra. The day I was asked, it was a “Yes” day as well and the planning began. Let me share how it happened. Morgridge Family Foundation is a large donor to United Way, where we are actively involved in both cities where we reside. At the United Way Worldwide event, I was asked to speak about my book, Every Gift Matters, and share my personal experience on giving. At this event, I met the sweetest couple from India, Amitabh and Rashmi. We spent some time together at the conference and agreed to follow up. One of the many things that struck a chord with me right way was Amitabh’s title. Founder and Chief Inspiration Officer of YUVA Unstoppable. What a great title, and what a great name for a foundation.
We followed up with a call after the conference and I learned that YUVA Unstoppable had one of their focuses on young girls, and here is how. India built schools all across the country with little to no thought about bathrooms. What is even more appalling is that only boys are allowed to go to the restroom. The girls have to hold their bladders all day. It is common for girls to have major health issues, and I am sure this is a contributing factor. They get sick, fall behind in school, and eventually drop out. YUVA Unstoppable’s work addresses girl issues, education, and the environment. How could I not want to learn more about their work in India? Amitabh explained to me that there are 1.1 million government schools in India and only 47% have toilet facilities for girls. Over 100 corporations have joined YUVA Unstoppable in this mission. Companies like Coca-Cola, Microsoft, Intel, Hitachi and others have helped transform over 300 municipal schools. These transformations includes: better toilets, drinking water, educational resources through community involvement across India.
When we first talked on the phone, it became clear that one person, or even one large foundation would not be able to tackle this huge bathroom problem. I suggested Amitabh meet with Charles Best, founder and CEO of DonorsChoose.org – a crowdfunding non profit in the United States. Amitabh had met the founder of Ketto which is Asia largest crowdfunding platform. Charles took a call with Amitabh and he recommended a partnership with Give India or Global Giving. The model of one person making these changes can be overwhelming and daunting, but when you empower others to be in control of their own community and their own schools, the impact is profound. What we have seen through the Impact 100 model of giving, empowering others to make great change, not only advances the work that needs to be done, it creates a sense of community, and it transforms lives.
From meeting Amitabh and Rashmi in April in the United States at the United Way Worldwide event to May 23, 2016, I formally accepted their offer to come to India and share, not only my story of how Every Gift Matters, but to demonstrate how Every Gift Matters. We joined forces and funded six bathrooms in the six cities we will be visiting. Amitabh went to work immediately. He and his right hand man, Parth put together the six city tour for me. Not only did they go to work on the tour, they went to work on the bathrooms.
This is what led me to today, a 5 hour layover in New York and a 14 hour flight to Delhi. What I see today is the loss of jobs to computers, this is our world and how it now works. Every new restaurant opening at the airport has an iPad with the menu that the guest fills out, not a server. Every seat is equipped with a USB and electronic charger. I wonder what the tipping will be expected for the person who only delivers the food and beverage? I wonder what it will be like in Delhi – is it high tech there – or high touch?
In the next two hours Michelle, John Farnam and Paul Heitzenrater will arrive and I can enjoy a glass of wine and a quick meal before we get on our flight to India. Pure optimism and hope are how I am feeling at this time. I can’t wait to share more as we touch down tomorrow.