Tag Archives: Debra

Update from Baja California

We are in the open market in Ensenada. In about 18 hours we will head down the Baja California peninsula to Bahia de Los Angeles, affectionately known as “BLA”. Toni, (Antonio Resendiz Jr.) is helping us to choose food staples to take to the ranching families who live far into the interior, in amongst the tall cardon cactus and wild burro. A young man from the market appears with a 50-kilo sack of pinto beans slung over his shoulder, asking us where we want it. The van and Suburban are a few blocks away. Tyler jumps forward, “We can’t make him carry it all that way. Here, I’ll take it.” Tyler is strong and fit, but still he is winded by the time we get to the car.

Rice, beans, potatoes, oranges, onions, garlic – the list goes on. Everyone helps to shop, carry, and pack as much food as we can fit into the “Burb”. The food, and the Burb itself are making the long trek to “Cuatros A”, (Coo-atros-Ah) the ranch that Matilde and Andrea have lived on and worked their whole lives.

Cuatros A serves as base operations for the Big Horn Sheep Project. The ranch is gradually being converted to serve multiple uses. In addition to a working ranch it will host travelers interested in an adventure vacation experience that includes wildlife viewing, ranch life, incredible local food, and a chance to directly experience a bit of rural Mexico that has not changed for generations.

The project itself is a model in revitalizing rural communities using the resources that are available in abundance. Ranch life has never been easy. Neither has life as a fisherman. But the fisherman-turned-guides and the ranchers aren’t looking for an easy life – just a chance to live off of the land and the sea. When the land and the sea are diminished, poverty takes over.  The Big Horn Sheep Project is one answer to the declining fishery in the Gulf of California – and that decline has nothing to do with local fisherman. It’s a complex issue, and the Big Horn Sheep project is one response that can help to build a sustainable economy in a part of the world that has not changed for hundreds of years.

We started a crowdfunding fundraiser to bring food to the people, and also to provide the Suburban so they can bring clients to the ranch. We delivered it last night and the families involved in the project are so grateful and excited. I can’t tell you what a boost this is for the project, and therefore for the families and their ability to build a cooperative business. We have never been involved in micro loan financing to help start small businesses in the developing world. This is not technically a loan, but it is an investment and an opportunity to do a good thing. It is so gratifying to give the kind of help that Tom and I received so long ago when we were starting out. It only takes a few pieces of key equipment and a few dollars, and with imagination and hard work, an idea becomes reality that can have a profound effect on everything it touches.

There is still time to help. You can go to www.crowdrise.com/ftgbaja to make a contribution.

We are off to the ranch tomorrow. When we return, Ari will post another one of her wonderful blogs and tell you all about it. We’ll get some photos up too.

Till next time,
Debra

Skye’s Story, Fall 2011

Hello readers of the Finding the Good Blog,

Spring semester 2012 starts in 5 days. Chrissie, Sarah and Mike, this semester’s staff fellows have been here for two weeks (we’ve changed the title from “interns” to “fellows” to more accurately reflect the role they play here). The four students, Max, Lily, Kiera and Conner arrive on Sunday. Along with all of the other preparations that fill our days, the FtG blog is back online after a dormant period.

Soon the blog will be updated regularly. You’ll meet the new personalities, and follow our journeys and discoveries. We are so excited about this semester’s projects and team and can’t wait to share it with all with you.

Before we get into the new semester, there is a very important piece that we want to include, one that we couldn’t tell until a week or so ago.

Last fall, we had our first student-intern here at FtG, Skye Jang. Technically she was a gap year student, but since we didn’t run a full fall semester, and there were no other students, we created a “student internship” position and Skye filled it. Skye quickly became one of the “family” here – editing media, cleaning up server files, helping with the library, helping on the ropes course, recruiting new students, and learning how to interview and create educational media.

She also wrote five thoughtful, insightful and highly personal blog posts between October and December, the last one written literally the day before she returned home to Pennsylvania. They are best read as a progression of a series, which is how we wanted to share them. They illustrate a growth of self-awareness in a young person that is at once an intimate portrait and a universal story. And why did we wait till now to post these?

Skye used to joke that being at FtG was her “forced gap year.” Forced because she really wanted to be in college, and in fact had done everything in her power to get herself accepted into some of the top schools in the country. Everything in her power. But not everything was in her power to determine. You see, Skye and her mother immigrated to the US from S Korea when Skye was seven years old. Their green cards had not been issued at the time that Skye applied to college and she had no access to financial aid. Without that, she could not afford college. So she came here, to learn as much as she could, to re-apply to schools, and to do something resourceful while waiting for the green card.

We could have posted her blogs sooner. But her story, told in the posts, includes her disappointment with the US government, the delays, and how at 18 years old, those delays translate into real restrictions. Restrictions not just on financial aid, but on international travel, and on work status. One night, about to post the blog entries, in a moment of doubt I called Skye’s mom, a PhD candidate at Drew University, to make sure she was comfortable with us posting. She hesitated. Maybe we should wait till the green cards come through, she said.

The irony was not lost on any of us. Nor the fear of oppression, no matter if it was real or not. We couldn’t take the chance. Not in today’s climate.

As we prepare for the upcoming semester, we will study democracy closely, and question what one is, and whether we have a democracy in this country. Perhaps most importantly, we will discuss and debate what a real democracy might look like, and if that is the best governance we can create for ourselves.

We invited Skye to come back for this semester, so she can experience a real semester with her peers. She misses California, but she’s moving on now. With her green card issued, she can get a job, and she’s busy filling out all those financial aid applications. We miss her so much, but we are very happy for her, and so grateful that those of us here at Synergia and FtG played a part in her growing up time, and helped her to land more solidly into herself. We wish you the best of everything, Skye, and hope that someday you’ll return to California and see us.

We’ve asked Skye to guest-post on this blog from time to time so you can follow her story as she moves forward into university life. She is considering traveling to Korea this summer to visit relatives and we are hoping to get posts and photos of her trip.

Skye at Bioneers with Lily Yeh and Annabelle

Skye at Bioneers with Lily Yeh and Annabelle

Read on for Skye’s full story, Fall 2011.

And stayed tuned for more posts in the coming weeks!

Warm Regards,
Debra

Lessons

March 8, 2010

8 AM. The students are out field journaling. All but Forest, who is loping up the beach towards us, a little faster than usual. He hones in on the snorkeling gear and while choosing a mask and snorkel tells us that there is a school of dolphins about 30 feet off shore. He lopes off again a little faster than he came. We follow him through the binoculars. Andrew sites the dolphins – about eight of them, active and moving in what appears to be a circular pattern. We presume they are feeding.  A few moments later we spot Forest, in the water near the dolphins, but they have moved farther away from shore and it doesn’t look like he will catch up to them. Later, when Alex hears the story, he asks why the dolphins didn’t just swim with Forest.

“It’s like this, Alex,” Andrew offers, “You haven’t had breakfast, and your eggs are running down the street away from you. You start to run after them, and just at that moment, Deb says, “Hey, Alex, can we have a little chat now?” And there are your eggs, getting further and further away every second. What would you do, go talk to Deb or go after your eggs?”

By: Debra Weistar

Welcome to Finding the Good Semester Program!

Greetings ~

Finding the Good is about to launch! After years in preparation, FINDING THE GOOD Traveling Semester Program begins on Sunday, January 31st. To say we are excited is an understatement. To say we are 100% ready is a lie. We figure, 98% is enough, with high doses of enthusiasm, gratitude, commitment and awe to make up that last 2%.

Last December, we asked everyone we knew for help to get us started. The response was fantastic; we met our challenge grant; went from two students to six in a matter of a few weeks; and are now on the eve of our first semester ever. It’s hard to believe.

Today my sister Marylu sent me a link [www.racetonowhere.com] to a new documentary, titled Race to Nowhere: the Dark Side of America’s Achievement Culture. Featuring “the heartbreaking stories of young people who have been pushed to the brink, parents who are trying to do what’s best for their kids, and educators who are burned out and worried students aren’t developing the skills needed for the global economy, Race to Nowhere points to the silent epidemic running rampant in our schools.” This documentary is out at the exact time that Synergia is offering a different way to learn that is relevant, engaging, meaningful and with purpose. Something tells me the time has come.

We have six brilliant students, and four equally brilliant young staff members. In blogs to come soon, you will meet them all, get to know them through words and pictures: articles, essays, photos, podcasts, video clips and more. They can’t wait to share the world with you. We can’t wait for you to see the world through their eyes. Eyes not peering through prison bars, but eyes wide open to all the world has to offer – light and dark, beautiful and ugly, but mostly GOOD.

I hope you join us on this journey. This is about education, and about meeting young people today in the place and the way they most need to be met. Welcome.

Debra Weistar – Director