“I would love to go to Africa with Dahn.” I said to Jon as we drove to Vermont for his birthday. We saw Dahn Gandell in the Round House Cafe before leaving on our trip. She and her family were staying at Pompanuck Farm for the week and invited us to dinner there one night. Then she told us she was leaving for Tanzania the following Monday. Dahn is a minister and does humanitarian work in Africa and India as well as in her own church and neighborhood in Rochester NY.
Dahn told us about her work when we met her for the first time last year. I’ve been thinking about it ever since. But I didn’t know the details or if it was even possible to accompany her on one of her trips. I only knew I was drawn to the work she did. In Tanzania she helps provide children with schooling and clean accessible drinking water. In Kolkata (formerly Calcutta) she helps rehabilitate sex workers, providing them housing and good jobs.
I was planning on talking to Dahn about it when we had dinner with her later that week, but Jon was as excited about the idea as I was and texted Dahn while I drove. She said she going to India in February and told him there was information about it on her facebook page. We made plans to get together the night we got home.
The trip to Kolkata, India is through the Socially Responsible Tourism group The Village Experience. (you can read about it here) It sounds like a wonderful way to travel. Benefiting the businesses that take part in fair trade and visiting the organizations that Dahn helped develop. A unique way of experiencing a country and getting to know the people who live there.
But it’s expensive and as Dahn described the trip and added expenses I knew it was more than I could afford. Also I was hoping to somehow more directly help the women we would be visiting. I wanted to get my hands dirty. So I told Dahn it was just too much money, not something I could do right now, but maybe sometime in the future.
The next day Dahn came to visit the farm. As we sat in the living room talking she asked me if it was just the money that made me decide not to go to India or was it that I wanted to participate in the work she was doing there too? Because she said, if that was it, I could come and teach the women how to sew potholders. It would be the perfect thing for them to be able to make quickly and sell inexpensively.
I could feel the smile spreading on my face. “I would love that” I said.
And that’s how it began. We talked about grants that might be available to me and crowdsourcing to raise the money for me to go to Kolkata. I believe, as Dahn does that if you commit to something and work at it, the universe will step up to help make it happen.
It took a few days for it all to sink in. I could hardly talk about it at first, I want it so much. I’m thrilled and humbled by the idea of it all. But it feels so real to me, so right. Like the next natural step in my life. And I’m completely open to what it has to offer for everyone involved.
The night Dahn and her family left Pompanuck we went to say good-bye.
Dahn handed me the shopping bag with flowers on it and said, “I tell everyone I give one of these to, to pass it on and let people know about the kids who made it. Their mothers are sex workers in Kolkata and instead of the children having to hide under beds or in corners while their mothers are working they come to a “daycare” we’ve set up for them. It’s really just a small room but they can spend the day there safely and make crafts that we sell for them.”
I was looking at the shopping bag, but all I could see was a small child crouched in a shadowy corner while her mother was having sex with a stranger on the bed in front of her.
I said good-bye to Dahn. If all goes well, the next time I see her will be in India.