Solidarity, Tour, Volunteers

Texas / LA Regional Conference

Following up on key action items from the Columbus conference and ongoing discussions over the past few years, we had a series of regional meetings on AID philosophy and strategy for improving the quality of our work towards sustainable and just development.  In the South, AID Houston hosted such a meeting on Sept 16-17, 2006. 
 
In a brainstorming thread earlier, Srinadh wrote: 
 
 … broadly speaking it would be nice to re-emphasize (and revisit) our core AID principles:
 
  • For example why Sangharsh, Nirman and Seva?
  • What are our partners on the ground saying and feeling about the effects of rapid globalization?
  • Why do we oppose centralized planning without local context and input?
  • Why is peace important (example Gujarat) to development?
 
and the like.
 
In June he wrote: 

Houston, Austin, Baton Rouge and Dallas chapters are planning to have a retreat over the Sept 15 weekend in Houston, TX. (Haven’t heard from College Station folks but hoping they make it too!).Ravi and Aravinda have indicated that they will be there and join! Other interested people are welcome to join too.The Houston chapter has agreed to host the event and details are being worked on regarding logistics, agenda, schedule etc.

This is an early heads up to enable out of towners to begin planning.

More details here!

Cheers,

Houston, Austin, Baton Rouge and Dallas chapters

 
Nirveek wrote:
 

the recent philly workshop and the AID conference has given us several ideas as to how we can explore contemporary issues relevant to AID, constructively discuss any issue with an open mind, train each other in effective communication, etc.so i would think that in this retreat we can spend some time looking beyond just reports-kind-of-sessions – for example we can look at how we can creatively communicate with each other, new volunteers, and the community in general … since we have much more time to prepare than before the columbus conference, we can come up with a decent, well thought-out such interactive sessions. we can also take up the eFAQuate session that Aravinda started at Columbus and enrich it further.The Philly workshop brought us in touch with a group called “training for change” … and i think there are a lot of things in “effective communication” through role-playing that we can learn from them.  


After 30 posts and weekly conference calls organized by Priya, Sandhya and others in Team Texas, the dates & agenda were set, rooms booked, university support secured and one fine weekend in September, 50+ volunteers from Austin, Dallas, Houston, College Station and Baton Rouge converged in Houston for the retreat. Smaller than an AID conference, no parallel sessions, nothing to vote on, volunteers opened their minds and hearts to explore difficult questions concerning corruption, gender equality, diversity within AID, and the role of sangharsh.   Betsy from Training for Change engaged us in activities that gave us models for thinking about change, such as figuring out how to make radical change while including everyone … symbolized via an exercise where a group of us stood on a sheet and had to turn the sheet upside down without having a single person move to the floor – everyone must remain on the sheet, and the sheet must be overturned.  
Betsy_AIDCalendar2007

Betsy of Training for Change conducted some exercises to help us think about models of social change.  At the official release of the 2007 AID Calendar Nurturing Nature, she received the first copy. 

 
We also had the release of the 2007 AID Calendar, whose theme was Nurturing Nature.   Betsy received the  first copy.
Yes the house is that close to the factories

On the third day of the retreat, we had a Toxic Tour of Houston, conducted by Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services.  Yes, the house is that close to the factories.

The second superfund site we visited

On the third day of the retreat, we had a Toxic Tour of Houston, conducted by Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services. This is the second superfund site we visited.

The field trip on Sunday was eye-opening and disturbing …. we went on a “toxic tour” of the city, visiting the neighborhoods in close proximity to factories emitting toxic waste.  
We read and talk about the common experience of injustice among communities across the globe.  Sometimes when we talk to people about the struggle in Bhopal or the villages along the industrial corridor of Gujarat, people can’t believe that such things are happening, and continue to this day.  Now we were standing right in the midst of it, feeling the same sense of incredulity that things could actually be this bad
 
Would this leave us in despair of ever making change?  Or would it empower us to recognize the struggle everywhere, in our own backyards and even within ourselves, and to BE THE CHANGE?
Exuding Passion

Volunteers on day 3 of the Texas / Louisiana Retreat, following the Toxic Tour of Texas, conducted by Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services (TEJAS).

More photographs taken by Keshav Narayanan during the Texas / Lousiana chapters conference: TX LA Retreat

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