From my heart and mind blog…
I notice a growing trend for travelers: tourist volunteers and retired volunteers is a bright idea, as doing good deeds for less privileged residents of the place you are visiting is the opposite of dull, sit-around vacationers. Although abounding with Beauty, rest and relaxation, those are lesser reasons to choose your vacation in Zihuatanejo, Mexico. For those who seek true contentment from a vacation, I found out I was a willing, natural volunteer which made my vacation meaningful. It is easy to connect the dots to help our close neighbors in Mexico.
Por Los Ninos/Sailfest isn’t as formal as the Peace Corps, but their work is just as focused and powerful in goals and outcomes. Those children, families, people being born every day, who are impoverished in Zihuatanejo receive consistent time and resources, expertise, action. Hearts and minds are freely offered, from dedicated residents and caring travelers.
I only know about Sailfest because of Lorenzo, he is family. The exotic city of Zihuatanejo lured me because he loves living and working there. And presto! I became a tourist volunteer. When he retired to Mexico, many of us Portlanders expected we might not often hear from Lorenzo. To our delightful surprise, his emails revealed his talents fit, as they say, “hand in glove”, with the dedicated people who created Por Los Ninos and Sailfest. Lorenzo found a new calling and purpose in retirement, and he found a new voice. His good deeds are noticed by the friendships he has nurtured. His invitations to get to Zihua are perpetual. What to bring with you? Time and money are very nice gestures, which I was able to offer, in my own small way. I felt natural gratitude from the whole organization, as my originality was accepted by all the other original thinkers.
I feel a renewal of my personal values: respect for all citizens, to not be afraid of any person, the inspiration starts with me: I travel to learn, and I crave a relaxed feeling of contentment that I am welcome where I travel. I don’t expect to be a teacher unless someone asks me. But universally I feel all people are lifelong teachers for all children, whether we know it or not. The strength in numbers of North American tourists and part-time dwellers are recognized by this trustworthy organization as they pose the question: Are not all citizens of the world after the same desire to recognize there is no end to the quest for educated people? As Lorenzo says: “I do it, because this has to be done.” (If not, what are the consequences? is a natural question).
As an all-volunteer organization must ebb and flow with available workers, the cornerstone of Sailfest is that people enjoy themselves together. This band of outsiders, old and new, is admired by the local Mexican population: common, shared pride insists on a foundation of education for children to be healthy full human beings. Sans sycophancy, every volunteer I met had few worrisome reflexes about Mexico as our neighbor, not to be confused with a foreign territory. It is our privilege to work with our neighbors. When you fall in love with a place, you sort out how to return. It is how you insert your behavior with residents that you get invited back.
You can measure your work makes a difference in a stranger’s life when you search out a community’s actions in dire circumstances and admire the result enough to model your own behavior. We can easily be responsible citizens of our own neighborhood and plod along, but reciprocal giving comes from places in your heart which surprise you, kindled by places you might only see once or twice. Those are the Aha! moments for which we all might learn to make a great planet greater. Sell the idea to everyone: each of us must recognize people who are not having a good life will actually get better because you showed up. Everyone feels freer inside from that well-spent time.