Sunday, May 2, 2010
Tashirat, a 10 minute drive from Tepoztlan, is a non-profit organization that was first started 10-12 years ago. It began as a yoga ashram that did outreach service work in schools in the community. The original members were saddened to see that the work they did was not as effective as it could be, as many of the children they worked with went home at the end of the day to alcoholism and abuse. So, they decided to optimize their efforts, and created an orphanage. On their 40 acre property, a large dorm was built to house the children. Quickly it became apparent that this living situation was not in line with the values of the staff.
As it is set up now and has been for several years, Tashirat officially adopts the children that live here and do not adopt them out. These children are found from and adopted through a state run agency. These children are ones who have either been in the system for a long time and haven´t been otherwise adopted, or are children new to the system who have special needs. They live in small groups with staff in family houses. Right now there are 8 or 9 staff members, 5 of which have children. There are 32 children, providing each family with 6 or 7 kids. This is part of what makes this orphanage unique compared to others. The children are given family, given love from parents, given siblings, given a home that is safe and nurturing and stable.
These children come from horrific backgrounds. Here there are children who have been severely physically abused, children who have been severely sexually abused, children who have been abandoned by their parents and have thus lived on the streets, children who have been sold to be sex slaves, children with physical and mental handicaps, children who have been left at home alone for days at a time by prostitute mothers, children who have obvious stunted growth from serious malnutrition at early ages, and children who have been on anti-seizure medication for seizures triggered by intense abuse. These children, adopted by Tashirat, are now thriving, healthy, vibrant, and wonderful children. They have been transformed by this place, by the love they receive here, the healthy food, the simple environment, the structure, the consistency, the family.
The children are educated by the staff as well, from 8-3 Monday through Saturday. Most of the staff, many younger than myself, have lived here for 8-10 years. There are a few who are older and newer to the project. They have all sacrificed so much to give so much to these children. It is their spiritual practice to give to those in need. And in so giving, they feel they receive an incredible amount of fulfillment and growth in return.
It brings me to tears nearly every day to know the histories of these children, to see the dedication of the staff to nurture and heal these children. Here, it is quite obvious that healing is one of the powers of love. LOVE HEALS. It is beautiful and moving to see it in action, to see people giving like this. It is remarkable to not see the horrible pasts in the present behavior of the children, but to see them loving their life and this place. They are happy, laughing, playing, treating each other as siblings, looking out for one another. Even the teenagers love it here. A couple of children who have come of age and left this place, have returned because they believe in it and want to be a part of it.
Also on Tashirat grounds is a community school, educating 60 students from the nearby outside community. A handfull of the Tashirat children are in this school, which goes from 1st-9th grades, but others are not focused enough for that traditional style of education or are needing more individual tutoring than the school can provide. So they are taught, as I said, by the Tashirat staff. Tashirat is greatly respected in the larger community for the service it provides to the children living in the community, and the children who live at Tashirat.
Tashirat is an amazing place, different from other orphanages. Other volunteers here who have been to other orphanages around the world describe places where 60-80 kids live in dorm style buildings and very few staff. The staff are not interactive with the children, and so the children are left to mostly fend for themselves and each other. When I envisioned working in an orphanage, I pictured myself going with the purpose of giving love and nurturing to children who are desparately hungry for it. I was so surprised and happy to discover that these children don´t need me like that. They receive what they need from the staff. Instead, I come to them to play, make art, go on walks, laugh, and learn. Yes, and I still give them as much love as I can, because I need to.
My experience has been amazing here. Yes, finally I am feeling clarity and inspiration and fulfillment growing in me. I love living in community like this, helping in whatever ways I can to support the ever-working staff, serving the children. I know that I have to make service an integral part of my life. There is so much need in the world, so many people and environments that are suffering and need healing. I know many of my family and friends already do service work, which I love, and I want to encourage those of you who don´t to give it a try. You can start by donating money to Tashirat at www.tashirat.com (unfortunately, they have very little money right now. And being a non-profit, they are completely dependent on donations and those who sponsor the children. I believe in this place so much, and would not otherwise ask you for your support.) or you can find somewhere in your local community to donate your time and talents...with people, animals, the earth...there is so much healing needed in this world and it is up to us!
My daily life here is quite simple...I awake early with the sun. Usually, I am awake by 6:30, and out of bed by 7:30. 8a.m. is when yoga begins, outside and in Spanish, Monday through Friday. On weekends, I still get up and start my own solo yoga practice by 8. After breakfast, I have a variety of work that I do. Every day seems different, as there are so many things that are needed to be done, and not enough people to do them. I make fresh juice for the staff (my way of supporting them as they work hard all day), help out in the community kitchen that prepares food for the children, hang out with the children of one particular family,
water the tropical fruit orchards, work in the greenhouse (yesterday I started 200 starts each of tomatos, cucumbers, and lettuce),
organize the clothing donations, help watch the kids during mealtimes, and facilitate a card making project from the children to their sponsors. I work 6 hours a day, Monday through Saturday. Evenings are spent in the Casa de Voluntarios, where volunteers from all over the world cook together, laugh together, reflect on our days, and learn from each other´s life experiences.
I read and write and meditate before bed, and turn the lights out usually between 10 and 11.
My private bungalow is mostly made of windows, with a rock wall base. My bed is surrounded on 3 sides by windows, and hung with a mosquito net to attempt to keep out the many bugs.
From my bed I can see the beautiful mountains in the distance, the amazing sunrises, and the moon as it makes its travel across the sky during the night.
We use a composting toilet, and the sink I brush my teeth in sends it´s greywater to a nearby papaya tree. We just harvested a papaya this week that we had been watching ripen since I arrived. I have never liked papaya, but always try it when someone is eating one, just to make sure. For the first time in my life, I have loved a papaya! It was mild compared to others, but soooo delicious, fresh from the tree.
Our kitchen is outside. Our shower is cold, and I love it.
Pathways crisscross the hilly 40 acres, connecting all of the houses, school buildings, kitchens, gardens, and others areas. I spend most of my time outside, and feel so close to nature. I love the feeling of not having electronics in my daily life. No computer, no radio, no telephone, no news of the outside world, no cars. Not having a computer and car especially help me to see how much of my time I waste during my normal day. Here at Tashirat, I do not feel that one minute of my day is wasted. And I am only mildly busy. I feel that every minute is lived, rich, and alive.
Sundays, I hop on the local little bus and head to Tepoztlan, full of stimulation with the market and the vendors and the people. I spend a few hours on the computer to connect with the world, and then head back to the home in the forest.
My time here is halfway through, it is speeding by at an incredible rate. In 2.5 weeks I will return to the states. It will be hard to leave, and already I want to return.
Next week I will try to tell you more about individual people, and specific moments. There is so much to tell....the cob oven I helped to put the finishing touches on,
the other volunteers I have met, the children I spend time with, the sustainable developments happening at Tashirat right now, the things I have been thinking about, the Mexican cook Luis who finds it hilarious to call me "Beautiful Pepsi" or "Sweet Taxi" (the Mexicans pronounce my name Bepsi, for some reason they have a hard time with the TS sound.....) For right now, I have a market to go to for produce and a bus to catch back to Tashirat.
Thank you for reading, and please feel free to share this link with others you think would be interested. Spread your love...it heals!