A few good people doing good work-CAUSE Canada
Last October The Old Guys in Action completed another physically challenging feat and learned yet another set of important life lessons. You can teach old dogs new tricks. This old dog learned a few in Guatemala, that`s for sure
6 days on our bikes; 300+ km; 30,000 ft. elevation loss and gain; rain and cold at 12,000 ft. to steamy hot at ocean level; sometimes technical, other times just straight up difficult (one stretch 20 km up at 50-60 degree climb). Would the “old guys” do it again? Yes we would-in an eye blink-or CAUSE Canada and the important work they do in Guatemala and other countries around the world. Here are some of my final thoughts.
First, as the ‘old guys’ often say, you can’t just sit there when there are many different ways to learn, engage, network and make a few dollars for a good cause like maternal and child healthcare, and support good organisations like CAUSE Canada. Over the past quarter of a century, CAUSE Canada has addressed problems, answered questions and addressed issues regarding assisting this under-assisted area of the world, through micro-credit enterprises, literacy programs and child and maternal health care and other programs. What a privilege to endure a few saddle sores and aching muscles to support them in their important work.
Over the 6 days of riding and 4 days of travel we visited CAUSE Canada projects, including some of the micro-credit sites where women are leading the way in managing business ventures in their villages. We met some of the local people who have kept CAUSE Canada’s projects going strong. The serendipity was at work too. Once we chanced upon a rural school and joined in an outdoor P. E. class and a basketball game. Much to the delight of the students we joined in. We should have stayed on our bikes. Fun as it was the students were underwhelmed with our skills. At first, I thought that they were laughing with us not at us. I was wrong.
As of October 7th it appears that our donors will have supported us and CAUSE Canada’s maternal and child healthcare program at $30,000. This amount will be matched by the Department of Foreign Affairs Trade and Development at $6.5 for every $1.00 CAUSE Canada raises. So, at this point in time, thanks to you and all our ‘Old Guy in Action’ supporters we will have raised $225,000.00 for moms and children.
What else have I learned?
The Old Guys want to thank Pablo and Bev Carrick for their support.
Teaching falls and rises on relationships. Specifically, teaching effectiveness depends on a teacher creating a real community of real relationships, made visible, authentic, living and for everyone. Community is not an abstraction. Community is a particular way of being in the world that comes about through right relationships. When we are in the world in particular ways we bring about right relationships, and bring about community. When power is exercised so as to bring about psychological control over a learner, right relationships are not brought about. When forgiveness for a mistake is asked for by a teacher, and in turn offered by an offended student, a right relationship is brought about. As learners in a course recognize a teacher’s request for forgiveness, community develops. Particular ways of being in the world (e.g. offering and receiving forgiveness, dignifying each person’s answers, truth telling to name a few) and many other right and good attributes in both teacher and learner are created in healthy community and in turn create healthy community, one that comes to be characterized by good pedagogic relationships. Community is essentially dialectical, a verb whose essence is right relationships. Community is sustained by particular attributes and not others. This conceptualization of community, while subtle, is the important basis for my teaching philosophy.
Community is most real in physical proximity, in physical closeness such as in neighbourhoods. Robert Bellah, Richard Rohr and others who understand this important premise of communities write about communities that last. These communities have a transcendent sense of themselves-they are bigger and mean more than what meets the eye. For example, the people who live in Mother Theresa’s homes and work with the poor know that they are doing more and mean more than just feeding and caring for the dying. Communities that have a clear enemy-something or somebody that they are over and against-tend to last. The problem with ‘that which they are over and against’ might shift, might move. If the strongest basis for one’s community then goes away, soon to follow is the community. For example, if you and your co-workers are over and against your boss, the new government, abortion or anything else you will feel in community with others. Once gone and no longer an issue, community will diminish. Communities that last have something that they are ‘for.’ For example, teams are for winning generally but may have other pieces of their reality that they are for. A coach is suffering from cancer, a team mate is seriously injured and in the hospital. Being for helping them or just sitting in shiva together builds community. An abstraction that people gather around, a great idea as Parker Palmer calls it, can also build community. Finally, some symbolic representations of the community hold communities together. Like it or not the ‘cross’ is a powerful community builder. Just ask a Catholic person who goes to another country and walks into a building (some people call the building a church-it is just a building in which the church meets) in which a cross is visible.
So what? The best leaders are the ones who effectively and intentionally build community based on the principles of proximity, transcendence, gathering around great ideas, being over and against something, being for something and making symbols a visible part of the setting. They avoid brokering in meaningless abstractions like ‘learning communities.’ They get it!
Dr. Bernie Potvin is Associate Professor and Director, Education, at Ambrose University, in Calgary AB. He is married, with three children. Bernie has worked in education in twelve countries, including Afghanistan, South Africa and Peoples Republic of China. He is the co-founder of Old Guys in Action; former chair of two international boards-Daystar Education Society and Careforce International.