Dare to Dream

It’s approaching 2am and I’m awake.
My heart is beating faster than normal, I can’t calm my thoughts and they are bouncing around like pin ball in my brain.

No, I haven’t had a horrible nightmare!

Instead, I’ve come up with this crazy amazing dream for the next year of my life and I’m so excited about the potential it has that I can’t sleep. After an hour of trying, I decided that writing would be a better use of my time then laying in bed wide awake.

When I started this whole un-plan journey over a year ago, it was just that, unplanned. I didn’t know where it was going to take me, how I was going to get there or how long it would last. I didn’t know if I was doing the right thing or not, but I knew it would be the wrong thing not to try.

I’ve always said I’m more of a doer than a dreamer. Some people day dream their days away and never take action. Me, I get an idea in my head and I make it happen. Often though, I don’t really consider my ideas to be dreams. They are just the next step in my journey.

Tonight, I must admit, I feel differently.
The last time I remember having this strong, anxious-happy feeling was when I met Nora Gross and Brenda McAloney who inspired me to do my social awareness project – Young & Fearless – Inspiration of Cancer Survivors. The project started small and grew into two art shows and a published book. It gained a tonne of local media attention over the two years that I worked on the project, along with solidifying a strong connection with the Photosensitive project which gained me national exposure and publication in several other books. Now I feel like the time is right to follow this gut feeling again.

I’ve visited 11 countries in the last eight months. I’ve been on the road or in the skies more than I’ve been home. I’ve had so many amazing opportunities and experiences that many of them have never been told because I don’t have time to write about them all.

I feel like I have truly lived life in the last eight months. I’ve met amazing people. I’ve seen our beautiful world from boats, planes, trains, automobiles, bicycles, motoconchos and a hot air balloon. I’ve challenged myself and I’m sure I’ve challenged others (for better or worse!). I learned to surf. I can hold my own in Spanish. I’ve built life-long relationships with people I’ve met all around the world.

It’s not all roses though folks. I’ve been sick. I’ve dealt with the loss of important people in my life. I thought I found potential for love, but found out I was wrong (the hard way). All of this while being away from family and friends back home. Through all of the ups and downs though, I’ve learned an amazing amount and I have lived with my heart open.

After a short rough patch where I was feeling a little confined, sad and suffocated by the people and events surrounding me, I’ve emerged again. As I read about the devastation caused by the April 25th earthquake in Nepal, I was drawn to the images, the news, the search for survivors, the pain and the suffering of locals and volunteers who are living this horrible nightmare right now. I pondered if I could drop what I am doing in Argentina and head to Nepal to help out. However, two factors slowed me down. 1. I don’t do so well at altitude. 2. Nepal needs money not extra people at the moment. The thoughts of going to help these broken communities have been nagging at me, but I knew Nepal was not the best option.

I now feel like I’ve broken free from the confinement I had been experiencing and my brain has room to breathe. My mind went on overdrive in the opposite, but positive direction. After reading several articles about the Nepal earthquake, I found myself looking at volunteer options with a Canadian based organization Volunteer Abroad / Basecamp. I’ve worked with them before by sending travellers through their programs to work, including one girl to Nepal two years ago. I started meandering through the website and looking at placement opportunities.

There were two incredible volunteer opportunities (out of close to 100) that screamed for my help, my skill set and my attention.

The first one to catch my eye was the one that made the hair on my arms stand up and thoughts start jumping with excitement. It is a placement in Ghana, Africa to help educate women, children, and the community about the importance of education, to help stop the process of child and human trafficking and to discuss sexual health issues.

For quite some time women’s issues in Africa have caught my attention (from the missing girls in Nigeria to genital mutilation). I’ve often looked into various organizations or contacted people that I might be able to work with. Sadly, nothing has ever worked out, but maybe it just wasn’t the right time.

The second opportunity is in Tanzania, working with an orphanage to build a website / social media, including photography and writing. Then moving on to teaching local staff how to maintain it. This opportunity would give me hands on time with the local volunteers / teachers, as well as getting to know the children and their stories. Telling stories of people through photographs (and through blogging) is one of great passions. Here’s a chance!

Tonight as I chatted with a couple of friends on Facebook, my mind decided to dream …

What if I actually did decide to go to Africa and volunteer? What would that look like?
I’ll be in Nova Scotia this summer to get my yellow fever vaccine. I was already looking at the potential of staying away for a full year, just no solidified plans. And, I’ll already be in Europe for my Turkey Photo Tour come September / October which is a lot closer to Africa than I am right now!

Is this the year that I’ll see Africa and I’ll spend time making a real difference in people’s lives through a volunteer placement? Volunteering and travel together have been very important to me for quite some time, but somehow I haven’t made time recently to make it a priority. I’ve said for a long time that I should change this. Tonight the thought scurried out of the depths of my brain and had a little dance party.

 

NOTE: Initially this post was written at the end of April 2015 and I’ve revised it as of the beginning of June 2015 as I never got around to posting it. Shame on me!

Quick update: I have been in contact with Volunteer Abroad and am looking into several options for working with them later this year. I also have several new ideas that I am currently working on for potential projects with other Not for profit / Non-Government agencies.

Update coming very soon on my revised unplan for the next year of my life.

If you’ve been considering voluntourism, maybe this is your year too! Feel free to drop me a note to chat about your plans, or I’m happy to assist you in finding the right NGO/NPO to work with. Don’t be afraid to take the first step and get in touch.

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Can I fan your flame?

Let me start by saying … Yes.

Yes, you are allowed to tell me I’m crazy and that I’ve lost my marbles.

OR

Yes, I believe in making a difference and I want to be part of the change.

No matter what you say at the end of this post, please just take a moment to read it. If you think I am crazy, tell me … maybe I need to be reminded sometimes … But, if this email hits you, ignites a light in you and you squirm with excitement … tell me! Shout it from the mountain tops. Call me. Email me. Send positive energy my way. Do whatever your heart desires, but don’t do nothing.

I am writing this because I know there are people out there (who I am connected to, or who I am not) that have a spark that needs to be fanned into a flame.

I am looking for a small group of people from anywhere in Canada (or possibly beyond) who believe there is more to life than work and money. Who believe that they can make a difference, but maybe aren’t quite sure how. Who truly, deeply believe that travel is a fantastic education and that the impact and experiences you have in other countries are ever-lasting.

I am going to make a difference … I continue to challenge myself on a daily basis and remind myself that I only have one life to live. I believe that I have it in me to make a difference in other people’s lives and I am not going to ignore that. I believe that you do too and I am hoping that you will feel as strongly about all of this as I do.

I am looking into taking a trip with Me to We in 2014. You may be familiar with the name Craig Keilburger (founder), the charity Free the Children or the ever popular We Day that will be coming up in April. Me to We is the organization tied to all of these great things. Craig Keilburger ignited a spark in me many years ago when I saw a We Day television show while sitting at my parents house in Fredericton, NB. Although it has taken years for that spark to fan into a flame … here I am …

I’m considering a volunteer vacation to either India or Kenya. This is not like any other volunteer vacation you have ever heard of, so check your perceptions at the door and come in with an open mind. Take a look at this video.

I’m going to put it right up front that the trips start at about $4400 + airfare (another let’s say $1200 – $2000 depending on location and time of year, although you could use aeroplan or avion points to off set this). This is not cheap. HOWEVER, this is an investment in yourself. It is paying for a vacation (which you would have done anyway) that makes a million differences to people in India and Kenya. It is taking your hard earned dollars, investing them in yourself, seeing the world, giving back and changing people’s lives.

(On a side note, if you feel bad about leaving your husband or family at home? Me to We has youth & family programs, so if you’d rather go as a family or think your teens or university sons and daughters would enjoy this, talk to me about that option as well! I’m 100% behind you!)

These trips incorporate 2-4 partial days of volunteer work with 6 – 10 days of site seeing (temples / safaris / local meals / markets), being fully immersed in the local communities, seeing first hand the difference that we are making by helping children get an education. Helping build SUSTAINABLE communities. That means that someday the communities will not need our help because they will have the education, the skills and knowledge to continue bringing their children up and out of poverty.

If you think for a second that I have $6000 burning a hole in my back pocket, you are wrong. But, I know that I have monetary riches far beyond what people in these countries have. And, more importantly, they have riches in happiness with their simple lifestyle that I know they will share with me.

I will likely be fundraising for my trip … as you can too. Spreading the word about the cause … about the movement and change that I believe people can create. Making a change in your life, educating your children about the luxuries they have compared to the happiness and richness in life that people in much poorer communities have. Helping people become humble and empathetic. Helping people mobilize and make a difference.

My Ask is simple … Do something! Not nothing!

If you are in a place in your life where you are searching for more … you believe you can make a difference and you truly want to challenge yourself, come talk to me about this opportunity. I would like to put a group of 4 – 15 women together to take this journey hand in hand and make a difference together. I would like to do this in the 2014 year. Dates and country to be determined by the interests of the women who are committed to investing in themselves. If I find out that 15 women are inspired by this post and interested, maybe I’ll go to both India AND Kenya!

If you are interested in the possibility of joining me on this journey, let me know. Just because you call or email me doesn’t mean I’m going to sign you up. That has to be ALL YOU! It just means that this email has pulled a string in your heart and I hope it will continue to vibrate until you make the choice to do something about it. I just want to have an open conversation and find the RIGHT people to take this powerful, life changing journey together.

Once I have heard from a few people, I will set up an information session (in Halifax) – likely in May (as I’m in Peru from April 5 – 20th). If you are interested, please message (or call me – 902 402 7646) right away before you forget about it and maybe let me know if day-time, evening or weekend is best for you to get together for a presentation and open conversation.

Not ready or not interested in a trip? That’s ok. It’s not the only way to be part of the change!

1. Let me know if you are willing to help with my fundraising efforts in some way once I get fully mobilized on this. A personal donation, a product to auction off, a donation from your company, help with organizing a fundraising event or simply your support in spreading the word about my efforts because you believe in making a change.

2. Know another strong, beautiful woman who may be interested in this trip? Forward them my blog or email address (info@sharitucker.com) and ask them to get in touch with me! Fan their flame!

3. Really easy (and affordable) … go to the Me to We website and buy a product that helps support this fantastic cause. Buy a t-shirt, a book, a card … buy one of the pieces of jewelry, a scarf or handbag that are hand made by the women of these communities. Support the community AND ensure that they are being paid fair wages and building stronger, sustainable communities. The next time you have to buy a birthday gift or Christmas gift, think about living ME TO WE and support a cause while you are giving a gift! They have inspirational adult books as well as amazing children’s books!

Have I fanned your flame? Even a little flicker?

Contact me at any time to discuss any of this … your interest, your desire … what else you may be doing to make a difference. I’m happy to hear it all!

“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” – Gandhi

Dominino

In July 2012, while I was living in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, studying Spanish I was lucky enough to meet Tabea Thomaschke, founder of Dominino (site is in German).

Founder of Dominino, Tabea with one of the children from the school.

Founder of Dominino, Tabea with one of the children from the school.

As a child, Tabea had always been interested in making a difference in children’s lives and had a love for the Dominican Republic as she used to travel there with her family. As she grew older, she began working toward her goal of helping children in the poorest areas of the D.R. She started a not for profit organization called Dominino. She went into the area of San Luis, known to be one of the poorest and most dangerous areas of Santo Domingo and she started a school for the children of the community. At first, it started out very small, with only a few children, but as her funding grew, she was able to support having more children take part. The school provides education in Spanish and some German for young children, provides a meal each day and lots of love and attention from the staff. These are three very basic things to most of us in North America, but education, food and love are three things that are severely lacking in this poorest of the poor community. The school now has close to 20 students and is making a huge difference in their lives by giving them the education which will hopefully encourage them to get out of the cycle of poverty. All of this, started by a young woman in her 20’s.

I visited Dominino while I was in Santo Domingo and wish that I could have gone back again! I knew that we were heading to a poor community, but I didn’t really know how dangerous it was until I learned that taxis refused to enter the community at all … ever. Simply because it is dangerous. We got off a local guagua (bus), then climbed on moto conchos (3 of us on each) and were driven about 5-10 minutes away to the community of San Luis.

It is here where we were greeted by some very shy, but bright children who were very excited to see Tabea again, and the couple of others of us who came to visit. Some of the children were incredibly shy. Often, in fact, not even speaking to staff at the school for quite some time until they begin to feel comfortable. These children often come from abusive homes, their health is neglected, their education is non-existent and they don’t really know what it is like to be loved and cared for.

We sat with the children, singing songs and playing games. And then, they were served fresh fruit, yogurt and cereal to fill their empty tummies before heading outside to play a couple of active games in a closed in area. All the while, I was there capturing photographs of the children in their environment. Some of them were excited to be photographed and couldn’t wait to see their photos on the back of the camera. Others were cautious, but smiled shyly. Yet, a couple of children simply were scared of the white lady with the big camera. Yes, I did make a couple of children cry. To which, of course, I then stopped photographing them. I had no interest in traumatizing the children!

3642_ShariTucker

The most heart warming part for me in the end was that two of the children who were scared of me and my camera at first, came around and actually wanted their photos taken by the end of the few hours we were there.

One of the little girls who originally was scared of my camera.

One of the little girls who originally was scared of my camera.

Dominino is a not for profit organization that does good work for underprivileged children. They accept donations and you have the opportunity to be able to sponsor a child for a year to ensure that they continue getting education, food and love. The Dominino website is in German, but Tabea has excellent working knowledge in both English and Spanish. If you are interested in making a donation to this organization please contact me and I would be happy to put you in touch with the organization.

Below is a collection of photos from my visit to Dominino. I can wholeheartedly say, my favourite photos from my seven weeks in the Dominican this past summer.

Peru Through the Lens Art Show

Gallery

This gallery contains 30 photos.

The Peru Through the Lens Art Show & Fundraiser was hosted from May 10 –  May 31st, 2012 at The Adventure Travel Company (5552 Kaye Street, Halifax, NS in the Hydrostone District). It featured art work from 10 different photographers … Continue reading

Peru Through the Lens Art Show & Fundraiser

In February 2012, I embarked on an exciting journey to lead nine photo enthusiasts on a photo-tour in Peru. Machu Picchu was one of the main draws for people to participate in this trip, but in the end, many of the travelers were profoundly touched by a deeper experience when we spent three days and nights living with and getting to know families in a community called Ccaccaccollo (caca-coy-yo) which was nestled high in the Andes Mountains in the Sacred Valley of Peru.

While there, we used our photographic talents to capture family photos for the community. While tourists have often snapped photos of these amazing, warm and colourful people, none of those photos ever get returned to the community for them to cherish. What a pleasure it was for us to give them a lasting memory of their family through a photograph. Our group of 10 photo enthusiasts photographed over 60 families in one day, communicating in broken Spanish and hand gestures. It truly was a great learning experience and a fun challenge for all involved.

Family Portraits Ccaccaccollo, Peru

Family Portraits Ccaccaccollo, Peru

Family Portraits Ccaccaccollo, Peru

Family Portraits Ccaccaccollo, Peru

Family Portraits Ccaccaccollo, Peru

Family Portraits Ccaccaccollo, Peru

Family Portraits Ccaccaccollo, Peru

Family Portraits Ccaccaccollo, Peru

Family Portraits Ccaccaccollo, Peru

Family Portraits Ccaccaccollo, Peru

Now back in Canada, we are working to complete our commitment to the community by sending their printed family photos back to them. These will be the only photographs in their homes and, as you can imagine, they will be received with incredible emotion and cherished for a lifetime.

We invite you to attend our fundraising art show called Peru Through the Lens. The art show will take place on May 10, 2012 from 7-9pm at The Adventure Travel Company, 5552 Kaye Street, Halifax and will feature works of art from all 10 of the photographers who traveled together for this unforgettable experience. We will also have a variety of the family photos on display during the show which continues until May 31st. Our art prints will be sold to raise funds for the Ccaccaccollo community.

Funds raised will be funneled through Planeterra, a not-for-profit organization, to directly support the community of Ccaccaccollo. Planeterra is the leader in this community helping families preserve the ancient craft of weaving, handing it down to their children and self-creating important and valuable employment income for the entire community. Through our donations we are helping to create sustainable opportunities for the community so their traditions, language and way of life can be preserved.

Peru Through the Lens Art Show & Fundraiser, Halifax, NS

Peru Through the Lens Art Show & Fundraiser, Halifax, NS

Thank you to our wonderful sponsors – I hope you will drop by their websites to see what they have to offer.

Henry's Photo Video Digital

Henry's Photo Video Digital

The Adventure Travel Company

The Adventure Travel Company