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London layover

Eugene Ahn

Posted 5:01PM on Wednesday, August 01, 2007 Pacific Time

The journey from Los Angeles to London was overdosed with drama. At the airport, it took us three hours to run the check-in gauntlet. During that time, a woman had to be taken away in an ambulance.

The most tenuous moment of this leg occurred on the flight itself, somewhere over Canada. A man began to storm down the cabin aisle, desperately screaming for a doctor. Fortunately, one was on board. This man's mother had fainted while in her seat or was otherwise unresponsive. The man sat down in the empty seat next to me, visibly upset, and I offered him some water and conversation to help him keep composure while the physician made assessments.

The man sitting next to me turned out to be a Los Angeles high school student, as big as a bear and showing a fierce protective instinct for his mother and family. They are traveling to Armenia where they will have a month-long reunion with some 60 or so relatives. In our conversations, the student told me of his dream to live in an ocean-view house in Malibu, and to work as a doctor, specifically as an ostetrician/gynecologist. "I thought about what kind of doctor I want to be and I decided on this area of ob/gyn because I want to help people to have joy in their life."

His name, translated from Armenian, turns out to be something along the lines of "Sneaky Tiger," although there's nothing sneaky about his very direct intentions and outlook on life. Here's a kid who really believes in studying hard and putting in the work. He has made a road map for his own life. Whether he ultimately reaches the final destination that he has set out for himself is beside the point. What matters is that this person has big dreams and is making use of powerful tools and resources to realize them.

It's clear to me that someone growing up with a strong family/community environment, and access to education, is going to have better and more opportunities to make goals and do something about achieving them. It got me thinking as we get closer to starting our work with young people who live in a country where, according to U.S. State Department statistics, the adult illiteracy rate is more than 50%, the average citizen has spent less than two years in school, and a growing number of children are living as orphans.

Tools and resources, as well as powerful practices that make use of them, are needed to help young people in these conditions work on the dreams that will lead them to a better life.

We're in London for another day. Tomorrow, my fellow travelers (Joanne, Russell, and Jalal), will meet up with the rest of the project team, and as a group we will continue on to Maputo.

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I want my kids to have warm shelter, bright future and good education. My family to accept me. I want to own a house, to be independent, have a good job so I can raise my children -- to educate them.
Nthabiseng Lamona
Cape Town project participant

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