Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Living the Mission

Hello all,

I wanted to share with you my blog post that I've written for the Grand Canyon Trust this week. We were all asked to write about something we've learned or something that we will take with us from this project. Here it is, enjoy!

“I’m so jealous, you get to go to the Grand Canyon.” These were the words repeated to me over and over again as I prepared for a two-month stint in Northern Arizona with the Grand Canyon Trust. “It’s not the ACTUAL Grand Canyon,” would be my constant reply, trying to help my fellow corps members understand that I wasn’t about to spend my eight weeks along the Colorado River with amazing cliff views and breathtaking night skies. What the Grand Canyon Trust actually was, I had no idea at the time, so imagine my surprise as I found myself under a spectacular sky of stars after our 15 passenger van crossed over the Colorado river and drove past the towering Vermillion Cliffs. No, this was not the Grand Canyon, it was the Colorado Plateau, spanning four states and including one of the world’s natural wonders with so much more.

My first impression of Kane Ranch was that I must have been in volunteer heaven. I was fed delicious food morning, noon, and night during orientation. The ranch was an adorably cozy home with a real dining room table, perfect sized kitchen, beds, and room to sleep outside. As a long term volunteer, these were luxury items. Soon I began to realize what other commonplace things would become luxury items as well: electricity, hot water, ANY water, warmth, light, internet. I learned how to wash dishes without running the water at all, how to shower quickly enough that there would be hot water for 9 showers after mine, and how to limit my cell phone usage so that I wouldn’t have to use too much electricity to charge my battery. I wrote letters, bundled up, and put some new batteries in my headlamp.

The adjustment to this conservative way of life was not nearly as difficult as I expected. In fact, I found myself appreciating the amazing surroundings and the simplicity of life in the House Rock Valley. Little did I know, the Grand Canyon Trust was working its mission statement into not only my volunteer efforts, but into my way of life.

The mission of the Grand Canyon Trust is “to protect the Colorado Plateau – its spectacular landscapes, flowing rivers, clean air, diversity of plants and animals, and areas of beauty and solitude.”

There I was, only a few days into my time volunteering with the trust, and I was falling in love with the beauty and solitude of my worksite, waking up to the landscape every day and being thankful that places like the House Rock Valley still existed for me to visit.

I could have easily been fed facts including the size of the Colorado Plateau, the types of plant and animal species living in the area, and the threats to the region…and I was. The thing is, I was also experiencing this area firsthand. Eventually I would restore fencing for one of the fastest land animals in North America, hike down the Paria River and drink from a natural spring, remove invasive tamarisk to make room for willow, learn about the coal-fired power plant on the Navajo Reservation, and much more. Landscapes, rivers, air, plants, animals, beauty, solitude.

I have worked with a large handful of non-profits and never have I lived out a mission statement so fully in my work and daily life. The Grand Canyon Trust values volunteers not only as workers, but as stewards, continuing the appreciation of and passion for the beautiful land we live on.

My work with the Trust has changed the way I see the world around me. If that’s too cheesy for you, suffice it to say that the Trust has changed the way I live my work. It is this passion for all parts of work that I will take with me when I leave Northern Arizona and continue my adventures. Not only will I continue my love for this area, but I will also try to truly live the mission of those I work with next.

Ghandi was right when he said we should be the change in the world. My only addendum would be that we should truly live the change in every aspect of our work and life.


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