Connecting local responses around the world
Amber was introduced to the ideas of Local Response and the SALT visit by the Constellation in November 2008. At the time, she had worked in the not-for-profit sector for 8 years and she thought that she had lots of experience of visits to communities.
‘We all came with good intentions—to offer solutions to life’s problems to those who we presumed could do nothing for themselves.’
I read Amber's story as part of the Blended Learning program, and we were asked to share our reflections.
Amber’s story reminded me of life-changing experiences I had when living on the Navajo reservation (the Navajo Nation as they call it themselves, or Dine Bikeyah, the Land between the Sacred Mountains) in Northeast Arizona (USA).
My learning is about PERCEPTION: the way we look at people and their living conditions, the way we judge and compare. I remember visiting a young woman who lived with her grandparents in a little building that looked like the structures in townships in South Africa.
When I visited their piece of land with the structure to live in for the first time, I was so excited to be able to spend time on this native american reservation, see places and meet people, that I didn’t notice what could be called ‘deplorable, unhealthy living conditions’. I felt so much at home on the land, and I was so touched by being around the Navajo, that I didn’t have the outsider perspective. I looked with the innocence of a child.
Later on I noticed how white American tourists approached a Navajo friend by asking questions about poverty, and how offended he was. I still remember the intensity in his voice when he responded by asking them in return the question: ‘What is poverty?’ He said ‘We are rich, rich because of our spirituality.' In hindsight I realize that only because of my childlike wonder, I was able to build connections with the local Navajos, and I was welcomed and accepted as a long lost family member.
It is because of my openness to learn, my patience and the respect I showed, that I was invited to sacred ceremonies and family gatherings where I was the only white person. To this day I’m touched by the priviledge that was granted to me.
I intend to bring this experience with the Navajos with me, to inspire myself to bring the spirit of curiosity and an open mind when meeting new people.
The image of a painting by Harrisson Begay depicts scenery from the Sacred Mountain of the West, showing the herbs, animals, and Abalone shells that correspond with the cardinal direction of the West. The Sacred Mountain of the West is an actual mountain that borders the Navajo Nation. The beauty, interconnectedness and sacredness of all living beings is shown in Begay's painting.