Over the next couple of weeks, I plan to go in depth into my recent Site Chicago educational experience in the amazing city of Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico, those should be some great posts pointing out the good the bad and the ugly of the city and the experience. What I am pleased to announce is that the positives FAR outweigh the negatives and in fact, the bad things I will have to say are probably just my (sunburned) bitchy self and will have no impact on whether you do a program in this great metropolis (which you should).
I do however, have a best, experience and it has nothing to do with the amenities, the venues, the transportation, the food or anything that would remotely affect your meetings or events. It really has to do with the people that we met, specifically the children and the people that take the time to educate them.
The group (Site Chicago) had the opportunity to visit a school in Guadalajara that is quickly becoming the epicenter of the neighborhood where it resides. A poor neighborhood that most American’s would see and say “OMG, we are not getting out the van” and where I of course, say, stop the freaking van, I want out….. and since we were scheduled to be here, my companions not only had a choice, they wanted to get out as badly as I did. Here is what Andrea Michaels from Extraordinary Events had to say in her email newsletter:
Let me tell you about my morning. And it revolves around joy…the joy of children…none of them spoke English except with their smiles, and hugs which needed no language. I spent my morning at Guadalajara’s Lorena Ochoa School, painting and gardening with Site Chicago members and the children of the school. After this exercise (and my jeans are now paint splattered and my wonderful Ecco shoes even more so and I DON”T CARE.) It was great. It was fun.
And after painting and planting we joined the executives of the school and the Lorena Ochoa Foundation (do you know who she is, she the great golfer from Mexico?) to give uniforms and shoes to 18 students in need. The children of this school are from a very underprivileged area. They need things. The school is beautiful. And it has an unbelievably creative system of education that combines academics with exercise and both with art in various forms.
We spent an afternoon at the Lorena Ochoa School (yes, the famous golfer) doing simple things to help. We helped in the Garden painting the compost containers, something that could have been done by the children, but that was not the point. The point was to show the Children that others care. We had the amazing opportunity to work alongside these young people that made us laugh, cry and understand that no matter where you are in the world, happy kids are happy kids and from the looks and the laughter we all shared, these were some happy little people.
After painting, we also had the opportunity to present a group of children whose parents were too poor to provide the required uniforms that they need to their daily attendance. Grateful, that was an understatement. Unlike spoiled American Brats that is our current generation, these kids were not only thankful, some cried.
That in a nutshell, is what my experience, not just a retreat or a site inspection, it made it a memory that will last with me forever and I hope the same is true of the kids whose lives we had the opportunity and privilege to touch.
This is why you should build some type of CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) program into every event, conference or meeting you plan because it can change the lives of everyone involved, if even in a small way. Why not? It costs next to nothing and the return on investment is staggering.
Here are a couple of fast photos of the excursion with more to come!