Month: March 2012

What’s New – Buenos Aires!!!


IMG_5633We have been in Buenos Aires for the last two weeks, working with L.I.F.E. (Luchemos por una Infancia Feliz y con Esperanza – roughly translated means, Fighting for Children’s Happiness and Hope).   LIFE arranges after-school programs, birthday parties and other activities for kids in the less fortunate suburbs of Buenos Aires.  They also have programs in homeless shelters within the city. Jackson, Buck and I have been splitting our time between the suburbs and homeless shelters.  


IMG_5647Our work certainly gives us a greater appreciation for all that we have.  Our first day on the job, we worked at a birthday party.  LIFE holds birthday parties once a month in a specific location for all kids with birthdays in that particular month.  Each child with a birthday in that month is given a present and shares in the birthday cake.  It’s really a sweet program and the kids have the time of their lives, with games and activities.   

We have also been working with the after-school program, doing art project, worksheets and activities.  The kids really like the one on one attention and our spanish is getting better with each passing day.   I have to say, that love and attention breaks all bounds of language and culture.  We have yet to walk away frustrated by not being able to communicate fully.  By the way, the sign below translated reads – “When there is a will, there are a thousand resources.  When there is no will, there are a thousand excuses.” 

I think the most meaningful work has been at the homeless shelter.  The families live in a large shelter separated by cubicles.  They get 3 meals a day and have shower and bathroom facilities.  LIFE offers different fun activities for the kids… Jewelry making, art projects, school materials, and sports equipment.   Buck has taken to playing Futbol (soccer with the younger kids) and Jackson has become the guy that they all love to tackle.  It’s amazing.  When we arrive, they all run up to us, so excited that we are there to play.  The appreciation is so sweet and makes the work so incredible. There is one little boys who has stolen our heart, Brian!  

He has adopted Jackson and Buck as his big brothers.  There are just some kids that you know will grow up to do great things in the world, despite their circumstance.  I know that to be the case with Brian.  Smart as a whip, greatest smile on earth, and a pure heart of gold.   All the coordinators have said that Brian has really come “into his own” since Jackson and Buck have taken him under their wings.  Now he’s super feisty, funny beyond belief…but the coolest thing is watching Brian look after his little sister who is 2.  Whenever snacks or art supplies are handed out, he always makes sure his little sister gets her fair share. When we left yesterday, he gave us hugs and then found his sister, took her hand and walk her back into the building.  Now that is a sign of a guy going places.  Brian, you are a class act!

And more luck for the Lewis boys.  I found out my friend (and old neighbor), Mark Lennon, from the band, Venice, was in Buenos Aires touring with Roger Waters of Pink Floyd and the show, The Wall! I sent him an email, had lunch an hour later and then the boys and I got invited to see The Wall at The River Plate Stadium.  It gets better, we got band seats – 18th row center and got to go backstage and hang out with the band.  Picture to the right is of Buck center stage sporting his new mohawk in front of 60,000 fans.   How lucky are the Lewis Boys… Jackson and Buck even got drum sticks from the drummer and Buck got a Roger Waters guitar pick, his new prized possession.  The Wall is one of the most incredible shows I think I have ever seen.  If you get the chance to see it, go for it… They are touring around the world.  Thanks, Marky for my kids’ first Rock ‘N Roll stadium show.  Will be hard to beat. 

We are off this afternoon to do our after-school program and then tomorrow, back to the shelter to see Brian and the others again.  Buck has arranged for his sponsor, Lego, to ship Lego to LIFE  to distribute to the kids.   Very exciting.   

We leave Saturday to return to Ushuaia for our ship to Antarctica.  Holy cow!  

Then we will return to Buenos Aires to catch a bus to Cordoba to the mountains to work at a wild life sanctuary for Howler Monkeys… but that’s another adventure.     More to come… and thanks, as always for all of your support and encouragement.  

 

 

Posted by JD in Argentina, 9 comments
Argentina!  En unión y libertad!!!

Argentina! En unión y libertad!!!

We have arrived in South America!  We just spent a week in Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world. The views are surreal… painted with jagged snow-capped mountain ranges and rugged windswept seas.  It brings up thoughts of how the early explorer must have feasted their eyes.

We met up with Osvaldo Estevez who is the owner of Ushuaia Extremo, a great shop for all things Extreme Sports… bicycles, skis, snowboards, trekking equipment.  But more importantly, he is doing great humanitarian work in the south of Argentina.  He has a program for recycling older bicycles and distributing them to the less fortunate kids in Ushuaia.

Though the city is a tourist destination, Osvaldo gave us a tour of the struggling neighborhoods on the outskirts of the city.  These people live far below the poverty level in houses with no plumbing or heating.  And even in the summer, it’s a cold place.  Osvaldo is committed to making a difference in his community and I have great admiration for the man.  Twelve in Twelve is partnering with him, to help bring relief efforts to this community.

We stayed at Antarctica Hostel, which was a total blast.  For those of you that have traveled on the cheap, you know hostel living.  Shared rooms and bathrooms and usually a communal area where everyone hangs out.

We met the coolest people.  Was really like a family.  Big shout out to Ellie, Charlotte, Biscuit (Oriol), Elvis, Gabriel and all the others.  We will miss you guys.  It was great to get to know people from Spain, Belgium, South Africa, Holland, Canada, Australia, Germany and even New Jersey!  Buck and Jack had the time of their lives.  If you get to Antarctica, stay at Antarctica Hostel… it’s the best.

 

Also I want to thank Alicia Petiet from Antarctica Travel (http://www.antarcticatravels.com) who took us under her wing and did everything for us while we were there.  Such an incredible woman.  She has a daughter that lives in Charlotte, so we get to see her again in the states in August.  She sorted out our Antarctica travel where we will be speaking about our trip on a ship starting March 25th.  We were originally going to go to the South Georgia Islands, but that was a tough one to work out.  We thought that we would have to miss doing all seven continents until our guardian angel Alicia arrived on the scene.  It’s the last ship of the season and we managed to get on it. Amazing, eh? We will be traveling for 10 days to Antarctica working with the ship captain (a friend of Alicia’s) and hopefully with some of the scientists onboard.

 

But we have a lot to do before that happens.  We are on a plane right now to Buenos Aires where we will be working with the organization, L.I.F.E.  We will be volunteering there for two weeks before we return south to Ushuaia to work with UE (Ushuaia Extremo) giving out recycled bicycles in the community, which we feel honored to be a part of, and to catch the boat to the ends of the earth… Stay tuned.

 

 

 

One last note… thanks to so many people that continue to support our efforts.  Just want to name a few (in no particular order)…. Murphy (God Love You!), Robert Shapiro, Kristina Haddad, Bo Henderson, Ed Springs, Ed Smith, the incredible Bert Woodard!, Wheelock Whitney, R.A. Buck (Uncle Buck), Tony Lydgate, my mentor Sue Sanford!, LuAnne Bernier, The Klug-Price Family, Andrea Cooper, Peter Cipkowski,  my agent Steve Ross, The Branca Family, The Grey Family, the always patient Rachel Woodhouse, Robert Kanter, Larry Toppman, Lisa McLeish, Kathy Abernathy, Scott Pacitti,  Jennifer Taylor (happy birthing!!), Dolores Scozzesi, Meredith Jones, Patrick Elliot, Barry Alpert, Les Satinover, Jackie Burch, Michael Lightweaver, Steve Bearden, John Kurc, Nick Corley, Cher Ferreyra, The Dyer Family, Linda Britt, The Aceti Family, Jodi B. Wise, Linda Guth, Kenneth Wyse, Andrew Beachum, Meera Gandhi, Heather Gilliland, Renee Moore, Nina Giovannitti,  Sara Giovanitti, Gary Peters, Heidi Dove, Mary and Mike Gutowski, Laura Diaz, Lindsey Moser, Juan Carlos Piedrhitas, Anna Shaw, Paige Hauff, Patty Strader, Kent Smith, Elise Duquette, Barnet Sherman, Roberto Elinan, Chris Totty, Ben Kubie, Allison Flanagan, Valerie Bobo, Scott Galliher, Norbert Weisser, Francine Popkin, Andrew Martin, Susan McMullen, Theoden Janes, Ray Cline, Todd Plocharczyk, Jessica Milligan, Jon Davis, Monk Duke (Losang Tenpa), NoDa Yoga!!!, Doug Nydick, The Roush Family, Jay Everett and The Wachovia-Wells Fargo Foundation, Marcella Detroit, Lance Aston, Kellin Watson, Xan Spencer, Esther Benjamin, John Kennedy, Rickie Lee Jones, Yoko Ono, TedXCharlotte, the late Dr. Barry Bowe (who we miss terribly), and of course, my sisters, Laurie Wilson and Linda Frazure.  And all the others who I will thank in the next email… I’m on a plane and it’s late… so forgive me if I’ve forgotten.

Everyone’s support has meant the world to us. You have no idea.  My kids and I have been changed for life from this opportunity.  I feel confident that our efforts will continue to make a difference as the organization, Twelve In Twelve, builds momentum.  We are committed to continue our efforts back in the states to support the organizations we have had the good fortune of working with on this journey.  We are also committed to support others in their efforts to do humanitarian work abroad.   There’s so much more to do!

More adventures to follow.  Love you all!

 

 

Posted by JD in Argentina, 4 comments
The Magical Outback!

The Magical Outback!

If you are lucky, once in awhile, a cosmic occurrence confirms that there are greater powers at work beyond your immediate understanding.  The Lewis boys experienced that very thing in White Cliffs, NSW.

The RFDS (Royal Flying Doctors Service) suggested we take the weekend off and head to White Cliffs for the weekend.  They let us borrow the 4X4 and off we went – on a three-hour drive through the outback, in search of adventure and kangaroos.

We pulled into the tiny mining town and found our hotel.  The famous Underground Motel.  Yes, the entire hotel is underground…. way underground.  With just a light shaft to brighten the room in the daytime, these rooms are kept cool by the mere fact that they are so underground.  Being a tad claustrophobic, there was definitely an adjustment period for me… some deep breathing and Jedi Mind tricks.  The kids needed no adjustment period.  They just plain loved it.

We loaded the bags into our room and headed out to explore the downtown area of White Cliffs that consisted of a pub, convenience store, and the opal mine fields.  We had seen a sign for Red Earth Café, and being in dire need of a cappuccino, I dragged the kids in that direction.

When we arrived, a young Liam Neeson look-alike met us at the door.  He acted as if he were expecting us.   “Oh!”, he said, “You’re the guys that are traveling around the world.  We’ve heard about you”.  The boys and I look at each other, a bit full of ourselves, and acknowledged our new found fame.  See, we had just been in the local newspaper, that apparently everyone in town reads and were used to a bit of attention.

Then Liam’s wife arrived… Mother Earth incarnate.  Sacha was a walking Déjà Vu experience.  Having never met her, I instantly felt like I knew her and our conversation flowed as if we were old friends.   Sacha explained that she was expecting us to stop by… which I thought was a bit eerie.  And then she talked about how her husband (his real name, Graeme) was an opal miner and used a divining rod and his intuition, to find his mother lode.  I thought, “These guys are hooked up… big time”.

She then asked us if we would like a tour of their home – one of the largest underground homes in the area.  It was amazing, with tons of bedrooms all under the bedrock of White Cliffs.  They have five kids… three currently away at school.  They are an “Outback Brady Bunch”.  She had two kids from a previous marriage and he had three.  Sacha explained that her daughters were students of “School of The Air” and had watched us on the Internet during the last Friday’s assembly.  We thought that that was pretty cool.

After a tour of their home and a great cappuccino, Graeme offered to take us down into his opal mine.   He instructed us to meet him up in the minefield in a half an hour.  We agreed and headed out.  When we found the place, Graeme arrived in his truck just as a huge cloud appeared overhead, bringing with it, a dust cloud, rain, and lightning.  We postponed the mining for the next day and off Graeme went in his truck.  The boys and I got lost in the minefield in the pelting rain and lightning, sure that we would be struck by the next flash of light.  We managed to find out way back to The Underground hotel, to hold up for the night.  There I discovered a note given to me by Alex at the RFDS.  I opened it up and there was a request from the owners of The Red Earth Café to come visit them, if we happened to pass through town.  How crazy was that.  They had no idea we were headed up that way, but Sacha and Graeme had extended an invitation to us… without even knowing our plans.  And without reading that note, we happened upon their cafe.  Which, of course, explained their welcome when we arrived.  Cool, eh?

The next morning arrived, we had some breakfast and back to Sacha and Graeme’s house.  Their daughters were there this time, having returned from a sleepover the night before.  The kids all hit it off.  We all loaded into the truck and 4×4 and headed out to the minefield, with a generator in tow… all 7 of us.

When we arrived, we were introduced to the oil drum of an elevator that would carry us down to the center of the earth in search of the always elusive opal.  The elevator shaft was just a bit larger than the rusty makeshift lift.  Sacha would go down the hydraulic lift first to make sure the lights were on and that there were no snakes.  Yikes!   Then, Jackson, the warrior descended. Then the two girls went down and then it was my turn.  Buck and I went down together.  With a pounding heart and chanting Jedi mind mantras, we were lowered into the bowels of the earth… and I mean the bowels of the earth.  It must have been 100 feet below the surface when the rusty drum stopped to reveal the inner workings of a real life opal mine.  Wow!  With lights working from the generator above, a magic world we had never experienced before was revealed to us.  A series of tunnels, big enough to stand up in, lay before us.  It was surreal.   Awestruck, the boys and I explored the caverns and Graeme even invited the boys to use a jackhammer and do some drilling of their own.  And yes, they both walked with a piece of opal!

It was an exciting day for the Lewis family.  We then returned across the blistering outback to Broken Hill.  Before we left to return to Sydney, we cooked a BBQ for all the staff at RFDS and then we were honored at a dinner with the local Broken Hill Rotary Club. The following day, Buck and Jackson were invited to attend a day of school with the local kids.  They had a ball.  I boarded a plane with the clinic doctors for Tibooburra, a small town in a remote area of the outback.

 

 

I joined the pilot, a doctor, a dentist, a woman health practioneer, and a psychologist for their weekly clinic.  It’s quite inspiring, as this is the only healthcare these people see in their neck of the woods.  I met some interesting characters out there.

 

 

 

I have to include a shout out to Robin Nelson, a wonderfully talented artist that we had the pleasure to meet while in Broken Hill.  She had a exhibition of her work at The Broken Hill Regional Art Gallery.  I am a big fan of her work.   We are the proud owners of a RFDS inspired piece she crafted to honor the RFDS airlifting her daughter to Adelaide.  She also gave each of the boys original artwork and jewelry that she made. Thanks, Robin!   What a pleasure to meet you.

The boys and I flew back to Sydney, where we enjoyed yet another rare treat, hosted by the RFDS.  They arranged for us to fly an actual 747 simulator.  Was incredible.    Even got to fit in a lunch with my dear friend and remarkable cinematographer, Peter James, and long time pal, filmmaker, J.T. O’Neal  who was “down under” promoting his new film, The Soccer Nanny  (Au Pair, Kansas) at the Mardi Gras Film Festival.

As cheap airplane tickets would have it, we were routed through Dubai, United Arab Emirates, were we stayed for two days, checking out the sites… Very cool place. Visited the tallest building in the world.

And have now, after two full days of flying, arrived at our next location.  Ushuaia, Argentina!  We are in the south-most town in all the world… at the south tip of South America.   More to come.

 

Posted by JD in Australia, 8 comments