The Story Of One Ordinary Woman’s Calling To
Discover Her Passions – And Her Extraordinary
Pilgrimage That Would Lead Her Around The Globe,
Raising Awareness and Funding for People Fighting for
Basic Human Rights. It Will Inspire Others To Connect
to Humanity and To Find their Purpose Within It.
In the summer of 2000, Lydia Dean took the first step out of
her work-focused life to spend six weeks in Costa Rica. It
would lead to the next two decades of global travels that
would focus on partnering with the world’s lesser-known
At the age of 30, Lydia Dean finds herself at the top of her game professionally, yet on the verge of an
emotional breakdown. She quits her job and persuades her husband John to bring their young family on
an inspirational path around the world in search of more meaning. The family initially settles in a quiet
village in the South of France where they discover the joys of leading a simpler life. Reconnecting with
her early childhood dreams of humanitarian work, Lydia’s adventures then take her further from the
comforts of home as the young family travels extensively to areas lacking access to education and
“I believe we are all on a journey of exploration – one that will take us each on amazingly beautiful
and varied paths. Mine required that I set the normal American life by the roadside to see, smell,
and touch the world. Then having done so, I realized that I had work to do. These pages represent a
quest, a search for a connection to humanity and a purpose within it. They also represent, at times,
a daunting search within myself, one I wasn’t always ready to face.”
Join Lydia on her courageous journey as she retells her story in Jumping The Picket Fence, 2 nd Ed.,
Lotuslight Publishing, June 2019, 324 pages, .$16.95; ISBN: 978-0-9908213-1-1 taking her through
shelters for children across India, into the jungles of Costa Rica, Southeast Asia and Venezuela, and to
China where the Deans adopt their third child. Lydia experiences her deepest life epiphanies as she
meets people and programs, quietly and courageously fighting against injustices. Believing that our
collective small personal actions can make a difference towards a greater whole, she and a passionate
team launch GoPhilanthropic Foundation, a non-profit devoted to strengthening the voice of
community-based organizations providing access to education, healthcare and basic human rights
around the world.
You Tube Book Trailer: https://youtu.be/AG0fLGX4kxw
Lydia shares her insights on:
What it’s like to uproot your family to live overseas without a game plan
The importance of breaking free of norms to following your inner voice
How to address one’s search for deeper meaning and fulfillment
How it feels to be a nomadic family
What inspired the family to adopt a child from China
What it’s like to confront the world’s problems in person
How each of us can play an active role in the global issues– not just by giving money,
but in sharing our time and hearts
“It began with a growing discomfort around the gap between what was happening out there in the big
world, and me building my secure and comfortable life. It was like they were two parallel realities that
never seemed to cross. I did what many of us do — I shied away from getting genuinely personal with it. I
put up logical barriers and made excuses, not because I didn’t want to contribute, but because I honestly
didn’t know where to start. Ok, and then there was this little voice in my head that kept telling me that
maybe, whatever I had to give wasn’t really going to be enough. Not enough time, not enough money,
not enough strength to change what was so wrong with the world.”
She also provides lessons learned from:
Traveling to countries with facing poverty, child labor, gender violence, human
trafficking, and exploitation of indigenous communities
Raising a family in untraditional ways—discovering other cultures and ways of life.
The risks of orphanage volunteering
Spending time with Mohandas Gandhi’s grandson, Arun, to develop GoPhilanthropic
Foundation a decade ago
Non-Profit building and grassroots philanthropy
Fellow humanitarians who changed her perspective on life
Jumping the Picket Fence, 2 nd Ed is a deeply insightful adventure that continues today as she advocates
on behalf of people who are cut off from the opportunities everyone deserves. She reminds us that it is
in places ‘of need’ that we find immense potential, a well of courage and brand of resilience not often
recognized in our world of comforts. Lydia brings a fresh and thoughtful outlook on how to give back
and make a difference. Her courageous story shows one can live a life that is true to oneself, even if
that requires goes against the grain.
This well-written memoir follows Lydia’s journey from an in the suburbs of Orlando to a life of fulfillment
in helping to make the world a more just place. Jumping the Picket Fence reveals just what can happen
when you have the courage to let go of fear, follow our inner voice and trust in something greater.
It’s about answering a call to connect to humanity — a pilgrimage to make a difference—to matter.
Lydia asserts: “Philanthropists, including the “everyday philanthropist” – those of us who have a genuine
desire to contribute what we can, in a way that we can – understand that we, too, can be active
participants in the innovative change we need to see in our world. In fact, the greatest risk of our time is
to not act upon our individual opportunity to invest financially, intellectually and emotionally in helping
to solve the world’s problems.”
Her story is positive, empowering, and inspirational, revealing a life-changing experience – a leap into
global travel, philanthropy, and living one’s passion. It is a touching story about one woman’s honest
pursuit to explore and follow her restless search for truth. It’s about an everyday working mother who
takes her dream and turns it into a beacon of light for others to not only contribute to the world but to
find the best of themselves to offer in doing so.
“In order to help others find and expand the greatest in themselves, we must continue to find our own.
It is my hope that these pages inspire you to follow your dreams, your life signs, no matter how scared
and unsure you might be,” shares Lydia. “And I hope along the way you take whatever opportunities you
are given to encourage and help others to follow theirs.”
It leaves you wondering what just might happen if you left everything behind to answer your higher
Jumping The Picket Fence paints a beautiful portrait of inner angst and the reward of pursuing the
unknown. Lydia’s story will likely wake up the nagging spirit inside of you that is looking for more.
From magical and entertaining to painfully raw and unsettling, this beautifully balanced mixture of travel
memoir, soul searching, motherhood and non-profit building, shows us how to put fear aside, peel away
all that insulates us, and listen and trust our inner selves. The book ultimately becomes less about what
the author has done in her own life and more about what each of us can do to explore our own dreams
and jump our own fences.
About Lydia Dean, Co-Founder of Go Philanthropic Foundation
Born in Ottawa, Canada, Lydia is an avid traveler, mother of three, and author. In 2000 Lydia left a
successful career as an executive recruiter in Orlando, Florida, to explore the world with her young
They initially settled in Provence, France where they renovated old homes and laid the foundation for
what would later become a thriving villa rental business—Only Provence. During their years outside the
United States, Lydia traveled extensively to areas lacking access to education and opportunity.
Motivated by the simple ideal that small personal actions can make a difference, she and her family
returned to the US in 2007 and launched GoPhilanthropic Travel — a social enterprise that engages
travelers with the lesser-known humanitarians of the world.
In 2011 she co-founded GoPhilanthropic Foundation www.gophilanthropic.org.
Lydia currently resides in Provence, France.
Contact Information: Media Connect
Brian Feinblum 212-583-2718 firstname.lastname@example.org
Jumping the Picket Fence, 2 nd Ed.
Lydia, what inspired you to pen Jumping The Picket Fence?
It began with a strange feeling I was supposed to document something — an odd nudge from
somewhere that inspired me to just jot notes in journals that ended up being chapters. I
definitely wanted my children to understand why were we doing what we were doing because
they were so young and I felt they deserved to know why we abandoned the normal American
lifestyle. I vaguely remember calling the journal writings “Letters to my Children.” Later, the
chapters ended up being a blog, which a few people read then encouraged me to turn into a
book. Net sum— I never had the intention of writing a book as I was writing the blog entries.
Once they were all finished, I sort of looked back at them all and said— ok yeah, I get it. That
does tell an important story. Then began the job of figuring out what it actually was “saying.” I
never saw myself as a writer though— it wasn’t until the book was published that I honored
myself as an author/writer.
When I think back on the original source of my angst, and what led me to my “journey,” it began
with a growing discomfort around the gap between what was happening out there in the big
world, and me building my secure and comfortable life. It was like they were two parallel realities
that never seemed to cross. I did what many of us do — I shied away from getting genuinely
personal with it. I put up logical barriers and made excuses, not because I didn’t want to
contribute, but because I honestly didn’t know where to start. Ok, and then there was this little
voice in my head that kept telling me that maybe, whatever I had to give wasn’t really going to
be enough. Not enough time, not enough money, not enough strength to change what was so
wrong with the world.
It took decades to take my first step, and then what seemed like an eternity to feel like I was
walking soundly on a road of contribution.
What I chronicle in the book is my path to finding that place where I realized I too had power
and greatness, like the amazing people I was meeting. It was a strange coming home of sorts.
Once I got there, I was able to take that big sigh of relief, knowing that the search to become
more involved in the world, with humanity, was over. The more I began to understand and
honor the power I had in me to make a difference, the more I saw it in others. The more I felt
my own potential, the more I saw the same potential in others– realized or unrealized. And later
I understood the need for us to help each other as friends, colleagues and fellow life travelers
along the way. GoPhil has become a place where this happens… I have now became
passionate about sharing that with others so they wouldn’t have to fumble around for 20 years
like I did wondering where to start.
How does it share your story of a woman’s search for meaning? Because that is what it was— a
deep search for something that I can only label as meaning or purpose. All along I was
attempting to read the tea leaves in what I was experiencing— knowing that it was “my teacher”
to some important life lessons.
One day you just decided you wanted to move and see the world. What was the first step taken
to advance your dream? The first step was the decision to spend a summer away for 6 weeks in
Costa Rica. I was on a run and a flash of inspiration came to me that I wasn’t a passive
bystander to my life. I just grabbed the first idea that came to mind that I thought might be
doable for my husband. That first step out could have been anywhere really— it broke the seal
per se and things were set in motion afterwards. Sometimes things are borne from a first step
no matter how small it is.
You were going to rent your Orlando home for a year while visiting France for a year but instead
of renting it, you decided to sell. Why? How did that make you feel? We didn’t really want to
sell but it was becoming too hard to rent. Then out of the blue we get this offer to sell. Basically
we were backed into a corner— either sell, or don’t go to France for a year. We felt pretty
scared because we knew somewhere that we weren’t coming back— again, a strange knowing
in the back of the mind or gut, but at the time wasn’t a conscious knowing. The thing that
helped was that both John and I were ready as a couple to do this, so if there might have been
some trepidation within one of us, the other helped push through it. It felt like jumping off a cliff
and that’s always easier if you do that 1-2-3 together.
Over the past two decades you have been more fortunate than 99% of the world, getting to
travel all over the globe. What are some of your favorite countries or cities? Some of our
favorite places are rooted in simplicity— like Provence or along the shores of Lake Atitlan in
Guatemala. But some our life epiphanies have occurred in places that are very far from this, like
in the rough parts of New Delhi or Calcutta. The word favorite is a hard one to use as each
place has left a mark of some sort — sure some more than others, but not necessarily because
they are places of aesthetic beauty but ones that have taught us something.
What have you discovered about humanity after visiting so many countries and immersing
yourselves in their cultures? That while we may have very distinct cultures, traditions —different
faces, colors, religions that make us a beautifully diverse “whole,” people generally want the
same thing— health, joy, the ability to care for their families, and for themselves. People are
happier when they have purpose and a place within the whole.
What did your friends and family think when you told them you were moving to France? We got
lots of nay-sayers! Lots of Debbie Downers and more than I would have ever expected. Some
said the kids were too young to take it all in (as if we live for our kids only and not for
ourselves?). The rest of the negativity had to do with walking away from a secure lifestyle that
seemed so idyllic on the outside. Most didn’t know how unhappy I really was. We also had a
great deal of encouragement but in hindsight sometimes you remember the ones who didn’t
Were there times you felt unsafe or in danger? Absolutely. There was a moment in Costa Rica,
Cuba, Cambodia. I have personally felt really unsafe— many times alone in other areas of the
world. Too many times to count. What will be the first chapter in the next book is living through
the 2015 earthquake in Nepal where I thought it was the end of me.
How did you hit the road with two, young, school-age children? Wasn’t it important for them to
have stability or to be in touch with their American roots? I am not a born and bred American.
My English parents emigrated to Canada in search of a better opportunity. I was a transplant in
Canada from the UK and then later to the US so I never felt those US roots. As we traveled
with the children we saw how they had a broader, more inclusive attitude towards people and
ways of doing things. Once you get a taste of that, you realize that your stability comes from
something greater than from where you were born.
How did you delve into humanitarian work? After spending a lifetime reading about
humanitarians, I took that “one step” and booked myself on a volunteer vacation to India. It had
been in me from the start though. This was another clear example of how taking action, even if
that action ends up being a mistake or could have been done better (as I viewed my
volunteering), gets something fundamental in motion.
What does Go Philanthropic do, a non-profit, that you formed? The formal definition of our
mission is that we identify, invest (through funding and capacity building) and scale the work of
grassroots non-profits devoted to education, health care and human rights in developing
countries. The more real and raw version of this is that we offer support to community-based
change-makers who are doing the heavy lifting out there when it comes to confronting some of
the biggest global issues of our time— human trafficking, child labor, early marriage, gender
inequity. We help great people and programs do more of what they are already doing for
themselves and their communities. We believe in a form of philanthropy that isn’t about an “us”
or a “them” or “givers” and “receivers”, but about holding hands and being partners in the work
that needs to be done.
Your book seems to be a blend of travel, memoir and soul searching? Do they go together?
Why? Yes all that. Travel has always been a metaphor for soul searching. Paulo Choelho
wrote about this in The Alchemist. Travel is really the physical form of a journey into ourselves
that in essence, doesn’t requite that you go anywhere.
Would you say your book ultimately is less about what you have done and more about what
each of us can do to explore our own dreams and jump our own fences. Absolutely. 100%. The
feedback I have had so far has been just that. Folks don’t close the book and think about me.
They think about themselves. Just like was inspired by the people I met, by the courage I saw
in them. It then awakened the call to action in myself as I realized that I too had something I
could bring to the party.
How does one unshackle themselves from the life they have created, to chance it on the
unknown? Yikes that is a big question. It requires a certain leap of faith — but also some sort of
TRUST that it is worth the risk, a belief that there is something bigger than ourselves. If you
truly believe this, what do you have to lose in trying? In fact you realize that you have everything
to lose, if you don’t set out to discover it.
How has your view of America changed over the years? It has actually always been the same. I
am so very grateful for all it offers in terms of opportunity. America is still a place where you can
dream the impossible and make it happen. There is something magical about it in the sense that
you can manifest things there more easily than in other places. On the flip side, I have always
found it a little young and dumb, like a teenager who demonstrates a bit too much bravado and
doesn’t really know what its talking about. This is a shame because it can tap into a well of
wisdom. I just don’t see that coming forth now.
What types of setbacks did you have to deal with along the way? Self-doubt was always
lingering. I have always felt somewhat insignificant so there has always been a nagging voice
telling me I can’t do what I “see.” Luckily I have made peace with this voice:) We have also had
to deal with the emotional needs of a child who was handed an immense amount loss in a
young life. I felt very ill-equipped to deal with these needs could actually be seen as a metaphor
for the world’s needs and big problems. I had to accept that I wasn’t her answer, that I couldn’t
solve her problems but I could offer her my love, care and presence. I would have to accept
that this was enough. A mother wants to fix the problem and make the pain go away and it was
very difficult to understand I could not do this. When I decided to write the book, I lost a huge
chunk of the manuscript and had to start over. In fact, there were many instances of losing text
etc.. I felt like I was challenged along the way in this respect as if I was being tested. Did I really
have the guts to share all of this? The other challenge was that I felt like my early venture into
philanthropy the giving world was somewhat of a failure. I thought I could scale this great idea
when really what I needed to do was learn more before offering it to others at the early stages.
Wasn’t it exhausting to move around often, settle, make friends, and not know what was what –
and then do it all over again? Absolutely. I can’t count the times I have had moments of
complete mental breakdown where I yelled these very words. But the maddening thing was
there was this BIG FAT CALLING that simply kept pulling, yanking, pushing…and it was just
stronger than the frustration of having to start over. This calling was asking me to constantly let
go of the material and search for truth. I know to never doubt because there have always been
such beautiful, essential gifts from every move.
So what grounded you through times of stress, or fear of the uncertain? It is going to sound very
cliché but silence has. I just have to shut down the noise and the answers emerge. It’s super
grounding and pretty simple.
How did your travels inspire you to adopt a child? I have never seen it that my travels inspired
me to adopt Isabelle. I think it has always been in me it was just that my experience in the
orphanage in India was a loud reminder of the tremendous need that is out there. Our thoughts
on adoption have really evolved though over time with all of the experience I have had with
orphanages since these early days. This is a topic I can speak about at length, both as an
adoptive mother and also in terms of international development and what is required from the
world at large to deal with the numbers of children without care and protection. If we could help
to strengthen families, we could get at the root cause for why there is a need for adoption in the
How challenging was it for your children to grow up feeling a part of many cultures but not
completely defined by any? At times this was pretty tough when they were growing up. There
were lots of generalizations made and they were often referred to as the American kids. They
got asked really stupid questions like if they ate McDonalds every day. They are proud of
having experienced all of this now and it has really helped them to be more inclusive, open and
less judgmental over anyone feeling different. Our youngest who is adopted is still dealing with
this feeling of being from a different culture as she lives with this concept within her own family.
She also lives in France so its a triple whammy— Chinese adopted to American family yet living
in France. Home for me today is here in Provence. We have found an old ruin and are
renovating it into a magical place. It’s got stones everywhere, a vineyard and a cherry grove
and is surrounded by fields of lavender. For me it’s the closest thing to heaven. The kids come
all of the time as Provence feels like home to them too. We feel complete as a family here.
It’s one thing to write a check to support an overseas charity or cause. It’s another to connect in person,
to take the time to genuinely listen and understand what people need to build stronger futures.
GoPhilanthropic is U.S.-based organization co-founded by Lydia Dean that is made up of a
community of “everyday philanthropists,” who provide funding and networking support for some
40 local programs in Central America, Asia, and Africa. GoPhilanthropic’s mission is to
strengthen the impact of courageous people quietly accomplishing great things.
Vision: To create a network of partnerships fostering a shared responsibility in solving global issues.
Mission: To identify, invest and strengthen the impact of community-based organizations providing
access to education, healthcare and basic human rights in impoverished communities around the world.
Go Philanthropic Foundation was borne out of a desire to redefine the traditional check-writing charity
model to one that reflects active, engaged and collaborative philanthropy. It provides a dynamic
platform for donors to learn about and become directly engaged with the programs they fund through
travel and educational opportunities. In doing so, they become more informed and connected
participants in global issues.
GoPhil Journeys offer the opportunities to learn about and gain a deeper understanding of the
issues facing our world and explore how we can each take an active role in being a part of
“We don’t assume we have all he answers, systems, or methods to solve anyone’s problems. We
simply enter into our relationships with the willingness and the time to help people and programs
be the best they can be. Listening continues to be a cornerstone in our work.”
“Attention is now being focused on more creative, long-lasting solutions being addressed at the local
level, by those who are closest to the issues. It is here, at the grassroots, that we have found the most
socially innovative and enterprising approaches being applied with the greatest sense of passion,
urgency and ownership.”
We offer support to community-based change-makers who are doing the heavy lifting out there when it
comes to confronting some of the biggest global issues of our time— human trafficking, child labor,
early marriage, and gender inequity. We help great people and programs do more of what they are
already doing for themselves and their communities.
We believe in a form of philanthropy that isn’t about an “us” or a “them” or “givers” and “receivers”,
but about holding hands and being partners in the work that needs to be done.
For more information on philanthropic journeys, visit: www.gophilanthropictravel.com
For more information on the foundation, please consult: www.gophilanthropic.org
On A Journey
I believe we are all on a journey of exploration – one that will take us each on amazingly beautiful
and varied paths. Mine required that I set the normal American life by the roadside to see, smell,
and touch the world. Then having done so, I realized that I had work to do. These pages represent a
quest, a search for a connection to humanity and a purpose within it. They also represent, at times,
a daunting search within myself, one I wasn’t always ready to face.
Sometimes I would surf the Internet for Peace Corps or humanitarian jobs, knowing all the while
that it was totally illogical with the children. I felt like George Bailey in one of my favorite movies,
It’s a Wonderful Life. His bags were packed, but he would never be able to leave. I tossed and
turned at night, unable to find solace in sleep. Sometimes I would sneak away and lie down in my
walk-in closet and stare at the ceiling. The soft new carpet against my bare legs and the cool quiet
would give me brief moments of relief from the constant sense of dissatisfaction with everything
around me. I have a good life, don’t I? Why is it not feeling good? Why am I not feeling good? I
began feeling guilty – and not just slightly guilty, but terribly guilty for not appreciating what I had
around me, for not feeling like it was enough. Guilt lodged itself in places all over my body – in the
back of my head, on my shoulders, in the pit of my stomach. It became my best friend. I could
always count on it being there. We passed the time together, enjoying endless, pointless banter.
Where Shall We Go?
Finally, one night he said, “OK. I’ll go to the ends of the earth to give you a slice of what you believe
is out there, whatever that is.” And unbeknownst to either of us, that was exactly where we needed
to go. He was willing to set aside everything he had worked toward, everything he wanted and
feared altogether to save our marriage. “But can we take a small step first? How about the summer
away…six weeks but no more,” he said, looking deep into my eyes, pulling me into his arms. “Where
do you want to go?”
“Costa Rica. Let’s go to Costa Rica,” I said, as though it mattered where we went. I sighed from the
very depths of my being and tasted relief and gratitude beyond what I could have expressed at the
moment, and I believe he felt it too. His willingness to offer us this time was a saving grace that
picked us up and plopped us on the road we needed to be on. Neither of us knew where we were
going exactly, but we were going there together, putting our trust in each other and the big world
that awaited us.
The World Teaches Us
The trips had begun to stir up my early childhood humanitarian interests, but those interests
continued to float out in the wind, unattached to anything concrete. It was as if I was a young
student sitting in a classroom, with nothing to offer but hungry to learn. The world was my teacher.
Instead of finding life answers, I just seemed to gather more questions. I continued to write about it
all, scribbling in my journals at each day’s end.
A Worthwhile Risk
One night I sat in the bath staring at a flickering candle, hoping to ease the weight of my anxiety. I
found my mind wandering to when we lived in Orlando, to our clean house with polished wood
floors and a white picket fence. Everything I had wanted to escape then I now dreamed to have
back, if only for one minute, long enough to savor the comforts of normality, predictability. That
horrible word I had loathed – security – rang in my ears. It was everything that life was not right
now. Nothing was sure anymore. Our safety, health, house, education, and finances were all at risk.
Everything could unravel at any moment. But as I stared at the wax dripping down the side of the
candle, pooling on the natural stone that surrounded the bath, my thoughts wandered back to the
temples in Cambodia. Breathing in the moist bath air, I remembered the deep sense of peace – the
profound, spiritually grounding comfort I had felt. I remembered how it had pulsated from the
earth, into my feet, up my body, and through my head. So powerful, so endless, so beyond anything
that I ever found in a place or thing, and there was no need to worry if it had a beginning or an end.
Opening my eyes, I knew that it was not my life in Orlando that I needed back. Neither a house on
the hill nor a business of any sort was going to give me the sense of comfort, the sense of purpose, I
was searching for. It was time to listen to the messages, to trust that within me I had access to all
that I needed on my journey.
Some Limits To Freedom
It was strange that we never considered moving back to the States. I don’t remember it ever being a
consideration. France fell into place as if we had never left, like Costa Rica had all been a long,
consuming dream. Not long after our return to France, we sold the house in Manuel Antonio, and I
spent days crying over the loss of something I couldn’t quite put my finger on. For years it had
represented my escape from reality, yet the previous months had only been a brutal reminder of
the pointlessness of such an escape. I had wanted freedom, and that was just what I had found –
but there were limits to this personal liberty I so sought and cherished. I cannot say truthfully that
leaving Costa Rica did not feel like a failure, because it did, and we had never truly failed at anything.
But I also knew that, with my little ones at my side, this was not the time to test fate.
Where do we belong?
The moves we had made in the past had all been born out of some wild flight of fancy, some sort of
“Hell, why not – you only live once” attitude. This time it was different, and logic had ruled the hand
– the children needed English-speaking schools, Isabelle needed her operation and a prosthetic leg,
and the administration in France had squelched any decent prospects for a secure financial future.
Our children had now spent more of their lives in France than they had in the United States. Nick
and Emma were as comfortable speaking French as they were English, and luckily this happened
without much effort at all. Being raised in Provence had forced them to lead duo-cultural lives,
requiring them to switch from one culture to the other as the context required. Spending any time
with them would reveal the patchwork of cultures at work, with huge gaps missing from what they
knew of an American life.
It had been hard to start a life in another country, in another language. There had been sacrifices of
all kinds. We had missed big events at home, the births of babies, the death of our friend’s mother,
the illnesses of family members, and the sharing of an unforgettable American tragedy in 2001. My
heart had ached as Nick curled up in my arms and cried about feeling different at school. “I don’t
like being called the American kid at school,” he had said on so many occasions.
Scared of the Call
I was scared. Scared of the unknown future and scared that I was going to be asked to do more than
I was capable of doing, give more than I was capable of giving. Somewhere hidden
among all these reasonable and logical reasons we had to go back to the United States lay
something greater at work. There was a deep pull toward something I couldn’t explain.
Keeping It Inside
When the invariable “Where have you been?” surfaced, I found myself unable to get beyond the
basics of the city and country I had traveled to. Where would I begin? How would I start to give
justice to what we were seeing? It would take more than an evening, more than a few drinks. It
would take a lifetime, and maybe deep down I didn’t know if I was ready for that yet. Scared and
intimidated by the scope and magnitude of the problems I was seeing in the world, yet humbled by
the strength of the human spirit, I found it easier, for the moment, to keep it all inside.
Why We Should Give
All of the clients who travel through Go Philanthropic have different reasons and purposes for
wanting to travel and give back to the communities they visit. Some might do it out of guilt, because
it makes them feel better. Others genuinely want to support those who are working toward
building better lives. Should I worry at all about the intentions of those who are giving, or should I
simply focus on making sure the funds go the right place?” I had asked.
“Yes Lydia – I think the intentions of the giver are very important. My grandfather always said that
giving must come from compassion and not pity or guilt. If you have compassion, you have a deep
awareness of someone’s suffering and a genuine desire to help relieve it. If you give out of pity, you
are not seeing the other as an equal; you simply feel bad for them. If you don’t see them as an
equal, what you have to offer will be of less value, and the receiver will feel less worthy in the
process. Grandfather spoke of trusteeship as opposed to ownership – that in life we don’t really
own all that we have the way we think we do. We are more like trustees, and we must manage
what we have, wisely, for the benefit of others as well as for ourselves.” – Arun Gandhi
The Power of Together
Maybe it had required the weeks of just being together, of a lot of empty moments on dusty roads
to just be—as unique individuals but also as one family. Beyond this, though, there was a broader
feeling of completeness that had to do with being a part of something bigger, something truly
beautiful. The work at GoPhilanthropic represented an interlacing of colorful threads on a loom—a
bringing together of people like Linda Burn, Alan, and Leng, the children and young adults they nur-
tured, and all the others who cared about what they were doing who would eventually weave their
way into the tapestry. We could all do a little part, share a little something of ourselves, so the
weight of the problems didn’t simply fall on the shoulders of a few. Yes, if I knew anything so far, the
truth I was searching for had to do with the power of coming together. Building our singular, vertical
towers would get us nowhere.
Giving beyond the pocketbook
GoPhilanthropic Foundation continues to thrive, developing an active and growing community of
people who believe that philanthropy goes way beyond the pocketbook. We don’t assume we have
all he answers, systems, or methods to solve anyone’s problems. We simply enter into our
relationships with the willingness and the time to help people and programs be the best they can
be. Listening continues to be a cornerstone in our work.