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Filtering by Category: Thailand

Some of Justifi's Most Powerful Moments

Dov Ber

I have run 16 Justifi trips in 3 different countries. Each one is unique, each one is eye opening, and each time I am blown away by the awesome quality of the people who have come together to really make the experience what it is.  When you have an eclectic group of people from all sorts of backgrounds and walks of life, all ages and philosophical outlooks, who have invested time and money in doing something transformative and inspirational, people who have gotten together in an exotic location to deal with serious local issues, clarify their own role and purpose in it all and at the same time have a stupid amount of fun and adventure – you are bound to have many, many, touching, moving, hysterical, challenging, and meaningful moments.  

From courageously shared (very) personal stories, to overcoming fears of death whilst rappelling down a waterfall in the Nicaraguan jungle, from meeting movers and shakers who have given their lives to helping vulnerable communities, to climbing Macchu Picchu, with its awe-inspiring mountainous backdrop – the trips are filled with moments you’ll never forget.

Funnily enough, when asked to pick some powerful moments from the trips, the first two that came to mind both involve fire.  

Being a pluralistic organization, Justifi provides kosher food and a Shabbat experience for those observe these practices. For me, one of the most moving parts of every trip in every country, is when all the women (who want to) get together on Friday night to light the Shabbat candles. Women from religious families who have been lighting since they were three years old, to women who are lighting for the first time in their lives all standing together, hands covering their eyes, each connecting in their own special way. It’s so beautiful to see holy Jewish women from the whole spectrum of our people coming together to bring the light and warmth of the candles into their lives and light up the world for the rest of us.  

The second is the lantern release on the Thailand trip. On the last evening, having been through this crazy 10 day adventure together, we come together as a group and write out all the things we need to let go of, anything that is holding us back in our lives. Then we climb up the hotel watch tower with its panoramic view of Chiang Rai, where we release the fire-lanterns into the night sky, with all our fears, pain, confusion, doubt and regrets being burnt up and floating away with them. As we watch them fade away into the distance, even if it’s just for a brief moment – we all feel totally free and at ease, refreshed and relieved, ready to face the world again. 

Like most things in life, it is important to remember that these powerful moments can not just remain brief moments, fond memories and great photographs. Powerful moments have to be processed and integrated, used to propel us towards ever greater self awareness, depth of understanding and clarity in moving forward. Then, once we have lit the flame of passion for growth and contribution in our own lives, we can use it to light up the lives of those around us. 

He Couldn't Believe His Eyes...

Dov Ber

Josh Greenstein & Tom Karen

Two years after his Justifi trip to Thailand, Josh came back as a madrich (leader) and couldn’t believe his eyes.

When he left Tom Karen’s center in the small village of Ban Huay Sak one hour north of Chiang Rai, there was one classroom which could hold about 20 kids, an outhouse for a toilet (that means a very deep hole dug into the ground, surrounded by a small wooden hut) and a few books, toys and one 1970’s Yamaha kids keyboard for the kids to play with.  

On his return, there was a second classroom full of books and maps and educational posters, musical instruments and art supplies, there was a restroom building with three toilets and a shower, there was the foundation for a new classroom, and the walls were covered in pictures of the summer camps and weekly lessons that Tom’s center now provides.

Tom Karen himself cannot believe what has taken place in such a short time.

“Before I met Jamie and Justifi, I was just a tour guide trying to find work showing foreigners around Northern Thailand.  Now I am getting to live my dream, helping my community to get educated, running English, Chinese, math and science workshops, working to prevent the our children from getting trafficked to bars in Bangkok and neighboring countries, creating programs for the elderly and sponsoring orphans in their education through the support of monthly donations from Justifi alumni.  On top of that my wife is now on the local council representing women’s rights and I have gone back to university at 42 years of age to get a degree in English!”

People often challenge us saying ‘how much difference can a short term volunteer trip make?  Really, you can’t be doing much good for the locals.’

At which point I smile patiently, offer them a drink, and spend the next half an hour filling then in on the facts on the ground.  Having been back to Thailand year after year, and experiencing it with my own eyes, I can inform them that although one group may just come in and leave having helped the local builders (who wouldn’t have had work if we weren’t there) lay the foundations of a classroom, or having painted some chairs or taught an English class which may not feel like a big deal at the time, when taken as part of a much larger ongoing project each bucket of concrete, each new English phrase learnt, eachsmile shared between volunteer and school kid, each brick in the wall helps build a strong, stable and self-sustainable edifice which is making a huge difference in many people’s lives.

You see, a brick on its own may indeed not be much use, but when it becomes part of a wall, when one person becomes part of a team which goes back to the same villages, the same schools year after year, a significant impact is made on the lives of those who stand to benefit most, which in turns effects the lives of their children and children’s children for many years to come.