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Auroville Adventure

April 2002

"He follows his heart.I follow him"

- by Bill Leon

 

A ten-year old started a fund-raising campaign in the U.S. for Isaiambalam, a Tamil school in Auroville

Evan Leon

Evan Leon, to look at him, is a normal ten-year old boy living in a suburb of Seattle. But there is a unique fire of creative love in him. I should know. I am his father. Recently, his shakti expressed itself in a funny and beautiful way that mirrors the spirit of Auroville.
The roots go back a few years. When he was four, sitting on my lap in pre-school, listening to his teacher talk about fire safety he didn't hesitate to correct her. She said, "Safety is the most important thing." "Evan raised his hand and then said, "No, it isn't." Everyone turned to him in surprise and he explained, "Love is the most important thing!"

That same year, we were watching television when a commercial for some international aid to poor children came on. I reached to change the channel, but Evan said, "No wait." The announcer ended with, "And you can help them for pennies only." Evan said, "Can we?" I felt a little manipulated by the media, but what's a father (even a stingy one) to say? But since I was on the Board of Auroville International USA and knew Bhavana and her work with the Auroville Village Action Group, I had a flash. I told him we would contact her and make a pledge to a village school near Auroville. She put us in touch with Subash at Isai Ambalam and some of Evan's and my allowance went there monthly for several years.

Then in January 2001 we came to Auroville and visited third-grade students (Evan's age group) of Isai Ambalam. We brought school supplies, candy, pictures of Evan's classmates, and other things. When Evan handed Subash the big bag of pencils he had brought for the students, he was told that he had to hand them out to each student personally. Subash explained to me, "When Evan gives them a pencil, he also gives them his energy." And so we saw. The kids surrounded him with interest and they started a ball game together. Evan forgot all about this upon his return to Nintendo land.

Then one weekend in August, out of the blue, he announced, "Hey, we need to raise some money and buy school supplies for those kids in Isai Ambalam." Picking up on his interest I said, "Ok, I'll be your helper. How do we do it?" "We'll make a poster," was the reply. And so we did, with pictures of the kids holding their pencils and lots of glitter.

"Now what do we do?" I asked.

"We'll go to the stores" (a small mall near our house). I thought, "Well this will be a fun adventure, and we might even collect $5 or $10."

The Nintendo and video stores said, "No." But then Evan asked a student working the hamburger stand if he could help. He opened his wallet, saw it had $2 and gave it to Evan. Then Even hit a groove. He went to nearly 2 dozen stores and in a halting, meek voice said, "Hi, uh, I'm Evan. I'm collecting money and school supplies for these kids at Isai Ambalam." Typically, the response was a puzzled look and "Why?" Evan just looked them in the eye and exclaimed, "Because they need it."

"Duh!" They must have thought, "I can see that!" But they gave: $5, $15, $20, $40, toys, school supplies and even 3 pounds of coffee! "What do we do with that?" I asked Evan. He just shrugged his shoulders and explained, "We will sell it." So we did for $32.
The fun thing to watch (and that's all I did) was Evan's attitude: Sometimes, people said "No," and he just politely replied, "Ok. Thanks anyway. Goodbye." Sometimes, they said "Yes" and he said: "Ok. Thanks. Goodbye." I was witnessing the Zen approach to fundraising. I used to raise $400,000 a year, but I was learning every minute.

The pizza place said we could put up a collection box. Another art project set up a steady stream of school supplies.
In two days we had around $200. And it was time for Evan to go back to school. A friend suggested I inform the big Seattle newspapers. So I sent a couple of e-mails and got a call from a reporter. She liked the idea, and interviewed a very nervous and fidgety kid who explained his interest in video games, math and picking blackberries.

But she portrayed him accurately as a normal kid who just had an idea to do something useful and had to do it in his own way.even though others could clearly see that the task was impossible and that he was trying to do it the hard way, he was going to do it his way anyway. Sound like any Aurovilian you know? Her article was titled, "If we all had this kid's heart."

At 7 am, even before I had read the article, the phone rang and a man with an Indian accent said, "I want to speak to Evan." "He's asleep," I explained. "Ok," said the man. "Just tell him I read the article and I will send him $100 for his project." Then a woman from a small foundation called. We went to visit, and they gave Evan a check for $500.

By the time I arrived in Auroville this February (lugging a huge suitcase with 30 kilos of school supplies), Evan had raised over $1,000, and negotiated for me to pay the overhead to AVI-USA.
He couldn't accompany me this time. So I asked him what I should tell the teachers and students at Isai Ambalam. "I don't know", was the reply. "I hope they like the stuff we collected."
Indeed they did. But even more, they enjoyed his energy and play in this adventure.

 

Editor's Note: Those wishing to participate in the continuation of this effort might want to know that Isai Ambalam is trying to raise $20,000 to expand the scope of its efforts and touch more village schools around Auroville and India. 

Tax exempt donations can be sent to "Evan's Fund" 
c/o Auroville International-USA info@aviusa.org
Or contact Evan via Bill at
billleon@geoeducation.org .


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