August 14, 2012

Sri Lanka- just the beginning.

children in sri lanka... aren't they beautiful and happy?!!
i want to tell you all about the professor's recent trip to Sri Lanka-- because it's great.
excuse me while i reminisce...
i'm feeling sentimental here.
i've been feeling sentimental all summer long.
this was us our last Sunday in Michigan, summer 2006.
this is a story about one girl, one boy, a few kids, and a feeling.
years ago, they were sitting happily in their lovely, Michigan home.
minding their own business, raising their children
the girl was pregnant with their fifth child.
the boy worked at Ford, in new product development.
it was a FUN job that paid well.
they had just refinished their basement for long-term.
they LOVED their friends and church family.
life was good.
holy cow!
and then, the boy got a feeling.
a feeling that he could do MORE.
that he could make a difference in the world.
that he needed to go back to school.
the girl got that feeling.
that she needed to follow and encourage and support and grow...
he was smart.
she was willing.
he got a perfect score on the GRE.
we were destined for Harvard or MIT or some other top ten school.
he applied to colleges.
he flew out to interview at some top 10 schools.
he always came home feeling sick.
it was going to be hard to raise our family of 5 in many of the places these schools were.
she was willing to go where we needed to go-- but unsure where that would be.
he got a call from a school they hadn't heard of-- Texas Tech.
professors there wanted him to come.
he hadn't even applied, but they offered great funding.
the boy and girl landed in a lonely texas oil field and felt that feeling...
this was right.
elephant crossing... armed guards.
Lubbock was a perfect place to go to school and raise our family.
it was our "years wandering in the wilderness".
i don't want to sound too dramatic here... i'm not dramatic, i am descriptive.
while there was MUCH good that came from our years at graduate school.
those five years were HARD.
we sacrificed and stretched and CLIMBED.
i can not even tell you the extent that we struggled through those years.
it wasn't just financially, it was emotionally, spiritually, physically...  ugh.
we had no idea what we were getting into.
it was hard, but couldn't have been better in any other place in the world.
we knew we were just where we needed to be.
we learned so much.  we loved it there.
we saw the hand of the Lord in our lives.
there were some problems with todd's ticket and the poor guy got upgrade to first class...
we made dear friends.
our marriage and family is stronger.
we enter the program with four kids and one big belly.
we left with 7 kids- one just a couple months old.
(do you know anyone else that gave birth to three children during one PhD program?)
we were SO blessed.
WE earned our PhD!
and, we learned A LOT.
(people always question me when i say that WE earned a PhD.  Did you go to school?  they ask.  i think that is ridiculous.  When WE have a baby, i do the work, but it is most definitely OURS.  this PhD-- it is OURS also.  perhaps i should refer to myself as "she professor" or the professorette.)

SIX YEARS LATER-- we are here at OSU.
todd has been teaching for a year and we are relaxing a bit.
we are moved in, we have made new friends, eve is sleeping though the night, our paycheck is ample.
life is good!!
one of the Sri Lanka rooms he stayed in... they were not all this nice.
they used those old skeleton keys.
don't you wish we still did?
in the back of our mind, there has been these burning question.
did we make the right choice?  was it worth it?
will we ever REALLY do what we hoped we would do?

i should say, those questions were in the back of MY mind.
The Professor has never once looked back.
(i'm a pile of salt by now, if you know what i mean.)

the professor flew to Sri Lanka as part of a team helping the non-profit organization Room To Read.
his is doing EXACTLY what he dreamed he would do.
he is MAKING A DIFFERENCE in the world.
serving the poor and down trodden.
can you see the mother and her child?
SHE is why!!  that child is WHY!!
i wanted to scream to the world-- THIS IS WHY!!
THIS is why we sacrificed so much.
We are just beginning the MIDDLE!!!
4 professors and the man who owned the hotel?
the professor insisted on wearing his cowboy boots-- he still thinks he's a cowboy.
see the 'skirt' that the guy in the middle is wearing... todd brought one home from Sri Lanka-- for HIMSELF!
he wore it when he took me out to dinner!  now, he thinks he's a sri lankan cowboy.
Want to know what my husband does for a living?
ha!  i can't tell you how many pictures todd took of the food he ate...  

Ok.  I’ll tell you.

He is a professor—Business Strategy, with an emphasis in Entrepreneurship.
My professor's focus is SOCIAL ENTREPRENEURSHIP.
don't you wish you could shop at a store like this?
He helps companies who are trying to make a difference in the world- with their Strategy.
Get it?
Let me tell you more.  
You've already read this far-- promise it's not boring.
it's cool. 

Room to Read is a non-profit organization- you can link to their website here.
Their motto- "World Change Starts With Educated Children."
They build schools and libraries in third world countries.
The group of professors that Todd is working with said this was really one of the best run organizations they have worked for.
Warning-- This is Todd's job according to ME...
i might not get everything exactly right, but i'm pretty good at explaining things in layman's terms.
One of the things that makes Room to Read unique, and in my opinion pretty great, is that it does not just GIFT the schools.
They require the towns to do 20% of the labor or provide 20% of the supplies for the building.
This company is funded primarily by US donors... they have the money to build the schools completely, but they have found that the people of the villages are more invested in the school if they sacrifice to build it.
When the people of the villages are just gifted a building, they don't tend to keep them up.
I believe that SACRIFICE and WORK are good principles, even among poor people...
this is one of the reasons why Room to Read has been such a successful, well run organization.

This organization was having some issues.
Mainly, the towns were committing to their 20% and not following through.
It takes months of planning to build these schools and so by the time the organization could see that the towns weren't doing their part, they couldn't just say, "Ok, then we won't build the school."
The American's who funded the school wanted to see it built and they already had the workers and supplies planned to come to the village.
So, they asked a few professors for help and ideas.
The professors are not funded by Room to Read.
They are funded by grants, usually from the school they are working for.
Todd has research money given him each year, but it wasn't enough to cover trips to Sri Lanka.
So, he wrote a proposal and OSU agreed to pay for all his travel expenses.

The group of professor's my professor worked with are superstar professors.
He is the newby.
They like him because he is a statistics superstar and has a masters in mechanical engineering.
This will be helpful when they work with non-profits building bridges or dams or wells.
(can you FEEL that coming?  i can!)
so, when i say "Todd's group", know that really he's just fortunate to be invited to be a part of a group that is already doing great things.
Todd's group devised an experiment for Room to Read.
(that's what professor's do... they research, find the results and write scholarly papers on them that are hopefully published in journals so other people can learn from their results.  and they teach classes.)
they are using 60 villages/60 schools being built in Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka is an island of India-- it is very poor.
1.  they have a control group-- villages who just sign an contract to do 20% of the work on their schools.
2.  they have a competition group-- villages that are paired together with another village who is also getting a school.  they built a billboard in each village that marks their progress.  the villagers can see how the other village is doing and that is supposed to encourage them to get their school built faster.  the first village to finish their 20% receives a nominal prize (like uniforms or books, etc.)
3.  they have a cooperation group-- if both of the villages finish their part by a certain date, they will both receive a nominal prize.
what do you think the results will be?

Last month Todd and his group flew through Paris to Sri Lanka for 10 days.
The schools are at their beginning stages.
They went to interview the building committees to see how things were going and to get quotes for their research.
They will go back again around Christmas time to see the end result.
So far, both the competition and cooperation villages were doing better than the control group.
Todd told me some stories.
One cooperation group couldn't afford the tools they needed-- so they worked with their paired village and bought one set of tools that they share.
One competition group was stuck in their progress because the government was taking too long to give them a permit for sand.
They decided to just get the sand anyway so they wouldn't fall behind.
A police officer stopped them as they were filling up their trucks.  They explained what they were doing and why and the officer ended up helping them and escorting them back to the village.
I love that Todd is having this opportunity.
I believe that he will make a difference in the world, even if it is in a small way.
i believe THIS is just the beginning...  the beginning of the middle pages of our story.
i don't mean to make it sound like we are doing some GREAT thing.
we're not.  but by small and simple things are great things brought to pass!
this is our small and simple things... and we're just getting started!
i'm excited to some day bring my family to help build schools in a third world country.
i'm excited to see what the future holds for him, for us...
i believe one person can make a difference.
one person, one family, one feeling and the desire to make a difference.
want to know why we left Ford and went back to school, even though it was hard?
THIS is why!!!
we're DOING it!!
(you can read what i wrote about PhD programs while i was in the middle of it- here- Choosing Growth.)


valerie in TX said...

I so love your optimistic, joyful outlook on everything. You're good for me. :)

We haven't arrived at the "why" part yet - we're still sludging through the "hard", but I'm so, so grateful that God has allowed me to participate in a little bit of the WHY in the middle of the HARD. And...I'm so excited and impatient to see what our WHY is going to be! We're in the waiting...

And, most of all, I LOVE that Todd wore his cowboy boots in Sri Lanka. Just sayin. ;) We miss you guys so much!

beckyjune said...

What a wonderful thing for Todd to be able to help with and for your whole family to receive blessings from. That will make such a wonderful impact in the lives of so many children for many years to come.

Cox Family said...

This is great to read what Todd is up to. It sounds like a rewarding opportunity. I hear you about graduate school. We also had 3 children during one PhD program (granted it was children 1, 2, and 3) and it was not easy, but worth it in the end. Thanks for posting this with the pictures, it's great to see.

Lanette said...

It's neat to see Todd's trip...and all the work they're doing. Looks like an intense, emotional journey. I bet he learned so many life lessons being there, enmeshing himself in the lives of these people. I love this connection he's made with many in the world live like this...we just forget too easily. Go HOJ! (Wish I could've been there, too:))

Yayi said...

I am so proud of you, my dear professorette!!! you guys have created an awesome team. I am so glad Todd has been able to see a reality that perhaps most of the world shares (unfortunately). I hope with all my heart, he can make a difference for them. Love you guys!!!

valerie in TX said...

And P.S., I took lots of pictures of food on my trip, too. :)

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