I expected to only be there for a half hour, to learn about the organization and see if I could help out, but ended up staying for over five hours! It seems like a really great organization and they have a bunch of different projects that I'm interested in getting involved with. In 2009, they built the Amani (Peace) Children's Home which houses 20 children orphaned by HIV/AIDS. It is already 60% sustainable and they're hoping to become 100% sustainable within five years. After having worked at a very unsustainable orphanage in South Africa, I was happy to hear that this was a top priority.
Some of the children were working in the farm when I arrived and we stopped by to see what they were doing. Each child has a savings account for money that they earn by selling the fruits and vegetables they grow. Most of IPI's initiatives are community-based and they work with local farmers as well as a group of women that produce jewelry under the name "Beads 4 Peace".
When we walked over to see some of the projects, an American girl my age walked out of the Children's Home. It turns out she'd been working there since the beginning of August and today was her last day. Go figure. We walked through the beautiful countryside to a plot of land where they are planning on building guest houses and a conference center using Earthbags. It is an environmentally friendly and sustainable building practice in which bags are filled with inorganic matter. They're fireproof and earthquake-proof if barbed wire is placed between the bags. The finished product looks like something out of a Star Wars movie.
We had an interesting conversation during lunch, well it was less of a conversation and more of a one-sided lecture. An elderly American man was visiting the organization for a few days working on the Earthbag designs and holding "circles". He started talking about these circles without giving any context and I had no idea what he was talking about.
"So I'm confused, what are they used for?" I asked.
He laughed, or rather, scoffed at me and said something about that being the wrong question to ask. After a while he finally explained that the circles are meant to open up group discussion by creating a connection between members and a sense of trust. At least that's what I gathered after a ten minute speech. He said he is currently traveling around Europe and Africa running circles and has done them in the past with inmates from high-security prisons and top executives and janitors at large corporate companies.
"Did you come up with the methods you use?"
"Oh no" he laughed, "circles have been around for thousands of years. Ever since the beginning of human existence." Oh silly me. He continued, "archaeological digs show that our ancestors used to meet in circles for rituals. I did not come up with the concept." That's not what I asked...