“What are the similarities and differences in your Little Ripples programs across different countries?”
This is a question that I am asked frequently. Of course, elements of the program structure differ because the community decides these. There are definite advantages to traveling in a European country, which helps me feel revived and ready to hold space for our local team members (read this amazing blog by Sara-Christine to help understand the difference: The Power of Being Intentional). And, of course, every context has its own restrictions, red tape, or rules that we must work around or forge through to get to the core of our work: investing in the people themselves to increase their agency, voice, and ownership of their lives. This objective is the same everywhere. Our approach is the same everywhere. This week, it is what sparked a CLEANING REVOLUTION.
Yes, literally a cleaning revolution. As Joslyn said, “It was magical.” When we arrived on Tuesday to the Little Ripples space, we quickly realized it was unsafe. Someone had clearly built something inside the classroom on top of all our colorful foam mats. You could feel the tiny dust particles entering your mouth and being carried into your lungs with each breath. There was no way we could do the training there. With a quick adjustment (in a place where meeting space is even more rare than the opportunity to live oceanfront in Los Angeles) we met for only 35 minutes but were able to devise a plan to clean on Thursday, the next time we had access to our Little Ripples space.
During the day on Thursday, we met at Habibi.Works in their handcrafted wooden dome to train, to sit in a gratitude circle, and celebrate our Lead Teachers and Assistant Teachers (having Lead and Assistant Teachers is one example of how this unique program structure emerged from the community itself!). From 11am to 3pm we trained, and then we headed over to camp Katsikas to clean.
Katsikas has lots of kids ages 4 to 10 roaming around at this time. The sun is still out so it’s not too cold, yet school is out and the kids still have energy to burn. They like to ask us if we are in charge of “Scouts,” our partner Second Tree’s youth leadership program. We always smile and say no, but they like to follow us around anyway. At 3:30, the women began to show up with their personal cleaning supplies. And what began as cleaning the classroom for our children, turned into scrubbing the entire hangar floor, moving old furniture, and taking garbage out that had been stored for who knows how long. Kids of all ages, from all countries, speaking all different languages joined in and worked together.
People stopped to watch and check out the cleaning magic that was unfolding. After re-laying the clean colorful foam mats, the women stood with their shoulders tall and discussed their weekly meeting day and time and how they wanted to decorate the walls. They were listening and engaging each other with respect, even though we didn’t have a single translator and we all know that can be frustrating at times. They were all smiling. They were united around their responsibility to run Little Ripples.
We all want to have a purpose. We all want to feel joy, no matter what we have or have not walked through, suffered, experienced, or come from. This shared interdependency is what binds us together on our journey. I believe in the men and women who run Little Ripples and all of iACT’s programs. Their voice matters. They have power over program decisions and agency to make those changes. They truly own the programs. Participation and leadership become an opportunity for purpose, which brings opportunities for joy. On Thursday, that joy emerged as a cleaning revolution.