A restavek is a child that has been given to another family as a servant in hopes to have their basic needs met. If you see the segment, you will see how incredible these children are now that they are surrounded by love. Freedom House is not a huge bureaucratic organization with a lot of waste.
They are small and grassroots and just the kind of organization we like to shine the light on.
If you are so moved after seeing this weekend’s episode and would like to help Freedom House rescue more children, you can donate and support HERE.
A little goes a long way in Haiti, so no amount is too small.
My 2nd trip to Cuba was a little different from my 1st. Oh, I still went unofficially, choosing to go via another country (it’s cheaper) and not have my passport stamped, but this time there was a U.S. Embassy in Havana. If I were to get sick, stranded or in legal trouble I theoretically at least had a backstop.
This wasn’t the case when I first visited Cuba against a background of having a few years prior, known a Dominican-American filmmaker who had visited Havana for the first and final time to attend the Cuban Film Festival (in 2002 or 2003 I think it was), and never made it back.
My friend, the aspiring filmmaker who had a short film accepted to the festival, was ecstatic about going. He went officially but since he was of Afro-Latino descent and dark skinned, could easily blend in with most everyday Cubans.
This, combined with the fact that he was a U.S. citizen and therefore had to bring enough cash to last him the entire trip (U.S. issued ATMs and Credit Cards didn’t work at the time in Cuba, nor do they at the time of this writing) became a contributing factor as to why he didn’t make it back.
Something happened to my friend after what I think was his first night in Cuba. He was found in a Havana street the next morning badly beaten and unconscious, apparently robbed of his stash of cash, missing a passport and wallet or any way to ID himself.
Since he had no ID and was dark skinned, he was assumed to be Cuban by the Cuban medical personnel who attended to him and taken to the hospital for “regular”, everyday Cubans. This was not one of the hospitals featured in Michael Moore’s documentary “Sicko” where government officials and other connected well off folks in Cuba are allowed to go.
He was taken to an overtaxed hospital without sheets on the bed or lights in the hallway or basic medical necessities.
After regaining consciousness and seemingly on the road to recovery, my pal (as I heard it from other friends who were there with him and were trying desperately to get him back to the U.S.), had a complication, slipped into a coma and died from a fairly routine injury that could have been fairly routinely addressed back in the states.
I was told that after much wrangling, Billy Bush (my filmmaker friend worked at Access Hollywood) reportedly pulled some strings from cousin, then U.S. President George W. Bush, to get my friend’s body back to the U.S. for his funeral.
He left behind a wife and young kids.
This incident barely even made more than a mention in the local Spanish or English language press at the time and I always felt this was an injustice. He deserved better.
Now every time I go to Cuba, I think of my friend and how he died far too young in a country that specializes in covering up such ugliness and I wonder why the U.S. press (and government) paid so little attention to this travesty.
I think of the young Cuban punk rock fans I met on my first trip, who were promptly carted off to jail for having the audacity to speak to an American with a camera out in the open. How long were they in jail? Were they beaten? Worse?
I think of the media’s mostly glib obsession with travel to Cuba with hardly a mention of the severe poverty and lack of basic human rights for the Cuban people. Or maybe people are just tired of hearing it.
I think how most of the outside press has to register with the Cuban government so they can get the “Fidel Castro” tour where everything is a paradise and everyone is happy.
That’s why, for my 2nd act to Cuba, I went undercover as a tourist to try to film, by hook or crook or iphone, what the real Cuba was like for people.
The fear that inhabits Cuba is palpable if you open your eyes and ears. Neighbors are turned against neighbors for an extra bag of rice as a reward. People are watching each other warily, unsure who is a government informant and who can be trusted, pitting family member against family member in some cases.
They have been manipulated by a paranoid (and perhaps with somewhat just cause, given the U.S. often ham-fisted attempts at intervention over the years) and now reeling government consisting of a tiny group of “leaders” that include one who is rumored to be near death and mentally unstable (Fidel Castro) and his possibly less brutal but equally unstable, power hungry brother (Raul Castro).
I’ve never met the Castros nor, chances are will I ever as I don’t intend to return to Cuba until freedom is finally found for the people of Cuba.
But as travel from the U.S. to Cuba opens up (and I believe this to be the right thing as 50 years of failed policy is enough) and people go and enjoy the unique and yes, beautiful culture and gush over how Cuba is “stuck in time”, please remember my filmmaker friend and the Cuban people, like my brave punk rock pals, who are systematically silenced by a minority of their fellow citizen “leaders” who evidently are so afraid of their lack of ability to legitimately lead, end up doing what despots, dictators and inept rulers have done for centuries… attempt to silence all diversity of thought and expression in order to hold to power.
Silence… is there anything more tragic in this world?
– Nat Geo People Asia Picks up Hit Travel Series from the U.S. –
New York, NY – October 13th, 2016 – AIM Tell-A-Vision® Group (AIM TV) announced today that Nat Geo People recently acquired Asian territorial rights to certain episodes of their production, Raw Travel®, the U.S.A.’S #1 most watched syndicated adventure travel & lifestyle series. The series began broadcasting on Nat Geo People in a variety of Asian territories earlier last month.
The announcement is just the latest in a string of licensing deals from Raw Travel’s international distributor Off the Fence Distribution, who has also inked several other deals for the series in territories in Europe, Africa, the Middle East and on a variety of airlines the past several months.
Off the Fence is responsible for licensing Raw Travel (58 x 30’) to media outlets outside of the United States and represents the show at global television markets, including the upcoming market MIPCOM later this month.
Raw Travel is a 30 minute adventure travel & lifestyle series that incorporates two of the fastest growing segments of travel: eco-tourism & voluntourism. The fast paced show focuses on authentic experiences to often off-the-beaten-path destinations as well as other more mainstream destinations. The show recently debuted its 4th season in U.S. Syndication in the United States in 159 cities representing over 93% of U.S. television households.
“We are excited about working with Nat Geo People in Asia and in continuing to work with Off the Fence to expand our international audience even as our U.S. fan base continues to expand” stated Robert G. Rose, Executive Producer and Host. “Raw Travel’s unique perspective and positive message of socially consciousness living among an inclusive worldwide community resonates with global audiences. We are eager to welcome our new viewers and friends from across the globe and let them know we are proud to be citizens of the world with them.”
RAW TRAVEL’S SEASON 4 DEBUTS IN 93% OF U.S. THIS WEEKEND
– Four Straight Years of Rapid Growth for Authentic Adventure Travel Series –
NEW YORK, NY: September 28th, 2016 – AIM Tell-A-Vision® Group (AIM TV) announced today that its syndicated television series Raw Travel® will debut its 4th season this weekend in 159 cities, including 97 of the largest 100 U.S. markets. With an affiliate list that represents 105 Million and 93% of all U.S. TV homes, the season 4 (2016-17) debut represents the fourth straight year of record setting growth for the proudly independent adventure travel show.
Coming off its 3rd season where Raw Travel lengthened its lead as the #1 most watched authentic travel series in the U.S., season 4 will debut in an additional 15 new cities from Toledo to San Angelo.
Season 4 will also feature several upgraded time slots in major markets such as New York City (WNYW-Fox & WWOR-My), Philadelphia (WPHL-My) Cleveland (WOIO-CBS & WUAB-My), Seattle (KING-NBC & KONG-IND) Baltimore (WBFF-Fox & WUTB-My), and San Diego (XETV-CW). In Memphis the show is set to air on powerhouse WMC-NBC 5 Sundays @ 11 PM, which should help insure Raw Travel’s industry defying trajectory of audience growth.
Raw Travel surpassed 1 million weekly viewers on more than one occasion in Season 3, setting a high-water mark for the series that it expects to break in Season 4.
Globally, more international viewers are getting a taste of Raw Travel with outlets in Europe, Asia, Africa and many other key territories, which includes several major airlines that are licensing the series and helping spread the Raw Travel movement of socially conscious, authentic adventure travel.
One of the highlight episodes of Season 4 is “Cuba Undercover” which encompassed a covert journey to the island nation with a dismal record for journalistic freedoms. The producers posed as everyday tourists to give viewers a more authentic look at Cuba’s people, culture and burgeoning tourism now that the U.S. has eased decades old travel restrictions.
The producers also traveled to Haiti for an unflinching look at how non-governmental organizations (NGOs) may be contributing to Haiti’s dependence and reveal the darker side of the so-called “business of poverty”. Simultaneously Raw Travel showcases how socially conscious tourism can help provide a much needed “hand up” rather than “hand out” for Haitians.
“Raw Travel’s mantra of empathy and giving back is a reflection of a collective consciousness and mindset of a growing number of people. Raw Travel has a part to play in this large scale social movement and we’re humbled by the opportunity,” states Robert G. Rose, Executive Producer and Host.
Raw Travel is jointly distributed by AIM TV and Bright-Line Distribution. More information can be found at www.RawTravel.tv and viewers can visit www.RawTravel.tv/wheretowatch for a complete listing of cities, affiliates and time slots in the U.S. for Season 4.
# # #
ABOUT RAW TRAVEL TV
Raw Travel is the most watched authentic travel show on U.S. commercial television and is an adventure travel & lifestyle series showcasing the wave of socially and environmentally aware, independent travel. The series weaves together themes of eco-tourism, volun-tourism (giving back) with underground music and authentic culture in a unique way. Each weekend the show is seen in well over 150 U.S. cities and in several international territories (Asia, Africa, Europe, etc.). It can be found on several major airlines and soon in Over the Top (digital) platforms as well. It is jointly distributed by AIM Tell-A-Vision Group and Bright-Line Distribution.
ABOUT AIM TELL-A-VISION GROUP
AIM Tell-A-Vision (AIM TV) is an independent content and distribution company founded by media entrepreneur Robert G. Rose. Since 2000, AIM TV has been producing and distributing positive, compelling content that reflects a mission of presenting “Media That Matters”. Visit www.AIMTVGroup.com for more information.
ABOUT BRIGHT-LINE DISTRIBUTION
Bright-Line Distribution is a partnership of syndication veterans Jacqueline Hartley and Nancy Cook. Bright-Line’s mission is to deliver, through high energy and determined efforts, predictable and consistent TV distribution results.
My heart is always pounding hard in my chest when I make an appearance on live TV. I don’t know why it’s so different when I know the cameras are recording my images live as opposed to airing weeks or months later, as is the case on Raw Travel TV.
That said, the friendly folks at Good Day St. Louis on our affiliate KMOV CBS 4 put me at ease and despite my joking about the drivers in St. Louis (they are a little aggressive and I’ve driven in many parts of the world!), the people in St. Louis have always been super friendly, hospitable and polite when I’ve visited.
Thanks for a wonderful time guys.
Here is a video of the interview if you want to see it and while I hate to disappoint, no, I did not pass out from fright… this time. Click HEREto view.
“RAW TRAVEL” IS A FIRM GO FOR SEASON 4 IN 150+ CITIES & 93% OF THE U.S.!
– Fourth Straight Year of Growth for Nation’s Leading Authentic Travel Show –
NEW YORK, NY – JUNE 15th, 2016 – AIM Tell-A-Vision® Group (AIM TV) announced today that their production “Raw Travel®” is firm go for its 4th season of production and syndication this fall. Season 4 will debut in October via broadcast stations in over 150 U.S. cities representing approximately 105 million homes and 93% of U.S. TV homes.
With distribution partner Bright-Line Distribution, Raw Travel has added several new markets in its station lineup as well as securing both time period and station upgrades in many areas including New York, Baltimore, Memphis and Chattanooga among others.
Raw Travel’s current third season has pulled in a record number of viewers with increases often surpassing +50% year to year growth, extending its lead as “the most watched authentic travel show on U.S. commercial television” for a second straight season. Raw Travel’s appeal to male & female demographics, its ability to attract younger viewers to broadcast TV and maintain or grow the older demographic from lead-in programming means that Raw Travel is often consistently ranked #1 or #2 in key demos and time-slots in many major U.S. markets.
“Four years of steady growth is very unusual in today’s media environment, especially with almost zero in paid marketing. We began producing Raw Travel as a grass roots show, just as research began reflecting that people were craving authentic experiences,” says Executive Producer and Host, Robert G. Rose. “It’s very satisfying to know that our style of ‘do it yourself’, positive storytelling can win the day over shows or entire networks, with many times the resources.”
Raw Travel has also greatly expanded its international footprint on major networks in territories such as Asia, Europe, the Pacific Rim and Africa, and in 2016 will see the launch of long awaited “Over the Top” offerings for previous seasons in the library allowing viewers to “look back”.
For Season 4, the producers have preliminary plans to film a diverse group of destinations, including the Caribbean, Latin America, Asia, Europe and North America.
Raw Travel is an adventure travel & lifestyle series showcasing the wave of socially and environmentally aware, independent travel. The series weaves together themes of eco-tourism, volun-tourism (giving back) with underground music and authentic culture in a way unique to television.
Raw Travel is the most watched authentic travel show on U.S. commercial television and is a soft adventure travel & lifestyle series showcasing the wave of socially and environmentally aware, independent travel. The series weaves together themes of eco-tourism, volun-tourism (giving back) with underground music and authentic culture in a unique way. Each weekend the show is seen in over 150 U.S. cities, by over 750,000 viewers, and in several international territories (Asia, Africa, Europe, etc.). It can be found on several major airlines and soon in Over the Top (digital) platforms as well.
ABOUT AIM TELL-A-VISION GROUP
AIM Tell-A-Vision (AIM TV) is an independent content and distribution company founded by media entrepreneur Robert G. Rose. AIM TV aspires to produce and distribute positive, compelling content that reflects its mission of presenting Media That Matters. Visit www.AIMTVGroup.com for more information.
ABOUT BRIGHT-LINE DISTRIBUTION
Bright-Line Distribution is a partnership of syndication veterans Jacqueline Hartley and Nancy Cook. Bright-Line’s mission is to deliver, through high energy and determined efforts, predictable and consistent TV distribution results.
This was my first trip to the fabled continent of Africa so I figured what better country to begin than the so called “Gateway” to the continent, South Africa. Less official nicknames for South Africa include “Africa Light” or “The Livable Africa”. I get a chuckle out of those because after later visiting Ghana, I realized it’s kind of true.
Johannesburg, South Africa or Joburg as the locals refer to it, is the largest city in South Africa and it’s the commercial center but it’s definitely not why most tourists come to South Africa. That would be Cape Town, the safaris and wildlife at places like Kruger National Park or perhaps the beaches of Durban.
This is precisely why we wanted to dig deeper into Johannesburg. I firmly believe that in every destination, there is a Raw Travel episode waiting to be teased out, probably several actually. This includes the well-traveled spots (i.e. New Orleans, Prague, Costa Rica, etc…. let’s show another side of it) and the more off-the-beaten-path destinations (i.e. Bratislava, Honduras, Laos, etc….let’s show why this place deserves to be visited).
I wasn’t sure what to expect in Johannesburg but two words were on my mind… “gritty” and “dangerous”. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
As you are probably aware, media reports can be wildly subjective and I’ve found, inaccurate. Yet another reason to visit and see it for myself.
The definition of “dangerous” is so relative it’s nearly impossible to define anymore. There is “war zone” danger and there is “everyday” danger.
I believe NYC with its rash of random violence (stabbings on the subways are back) these days, could very well justly be perceived as dangerous, yet I’ve lived here going on 20 years and never had more than a handful of issues that could have easily been avoided and where I came to no harm.
Which is why, I do some research ahead of time and consult not the news media or U.S. government web sites but travel blogs, social media and other travelers before I go.
Turns out Johannesburg WAS dangerous…. 10 years ago.
Well, since I’m not traveling back in time, Johannesburg needed an update and I intended to do my best to see what was up in this city and this included hitting up the “dangerous” townships and neighborhoods where “poverty” exists.
Granted we were going with guides and granted, I probably would not have gone to these particular spots by myself at night with expensive camera equipment but that is just because I had no reason to, not because I perceived any danger whatsoever at any point. I’d like to think after 50 or so countries my “danger radar” is getting pretty fine-tuned and it ran silent the entire time. That doesn’t happen everywhere.
The reality is, that in the 3 township tours that we took… Alexandra, Soweto and Hillbrow… I found absolutely zero reason to be concerned and I felt 100% welcomed and almost, I hesitate to say it, but beloved.
I don’t know how else to describe the warmth of feeling when total strangers stop you in the street to hug you.. when kids wave and jump as you pass by and others wildly jump in your arms to give you a big hug and a kiss on the cheek and clap and sing and basically are so full of goodness, and lack of cynicism that I am still emotional typing these words weeks after my visit.
Perhaps I should not have been surprised in a land where the likes of Nelson Mandela and his legacy still loom so large. Madeba is beloved here and it’s infectious.
But beloved is the word I feel and thus what I will use.
My annoyance quickly faded to true affection for the Joburg Tourism folks and their staffers after they left us hanging at the Joburg airport waiting for a ride for well over an hour (after a 19 hour flight from NYC and after confirming numerous times beforehand that a driver would be meeting us at the airport when we landed). Severely jet lagged, exhausted and facing 16 days of a brutal work and travel schedule with little sleep ahead normally puts me in a somewhat surly mood.
From our driver, now my pal, Mndeni at Zeigen Tours and Rendani at Joburg Tourism and the rest of the crew like our local cameraman Mike Bell (one of the most talented and professional I’ve ever worked with), to Jimmy, a local guide who tagged along… to the dozens of other folks we met on the ground at the different filming locations… their spirit of friendliness and lack of guile completely extracted any negative thoughts or anger issues from my mind.
But how can they be so happy and joyful?
This was after all where Apartheid reigned up until just a few years ago. I mean in the U.S. we went through our Civil Rights period in the 1960s and today it seems, if you believe the media at least, race relations are as bad as ever.
Yet in South Africa where apartheid reigned until as recently as the mid-1990s, this was a place that, in my short time there I observed, was so lacking in bitterness and pessimistic thinking, even in the poorest of areas, that I couldn’t help but think “what are we in the U.S. doing wrong?”
Perhaps it’s an unfair comparison, but still… one has to be impressed with the way South Africa and Joburgers in particular have embraced their history. They are not ashamed of it. In fact they almost seem to celebrate it, proud that they found reconciliation or so it seemed to me. Now granted an outsider in town for a very limited amount of time but this is how I saw it.
Yes, apartheid was a travesty of human relations and people died and were severely mistreated for many, many years but as Madeba instructed through his own extreme example of forgiveness, it appears to have been relegated to the past by most and almost everyone we met seemed focused on the present… a loving and more caring present and an hopeful, optimistic future.
Of course there are problems (we witnessed 3 car accidents in our short time there). Of course there is inequality (we stayed at some very nice hotels while the Townships we visited are super raw). Yes, there is a massive difference between the needs of the wealthy vs. the everyday folks but there is no way it could be described as a hotbed of danger, divisiveness and crime as I’d allowed myself to subconsciously believe.
Johannesburg is by no measure ugly. It’s big, traffic is tough sometimes and it’s spread out, but it’s a place I’d gladly return. But even if it were a hellhole, I’d still go back to be with the people. Because I cannot emphasize this enough, it’s the PEOPLE who put the heart into a place and it’s the people of Johannesburg I will always remember.
Thank you Joburg for not treating me like a walking ATM or as an outsider or interloper or exploiter, but instead as a fellow human being.
Raw Travel Episode #313 – “We Heart Johannesburg” will premiere in the U.S. April 30th and May 1st in the U.S. ClickHEREfor tune in info and see more photos from Johannesburg trip HERE.
– Nation’s Poorest Reservation Gets a Helping Hand from Nation’s Most Watched Travel Show –
NEW YORK, NY: November 18th, 2015 – AIM Tell-A-Vision® Group (AIM TV)announced today that its syndicated television series Raw Travel® will debut “Pine Ridge – Tribal Tourism” this weekend November 21 & 22, 2015 to kick off the Holiday Season of thanks and giving.
The Oglala Lakota Sioux Indian reservation in Pine Ridge, South Dakota is one of if not the poorest area in the entire United States. On the reservation it is reported that:
Average annual per capita income is estimated at just $4,000 annually.
Unemployment is over 80% and it’s estimated that over half live below the poverty line.
Teen (and even pre-teen) suicide is estimated to be four times the national rate.
They have the second lowest life expectancy in the Western Hemisphere (second only to Haiti).
Diabetes is eight times (and infant mortality three times) the U.S. rate.
There is a massive housing crisis with multiple families often crammed into small mobile homes, many without running water or adequate sewage.
However, thanks to a distinctive culture that incorporates ancient traditions and language, Pine Ridge is an emerging destination for travelers interested in “Tribal Tourism.” This is helping Pine Ridge residents hang on to their culture while creating a much needed economic boost. Raw Travel is raising awareness by highlighting an inspiring blend of locals, transplants, travelers and volunteers who are working hard to improve conditions. The show aspires to cultivate tourism on Pine Ride while celebrating its heritage.
The episode was intentionally filmed over the U.S. Independence Day Holiday Weekend (July 4th) and incorporated local talent (camera, crew and artists) to produce the episode.
“Raw Travel Pine Ridge is not poverty porn. We focus on people who impact lives daily. With the heartbreaking and rampant suicide rates, Native American youth in particular need our help. In addition to the basics, most don’t have access to pastimes like after school programs, movie theaters or even a swimming pool,” states Executive Producer, Robert Rose. “It’s unacceptable to me that this situation exists anywhere, but especially in the most powerful economy in the world. The people of Pine Ridge are resilient and hospitable in the face of adversity few of us can comprehend. I hope this episode will not only raise awareness, but also motivate others to donate, volunteer or travel to the reservation.”
The producers have created a micro website www.RawTravelPineRidge.com as a resource for people who wish to learn more with additional video content, links to help and travel tips. They are using crowdfunding to raise funds via www.CrowdRise.com/RawTravel and by selling limited edition “Still Here… Still Proud” T-shirts designed by young Pine Ridge graphic designer, Jimi La Pointe.
Raw Travel is also donating money raised through the sale of an upcoming special DVD release and pay-per-view fundraising screenings of the international-cut version of the episode. Funds raised will be allocated for after school programs in cooperation with the Red Cloud School featured in the episode.
Raw Travel is an authentic, adventure travel and lifestyle television series currently in its 3rd season and airs in over 140 U.S. Cities (91% of the U.S.). It is broadcast in syndication on local affiliates (Fox, CBS, ABC, NBC, CW, My, etc.) as well as on a variety of outlets internationally in Asia, Europe, Africa and more. Raw Travel showcases the rapidly growing wave of socially and environmentally aware independent travel. The series weaves together themes of ecotourism, voluntourism (giving back) with underground music and authentic culture in a way unique to U.S. television. More information can be found at www.RawTravel.tv and viewers can visit www.RawTravel.tv/wheretowatch for a complete listing of cities, affiliates and time slots in the U.S.
ABOUT AIM TELL-A-VISION GROUP
AIM TV is an independent content, production and distribution company founded by media executive and entrepreneur Robert G. Rose. AIM TV aspires to produce and distribute positive, compelling content that reflects its mission of presenting Media That Matters. Visit www.AIMTVGroup.com for more information.
I first heard about the situation in Pine Ridge reservation a few years ago while watching Diane Sawyer profiling the tragic issue of teen suicide there. I pledged then and there that if ever I was able to help the people on the reservation, I would. Finally, during the 4th of July holiday weekend of 2015, I visited Pine Ridge to produce an episode of Raw Travel entitled “Pine Ridge – Tribal Tourism” and my life has never been the same.
Nothing that specifically extraordinary happened to me on that trip. I simply met regular folks from the reservation who were kind and hospitable to me, a total stranger. But I was very impressed by their resiliency in the face of difficult circumstances.
I was equally impressed by the large number of locals, transplants and volunteers working to help make the situation on Pine Ridge better, especially for Lakota Youth. I can think of no better way to inspire young people to believe in themselves than to allow them to explore the innate creativity present in all human beings.
I was made aware of the lack of creative outlets by youth on the reservation when I interviewed the local band “Scatter Their Own” where Scotti & Julianna informed me that no music schools existed on the entire reservation. After interviewing the folks at Red Cloud School I thought a good way to help would be to assist their efforts to expand their after school arts program.
I hope we can work with some talented musicians, filmmakers and other artists and entrepreneurs to visit the reservation and speak to the youth on a consistent basis. I’d also like to try to create a small film school. Who knows where, if anywhere this will lead but I do know that to do nothing, is in essence choosing to endorse the status quo, and that I cannot do. Whatever we can contribute, big or small it will help.
Even though this fundraising effort kicks off to coordinate with our Raw Travel – Pine Ridge / Tribal Tourism debut, it will be an ongoing effort and will continue as long as there is interest in helping Pine Ridge help themselves. For me this already is an ongoing cause I’ve pretty much resigned to be dedicated to until either things improve drastically or I die, whichever comes first.
With your help, they I’m confident they can and will get better. For more information on Raw Travel – Pine Ridge and to donate please go to www.crowdrise.com/rawtravel or for other ways you may choose to help then click the “How To Help” link at www.RawTravelPineRidge.com which will be updated as time goes on.
Thank you for not standing by while good people needlessly suffer.
While filming in Park City, Utah this summer I fortuitously came across a promotional flyer for a program called “Adopt A Native Elder” and was immediately intrigued. We made contact and interviewed founder, Linda Myer and her dedicated staff and volunteers at their warehouse in Salt Lake City where they were packing for an upcoming “Food Run”. According to their website, the Adopt-A-Native-Elder Program exists to create a Bridge of Hope between Native Americans and other cultures. They do this by providing food, medicine, clothing, fabric and yarns to help these Elders, some of whom are in their 80s and 90s or even older.
As they have become elderly, it has become more difficult for them to support themselves on the Land in their traditional ways. After my interview with Linda and Roger, the organization’s Navajo interpreter and ambassador, I was so taken with the program that I pledged then and there to participate in an upcoming food run.
Months later, I was finally able to fulfill my pledge by participating in the Many Farms Food Run in a remote area of the Navajo reservation in Arizona and it was as amazing as I expected.
I flew into Phoenix on some business the day before and then drove almost 5 hours to the meeting point in Chimle, Arizona. I arrived late at night at the lovely Best Western hotel in town and woke up early to meet up with the volunteers and to get briefed at breakfast.
Linda immediately spotted me and after our greeting graciously asked if I’d brought any long pants (I was wearing 3/4 length pants). Luckily I had. It turns out the Navajo are conservative and to show proper respect, the volunteers are asked to dress conservatively with the females wearing long skirts and men wearing long pants. No sleeveless t-shirts either. The main thing is to keep oneself covered.
Linda introduced me to the group of volunteers as I nervously apologized for my inappropriate dress (an unintentional but now long running theme throughout the show), and everyone laughed. It was a jovial, giving and welcoming atmosphere with approximately 50 or so volunteers from all over the U.S. including Utah, California, Texas, Indiana and at least one other person from New York City.
It was a somewhat older adult crowd with many retirees taking advantage to give back, but there were also younger folks and families with kids as well as solo travelers in attendance. The kids particularly impressed me with their selfless attitude and commitment. In my view, these kids are bound for a lifetime of giving, empathy and betterment. I spent a lot of time with them and found their maturity and character at such a young age simply inspiring.
We left in convoy from the hotel and arrived at the gathering point on the reservation around mid morning before any elders would arrive, some making a several hour journey in from remote corners of the reservations and many arriving in walkers or wheelchairs, many of which had been donated. It was obvious that many rarely if ever are able to leave home but the ANE Foodruns are special occasion for these folks.
Not only does the event allow them to stock up on food and other necessities to get them through the winter, they view these ANE occasions as social where they are able to fellowship and see old friends be they fellow tribes people or volunteers from ANE, many of whom have been coming for years and have developed long held bonds and relationships with the Natives.
Witnessing deep friendships that transcended generational, ethnic and cultural gaps was perhaps the most heartwarming part of the entire Food Run process
The elders were as sweet as could be and they and their caretakers (if they had them) of sons, daughters, grandsons, granddaughters, etc., were grateful and appreciative. Many of the elders did not speak English but as always, smile and a warm handshake or hug bridged any language or cultural barrier. Some of the Natives also brought gifts for exchange (rugs, yarn, etc.) giving the event a festive rather than charitable feel.
The ANE foodruns have been going on for over 30 years and by now, it’s run like a well oiled machine. Every possible scenario was covered and it was obvious this organization is a “waste not, want not” kind of place. The support that ANE receives goes directly to the native elders with very little administrative overhead that you would find in a larger organization.
They know by now the things that the elders most need. Items that might seem humdrum to you and I such as work gloves, knit hats, hand lotion, instant coffee, peanut butter, yarn, etc. Every elder is taken care of and every effort was made to create an event that was more of a celebration of a culture among good friends rather than a charity give away. There were skits, entertainment, games and giveaways along with a wonderful buffet style lunch that was a mixture of Native and non Native food.
Indeed, it was hard for me to keep a dry eye during the parts of the day. The love and good will flowing from Native to Non Native and back was palpable. When the young Native children showed up for their toys, I thought I would lose it. Simple pleasures from kids who don’t know a thing about a computer or video game but who were absolutely thrilled with a new plastic toy car or action figure that most kids in our country today would simply sneer at.
The Elders.. the kids.. the volunteers… the love… the warmth.. in the peaceful (if hot and dusty) setting of the Arizona desert, it was surreal as well as a mind and life altering.
I hope I’m able to actually “adopt” a native elder or return on a Food Run soon and while it remains to be seen, it’s a memory I’ll treasure and keep for life.
I encourage you to find out about the ANE and see if it’s for you and if you are so moved, participate on a Food Run or Adopt-A-Native-Elder yourself. Please visit their website HERE and look for their segment in 2016 on Raw Travel.