"He follows his heart.I follow him"
A ten-year old
started a fund-raising campaign in the U.S. for Isaiambalam, a
Tamil school in Auroville
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
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
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
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."
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
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
Indeed they did. But even more, they enjoyed his energy and play
in this adventure.
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
c/o Auroville International-USA firstname.lastname@example.org .
Or contact Evan via Bill at email@example.com