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The Art of Human Kindness

Michael Daube

For today’s Good News Wednesday, I would like to share a wonderful story about an artist, a journey, and the incredible organization that came from them. I’m talking about Michael Daube and his amazing story, which I’ve shared before.

In the late 80s, New Jersey-based artist Michael Daube was backpacking around India. In Calcutta, two small children approached him on the street, begging for money. Michael began talking with them, and soon the children had invited him to accompany them to the place where they had lunch every day.

Michael and the children arrived at a Catholic charity where dozens of children were awaiting their lunch. Michael asked one of the sisters if he could volunteer or help in some way; the nun told him that he better talk to the sister in charge, and led him to another room to wait.

Into the room walked Mother Theresa – whom Michael had never even heard of at the time.

Flash-forward a few years: Michael is back in New Jersey working as an artist, and still thinking about those kids in India. One day he goes dumpster diving for sculpture materials, when he discovers amongst the trash a drawing by legendary British artist David Hockney. This was the watershed moment he had been waiting for. Michael sold the drawing, and in 1997, used the money — along with a lot of travel, determination, inspiration and hard work — to found Citta, an organization dedicated to boost the education, health care and economic prospects of some of the most economically disadvantaged people in the world. Citta currently operates hospitals, schools, orphanages and women’s centers in India, Nepal and Mexico.

Read the Tonic article here

Today, Michael and Citta have a great new venture to raise funds and awareness, and increase the work being done by Citta. Tonic, a website focused on the good that happens each day in neighborhoods all around the world, is hoping to spread Citta’s message of help and hope through a new partnership. Sūtra Scarves are hand-made, beautiful cashmere scarves that feature words of wisdom, strength and inspiration. Each piece includes embroidered Sanskrit translations of words chosen by creative powerhouses including Natalie Merchant, David Bowie, Queen Latifah and Scarlett Johansson  — making them as meaningful as they are luxurious.

The scarves are works of art unto themselves and are knit and embroidered by the artisans at the Women’s Center in Orissa, India, providing the means for locals to empower and help themselves. Exclusively on Tonic, a portion of the proceeds from each scarf goes to help make the next Citta dream a reality.The goal is to raise funds toward the $65,000 needed for Citta to build a girls’ school in Jaisalmir, India. Read the full article on Tonic here.

So, just in time for your holiday shopping – buy an amazing, one-of-a-kind cashmere scarf – and feel great about helping to empower women and children at the same time. Namaste!

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Way of Life

In the late 80s, New Jersey based artist Michael Daube was backpacking around India. In Calcutta, two small children approached him on the street, begging for money. Michael began talking with them, and soon the children had invited him to accompany them to the place where they had lunch every day.

Michael and the children arrived at a Catholic charity where dozens of children were awaiting their lunch. Michael asked one of the sisters if he could volunteer or help in some way; the nun told him that he better talk to the sister in charge, and led him to another room to wait.

Into the room walked Mother Theresa – whom Michael had never even heard of at the time.

After he returned to the United States, Michael was still trying to figure out how he could return and help the children. In 1994 he was rummaging through a dumpster near his Jersey City loft, looking for sculpture materials, when he came across a drawing in a rickety frame signed with a funky initial. Having taken an art attribution course, Michael had an inkling that it might be a David Hockney. A professional confirmed his hunch, and Michael, then 30, sold his find for $18,000.

With this money, he took off for India. He went back to Mother Teresa and asked her how he might practice compassion $18,000 richer. She suggested opening a school in the country’s poorest, most heavily tribal state, rural Orissa. Prone to floods and cyclones, it’s an area about which even devoted aid workers ask, “Why would you go there?”

Daube soon found out what they were talking about. “In Orissa, people with extremely sick babies approached me begging for any kind of medicine, even aspirin,” he says. “I saw a man in a basket hanging from bamboo poles held by two skinny men who intended to carry him more than 18 miles through mud to the nearest hospital. Instead of building a school, I began to build a hospital.”

Since that time, Michael’s non profit organization, Citta, has built numerous schools, hospitals, clinics and women’s centers in India. Michael was even profiled in Oprah Winfrey’s O Magazine.

Michael is currently featured in a new film titled Way of Life, by David Driver.  The film is premiering in San Francisco on February 27 at 6 pm. Click here for tickets & more info.

Here is a synopsis:

Way of Life is the story of a group of people, from Nepal, India, Europe and America who work together in a small international NGO that benefits people in some of the least developed areas of the world. At the center of it all is the unique tale of Michael Daube, a young man from small town America who finds a valuable piece of art in the garbage, sells it at auction and builds a hospital in one of the most remote areas of India.

I encourage you to see this film if you can, support it, and Michael’s organization – CITTA.

You can view the trailer for the movie here.

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