Jul 3, 2012/12:22 PM

Kira Poncelet’s Narrative

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My name is Kira Poncelet, and I’m a senior at Head-Royce School, a small private school in Oakland, California. At the end of the year, seniors get a month off of school for Senior Projects, which allow students to intern and shadow jobs in areas of interest.  For my senior project I decided to work at Generation Waking Up in hopes of helping to bring about a more thriving, just, and sustainable world, and I have been interning with them for about a month now.

I was already somewhat connected with the GenUp community because my grandparents, Claude and Noelle Poncelet, are members of the Pachamama Alliance, GenUp’s sister organization.  In fact, this past summer, my family of 18 (grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc.) travelled to Ecuador for ten days through the Pachamama Alliance.

My family of 18 and members of the Achuar Community Ishpanko

The Pachamama Alliance is a partnership between the indigenous peoples of the Amazon and empowered individuals all over the world inspired to help the indigenous tribes preserve their land and culture.  For a few days we stayed with the Achuar, an indigenous tribe deep in the Amazon rainforest, where we became immersed in their lifestyle and culture.  As it turns out, oil companies are currently threatening the Achuar land and culture, and the Achuar have resorted to eco-tourism to help pay for legal and transportation costs.  In catering to tourists needs, the Achuar have had to make drastic changes to their way of life, including changing their eating habits. The Achuar are trapped in a paradoxical dilemma of having to make changes to the culture they are intending to preserve. I was so intrigued and inspired by the Achuar’s story that I decided to study it further through a program at school called the Global Citizenship Certificate (GCC).  GCC allows students to explore global issues of interest with the help of a teacher mentor to help guide the student towards the final product: an intriguing, well-written 10-page paper that will be published in a school journal. In my paper, using my own experience as well as outside research, I explore the ups and downs of eco-tourism to the jungle and also the history and current state of oil exploitation in Ecuador and it’s effect on the environment and other indigenous peoples.

Me and the Shaman of the Achuar Community Ishpanko

While I was writing this paper, I was also in search of a senior project.  The Pachamama Alliance was the first place I looked because it was super relevant to my paper, but I was eventually directed towards Generation Waking Up because it was more relevant to my life and my interests.  The SF GenUp weekend long Facilitator training the weekend of April 20th arose as the perfect opportunity to explore the organization a little more.  I was initially very nervous; I was commuting alone somewhere I had never been before, I didn’t know anyone, and I knew I was going to be the youngest one.  When I arrived, however, I was instantly welcomed by the sweetest, most passionate, and most influential people I had ever met.  From day one we were able to create a safe space, and people were able to open up, be vulnerable, and share their innermost hopes and fears.  Apart from creating deep and authentic relationships with everyone there, that weekend turned out to be a truly transformative and eye-opening experience for me, both about the current state of the world and about myself.

One of my most memorable experiences there was actually this activity called the ‘Milling Exercise’. In this activity, all 30 of us mindlessly bustled around a small room as if we were in New York City during rush hour, and when someone yelled stop we had to partner up with the person closest to us.   After we found our partner, we had to hold eye contact with that person for about two minutes without talking and without letting our eyes wander.  Keep in mind that this activity was early on in the weekend, so my partner was still a complete stranger.  This activity was particularly powerful for me because it was the most difficult activity I had to do all weekend.  It surprised me how difficult it was to hold eye contact with this person, and it helped me realize how truly disconnected humans are from one another.  I found that after silently holding this persons gaze and energy, we had internally formed a connection and trust with the other person.  After the two minutes were up, my partner introduced himself as Ethan and took me into his arms in a warm embrace.  I saw partners all around me doing the same thing, and that helped me understand how truly powerful eye contact is.  After the training, I now find myself acknowledging people I see on the street by making eye contact, smiling, and saying hello.

SF GenUp Facilitator Training

The weekend training also impacted me in other ways.  One way is that I am way more conscious about what I eat.  I avoid eating meat whenever I can, but when I do eat meat I make sure it was ethically and sustainably raised and produced.  I did this to protest unethical meat harvesting practices as well as to decrease my carbon footprint.  Significantly altering my eating habits is my personal commitment towards the movement of bringing about a thriving, just, and sustainable world.

In addition, the training inspired me to co-facilitate a WakeUp at my High School, Head Royce, where I introduced the WakeUp to about 20 high school students.  I was able to express my new hope to inspire others, and I was able to stress that we are living in such a critical moment in history and that it’s time for us all to wake up and start making changes to the way we live our lives.  After checking in with the students that came, they all said they loved the WakeUp and hugely benefited from it.  Not only did they leave feeling motivated and inspired, but they also left feeling hopeful. Hearing such nice feedback made me really happy and fulfilled.  If I can impact peoples’ lives in a profound way and help motivate them, even if its only 20 people, I know that I am helping contribute to the movement towards sustainability and justice.  (To read more about the Head Royce WakeUp, click Here.)

Head-Royce School

Since the Head-Royce WakeUp, I’ve been working with GenUp helping to plan future WakeUps, learning the ropes around the fundraising aspect, speaking at various events, and helping with other minor tasks.  We are currently working from the Pachamama Office, so I have also been able to keep my ties with Pachamama and my interest in the Achuar.  It couldn’t have worked out more perfectly.

This summer I’m going to continue interning with GenUp, and then this fall I’m heading off to Tufts University in Boston where I hope to share my story and the WakeUp with everyone there.  GenUp really impacted me in a profound me, and I’m excited to invite my community to join me and the rest of the GenUp family in the movement towards a thriving, just, and sustainable world.

My high school graduation!

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