Ron introduced Lisa Farana, a member of the Collingwood Rotary Club, founder and director of Elephant Thoughts, 2008 YMCA Peace Medallion recipient and a camping, skiing and travel enthusiast.

Elephant Thoughts is a Global Development organization and First Nations Educational Foundation that started in 2001 with teachers promoting education in underprivileged areas that has grown from2 volunteers to 80 doing what they can to educate young children in a fair and equal way.  Currently they are working in India, Tanzania and in First Nations communities in Canada.  The first mission was in India, supported by Rotary, and tried to promote cultural understanding, the breaking down of barriers, the raising of standards of living and a sustainable environment.  As it grew older children started teaching the younger ones, mentoring and encouraging.

There are always difficulties.  In one location some land was donated for building a school but it was near a pig farm and many teachers didn't want to work there.  So should they move the pig farm?  In another community a rivalry between tribes complicated the project and ended up with competing programming.  But the reward for helping is massive - people are so appreciative.  In the Himalayas they are taking a Library up to the villages to promote reading and other programs and the enthusiasm is palpable.

In the First Nations most of the effort goes to building trust.  They lost control of their education under the residential school system and their schools are still underfunded in comparison with the rest of the country so even with AFN support it takes a while.  In 1920 the then Superintendent of Indian Affairs declared that it was the government's aim to eliminate all the Indians in the country.  That attitude lingers and the current population has to struggle against it.

Elephant Thoughts programs are now accepted in several communities and word of mouth assits the spread.  They sponsor science camps in the summer to maintain interest and are working to provide a presence year round. 

The First Nations population grew by 20% over the last census while the rest of the country increased by only 5.2%.  The vast majority of this young population is unemployed - about 400,000 people which translates to over 10 billion dollars in lost productivity.  We need to help these kids through High School and on.  In the areas they are working graduation rates have risen from zero to 30%.  The organization is recognized by the Martin Aboriginal Initiatives organization and the Conner Canadian Foundation.

Lorne Kenney said there are schools in our own area code that are in aging portables because the original building has been condemned.  Third world conditions.  As Chair of the District Aboriginal Committee he is encouraging District Clubs to join the ARCC (Aboriginal Rotary Community Circle).  Other Districts are considering joining and potentially supplying programs in Ontario, to start, and then spreading across Canada.  Matching grants can help make this even more effective.

Funding goes to service delivery, none of it is delivered to people on the ground, the organization is apolitical.