We all have key events that happen throughout our lifetime that change our direction & open our eyes beyond our current reality. It is interesting to me how we have so many of these life changing moments, but at the time, we have no idea what kind of magic they possess & how they can change our lives & guide us to finding our passions & ultimately our life calling.
It was these magical moments that influenced me to start Unexpected Moments of Magic, to take a leap of faith, to quit my job, sell my home, & decide to dedicate my life & my life savings to helping others in need internationally. My inspiration to do this began the day after the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami when I landed in Indonesia, a country in complete devastation due to the destruction of the tsunami. What started as a short-term volunteer trip, turned into an adventure around the globe taking me to over 30 countries, volunteering my time with several devoted organizations & meeting thousands of exceptional social entrepreneurs & service driven people who were making a difference in their communities. The things I saw, heard, touched, learned & felt are things I never before could have imagined. On my travels, I felt my heart breaking open and at times wanting to break down. I saw a degree of suffering that I did not know still existed.
Here in Boquete, Panama I watched an 11 year old girl nursing her baby, who also happened to be her half brother as it was her own father who had raped her. In Rwanda, I met a group of 16 boys that had been living on the streets together as a family for the past 12 years whose parents were murdered in the ethnic cleansing genocide that took place in 1994 when over a million people were killed. In Uganda, I met a 14-year-old girl who was positive with HIV and yet still she was selling her body for money for food to eat to survive. I met a sweet 5-year-old boy who had scares all over his body from the abuse he had taken from his own aunt. And these are only but a few stories in millions who are struggling to survive on a daily basis. Some of us get water from a faucet and others walk for hours to get it from the village well. Some of us get food from the grocery store, while others from garbage cans. Some of us have several pairs of shoes, while others walk barefoot. Some of us are blessed with the means to proper nutrition, while others are dying everyday from starvation & malnutrition. Some of us live in an area where we can walk around worry-free of harm or danger and others in areas where war is all around and you are constantly looking behind your back. Some of us have loved ones all around us, while others have no one. Some of us spend $30 on a single meal and others live off of $30 for one month. Some of us have well-paid jobs, while others educate themselves for years just to realize that there are no job opportunities. Some of us have to force or children to go to school, while others pray everyday that maybe one day they will be able to pay for their children to go to school. Some of us live in areas of opportunities. Others live in areas of absent of opportunities. We all do things differently, that is what diversity is all about, but the reality of this world is, no matter how differently we do things, we all have the same needs.
We all have the need to nourish our bodies with food and water. We all have the desire to feel love, a sense of belonging and safety. We all have the desire to learn and grow and follow are passions in life. And the most beautiful thing of all of is that we are all one, a unified human race. We are all made from the same substances and when all is said and done, we are all equal. On my travels, I came to realize the magnitude of beauty & diversity in this world, at the same time realizing the severity of human suffering & inequality that is taking place around the globe. It is the beauty & diversity that I celebrate & appreciate everyday & the inequality & suffering that I seek to minimize. I am pleased to say that in all the places I traveled, my heart always drew me back to beautiful Boquete, Panama and this is the place I now call home. The Indian Ocean Tsunami killed over 250,000 people in fourteen countries and was one of the deadliest natural disasters recorded in history. My goal is to empower at least 250,000 people through Unexpected Moments of Magic. Our numbers are rising everyday and for that I am evermore grateful. Since the launch of the organization, I have had the opportunity to work with some truly amazing social entrepreneurs who continue to inspire me everyday with their undying dedication. Together we have launched several projects in Panama with our most important project being our international volunteer placement program.
The Boquete Starfish Volunteer program creates an opportunity for others to experience their “unexpected moment of magic” by being immersed in a cultural experience while serving to the local community. I say this is our most important project because for me it was my first international volunteer placement that changed my life and if I can provide that opportunity to others, with any luck, they too will find their passion to serve internationally. We have also launched The GEM Project, which is a multifaceted international jewelry-making empowerment program for women that inspires positive thinking, global giving & creative power for positive individual & social change. We offer free English Classes for locals to expand job opportunities and our latest project was the opening of the Starfish Teen Center, the only center of its kind in Panama. For me, my work is one of my greatest passions in life. I am so grateful to be able to wake up everyday knowing I am exactly where I am meant to be, doing what I am designed to do, knowing I am making a difference. There is no better feeling.
So it is my hope for you that you too seek out your passions in life. Explore your talents. Acquire skills. Seek knowledge. Think Positive. Express your gratitude. Look for strengths in others & in yourself. Open your mind and most importantly, believe in yourself & be proud of what you represent to the world. When you are doing what you are designed to do & what you are naturally good at, life is no longer about working, it is about living. By the time you finish reading this, my goal is to plant a few seeds of desire in your hearts. First, I want you to leave with the desire to have your hearts broken open by living a life not only for the benefit of yourself, but for the benefit of others. And secondly, I want to encourage you to be open to listening to that little voice inside of you and be willing to take a leap of faith in your own life if you are called to do so.
I would like to start by telling you a story I once heard about a young prince named Gautama who lived in India. His father had a great desire to protect his son, so he kept him secluded inside the walls of the beautiful castle they called home. Once day, curious Gautama managed to seek outside the castle walls without his father knowing. What he experienced in this day outside the confining walls of beauty and perfection broke open Gautama’s heart. What he saw this day was suffering. Suffering he never even knew existed because of the blessed life that he had lived. I am telling the story of Gautama because I feel many of you too have lived inside of a castle, with that castle being developed nations. Many of us have been secluded from the degree of suffering that is taking place in less developed countries, countries like Panama. To witness suffering is heartbreaking, and at the same time heart expanding. It is my hope that we all open our hearts a little wider to God’s children that are suffering around the world. It was not until I was welcomed to the cruel world that I found my passion and my calling. It is my desire to be an advocate to open the hearts of others around me by exposing them to the realities of life outside of our castles and educating people on issues effecting people worldwide. As I wrote this my eyes filled with tears, tears of sadness and tears of gratitude. I am deeply saddened by the reality some of our Universe’s children are facing and my heart is filled with gratitude because of the blessed life God gave me that enables me to give back to others. It is my hope that we can all always remember that we are blessed, not for the sake of ourselves, but for the sake of others less fortunate then ourselves. I would like share with you a few valuable lessons that I learned through my interaction with other cultures. Throughout my adventures I gained a whole new level of respect for human diversity and the innumerable ways of being, doing, thinking, & living. It is this new awareness of human diversity that has led me to conclude that we are all just trying to survive, feel peace & happiness within our hearts, and gain a closer relationship with ourselves and our love ones. We just go about it in different ways.
Until now, I have been talking about the vast suffering that is taking place around the world. Now I would like to briefly shift the focus to the suffering that is taking place within the United States and other more developed countries. The reality is that there are many blessed nations when it comes to the standard of living. There are good governing bodies that protect its people, there are good schools, nice roads, jobs available, there are government programs, foundations & nonprofit organizations to help those in need. We may have crime, but overall live in a safe environment comparatively speaking. We truly are the land of opportunity. On the flip side, because of these opportunities we have many pressures put on us. We are all supposed to be successful, look great, be highly educated, and always be moving forward. We are supposed to gradually have bigger homes and nicer cars, and stay fit in the process. All of these material pressures can blur our vision of what is truly important. Sometimes it can even get to the point where instead of really worshiping God, we are worshipping our things. We are so driven to get more more more, we forget in the process, what for? Nothing will come with us when we die. Our souls will be judged, not our bank accounts. We have to remember what is important. And that is relationship. Relationship with God and with one another. We need to slow down and prioritize our loved ones, not our work or things.
I recall one beautiful morning when I was going for a hike with a group of children in Panama around 9 am; we walked passed by a few people sitting outside on their patio chatting. When we returned 5 hours later, the same people were still sitting in the same place, chatting the day away. I hate to have to admit this, but my first reaction was, what are these people doing? Get up and get something accomplished! Well, a few months later, I found myself sitting on the patio chatting with a friend, it was around 12 in the afternoon and a friend of ours stopped by to say hello on her way to work. Five hours later when she returned, we were still sitting on the patio chatting away. At first I thought, oh no! I have become one of those lazy people who get nothing accomplished. But when the true realization sunk into my heart, I felt proud to be a patio dweller. I realized that finally, I had learned how to relax and enjoy other people's company. I was prioritizing relationships with others in my life instead of constantly seeking ways to improve myself. I was able to be there for my friend when she needed me and that is a greater accomplishment than anything I could have done for myself.
Brothers & Sisters please do not let the beauty, opportunity & superficiality around you cloud what is truly important. Take time to love one another and be there for one another. I want you to remember this the next time someone requests your company. You may have a million things to do, but you always will have a million things to do. Do not forget what we are here for. We are here to serve God and his children, not ourselves. This is something that I learned when I was around people whom we may say, have nothing. I met so many people who had nothing to eat but a piece of fruit they had found, but if I walked into their hut to say hello, they would be offended if I did not take the only gift they had to offer me. People who have experienced suffering know what it means to be selfless. They know how to give and share. They work together and help one another. They truly value their relationship with one another and their relationship with God is inspirational. I truly believe that God gave each culture a special blessing. For this, it is important that we know of all of God’s children, not just the ones in our own culture. Get out there, it is a big world and much work needs to be done. Take a leap of faith and know that God will manifest your dreams if you put your intensions out there. Listen to the voice of your heart, that is the voice that is always telling the truth.
If you are not being called to live for others at this time, at the very least live for yourself. Spread the happiness by being happy. Spread the inspiration, by being inspired. Spread the love by loving. Be the change you want to see in this world. Seek the good in people and in yourself.
Kaytee Hoverson is a compassionate Social Entrepreneur, Certified Yoga Instructor, & Certified Personal Trainer. She has combined her passion for humanitarian service & holistic health into one by founding Unexpected Moments of Magic Panama in 2005, an organization dedicated to empowering individuals worldwide by offering life-changing retreats that encourage self-exploration through volunteerism, yoga, & overall well-being. Kaytee possesses a Bachelors Degree in Human Development & Family Studies with a focus in Child Development, a Diploma in Spanish from the University of Salamanca, Spain, & a Masters in Nonprofit Studies. She is an enthusiastic citizen of the world & spiritual adventurer having traveled in over 30 countries.