I want to tell you a story - one that changed my life.
My name is Martin Sandel. In 2007 I traveled to India where I was taken to a leper colony, a place where men, women—and, yes, children--- subsist as beggars, outcasts rejected even by family. These lovely people proudly showed me their “homes” which I am embarrassed to say were, in entirety, about the size of my master bathroom. Except… they had no bathroom or even running water other than that pouring through holes in the roof during the monsoons. As I prepared to leave, the “head man” raised his arm, motioning me to wait. Placing a crude bamboo ladder against a tree, he plucked off the last two coconuts and gave them to me as a gift in appreciation for my visit. I had given them nothing except my time and respect. With tears running down my cheeks, I was overcome with emotion. What’s wrong with this picture? I hang onto what I have for fear there won’t be enough to last the rest of my life and yet these impoverished lepers give me their last fruits as an unconditional gift of love? How can I go home as if I had just seen a documentary and now it’s time to turn off the TV and go to sleep?
Returning to my comfortable life in America I could not forget my encounter with the lepers. I continued to enjoy life—smiling at the pelicans soaring information across the horizon, dancing with my granddaughter on the beach, marveling at the surfers gliding across the waves. Skiers, boaters, paddle-boarders, and fishermen were all catching the passions of their lives.
But, still, I wondered—what about the lepers—and the other disenfranchised—how can they catch life too? So—we formed a registered 501 c(3) charitable foundation--- calling it Last Coconut Foundation --- to help the forgotten be remembered. I went back to the leper colony, this time bearing gifts myself. We gave our funds to the Foundation, as did friends and business associates, to help orphans and Dalits (untouchable children of day laborers in India) obtain a coveted education in English. It wasn’t enough. More was needed.
I thought… what if those who have caught life could help others hopelessly mired in cultural quicksand catch life themselves… catch life, abundantly?
Thus, Catch Life came into existence.
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