From the time I was a little girl I was driven to help others. My three never-married aunts, who lived together their whole lives, guided and influenced me. They were women who traveled the planet, built great friendships and had successful careers. My aunts came out of the Great Depression with the attitude that you pull together as family, and with this united strength, you have love and resources to share with others. They taught me that one person can make a difference—and that person could be me.
In the beginning, my community was my elementary school and my role was defending the child being bullied at school or helping the kid who couldn’t read. As I got older, my world expanded, and I became involved in advocating for universal health care and fund-raising for environmental causes. As a young woman, I dropped out of college and traveled to South America to live; I came back to the States a year later, driven to finish my education, so I could help people poorer and less fortunate than myself. By the time I was an adult, I seemed to be unable to take a vacation, or make a painting without immediately projecting forward how I could use this initially self-motivated activity to help others.
Now, I live between three countries (India, Mexico and Tibet), working as a consultant to nonprofit organizations worldwide, helping them make their dream into a solid plan of action; documenting the rare and endangered flora of the Tibetan Plateau as a scientific botanical illustrator; writing a novel, and leading tours to Tibet as part of an ecotourism partnership with Tibetan villagers and nomads that sends 100 poor children to school, supports political prisoners, and provides health care for frail, elderly Tibetans.
Every one of these aspects of my life is rooted in the same values my aunts passed on to me when I was five—help others and have great adventures while doing it. I start and end every day with a statement of intention that reminds and refocuses me on what is truly important: “May everything that I think, do and say today help me end suffering in others.” Every evening, I sift through my day to see if I have stayed true to my values and that intention.
My Life Strategies:
Dianne Aigaki is a writer, social activist, artist and philanthropist. Besides being a consultant for nonprofit organizations and training over 4,000 people worldwide, she has been an artist for 35 years, working in acrylics, watercolor, stained glass, print making, and cyanotypes, a technique used in the 1700s to document rare plants. As a woman explorer, she is a member of both Wings World Quest and the Society of Women Geographers, the two premier women’s exploration organizations in the world. Her blog is www.dianneaigaki.wordpress.com; her website is www.dianneaigaki.com