Many of you know Amazing Grace as a spirited natural foods restaurant in Breckenridge. We love serving up that natural goodness every day to our community. But at the Grace, we also want that goodness to reach beyond dishing up good-for-you fresh foods.
We started this blog as a way to spread the good we’ve been cookin’ up just a little further afield. We want to share the other things the Grace is passionate about. Mostly, we want to talk about our amazing customers, to shine a spotlight on their stories of adventure, beauty, and grace. We feel privileged to know many incredible thinkers, creatives, athletes and deeply humble, altruistic souls. We’re honored that they are part of the extended Grace community.
Our first feature, an interview with local Breckenridge physician and loyal Grace supporter Craig Perrinjaquet -“Doc PJ”, took place in September, 2009. One of PJ’s volunteer projects -a small medical clinic in the Langtang region of Nepal established in 2006, will also be the beneficiary of a new philanthropy project we’ve started at the Grace. Called “Grace For Good“, we’ll be choosing one day a season to donate funds to a non-profit who‘s a little bit like us- small in stature, but enthusiastically spreading some goodness through the world in a joyful, big-hearted way.
On December 22nd, 2009, we’ll be donating 100% of our net profit, tips and pay to the Langtang clinic, which provides free basic medical care to approximately 1500 Nepalis annually. We hope you’ll enjoy this small glimpse of the good Doc’s good work around the globe.
Come and visit us next Tuesday, December 22nd, to delight in our good-for-you food, while helping us spread some goodness across the globe!
COMPASSION = ONE SKINNY LOCAL WITH A BIG BIG HEART
What do Tamang tribesmen, bugles, Pygmies and Alexander Graham Bell have in common? Local physician Doc PJ’s goodwill.
- Doc PJ, at the Grace with his trusty steed
Physician and longtime local Craig Perrinjaquet (Doc PJ) pedals into Amazing Grace every morning before work to scarf up a fresh-from-the-oven scone. Then he grabs the bugle that lives on top of the Grace’s aging fridge, leaps out the door, and trumpets out his daily enthusiastic endorsement: “Fresh Buttermilk Mango ( or buttermilk strawberry, or chai chocolate chip ) scones! They’re really, really, really good!”
Twice a year PJ misses his morning ritual in order to spread a different kind of message. When he boards his flight to West Africa next week, it will be simply one more leg on a long, altruistic journey of extending medical work to communities in need. He’s worked with refugees in Darfur, with tiny collectives deep in the Honduran jungle, and Buddhist villages in Nepal. For our first issue, PJ discusses two decades of dispensing his version of grace.
Much of your volunteer work has been in Honduras.
I’ve been going to Honduras since Hurricane Mitch. Last spring was my 15th trip. I go to a very remote area of the Patuca National Park, near the Nicaragua border, that has no access by road. So we go by 4WD vehicle, and then mule, and then canoe, and then hike a day or two (through the jungle, by machete) to deliver some very basic health care to people who don’t have access to it. We provide mass treatment for parasites, dispense Vitamin A, treat whatever acute infections there may be. Provide birth control to women that request it. Prenatal vitamins. Do public health education. Long term- we’re bringing nurses from the regional health centers out there to do more women’s health care and vaccinations.
My nickname was “El Coleta “- which means the the guy with the ponytail. I think it took them a couple of years before they knew I was the same white guy coming back. But now they definitely recognize me and are very warm to my returning. It’s very fun.
Can you speak a little about your upcoming trip to West Africa?”
I’ll be going to Cameroon to work with a tribe of Baka Pygmies.There’s a mining company that by law, has to provide some development back to the local community. And the local community are these 40 to 60 tribes of rainforest people, And they’re tiny.
It will be a bit of a scouting mission to find out what the needs of those communities are, and to find out what resources are available there. And then to help both sides of that equation- the people with the resources, and the people that need them -work out a system where they can be delivered in a sustainable way.
A number of years ago, you worked in Nepal…
About 10 years ago. Karen Lapides and I went to Nepal, and we worked in the hill country. We had some extra time, and explored up into the Langtang area…and found that they had no medical care either. And we did a little bit of medical care, a little bit of education, with some Tibetan Buddhist Tamang tribes..
A couple of years later, when they got a telephone, the only telephone number anybody had was mine. I felt like Alexander Graham Bell: I get this call in the middle of the night: “Hello this is Thiley Lama! I am calling from Langtang! How arrrrre you!” Then, sometime later, another call- asking if I would send his son to medical school. I thought about it for a about a minute, and then said “Sure. “
I was able to send some money to a Nepali medical school to cover his son’s tuition. His family paid for all his other living expenses. Now, he (Mipsang, the son) is finished his medical school and his residency, and we’ve built a small building in an ancestral home of his great great grandfather to be a clinic. We’ve rebuilt the home: It’s a very auspicious place for him to use as a clinic to serve the local people.
That’s just been a fabulous project. It’s kind of been a dream. When people try to do development, the challenge is always getting the people trained in an area where they are going to want to stay to work. If anyone’s traveled to a Third World country, they’ve seen schools and clinics that have been built with good intentions that have been abandoned or are in disrepair – because they haven’t developed the human resources. So to start with the human resources, and then have the local people build the building, has really been a great success story.
And several years ago you worked in the Sudan….
Two years ago I worked in Darfur, which is in the western part of Sudan. I had just come back from Honduras and had read a book called The End of Poverty. They talk about the one out of six people who live on less than a dollar a day, people who just have no opportunity to even get a hold of the bottom rung of the ladder to pull themselves out. I decided I needed to go work somewhere really really poor, really really bad.
It was pretty bad: Refugee camps with hundreds of thousands of people: the violence was still fairly intense. There were some days when I had to stay in the bunker and couldn’t really go out. It was a fascinating experience for me. But frustrating in a way- because of the violence, I wasn’t able to work and do as much as I would’ve liked to have done. In the middle of a war zone it’s really hard. I mean, one skinny white guy showing up with dental tools to pull teeth isn’t enough; you need big government interventions to make those kind of changes. Like United Nations, UN Peacekeepers- on a bigger scale then I can really be involved with. But …pygmies? A little group of pygmies? I think I can help ‘em a lot. So that’s where I’m headed next!
The goal with all of these projects, really, is to find people within the country that can do the work, and just need a little boost – need a little money from the outside, or a little bit of expertise from the outside. And sometimes, just kind of enthusiasm and encouragement from the outside to create some structure for them to be able to take care of themselves. So, I ‘m always looking for how I can be obsolete ….as soon as possible. That’s really the goal.
Doc PJ article, PDF