Seva Gandhi is the Director of Programs at ICA-USA and Dick Alton is a deeply engaged ICA colleague and part of the Interfaith Green Network in Oak Park.
How and when did you first encounter the ICA?
Dick: I took a course in 1968, joined the in San Francisco in 1970, and went overseas to the Philippines in 1976.
Seva: I started at ICA-USA to help manage our international partnerships in 2010.
What does the ICA-USA International Team work on here or when abroad?
Our team keeps up with and supports other ICAs in a variety of ways. For the past 10 years, we have been working with colleagues here in East Africa and here in the US to finish up a long standing project on peer education and awareness campaign around HIV/AIDS in several countries in East Africa. In general, we support regional gatherings, learn from our colleagues, and are constantly trying to improve communication and information flow across ICAs. Between the two of us, we have represented ICA-USA on ICAI’s board for the 7 years!
What is your favorite thing about working together?
Dick: Seva has a great sense of taking charge and getting things done. She thinks things over, creates a plan for process and is great at eliciting input and engagement from participants and partners.
Seva: Dick is one of the youngest people I know -- in spirit. I often feel way more jaded and tired than him. His unbridled enthusiasm for getting things done and having fun while doing it is a great thing to witness and learn from. Working with Dick keeps me young and on my toes!
Why is International engagement important for ICA-USA?
Dick: ICA has always said one of the major contradictions in life is nationalism. To be relevant and to be dealing with a global world, we need to get out of our narrow view of life, and we are able to do that by engaging globally.
Seva: ICA-USA has a lot to learn and share with our sister organizations. Even though ICAs don't all have the same mother tongue, we do share a language in the way we use our process-based methods in individual, community, and organizational development. By working together, sharing skills, and learning from each other, we can have a greater impact and continue to to have a vibrant network working on positive social change.
Tell us a funny story from an international trip.
Seva: After the 2015 ICA East African conference in Tanzania, Dick and I did a whirlwind tour and met with many of our colleagues throughout East Africa. While in Kenya, we went and visited all the historical sites for ICA - from Kawangware to Kamwaleni. Near Kawangware, Dick wanted to stop and take a photo of the school where his daughter went to preschool several decades earlier. As he stepped out of the car, he was apprehended by security because taking photos on the school's premises was not allowed. It appeared to be a very serious offence, and the security guards were very upset and took our cameras/phones away from us. I was told to wait in the car until they took him to administration while they contacted the police. I nervously sat in the car getting increasingly worried and unclear about what I could do. I wasn’t allowed out of the car, so quietly panicking in the back seat seemed like a fine choice. After what felt like hours later, but was probably around 20 minutes, Dick came back with a huge smile on his face surrounded by people. As it turns out, the current headmaster of the school recognized him from over 30 years ago, gave him a big hug and noted she was so happy he had come by to say hello. They had spent the 20 minutes laughing and looking through old pictures on the wall and reminiscing. Dick never seems to get worried and always tells me to ‘expect more from strangers.’ I’m glad his motto serves him so well time and time again.
Dick: Oh wow, I completely forgot about that story, I'm glad I appeared calm because I was beyond scared and nervous at first!