Jill Carpe, Princeton-Granada Sister Cities Project

Jorge Narvaez, Police Officer

Conscience of a Traveler

Sanjay Sathe,

Volunteering at the Chapter Level

Corrections or additions?

These articles by Christopher Mario were published in U.S. 1 Newspaper

dated Wednesday, December 23, 1998. All rights reserved.

Helping Hands, Class of ’98

We try to care. We try to empathize. But the cold

hard fact is that disasters are something that happen to other people.

Fires, floods, earthquakes, hurricanes, mud slides, tidal waves, war,

and famine — with the rare exception of fires, these things just

don’t happen in Princeton.

So when disasters do happen, for most of us they are little more than

fleeting images on a television screen, electrons bouncing through

space from satellite to satellite. Isn’t that terrible, we think.

Maybe there’s something we can do to help. Maybe we even send a check.

But then the images are gone, the electrons fly away, and we get back

to our own lives.

Well that’s not the way it works for Princeton residents Jill Carpe

and Sanjay Sathe. Through their separate volunteer efforts with two

very different organizations, Carpe and Sathe translate empathy into

action. For them, news of a disaster isn’t just an occasion to feel

bad about the misfortunes of others, nor is it merely another reason

to be thankful for our lives in this privileged little corner of the

world. For Carpe and Sathe, news of a disaster means it’s time to

get to work, and that’s why we’ve chosen them as recipients of U.S.

1’s annual Helping Hands awards.

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Jill Carpe, Princeton-Granada Sister Cities Project

On October 30, the cone of a dormant volcano in

Nicaragua

that had been filled with water by Hurricane Mitch exploded under

the pressure of its contents and caused Central America’s worst

natural

disaster in modern history. The wave of water and rocks, mud and trees

released by the volcano wiped out four villages and killed as many

as 3,000 people.

But this spectacular disaster was just one part of the devastation

wrought on Nicaragua by Hurricane Mitch, which was one of the

strongest

hurricanes ever recorded. Across the country, winds, floods, and mud

slides killed thousands — just how many nobody knows. Leaders

in Nicaragua and neighboring Honduras, also hard-hit by Mitch and

like Nicaragua desperately poor, predicted that full recovery from

the hurricane could take as long as 40 years.

Maybe you saw reports on TV of what had happened in Central America

and thought, gosh, isn’t that awful. Jill Carpe, owner of the Salty

Dog crafts shop on Spring Street, saw it and got to work.

Top Of Page
Jorge Narvaez, Police Officer

One of six active members of the Princeton-Granada Sister Cities

Project,

Carpe decided to collect food, clothing, and medicine to send to

Granada,

Nicaragua, which has been a sister city to Princeton since 1987. With

the help of Jorge Narvaez, a Princeton Township police officer who

came to the United States from Nicaragua at age 14 and was one of

Carpe’s first customers when she opened the Salty Dog six years ago,

Carpe plastered downtown Princeton with flyers soliciting donations

for Nicaraguan hurricane relief. She wrote to community newspapers.

She worked the phones.

Within days, Carpe was inundated with clothes, rice and beans, baby

formula, and more clothes. In the morning, in the evening, and between

customers Carpe could be seen in the Spring Street parking lot behind

the Salty Dog sorting and packing and loading the donations and

preparing

them for their shipment to Nicaragua.

One person who saw Carpe in the Spring Street lot was William Besser,

a well-known Princeton gynecologist. For the people of Granada, that

turned out to be a very lucky thing.

"I was behind the store packing boxes," Carpe recalls,

"and

Dr. Besser came up and asked what I was doing. So I explained we were

sending aid to the hurricane victims in Granada, and he immediately

took a bunch of flyers, E-mailed all his colleagues, and almost the

next day started bringing medical supplies over. The hospital

collected

a huge amount of money and supplies, including antibiotics, which

they really need."

Carpe explains that although the city of Granada fared relatively

well in the hurricane, surrounding towns did not. As a result, the

city was quickly overrun with refugees from the countryside, all

needing

to be fed and many needing medical attention. Large numbers of the

refugees sought help at the Women’s Healthcare Center, which the

Princeton-Granada

Sister Cities Project supports. And that’s exactly where the aid Carpe

has collected will go.

By the end of November, Carpe had sent two shipments to the Women’s

Healthcare Center, including "tons of stuff," she reports.

"Powdered milk, rice and beans. All the medicines collected by

Dr. Besser and the hospital. The Township police donated 30 unclaimed

bikes they had had in storage for years. For the first shipment we

filled three pickup trucks. For the second, we had to rent a 15-foot

truck. We filled a two-car garage completely full twice."

The path that led Carpe from what she calls a

"totally

mainstream" childhood in Northern California to her volunteer

efforts on behalf of the victims of Hurricane Mitch began more than

15 years ago with a vacation.

Top Of Page
Conscience of a Traveler

"I discovered my desire to help through traveling," she says.

After junior college and some time living in Santa Cruz and Lake

Tahoe,

Carpe decided to visit Belize, an English-speaking former British

colony on the southern border of Mexico, and use it as a base for

exploring Central America.

"Belize is pretty prosperous; there aren’t starving children,"

Carpe discovered. "But in Honduras, Guatemala, Nicaragua —

seeing how people lived there, that they didn’t live like I lived,

I began to understand that it wasn’t fair. Not that I wanted them

all to live in condos or something. But I did want them not to have

to struggle to feed and educate their children."

Carpe had intended to explore Central America for a year. Instead,

she ended up opening a store on an island off the coast of Belize

and stayed for nine years. She married and had a son (Max, now 10).

But with Max approaching school age, she decided it was time to return

to the U.S.

Carpe came to New Jersey to be near her parents, who had moved here

from California. And she also brought with her an idea. Why not

combine

her experience as a store owner with her desire to help the indigenous

peoples of Central America by opening a store to sell their

handicrafts?

"Traveling around and seeing how the people lived in Central

America,

I realized that the weavings and the pottery and all the things they

use in their daily lives were art," Carpe says. "I wanted

to bring that art to the U.S. as a way to help these people help

themselves,

and I thought Princeton would be the kind of place where people would

appreciate this. My customers are people who have traveled and are

curious about the world around them. They’re interested in other

cultures."

At the Salty Dog, Carpe sells handicrafts made by people not only

from Central America, but from around the world. Each summer, she

travels to a new country to buy directly from the people themselves;

so far, she has visited Nepal, Thailand, Morocco, Indonesia, El

Salvador,

Guatemala, and Nicaragua, among many others.

Known as Crafts with a Conscience at the Salty Dog, the store is part

of the Fair Trade Association, a loose-knit confederation of crafts

stores that buy directly from craft cooperatives and artisans around

the world, as well as through religious and other non-profit

organizations

set up to wholesale third-world handicrafts to Western stores. This

is how Carpe buys handicrafts when she can’t travel to buy them

directly.

"The goal is to eliminate the middleman and have more profit go

to the artisans," Carpe explains.

Among the many items now available at the Salty Dog, Carpe offers

wovens and embroidery from Central America, sterling silver from

Thailand,

and a variety of Tibetan items, from wool jackets to all manner of

mystical items used by Tibetan monks. The response to her wares has

been great from the very beginning, Carpe reports. And more than

providing

a livelihood, the store has also enabled her to meet people and get

involved in community organizations.

Carpe’s involvement with the Sister Cities Project began when one

of her early customers invited her to join; her involvement with a

local group that supports political reform in Tibet started the same

way. But Carpe points out that politics is not what motivates her.

Rather, it’s a desire to help.

"My reasons for getting involved in the Friends of Tibet and the

Nicaragua thing are totally not political," she says. "That’s

just not who I am. My reason is grass roots. Women who can’t feed

their kids, whose husbands run off because there’s no work in their

villages, people who are struggling for their basic survival. I try

to stay away from the political. I’d rather work on feeding people.

If I can deal with one artisan or one very small village and buy

directly

from them and sell their stuff, that makes a difference. I’m not one

to lobby or protest. I want to help hands on."

If you’d like to help Jill Carpe and the Princeton-Granada Sister

Cities Project in their efforts to aid the victims of Hurricane Mitch,

you can. Although they are no longer collecting donations of items,

they are trying to raise $10,000 to help the Women’s Healthcare Center

in Nicaragua buy needed supplies. Send your check to CAR/Sister Cities

Project, 32 Markham Road, Princeton 08540, or call Carpe at the Salty

Dog at 609-924-0455.

And one more thing: "I really want to thank the people of

Princeton,"

Carpe says. "I’m glad I moved here."

Top Of Page
Sanjay Sathe,

American Red Cross

Unlike Jill Carpe, Sanjay Sathe took a very direct route

to his volunteer efforts on behalf of disaster victims with the

American

Red Cross. "I just showed up one day," says Sathe (pronounced

Satay). "I knew I wanted to do something, and the Red Cross had

the advantage of a brand name. But I had no idea what they did."

He soon found out. Although his work with the Red Cross started small,

with the occasional hour spent driving the elderly and handicapped

to doctor’s appointments in Princeton, within a few years Sathe would

find himself jetting off to disasters across the country. With just

a few days or hours notice, Sathe leaves work, home, and family to

spend up to three weeks at a time helping to manage major disaster

efforts.

"I’ve been to Guam, Puerto Rico, St. Croix for Hurricane George,

and to floods in North Dakota, Ohio, and Mississippi. I’ve seen all

the garden spots of America," he jokes.

Contrary to popular belief, the American Red Cross is a private aid

organization unsupported by the U.S. government. Although it

coordinates

major disaster efforts through its national organization, now famously

led by Elizabeth Dole, most of what the Red Cross does is local,

through

individual chapters like the one in our area, the American Red Cross

of Central Jersey, based at 707 Alexander Road. And most impressive

of all to Sanjay Sathe, nearly everything the Red Cross does is done

by volunteers.

As he describes it, the American Red Cross is less an organization

than a network of literally millions of individuals with a huge

variety

of skills and expertise all across the country who stand at the ready

to serve when called. When a major disaster strikes, the national

organization mobilizes these forces and within two days has what

amounts

to a good-sized corporation on the ground at the disaster site, with

thousands of volunteers.

Many of these volunteers are the nurses and drivers and helpers you

see on TV, working directly with victims. But behind the scenes there

are many other volunteers running the command and control

infrastructure

required by such a huge undertaking involving so many people. And

one of those behind-the-scenes volunteers is Sanjay Sathe.

"The amazing thing about it is that for the large-scale

operations,

the Red Cross creates the infrastructure of a mini-corporation in

a two or three days, runs it for three to six weeks, and then closes

it down," Sathe says. "And that requires a number of

functions.

We have the direct services, the interface with clients, and then

all the support services that are essential to get those services

there. Logistics, nursing, mental health, are all part of the

operation.

We bring in all these volunteers from different parts of the country,

and they all know their assignments, and they all have lodging. It’s

quite involved, and pretty chaotic. But it’s impressive considering

the conditions in which we operate and the shoestring budget."

When Sathe first arrived on the doorstep at the Red Cross offices

on Alexander Road in 1990, he was asked what he wanted to do. His

reply: What do you want me to do? And that’s how he ended up driving

people to doctor’s appointments. But the organization soon figured

out that in Sanjay Sathe, they had not a driver, but a numbers guy

and a manager. So today, in addition to coordinating records and

reporting

on the ground at national disaster efforts — "trying to keep

a handle on how, where, and what we’re spending" — Sathe also

chairs the committee for local disaster services in Mercer and

Middlesex

counties.

"I am one amongst many," he says diplomatically of his local

efforts, as one might expect from the son of a diplomat.

Born in India, Sathe, 45, spent his childhood in

countries

around the world, as the family traveled with his father from posting

to posting. After college in India, Sathe went into banking, first

in Iran before the fall of the Shah, and later in Switzerland.

Eventually

he ended up at Chase Manhattan in New York, where he was an early

participant in the interest rate swap market, a precursor of the

derivatives

market. As his banking career progressed, Sathe specialized in trading

interest rate futures on the commodities market, and later served

as head of treasury at Irving Trust, and for the North American

operations

of a Dutch bank called ABN.

"I guess I got tired of it," Sathe says of his decision to

leave banking in the mid-’80s to strike out on his own as a private

commodities trader trading interest rate contracts from his home in

Princeton. And more than anything else, that decision led directly

to Sathe’s volunteer work.

"When I set up my own business, I discovered I now had some time

and wanted to do some community work," he says. "I guess it

was just part of my upbringing as a child. When my grandmother was

alive, she required that all of us give our first month’s salary to

charity. I don’t know if my cousins did it, because I never asked,

but I did. So although it never really occurred to me why I wanted

to be involved, I guess it’s just a sense of duty and obligation.

I had come to the U.S., this country had been good to me, and it was

time to give something back. And then I discovered that it’s one of

most enjoyable things I do."

You might not think that spending three weeks crunching numbers for

12 to 15 hours a day would be all that enjoyable, but Sanjay Sathe

does.

"People think I’m crazy to say this, but it actually is my

vacation,"

he says. "If I want to get away from things, there’s nothing

better

than a Red Cross operation." As for leaving his business for three

weeks at a time, Sathe says, "it works for me. I’m not one of

those frenetic traders. I put positions on and keep them for a long

time. So communications being what they are, with the magic of phones

and computers these days, it suits my personal style of trading."

But he hastens to add that while the national disaster efforts on

which he works are — from a distance at least — the glamorous

part of his Red Cross volunteerism, the really important work happens

right here at home.

Top Of Page
Volunteering at the Chapter Level

"Ninety percent of what the Red Cross does is done at the chapter

level," he explains. "The attraction is always to major

disasters,

but what we really focus on is the trauma of single family fires.

Next to losing a family member, that is the worst thing that can

happen

to anyone."

For one week each month, Sathe is on call for fire services for the

American Red Cross of Central Jersey, which sends volunteers to fires

to provide food, money, clothing, and transportation to families whose

houses have been destroyed.

"A couple of months ago there was a house fire in Trenton, and

that was a pretty typical Red Cross response," Sathe says. "We

responded at 5 a.m. to feed them, shelter them, give them some money

to get some clothes. We can’t replace everything they lost in the

fire but we can buy them two or three days, a small window in which

they can focus on how to put their lives back together. And that’s

where the money people donate to the local chapter is being spent.

Not enough attention is paid to this part of our work. We are very

proud of the fact that our work is a gift from the American to the

American people on an individual level."

And they are also proud to be one of the most efficient charities

in the world. In 1997, the more than 1.4 million American Red Cross

volunteers responded to 62,000 disasters through an organization with

an incredible volunteer-to-staff ratio of 44 to 1.

"We like to pride ourselves on our responsibility to our

donors,"

Sathe says. (The organization made national news on December 16 with

its rebuttal of charges about an alleged delay in disbursing disaster

relief assistance funds for victims of the Red River Valley flood.

It said that Minnesota’s Attorney General Hubert H. Humphrey III

showed

"a lack of understanding of how the American Red Cross provides

disaster relief.")

"And it’s also terribly important," says Sathe, "that

the organization is run well, because that makes the volunteers feel

like the organization is doing the right thing. Whatever reasons

people

have for volunteering in the first place — obligation, duty —

the reason they stay is that they enjoy what they’re doing."

That has certainly been true for Sathe. And thanks to his example,

both of his children — a daughter at Princeton High School, and

a son in college — have made volunteering part of their lives.

"I think it’s a good idea for children to be exposed to

volunteerism,

just as it’s a good idea for them to be exposed to Shakespeare,"

Sathe says. "They may find out they really enjoy it. And that’s

the key. When people say to me it’s noble of you to go out and

volunteer

and do all these things, I say, not really, it’s just because I enjoy

doing it."

If you would like to help the American Red Cross of Central Jersey,

you can send a donation to 707 Alexander Road, Princeton 08540. Or

to join as a volunteer, call Judy Gorman at 609-951-8550. And for

more information about the truly Herculean efforts of the American

Red Cross, go to http://www.redcross.org.

— Christopher Mario


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