Features ~ Sonoma Valley Sun


Back from Africa

Posted on May 12, 2011 by Sonoma Valley Sun

She just returned from two weeks in the wilds of Africa, but for Carole Peccorini, the journey continues.

She’s a believer in the big dream, the big idea, and it all starts with the intangibles. The capacity for awe. Living close to the pulse of life. Valuing instinct and feeling over habit and material things.

“Being in Africa was an absolute gift,” she said. “Vast space, a natural silence… you feel part of something bigger.”

Those concepts, often explored in her “Big Ideas for Women” speaker series, would become as clear as the night sky over the Serengeti. With help from the lions.

Her group of 14 women on the trip to Tanzania had jokingly dubbed themselves the Lionesses; several even had pre-tip dreams of the big cats. So when four lions appeared near the camp, a rarity, it was exhilarating, if unnerving.

Then the lions paced down the hill and began roaming through the camp of canvas tents. Reactions ran the gamut, but Peccorini found herself oddly calm. She sensed the lions would not harm her, and they soon departed.

Like the 500-pound animal itself, an embodiment of power and strength, the symbolism was hard to ignore. “The image of the lion seemed to awaken something,” she says. “It’s not so much that they are wild, but they are living free.”

The genesis of the trip was a “Big Ideas” event last summer with Sue Rickert, a self-described traveling humanitarian grandmother. Now 74, she had at age 60 decided it was time to see the world. Her travels soon centered on rural Africa where she encountered a lack of schools, irrigation and basic infrastructure. She has since raised money to fund many such projects, one of which, a school where students previously had gathered under a tree, she visited with the Sonoma contingent.

Her story to the group in August was a revelation, Peccorini recalls. Here was a woman of no great means who had embarked on an uncertain course, making a difference and finding fulfillment.

Like a lion’s roar, the effect was galvanizing. “The willingness to commit to a big dream is very powerful. All of the sudden, I just knew,” Peccorini recalls. “I felt the trip forming.”

Another fruitful tangent was born as well. In her speaker series, Peccorini had included in the dialogue young women and teens. She felt it important to get a sense of what they wanted to achieve, while exposing them to successful mentors.

The idea emerged to make a documentary film of young people sharing their hopes, dreams and visions for the future. The completed video features 34 area students, grades eight to 12, from seven schools. They talk to the camera, and thus each other, as they might never do to an adult.

The kids were gratified to be involved. “They said ‘thanks, we have a lot to say about our world, but adults don’t usually ask,” Peccorini says. “They see themselves as creators of their own lives, not passive.”

Her group took the idea (and video camera) to Tanzania, where young people there were videotaped talking about their own futures. They may have used a stick in the dust as a blackboard, but here were kids who wanted to enter politics, fly planes and cure malaria.

Like the Sonoma teens, their African counterparts “have dreams for themselves, and they know education is the key.”

The video, the speaker series, the trip to Africa… all are manifestations of the personal journey Peccorini began two years ago. She was then in a faltering business in which she found no joy, only empty habit. “I had run out of the conversation,” she said. A life change was in order, she decided but what? And how?

That drive begat the “Big Ideas” series, now in its second year, in which successful women share their stories of challenge and reward. It has granted Peccorini the conviction to pursue her own dreams, and inspire others along the way. The lioness is on the move. “What we are seeking,” she says, “is seeking us.”

‘Big Ideas’ from around the world

As part of the ongoing “Big Ideas’ series, the documentary “A World Wide Conversation, Teens Reaching Across the World” will be shown on Tuesday, May 25, at the Best Western Sonoma Valley.
In the film, local students and teens at Banjika Secondary School in rural Tanzania, East Africa, speak on video about the world they want, their dreams and what they are willing to do to make it happen.  
The event begins at 6:15 p.m. The presentation begins at 7 p.m. Tickets are $47. For details visit sonomabigideas.blogspot.com/.

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