This post has been a LONG time coming and I’m really excited to make a few announcements at the end of it. So many people have given their money, time, and support to helping Gi Drive succeed. Stick with me through this long (nearly 1500 word) post, and wade through my brief bouts of testimony, and you’ll have a very complete understanding of where the Gi Drive (and the Gi Exchange Program) started, how it has gone so far, and where we’re headed in the future.
First, a quick story…
Around 500BC, a group of Hebrew people returned to Jerusalem from exile to find the city in ruins. Their first mission was to rebuild the temple in the city and while things started well, they didn’t stay that way for long.
The Hebrew people began rebuilding their temple but ran into opposition and, unable to continue, the temple construction was stopped temporarily. The people stopped construction for 16 years and when a prophet arrived and questioned them, they said the time was not right to rebuild it.
The prophet questioned them about how they could say the time wasn’t right to rebuilt God’s house yet they had time enough to rebuild their own homes and businesses? How could they put themselves before a project they were doing for God?
I tell that story to tell this one…
A (not so) brief history of Gi Drive
In late 2011, I was charged by a friend to pass on blessings I had received in my life to others.
To glorify God over myself with my jiu-jitsu.
In early 2012, some local friends and I collected BJJ gis that we intended to donate to people who needed them in Brazil. We ended up collecting over 100 gis so I got in touch with the only person in Brazil I knew of at the time, Dennis Asche of Connection Rio. Dennis was super supportive and when I told him that I was starting a fundraiser to get the gis down there, he said the best way to get them down was by flying them down and bringing them as baggage. Dennis mentioned postal strikes and others mentioned shipping nightmares to Brazil that made me nervous to just simply mail them.
In March of 2012, I helped organize a fundraising campaign to get the gis to Brazil. Although we didn’t meet our goal, we did manage to raise quite a bit of money, $2558 (after IndieGoGo took their cut as our fundraiser platform). I felt really blessed to be able to see such progress because the goal of this entire project was to give back to the global BJJ community and glorify God above myself.
Obviously, I felt it was a wayyy better option for me to pay for a plane ticket out of pocket and use the funds from the drive to pay for the baggage fees to get the gis down there. We would be able to get so many more gis there (roughly 3 times versus shipping) and I felt it was much more reliable than shipping them.
The intial plan was to fly down in the summer of 2012 as summer was really the only time I could stage a trip like this because I work in education. Due to some very serious family issues, we weren’t able to pull off the 2012 trip so I let Dennis know, we re-scheduled it until 2013, and stayed in touch for the rest of 2012.
Right around that time , we decided to send the adult gis we had to a social project in California, and focus all of the remaining money from the Gi Drive on getting kids gis to the kids at Drive-In’s project in Rio. I also sent six GIGANTIC boxes of gis to Vector Jiu Jitsu but since they weren’t mentioned in the fundraiser, I sent those using my own money.
Once we took care of administering the perks from the gi drive to those who picked them up, and shipping gis to we were left with $1850.
Since Drive In did not speak English and I could not get a message returned from the only email address that I could find for him, I continued to use Dennis as my contact point for the project. I mentioned to Dennis that I started my own kids gi company and didn’t want to mix money between Gi Drive and the new brand (now Ok! Kimonos!) and asked if I could just send the money we raised to Rio?
I was advised that giving cash directly to any project, BJJ or otherwise, was a bad idea so I continued to focus on getting the gis to Drive In’s kids in Rio.Additionally, we did not want to just send cash to the social project because one of the main goals of the ‘Gi’ Drive was to build a connection between those who had more, with those who had less than they needed.
My son was born in May of 2013 and I didn’t see a way I would be able to leave my wife to care for our newborn son while I traveled to Brazil to deliver the gis. In August of 2013 (during my first week of the school year), I found out Drive In actually had a Facebook page! I commented (via google translate) on a status update of his and he messaged me right away with a link to his Tumblr.
We had finally made contact!
I was so excited and let him know that the gis would be brought to him and I made it my mission to get the gis to Brazil in the summer of 2014. Paulo mentioned starting a project in the USA and mentioned how important help like this was.
Two months later (November), I took a position as a high school principal making my time available for travel even less (goodbye summer vacation!) I decided it was better for me to send the gis now than continue waiting for a time that I could travel down to Brazil.
I also touched base with a student of Drive-In’s named Ian Carr and we decided not only should we send the few gently used kids gi directly to Brazil, but they would also be able to make use of some brand new ones which I’ll be sending for free (fundraiser money is only used for shipping) from Ok! Kimonos.
The gently used gis will ship out thisweek (March 24, 2014). Once my next shipment of Ok! Kimonos gis arrives (also due to arrive this week), some of those will go as well. Although it won’t be as efficient as bringing them as baggage, it will still guarantee they arrive faster and get to those who need them most! Any money not spent on shipping will go directly to Drive In to assist in providing mats for his academy or paying any import fees they incur on the gis.
Brendan, what was the point of the story at the beginning?
Maybe the story at the beginning of this post makes a bit more sense. It took 2 freaking years for this project to happen. 2 years of personal struggle (for me) and seemingly endless waiting from our funders, supporters, and benefactors.
But that’s way too long for a project like this.
In retrospect, I think delaying the gis getting to Brazil so that I could take them there personally was a mistake (no matter the monetary savings).
Not keeping in touch with everybody about the updated status of everything was also a mistake.
I am a fallible person and I’m not beyond reproach.
I am a man capable of making errors and mistakes just like everybody else reading this post. But I’m also capable of learning and growing from those mistakes.
I think when you are working on doing anything for the greater good, and especially for God, it’s not an excuse to do it on ‘your’ time. The Hebrews got all fired up to do work for God and then slowly the project became about doing it when it was convenient for them and I can’t argue that story doesn’t parallel mine very closely.
Some lessons are timeless.
The goal of this was to pass God’s blessings in my life onto others and I hope that any mistakes I made along the way don’t detract from that.
You Can Still Help!
Many people have expressed interest in the Gi Drive and Gi Exchange program and if you do not have a gently used gi to donate to the Gi Exchange, you can still support Drive-In’s project directly!