Last week, I shut off my phone, left my computer at home, and headed to Panama to spend 4 days off the grid in a jungle called Kalu Yala. 150 artists, educators, inventors, designers, founders, disruptors, technologists, mentors, and students came together with a single vision: to HATCH a better world.
My journey began in Newark Liberty International Airport. I sat down by a charging station to finalize my last couple work emails before the flight. Mid-message my ear perked up as the man beside me said “Kalu Yala” on a call. Kalu Yala. Sacred Land. The name held mystery, excitement, and a lot of curiosity. Eager to ask if he was attending HATCH, I waited patiently for this mystery man to remove his headphones. As is typical in this scenario, Mike and I traded stories about how we ended up at HATCH. We followed the normal trajectory starting with “how did you connect with Yarrow?” (Ask me sometime, it’s a moment that always makes me smile). We then transitioned to what we each do and care about. Then came the speculation game. We both said yes to an experience having no idea what it would look like. Since Mike attended the Kalu Yala New Years party and I had attended HATCH Montana, we swapped stories and pieced together expectations for HATCH Latin America. One thing we were both confident of: it was going to be epic.
We spent the night in Panama City and rose bright and early to meet our new tribe and shuttle to San Miguel. Students from the Kalu Yala institute greeted us with watermelon and warm hugs (really, it was 90 degrees!) and orientated us to the space we were about to inhabit. Then we have to get there…easier said than done. Groups of 15 boarded cattle cars to trek unpaved “roads” (using that term loosely) from rocks to water three feet deep.
Sleeping in a tent, swimming in a river, enjoying meals with a new community propelled and embodied the Kalu Yala, “Sacred Land,” we inhabited. In addition to our HATCH tribe, we had the privilege of connecting with students at the Kalu Yala institute and hearing about their initiatives and leadership.
After returning from HATCH the most common question I’m asked is, “what is HATCH?” My response usually starts like this: “that’s a damn good question!” It’s not easy to convey the magic of this creative community. I have yet to settle on a crisp and concise answer. The name itself, “HATCH Experience” denotes the emotion tethered to the summit. HATCH is a community. It’s a tribe of leaders who bring 100% of themselves to support future leaders. Together these individuals form a collective group and channel their talents and creativity to do good. HATCH operates on a culture of asks and offers and reciprocal gives. When you put all these superheroes in one room something magical happens: this 360-degree community amplifies one another’s efforts and form new efforts to tackle. So instead of fielding, “what is HATCH?” I prefer to answer, “who is HATCH?”
HATCH is US Water Group Leader, David Purky, meeting teachers and community leaders in the local library upon arrival to improve the city’s water system. HATCH is Tim Daly, Actor and President of the Creative Coalition, leading an education and creativity prototype workshop where a formative researcher from New York City can collaborate with the National Director of Basic Education in Panama, Marilu Salvador, to develop and pilot a new initiative for the San Miguel school system. HATCH is walking beside filmmaker, Ondi Timoner, and criminologist, Saskia Nino de Rivera Cover, as the two connect about their work in prisons. HATCH is Founder of Keyhubs, Vikas Narula, illustrating the weight of relationships. HATCH is dinner with someone from your hometown on your left and across the globe on your right. HATCH is where the stars align and NASA astrophysicist Michelle Thaller tells you to take a breath, hold your heart, and bask in your star. HATCH is dinner in the dark with Jim Banister, Product Chief of Prezi, to talk about my experience using Prezi to rapid prototype kids TV scripts.
HATCH is 100+ people in a river floating from conversation to conversation saturated with insight and inspiration. It’s beating the world record in the potato game with 1.85 seconds thanks to the leadership and ingenuity of Doc North and David Yakos J It’s wielding a very sharp knife to stab box after box of wine to distill whiskey from Kalu Yala’s first man-made still. It’s watching talent explode on stage as Butterscotch performs through power outages and jungle rain without missing a beat[box] (forced pun, I know).
HATCH is listening to Jimmy Stice, founder of Kalu Yala, passionately speak about the values and vision behind Kalu Yala and their four-part plan moving forward. HATCH is Yarrow Kraner — someone so special that the day I met him I returned home exhausted and still forced myself to write about our encounter beat by beat knowing this was a moment I’d want to look back on.
HATCH is a tribe of people determined to act. HATCHers don’t merely perpetuate fear or hope, they provoke and stir you to do. HATCH not only inspires, but also creates. For me, this HATCH went far beyond any scholastic lesson learned; HATCH healed my heart. It showcased individuals who’ve channeled their vulnerabilities to strengths.