Jeff Prouty

The Story Behind the STRETCH

The Start: In 1985 (while living in Midtown Manhattan and working for PricewaterhouseCoopers), I went on an Outward Bound course in Maine. As part of our “solo experience”, I remember two quotes from our reading book:

“A mind stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.”

“We wake up every morning and have to decide: save the world, or savor the world.”

Two years later, I started The Prouty Project Inc., and fourteen years later we “offered” our first Stretch Expedition — February 1999. The stretching opportunity was to climb 19,340 foot Mt. Kilimanjaro, the tallest peak in Africa and visit the Maasai Girls School (Monduli, Tanzania), where my wife and I had volunteered three years earlier. Thirteen people signed up, twelve of us summitted the peak, and our first Stretch was a tremendous success.

The Evolution: As we pondered what to do for Stretch 2000, we ultimately decided to partner with Global Volunteers, to work with the “Ladies of Calderone” to help build a daycare center for children of the working poor in Calderone, Ecuador. Another big success, and another experience that stretched us.

Stretch 2001 took us to the basecamp of Mt. Everest, led by Dr. Chuck Huss, an emergency room physician from Iowa City, Iowa. (Dr. Huss, by the way, will be the Expedition Doctor on Stretch 2019 to the North Pole.) A third big success, we landed on the rotation:

  • Odd-numbered years, let’s do something that pushes us, stretches us physically.
  • Even-numbered years, let’s do something more service oriented.

The Learnings: The Stretch always gives me a fresh perspective and reminds me that most of the things I/we worry about are “ first world problems”. I distinctly remember returning from Stretch 2006, where we were helping rebuild the village of Weligama, Sri Lanka after the Tsunami hit, and shortly thereafter flying to Chicago to visit the American Girl Place. Two extremely different views of the world.

After 20 years of Stretch Expeditions, I know that we are all stretched in different ways. The food, the weather, the flight delays, the malaria pills, the gastrointestinal issues, the disgruntled teammate, the poor work equipment, the potholed roads, the slow progress, the list is endless. Ambiguity and adaptability. Fear and flexibility. Comfort and courage. All a part of the Stretch Expeditions, and we hope you’ll join the excitement sometime soon. As I like to say (occasionally), have a stretchtacular year.

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