In the spring of 2012, when Prem Rawat wrapped up a tour of South America that covered Argentina, Brazil, Chili and Peru, his last stop was a first.
As Mr. Rawat spoke to an audience of 1,050 on April 22nd in Guayaquil, Ecuador, three radio stations with the potential to reach 80,000 additional listeners broadcasted his talk live. People in other countries tuned in on dedicated websites.
The live radio broadcast, a first for Mr. Rawat in South America, was accomplished in four weeks by a half dozen people on a shoestring budget.
The story begins in the Imbabura Province in the northern Andes over 6,000 meters above sea level.
The province is home to the Kichwa, an indigenous tribe that predates the Incan Empire with roots throughout the South American Andes.
The Kichwa are a humble people in vivid dress with deep respect for Mama Pacha (Mother Earth) and appreciation for extended family. At the solstice and equinox apexes they honor the earth’s bounty with music and dance. They are dedicated to preserving their rich culture and nuanced language.
In 2005 Paul Murtha, a former American exchange student returned to North Ecuador and established the Mountains of Hope Foundation. Among other projects he visited a regional low-security rehabilitation center in Ibarra, the province’s capital city. There he presented video talks in which Mr. Rawat raises the possibility of feeling personal peace regardless of circumstances.
“I was taken by the inmates’ attentiveness and thirst,” Mr. Murtha said.
The idea that personal peace is an essential part of life also intrigued the center’s director, Dr. Angel Castillo. He and Mr. Murtha formed a friendship around their common interest in bringing progressive educational and cultural programming to North Ecuador.
The following year Dr. Castillo was appointed Director of Education for the Imbabura Province overseeing 630 institutions and more than 100,000 students. In this position he forged working relationships with radio stations broadcasting to the mountainous area where people carry radios with them the way others may carry cell phones.
Thousands of people were already listening to recordings of Mr. Rawat under the banner “Words of Peace,” meticulously translated into Kichwa through a grant from The Prem Rawat Foundation. When Mr. Murtha and his colleagues endeavored to broadcast Mr. Rawat’s talk live the stage was set.
Ecuador takes its name from the Equator that runs through it. One of the smallest countries in South America at 280 square kilometers it has a multiethnic population of 15,000,000 compared to 200,000,000 in Brazil. Ecologically diverse, Ecuador is bounded by Colombia to the north and Peru to the south with a 2,300-kilometer coastline along the Pacific Ocean. The Andes, the longest mountain range on any continent, bisect Ecuador from north to south.
The people of the Andean region are as different from those on the coast as the crisp mountain air is from the steamy tropical climate of Guayaquil, the nation’s largest port and commercial hub. While it is only two hours as the crow flies it can take more than 12 hours to drive on sheer mountain bluffs. As small as Ecuador is, few people venture beyond their hometowns.
A simultaneous radio feed was the only way for people in remote areas to hear Prem Rawat live.
In the weeks leading up to the Guayaquil event the broadcast team contracted with radio stations, produced promotional spots with Andean music, created a dedicated website, purchased broadband and high-definition Internet feeds and coordinated with staff at the Guayaquil Civic Center.
Karthik Karathur, director of Mr. Rawat’s Global Peace Initiative (GPI) said his team spent months traveling across South America laying groundwork for Mr. Rawat’s tour. The purpose of GPI is to provide materials and logistical support to local communities who want to host events featuring Mr. Rawat as the speaker.
“Do you know it took only $600 to carry out this radio feed?” said Mr. Karathur, adding that after this success it will be even simpler and more economical for other communities around the world to replicate, sending radio waves of peace to remote areas on every continent.
Said Mr. Karathur, “Who would have thought something so big would come out of little Ecuador?”