Friday, February 17, 2012

Update on the Economic Security Project

We are starting to plan some fantastic events for 2012 to raise more money for the micro finance project in Tanzania that will help young uneducated people, most of whom are women, start small businesses. I am happy to report that we raised $9,510 in 2011 so after the federal government contributes their share, that is $38,040 raised directly and indirectly through our projects.  Thank you to everyone who contributed!!

I just received a report from Tanzania through Plan Canada that speaks to the kind of work that was done in Year 1. A total of 94 Village Savings and Loan Associations were established in three different communities in Tanzania. This was slightly below target for the reasons mentioned below, but still an amazing accomplishment. Having seen the associations in action, it means that there are many more entrepreneurs in Africa starting self sustaining businesses so they can feed their families and send their children to school.  It is one more important step in lifting them from the cycle of poverty they have found themselves in.

The Africans face tremendous challenges that we don't even think about and I thought it would be interesting to reprint the exact quote from the report.

"In some communities, participation was slow at the beginning of the program as communities were busy working in their fields. The farming season was a constraint as farmers migrate to farms for harvest making it difficult to get groups/people on time to Village Savings and Loan (VSL) meetings during week days. In the dry season, participation rates were much more positive. A period of heavy rains also made some of the program areas inaccessible for Plan and Partner staff. The rainy season caused road blocks and delays in activities. This situation persisted in Ifakara and Mwanza from March to May 2011. For example, areas in Ifakara were flooded, making it difficult for VSL groups to meet regularly as well as field visits. Due these factors, project implementation was delayed in both Quarter 1 and 2 of Year 1."

In spite of the challenges, work is progressing and we are continuing our efforts to do our bit.  Stay tuned for updates on upcoming events and, of course, I would be happy to make presentations on the work we are doing.  A portion of the proceeds from our book, "Kilimanjaro and Beyond" also goes to the project.

One final point I would like to mention again is that we have partnered with the Atma Foundation in Oregon.  As mentioned in a previous post, they have already sent school supplies to the classroom we collectively helped to fund and they will continue to do so. I am grateful to Alysha Atma and her dedicated team for the work they are doing. 

Monday, February 6, 2012

Interview With Madison Johns - Crime and Horror Writer

This is a bit of a departure from the normal musings on my blog but I am very proud to present the following interview with Madison Johns.  As a fan of good mystery novels and admirer of those who write them, it is a pleasure to be able to interview an author of that genre.  Here are Madison's responses to my questions.

1. Tell us something about yourself.
  I'm 48 and I drive a 2002 Sunfire that you might notice has smoke billowing from the hood. I'm a bit nutty, but in a good way. I'm the one with the freaked out hair you'd see at Walmart. I love to make people laugh, especially people that are sick. I work as a certified nursing care assistant, it's a hard job, but full of rewards. I love taking care of others, and have found a way to make people smile even when they are very ill.

2.  When did you start writing?

  When I was a child, I had all these stories inside my head. You know the ones where everybody thinks they're great. Everything from being an Indian to a main character in some sappy romance novel. Four years ago, I decided to start typing them out, and as a result, I finished short stories, two novels. I'm currently working on polishing them for publication.

3.  You are a crime writer.  How do you do your research?

 I have also written two horror short stories, but yes, I'm geared toward mysteries. I find it very interesting how crimes are solved. I research online for the most part. It takes time and patience to find good websites. For my yet unreleased thriller, The Bone Extractor, I researched extensively. Everything from how to lift fingerprints to details on how autopsies are done. For Armed and Outrageous, I researched the Michigan State Police website. I researched what you need to do to obtain a concealed gun permit, and how to get a private investigator's license.

4.  You describe your main character in your book, “Armed and Outrageous” as follows, “Agnes Barton is not your typical senior. She drives a red, hot Mustang, shops at Victoria's Secret, and has a knack for sticking her nose where it does not belong.”  Tell us how you came up with Agnes.  

 Laughs, I thought it sounded like a name a senior would have. Her partner in crime, Eleanor, is the name of a former resident. When I worked for a nursing home, I took care of three Eleanors, all of them bat shit crazy. Many of the names I used in Armed are based on real people, but I created Agnes out of my imagination. I know many senior citizens that don't fit the mold of what people think a senior should be. 

5.  Since Agnes is a senior, you must have some thoughts on ageing. Tell us about them.

 I think we should have fun until our bodies break down or minds go bad enough that we drive our kids crazy. I believe in longevity. Doing that means we need to take care of ourselves. Growing older isn't that bad of a thing.  

6.  What other books do you have available?
 Coffin Tales Season Of Death, it includes two short stories Jack-o'-lantern and Hell Crow. Both stories are horror, but not the grossed out kind.

7.  Any advice for new authors?
 Try to be original as you can be, which is practically impossible these days. Be yourself and write what gets you excited. Make lasting friendships with other writers, read their blogs. Grow a very thick skin because you're going to need it. Growing as a writer means honing your craft. Listen to feedback with an open ear. It's hard to take sometimes, but it will help you improve. Hiring an editor is a great idea. Surround yourself with positive people.

8.  What is the most difficult part of the writing and publishing process for you and how do you overcome it?
 Trying to find time to write without interruptions and of course editing. I'm not a grammar whiz that's for sure. Hiring an editor is a huge investment, something I will be doing soon. Formatting for Amazon is not a treat. I hired a formatter, but learned how to do it myself now. It's been a learning experience.

9.  What is your measure of success in your writing?
  That people are interested enough in me that they'll buy my books. I've gathered interest in my upcoming senior sleuth, which is huge to me. I'm excited about this book and hopeful looking toward the future. I spent time getting to know people on Facebook on a personal level. I think it's important to be a "real" person. How many people can say that an author takes the time to interact with you. Best selling authors can't do that, but I can and will continue to do so.

10.  Where can the readers find your books?

 Coffin Tales Season of Death is available on Amazon.

Thank you very much for taking the time to respond to the questions, Madison!

Madison's website is Madison Johns

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Supplies for Our Schools

Thanks to the Atma Foundation, a box of supplies will be on its way to the two schools we have been involved with in Tanzania.  According to Executive Director, Alysha Atma, this will be the first of many. The box will include:

20 Workbooks
3 boxes of crayons
2 paints - Watercolors
20 Sidewalk chalk
1 Desk Pencil Sharpener
9 Rulers
25 Pink Erasers
10 Dozen Pencils

Is that awesome or what!!??

I am very proud to be associated with the Atma Foundation and the work that they do.  Drop in to check them out at the link.

Atma Foundation