Topic: News

Day Five

I recently had the honor of being part of a small group of people headed down to the Dominican Republic to work beside a team from the area expanding on a school, teaching children and caring for those in the village center. In the next few days, I’ll be posting a series of reflections on this trip from my daily journal.

Day five and I wake up with the realization that the dorm in which we are currently housed- with its slatted walls that reveal spotlights at night which pierce our sleeping eyes, with its semi-open lavatories where full-on conversations continue between us all without missing a beat, with its cold water shower that propels water in a single weak stream, with its constant smell of chicken poop and it’s nighttime parade of bugs and spiders and other unidentifiable skittering critters, this space we have had to learn to endure, is better living conditions than 100% of the places we visited yesterday. I appreciate this space.

Breakfast this morning is a flavorless oatmeal bread, with sides of papaya and pina. I wonder if the papaya and ina are from school payments made this month by villagers. That’s a real thing here- trade for services still exists and it is remarkably valuable and a reasonable approach. Along with our dry bread is our strong coffee. We eat quietly. Tiredness, both physical and emotional has set in for all of us. I can see the age of our group showing around our edges and the neophyte energy, brought on by the excitement early on in our mission, waning day by day.

Can we talk about my hair? Yes, it is now clean. But good lord! It’s untamable and bushy. I pull out the clips I placed into is last night to sleep and it literally stands up straight facing north, east, and west. I have captured it under a wide Lycra band and for the moment it behaves. But I feel it trying to escape at every minute of hard work. On my next mission, I will shave my head before I go. One less thing to worry about.

It is with a tired body and soul that we rise from the picnic benches in the dining hall and prepare ourselves for a morning of games and devotion with 5,6, and 7 graders. But today we do not have our Converge missionary teacher, Stephanie, to guide and organize the school. We are on our own, floating on Dominican Time. And so our start time of 9 am comes and goes. At 9:15 Richard appears and we ask if the classes are ready. He says he can help assemble everyone and he mentions the size of the combined grades. 70 children at a minimum! So we decide to divide and conquer. Half the class will go to games, half to devotion and then we will switch. The seventh graders arrive and our teammates begin devotions. At the halfway mark, we attempt to switch. But no, a change of school schedule. It appears that today is another half day of school, so they now have recess. We sit momentarily, stealing precious moments of peaceful rest before we decide to go paint the vocational school instead. Painting is possibly the one task I despise the most. And yet here it has become a spiritual activity. Communal. Shared. I relish the opportunity to pace through the brush strokes quietly in conversation with the six other women of this group. We work through the morning this way, talking of nothing and everything until Pumpa arrives to announce lunch.

After our lunch of pork, rice and pigeon peas, as well as coleslaw, we go out to do bubbles with the kids. It’s 1:30 and school is out. But the yard is still filled. Young girls say “Halo”, practicing their English. They smile and hug our waists. They love to practice their Inglese! We teach them the words for lollipop, soda, lunch, and other common items. When we are done with bubble play (when the boys turned it into killed the guy with the bubble jar), we walk once more to the vocational high school building to do some more painting. Pumpa now joins us and soon, because this is what we do what we aspire to solve in life, the women all begin to discuss who she should marry. Yoan is a wonderful choice. And maybe some others. We talk about our own sons. I offer my pictures. “I like their eyes” she says. Its resolved then, she will somehow marry into one of our families “But they must live here” she says. Pumpa, along with everyone in this village, is devoted to staying, or returning as the case may be from colleges, and building up this little Juan Tomas. What a dream. What a purpose. I think of our ancient forefathers growing distant lands they claim as home. What a joy to be a part of that legacy.

At 3pm a teammate and I prepare to transition to more village work. We await Yada who will be leading us in delivering the final five bags of food in the village. After the parade that was inspired a few days ago doing the same thing, we have agreed it is better to go in much, much smaller groups. Or at least that’s the plan. It is Juan Tomas after all. Every outing is an adventure for all to join. Yada tells us to meet at 4pm. We realize after six days that the time noted is an average time of day, but we do arrive in the dining hall at 4pm as directed. And wait. Pumpa comes through. Ishmael wanders in. Village children play outside, yelling through the screens “Halo Americana’s!”. At 4:30 Yada comes in, she points to me and says “Do you drive?” Me? Visions of the Santo Domingo city center cross my thoughts. But I quickly realize that we won’t be going that far. “Sure!” I’m always up for an adventure.

The three of us carry the final four bags to the school compound courtyard. Yada walks through the commons wall door and beckons me to walk with her to her house across the dirt road. She hands me a ring of keys and we get into her van. The van has seen better days. The windows have months of Juan Tomas dust and grime embedded in them, along with children’s fingerprints. The interior is lived in. I stress about the dashboard, brake, and gas pedals. Is it standard!?! No, it’s automatic. That’s a relief. I put the key in the ignition, release the parking brake and start her up. All good!

We swing the van around in the narrow red dirt-packed road and park in front of the compound door. Four-year-old Naomi appears and her mother hoists her into the van. She climbs to the far back. Car seats not required. Willi appears and helps to load the four bags of food laden with rice and beans, and sardines, and oatmeal, and more into the back. We wait for the salami’s which have been kept in the fridge. They arrive and we close the doors – Off we go!

We bump along more divots and potholes than flat lane ahead of us. I quickly learn the most important thing is to avoid killing dogs. They are everywhere. Lying on the road. Crossing the road. Standing in it.
Yada points us to a house on the right. She says “This is me Mamas house.” Next to it and up a set of cement stairs, Yada explains, lives a Haitian refugee family. The father was a deacon at a church in Haiti. Richard met him at a conference. The family needed to get out of Haiti and so Richard and Yada got them to the Dominican. They rent this three-room flat from Yada’s mom.

We park the car in front of the two-family buildings and disembark. Yada calls hello between the iron fencing to her Mom’s house. Small cousins emerge and shout back to Yada. Yada laughs and waves her hands at them, while they giggle and scamper toward us, curious as to our mission. We climb the stairs with the hoisted bag between the three of us. It is heavy but we make it.

At the top of the crumbling steps we are greeted by an open door (open doors are so common I wonder why they have any at all). Inside is a radiant woman, petite, with a perfect smile. Yada introduces us, she is Liliana, and my teammate speaks to the woman in Spanish, asking the names of her children. My teammate explains who we are and from where. She asks if the woman has any “peticiones” for us, as we would like to pray for her. Liliana asks for prayer for someone from her church back in Haiti. He has broken his arm. Now obviously in the U.S. that’s not necessarily always a dire situation. But in a torn and squalidly poor country like Haiti, it can mean life or death. We pray in Spanish and hug and kiss goodbye all around.

We descend the stairs and head back to the van. Our next stop is one of the cleaning women from school. I’ve seen her all week. Yada approaches her yard and reaches to unhook a makeshift gate, contrived from tree limbs and barbed wire. It is held up by a wire looped around a tree. Once released, it collapses to the ground in a heap, a trap for dogs and children. We enter her yard and she sits in a chair on the front cement slab that abuts the front door- which is open. Inside is a jumble of furniture and curtains separate the spaces. A TV plays from the back of the small house. On her lap is a baby no more than 10 months. At her knees is a young girl about five, half of her hair unbraided and she is holding a jar of Vaseline. The woman has a pink wide-toothed comb in her hand, as she uses the Vaseline and comb to try to capture the hair. From the house emerge two young boys, between ages 8 and 9. One takes the baby from the woman. My teammate introduces us and offers the bag of food we have brought from the van. We also offer a bag of clothes. The other boy takes them both inside. My teammate asks the woman if we can pray. She tells us of her needs: her husband wants to go back to Haiti, and he has been ‘being away from her” could we pray for her matrimony? Yada later explains what “being away” means- infidelity. The woman also asks that we pray fervently that her children will stay close to God as they grow. We pray and make our goodbyes.

Back in the car, on the travel back toward the school, Yada reveals that she doesn’t drive, but wants to learn. I tell her I can teach her and we laugh.
Our next stop on the return trip is a small (even smaller than any we have been in) house. We enter and Jarri calls our greetings. Inside is another beautiful young woman, also Haitian. She tells us of her trouble having children. She has lost two already. Her face is sad and I feel torn. On the one hand, she has nothing. This small house, her husband and … nothing. On the other- well she has nothing. Children would be a blessing. They would give her purpose. They would help pay expenses through work as they come of age. They would take care of her someday when she is old. We pray for healing and lay hands upon her and then say goodbye.

We head back to the van, as I come around to the driver’s side a pack of no less than eight dogs is hanging around my driver’s side door. I stop and call Yada, who saunters around the front and chases them off.

We drive back toward the school compound. One more bag but Yada does not know the address. Who are we kidding, there ARE no addresses lol! Yada needs someone from the school to come with us in the AM and point directions. I say we can give her a driving lesson then as well. She seems skeptical but pleased.

We park and enter the gates of the school. Bone tired and ready for a shower we head upstairs to the dorm. Dinner is at 6:30 and Wednesday service is at 7. Or thereabout.

At 6:30pm, Yada and others serve us fried salami, mashed plantain, mashed potato, and more coleslaw. This food is heeeeeavy. I eat only half. I contemplate skipping the worship service. I look over at our teammate who has been stomach sick since Monday evening. If he is up, I can be, so a few minutes of rest on the dining table bench and I rally.

The church looks amazing after the work from the men in our team all week. Walking in I see Annabelle, who was so upset yesterday at one of the homes we blessed. We wave hello. Over the week the staff and villagers have warmed up. Gone are the wary glances. The frozen stares. Yada hugged me hello today and laughed at our conversation. She even promised to tell me more about how she and Richard met. All she revealed today was that she was thirteen and helping her father work on Paul’s goat farm. Richard also worked there milking goats. They went to school together and then Richard went into college getting his MBA.

The 7pm service starts at 7:20. Close. We sing in Spanish, the words becoming easier. Then we break into prayer groups before coming back together as a congregation. I catch sight of the petite Haitian woman whose husband is a deacon, seated a few rows back, I go over and we hug. She smiles.

Later we drag ourselves back to the dorm. It’s been a long week. Tomorrow is our last day here before we move on to La Romana. Until then we have more children to Bless and walls to be painted.

In Difficult Economy, City of Hartford Seeks Grant Development Help

We are honored to have been recently chosen by the City of Hartford to facilitate grant development services, in support of their effort to increase sustainable funding for needed and viable city programs. This is the fourth contract with a municipality we have received in the last year. We are enthusiastic about this project and will keep you all updated as to the outcomes we are helping them to achieve!

Grants are certainly an important part of every organizations funding mix- whether you’re a 501C3, a municipal agency, or a private membership group, your unearned revenue plan should include some grant funding. Grant development goes beyond grant writing, it takes into account assessment of your grantable programs, viable outcomes, and identifying funding opportunities. Additionally, it encompasses facilitating a team to develop grant components including financials, and to write and refine the grant package before submission.
Once received, grants require careful attention to detail as most grantors want a clear and defined accounting of not only expenditures but outcomes.
Grants can be a valuable source of income and all organizations should be generating some grant revenue.

New Means of Funding for Nonprofits

As demands escalate, nonprofits have found themselves in a battle to maintain a stable funding for their programming. With nonprofits generating more than 14% of the state’s private workforce, 78% of these organizations have reported increase in demand. However, insufficient government funds have made it difficult for nonprofits to meet their demands. Federal aid has continued to either decrease or remain stagnant, which causes tight budgets for these organizations.

Tight budgets equal less employees, which leaves the remaining employees exhausted from the additional workload. So, what can these organizations do to avoid this from happening? Nonprofits have begun cultivating strong relationships with public and private partners in order to bring in and increase corporate sponsorship. Though this may seem like a reasonable idea in times of need for these organizations, it can also backfire quickly. Harvest’s own, Sondra Lintelmann-Dellaripa, says, “Nonprofits are essential; they represent a large value to workforce and GDP. New means of funding are needed. Individual giving is the greatest asset. Mergers and acquisitions of npo’s might be necessary.” However, she continues by saying “I don’t agree with events or corporate sponsorship as an answer. That’s a dying and dead end revenue stream for many reasons.” Read the full article here.

Let’s get to talking! Connect with us on Social Media and share your thoughts!.

“A single conversation across the table with a wise person is worth a month’s study of books.” – Chinese Proverb

Patience and Trust

BEST FRIENDS ANIMAL SOCIETY

Twenty-two of the dogs most in need of care after being rescued from Michael Vick’s horrifying dogfighting ring were sent to Best Friends Animal Society for rehabilitation. Each of those dogs was special, but from the start there was a standout: Lance. The best dog trainers in the world worked with the 22 dogs, and over time, each passed the court-ordered Canine Good Citizen test and was placed in a loving home. Except for Lance. Even though a wonderful family was interested in adopting him, he was not allowed to leave until he passed his test, and he had so much anxiety that every time he took the test, he would freeze….

Best Friends Animal Society 

LinkedIn Board Connect

LinkedIn has brought forth another way to use their social media tool. This one is targeted specifically at nonprofit leaders seeking to strengthen and grow their board leadership.

LinkedIn’s new Board Connect, is a suite of tools, including talent finder and a LinkedIn group, that allows nonprofits to ‘advertise’ their organization, mission, vision and goals and to review prospective board members resumes. The hope is that, progressive, caring, thoughtful business leaders will be revealed through this process.

Now for the reality.

Despite many other innovative technological and social media partners considering and launching the same concept – a pool for nonprofits to jump into and peddle their wares- the ability to attract and retain high level leadership is no further advanced.

I commend LinkedIn for their effort. It does no harm, and that is the most that can be said about this endeavor. It feels good for LinkedIn and their leadership team to be doing something – anything – to help the NPO sector. It gives yet another venue for NPO’s to congregate to, in the hopes of landing those really incredible volunteers.

But like the other efforts, it offers only passive development, not active, and creates yet another large room, devoid of substance, but filled with clutter and noise, that can be overwhelming and uninviting to the audience: the prospective business leaders.

A better approach is to create a source for those business leaders interested in seeking a more vested role in the nonprofit sector, to post their interest, areas of interest(types of NPO’s, causes, role seeking) and to have that be presented in LinkedIn as a searchable database. NPO’s have clear guidelines and matrices they use in seeking out and vetting specific people to be on their board. Contrary to common belief (and the way this new LinkedIn resource is designed) it’s not a matter of any captain in the storm or any suitor interested . Board selection is a scientific, strategic process that is lead by a core objective- to secure the right person for the right need in the boards governance goals for the organization.

My hope -and I truly believe LinkedIn is intent on making this a more sophisticated, valuable tool – is that the next iteration leans more toward what the NPO needs in this manner.

 

9-11: Turn that frown upside down….

Some of you may react with repulsion at the title of this post…some may think it is dishonorable to lighten up on this day of tragedy – September 11th…others may not yet be ready to let go of the pain and suffering…and those closest to the tragedy may be experiencing the trauma anew as the anniversary approaches.

Many psychologists suggest its okay to start changing the way we remember 9-11. Not to forget, but to change the meaning of the remembrance. To act on what is left, not on what has been taken away.

Some of us have seen this already happen around us:  Look on any calendar and this Sunday you will find fairs and festivals going on- even in New York.  You may have friends who are  getting married on this Sunday or celebrating a birthday or anniversary with a party.  Even many of the news media are turning their memories to reflect on the positive and hope of the nation. We Americans have an uncanny and admirable ability to do this- turn tragedy into hope. Its the backbone of this great nation.

The American Psychological Association has produced a great video helping turn our tradition of remembering to more healthy activities.

What else can we do?

  • Meditate and pray:  Prayer and meditation have been shown to have a tremendous healing affect on those who engage in this activity.
  • Promote unity:  Remember the feeling of oneness and brotherhood that grew during those awful weeks after the 9-11 event? Capture that once again in your life, through your own expression and through organizational activities.
  • Allow diversity:  We may not agree with others, but if we honor their right to feel and think and behave in ways that don’t hurt us- but may be different- we promote peace
  • Celebrate:  Embrace the joy that comes from knowing we have, as a people, overcome such a great calamity and have won the battle to remain human and whole through it all. Sometimes the worse that can happen cannot be imagined and gratefully is never revealed.
However you choose to spend 9-11, know that what was taken from those 3000 people during that horrific attack, remains for us – Life.  Celebrate your life through gratitude and through honoring the life of others.

How a gift to someone else, can be the perfect gift for your Dad

Dad’s, at least the Dad’s of my generation, had two jobs- Earn an Income and Make Pancakes on Sunday Night for Mom’s night off.

The first we knew represented his RESPONSIBILITY to his family.

The second we knew represented his LOVE for our mother and for us.

There never seemed anything we could do to repay  him.  There wasn’t a tie nor trip nor lighter nor ballgame ticket which could ever- EVER- be as valuable as what he gave and sacrificed and provided for our welfare, spirit and education.

And so maybe we stop trying. We give up on the gifts and just purchase a card. Or maybe we continue to maniacally hunt down JUST THE RIGHT THING, in a blind, ambitious desire to give him something that comes close to saying Thank You.

What Dad was doing was not only loving and nurturing his wife and his family. He was passing down years of learned respect and responsibility, he was educating us on what Fatherhood really means, he was mentoring and coaching a future generation to prepare them for the same offering of self that he so willingly provided, in love and in gratitude for all he was given.

And believe me, he doesn’t want a present for that. What he wants is to know that all of that good stuff has been passed on, that it continues and grows and moves beyond his years to others.

So this year, give him what he deeply desires, by supporting a nonprofit “Fatherhood Initiative” .

Fatherhood is not DNA encoded. It is not something every boy is born knowing, and sadly many do not  experience  in their short lifetime.

But it CAN be learned. And it CAN be shared. And it will live on through the noble work of these organizations and more.

Here are some to get you started. And when you give, give generously as Dad did, from your need, not your excess. And then say Thank You Dad.

                                 

Just because we can’t see it, doesn’t mean it isn’t happening….. LUNAR ECLIPSE June 15th.

www.harvestdevelopmentgrp.comComing Up JUNE 15th- TOTAL LUNAR ECLIPSE. Visible from Africa, Central Asia, South America and Europe.

Wait? Not America? Never mind….

The upcoming total lunar eclipse will happen on June 15, 2011. The Moon will pass directly through the center of the Earth’s shadow cone. The next such visible event won’t happen until 2018. But we wont see it in the states.

Doesn’t mean it isn’t happening.

Measuring the actions of nonprofit work is a little of the same, wouldn’t you say? Being told things are happening doesn’t quite seem enough. We don’t quite believe things are moving, actions are progressing, outcomes are achieved, unless we actually see it. You’d think we all were from Missouri (with respect to our dear friends down south).

Measuring is a good thing and necessary to establish credibility, check up on progress and ensure that, indeed, we are doing the right things. But too much attention on measuring- too rigid a program for actions and outcomes aligning- eliminates the human aspect of what we do in the nonprofit world. Scientifically calculating and demanding observational documentation of every aspect of our work, blocks out that measure of creativity, intuition, innovation, pivoting, iterating which is based on rationale and observations in real time, that comes from being in the field and experiencing the work “mano a mano”. The human frame of personalization, being present and experiencing the process. Too much measuring makes doubters of us all.

A healthy state of balance in measured progress, as well as a good faith belief that – even though we can’t see it- things are happening. Let our ancestors tell us- Only time and hindsight can tell.

For those of you interested, here are some websites which will broadcast the eclipse live:

Astronomy Live

Bareket Observatory, Israel

Astro-Viten, Norway

Skywatchers Association of North Bengal, India