Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Some Highlights of 2014.

Big News 2014 we became an official non profit organization! We joined the International Women’s Democracy Center (IWDC) a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization with more than 15 years’experience developing and administering international projects and now can provide Tax ID information!

We got our first large donation from a foundation! Now we are well on the way to buying the land for a school for these children. Billa has friends like me in the UK, Norway, Germany and the Netherlands all trying to help! It is a small world after all. 
Now all of these children come to his center every day. Here they are
standing on the land where he plans to build a school.

Billa started teaching 5 kids under
this Mango tree in 1995.

Also in 2014, I traveled to Kenya and visited the Mogra orphanage and school, I was so impressed with them that I have added them to our network of worthy causes to help.

We sent a motor scooter to Future Leaders UCC in Teshie, Ghana.

Here I am giving Daniel the scooter to ship.. 
Billa will use the scooter to get around and visit the ladies 
who have received micro loans.

and found a wheel chair for Kwadwoa's sister in a village near Kumasi Ghana.

We sent pencils to the young children at Mogra Star Academy the Mathare slum of Nairobi, Kenya.

and a computer to for the students at Mogra Star Academy,

800 children attend school in the Nairobi slum and there was not One single computer. Now they have Two. I hope to find a generous computer company to donate enough for a computer class. That will really make a difference in the lives of these children. 

and diapers for the babies at the orphanage
.We collected sewing machines from friends for the vocational sewing center at Future Leaders.

Anne Marquis just kept showing up day
with more great stuff
Here women learn a trade for free and are required to pass it and empower other women in their community.

What started as one phone call to rescue textbooks from the recycle bin at a local elementary school grew and grew until my garage was packed full of donations bound for Africa. One schools trash is another schools treasure.

 It took a village (or a neighborhood) to get everything sorted boxed and delivered.
My neighbor Tom Smith loaned his truck.

During the summer our network of volunteers grew into a team of angels collecting donations.

Retired school teacher Marge Buzelli found school supplies.
Oakton teens helped sort through clothes.
Gail bought school supplies and sewing notions.

Before long I was getting calls from several Fairfax County public schools to pick up their lost and found items.
Carloads full at each school. Now I had more than I could use for the shipment to Africa so......

Light weight clothes went to Africa, Some coats went to The Closet in Reston, Virginia which helps needy families. Mof the warm coats went to help refugee families arriving from Darfur. It is pretty cold here in the winter compared to East Africa.

 Sameaia, pictured here,  even took some school supplies with her to a village school in Sudan. The network is growing and growing and growing!
TaDa...everything arrived safe and sound in West Africa!
I found these promotional back packs at a
school lost and found.
The kids in Ghana got them for awards. 
Here the sewing machines are getting a tune up before the
women at the sewing center put them to use.

More pictures to come! Boy this blogging takes time and there is so much to do.....Happy New Year!

If you would like to donate for a 2014 tax deduction, here is the paypal link or send a check to Painting Brighter Futures- IWDC at 3113 Fox Mill Rd, Oakton, Va 22124


Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The diapers arrive in Kenya

I just received word that my new charity, Mogra Children's Rescue has received the diapers and donations I just sent. Here's the story....
Me with the precious babies at Mogra Orphanage.
Two weeks ago, I joined my husband Ken on a business trip to Nairobi, Kenya; he was meeting with the phone company Airtel. Shortly after we arrived, we ran into some of his colleagues in the hotel lounge, where Ken brought up the idea that I was hoping to spend some time volunteering with a school or orphanage while there. Olga, an IBM expat from Columbia, living in Kenya, excitedly ran over to introduce me to her friend and neighbor Mark. Mark is an Australian expat working for Airtel. Mark had the perfect connection for me. It ends up that Airtel sponsors the food program at a school in the Mathare slum and Francis, Mark's partner, volunteers there. Olga was kind enough to include me in the dinner that night, so that Francis and I could meet and made a plan to go to Mogra school and orphanage the following day.

There was a traffic jam on the road which gave me time to take in the sights.

Francis and his driver David picked me up the next morning and we drove out to Mathare to visit the school Mogra Star Academy and then to the Mogra Orphange. There is so much to say about the meaningful experiences I had at the school; but for today, I will talk just about the orphanage visit. Which, by the way, Ken had lightheartedly had warned Francis against taking me to. He was afraid I would bring home a baby. He often reminds me that I can help more children if I don't adopt one. He knows how strong my maternal feelings can be.

As you can see from the pictures, I had a wonderful day with the babies. 

Francis prefers to work with teens and older children so it was a real gift to me, that he joined me in the nursery that day and then again, when I wanted to go back for a second day.

Before heading back to Mogra for the second visit, we stopped at a local store to buy diapers. Diapers are expensive in Kenya.  I don't know how the orphanage does it. It is funded only by the kindness of others. I made a mental note to get more diapers and baby clothes for Mogra when I got back to the US.

Poor Francis has to go shopping with me for diapers and wipes for the babies and sanitary pads for the teenage girls living at the orphanage, what a great guy!

David, Mark's driver put the boxes in the trunk. None of this would have been possible without him, and Francis and Mark! You guys all ROCK!

David even got in on the fun and played with the babies.

While at Mogra, I met Susan Armstrong, a nurse from the US embassy, who was teaching First Aid. I asked her is she had any ideas of how I could get donations back to Kenya from the US. She told me that her husband Russell, was in fact, going back to the US and may be able to help. When I got home I contacted Russell and we arranged a day to meet. Now that I had a deadline the wheels were set in motion.

I headed out to Costco to buy diapers. But first,  I stopped to drop off a thank you gift to the Keneficks, who had recently bought the wheelchair for a woman in Ghana. I was so excioted about my trip that I could not help but tell them all about the kids in Kenya. Judy then generously donated $100 to help buy the diapers, in her grandson Ian's name as part of his confirmation gift. This web of generosity is infectious. Not only, did they buy the wheelchair and donate the money but now they are helping the women in the wheelchair get physical therapy advice to help her transition to her new chair.
Diapers were a fraction of the cost at Costco than they were in Kenya. I tried to buy as much as I could while keeping the weight of my suitcase under 50 ponds per the airline specifications.

We keep old suitcases around just for this type of occasion. I filled as much as I could and even had a scinece poster left over to include from the last shipment to Ghana

 On Saturday morning Ken and I met Russell and his beautiful daughter at the Gaylord Hotel at The National Harbor. What a joy it was meeting this wonderful kind hearted family. They even helped nurse a baby from the orphanage back to health and are now in the process of adopting her.

 The girls who live at the children's home with the donations.

Here it is, our old suitcase full of diapers, back in the same room where I loved those sweet babies just two weeks ago. I love it when a plan comes together.

Look for a post to come about the new computer for the school!  Thank you so much to everyone who made this possible: the Armstrong family, Francis, David, Mark, Olga the Keneficks and my husband Ken.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

A gift of a wheelchair arrives in Ghana!

I have a fabulous heart warming story to share. This confirms my new motto; Tell everyone your dreams and they can come true!

Meet Marge Buzzelli, a retired school teacher. I told her about my project to help find books for the kids in Ghana and she just went crazy, in a great way; calling her friends at local schools asking for for donations. Well, while we were picking up donations at Wolftrap Elementary, we met Kwado, who works at the school and who is from Ghana. So of course I had to torture him with my attempt to speak Twi, and chat about Ghana. As we were leaving. He quietly mentioned that he was looking for  a wheelchair for his sister back in a village in Ghana. Without hesitating, I said, "We'll get you one".  I remembered that there were plenty around when I needed one for my father in law to use at my daughter's graduation. So Marge and I put the world out. Marge was determined to find one and called several friends.

 The next thing I knew, Marge's friends Judy and Frank Kenefick showed up at my house with a wheelchair. That actually bought a wheelchair on Craiglist, for a person they did not know. Heck they didn't even know me. Aren't they Amazing!

Here is Kwado, with the wheelchair when I brought it to him at Wolf Trap Elementary. While there I was chatting with Diane Long the school assistant and she offered to send out a message to other Fairfax County schools to see if they had lost and found items to donate. Yikes, did they. That is a long story for another blog but I will give you a hint that one email will end up providing coats and clothes from many kids in need from India to Darfur and the USA.

Here is Kwado's sister Adwoa (she has the same Ghanaian name as me, Monday born) with her new wheelchair and her children! She and her family are so happy. Ghanaians don't tend to have big toothy smiles in pictures like we do but trust me, she is very happy.

If you look at her legs you can tell that she has been crawling in the dirt since she became paralyzed from an illness at age 3. She has been crawling since age 3 and now she can sit in a chair! See how we can all make big a difference in someone else's life. Bless you and thank you so much Judy and Frank Kenefick and Marge Buzzelli. Isn't giving Fun!

Monday, October 20, 2014

A World of opportunities to help!

I am quickly writing this post from our hotel room in Nairobi, Kenya waiting for my new friend Francis to pick me up and take me to an orphanage and school where he volunteers. I am anxious to meet the children and the school's director to see if there is a way I can help them. The project is having a snowball effect. I am meeting and connecting kind hearted people all over the world. I am so excited a bout the connection I made in Delhi with the assistant manager on the Trident Hotel. We are going to work together to hand out the coats I have collected from the Fairfax County public school's lost and founds, to the children living on the streets and in the slums. When I get home I will be calling more schools to pick up the clothes kids have discarded or forgotten and get them onto the backs of kids who can't live without them.

More later, so happy to be busy and helpful again!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The shipment has sailed!

I am so excited. I just heard from Daniel (pictured here) that the shipment has sailed for Africa and should arrive in Ghana by the end of the month. YAY. I have been saving Ken's frequent flyer points for just this occasion. I am hoping (fingers crossed) that I can fly to Ghana and be there to help unload the container and distribute the donations. 

I saved the best for last with a motor scooter for Billa Mahmud, founder of Future Leaders UCC. He does not have a car so now he will be able to scoot around the dirt roads to visit all the women who have been given microloans. The final count was 81 boxes containing: 8 sewing machines, 2 computers, clothes, shoes, backpacks, toys, a blender, schools supplies, text books, reading books, fabric, sewing notions, power converters, a filing cabinet and a motor scooter and more. I can't wait to see everything in Ghana!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

A new chapter in life

Like everyone else I am trying to settle back into a routine after the summer is over.  Painting, Framing, Photographing and Posting. As and artist, the painting is the easy part and I have to practically strap myself to my office chair to get the posting and uploading done.
 The light is beautiful here by this big window in my family room. 
 But sometimes I just have to go outside to paint.
I have finished and varnished this painting. I am just waiting for the frame I ordered to arrive. I have about 10 paintings that are in the final stages of completion. 

I tagged along on one of Ken's business trips to London last week. I loved it there and spent the days immersed in art museums. But, as usual, wherever I go, Ghana is never far from my mind. Even though I didn't find anyone to practice speaking Twi with I was able to talk on the phone with Karen Tooley of the Future leaders UK. She is a teacher in Birmingham, England and spends a month in Ghana each year. She was able to give me more insight into Billa and confirm what I already knew that he is an amazing honest, entrepreneurial man who is using all his energy to help others.

By the end of the summer we had staged 78 boxes of donations at the storage unit waiting to head to Ghana including; 8 sewing machines, 2 computers, chargers, adapters, text books, reading books,school supplies, shoes, clothes and more....

 My son Stephen (in the orange VTech t-shirt) joined us to bring another load of books and school supplies to the storage unit in Woodbridge, the last stop before we load everything on a shipping container going to Africa. Then he was off to start his second year at Virginia Tech. He really enjoyed meeting Daniel. Stephen went to Ghana to visit his sister Alexandra for spring break of his senior year at Oakton High School. When I asked him what the best part of his trip was, he said "Meeting Billa and hearing his story about starting a school for needy children under a mango tree". That was one of the things that inspired me to make my first trip to Africa. That, plus the fact that I missed my daughter and wanted to see her life in Africa.

Before I headed off to London, my friend
Jill Wagner and her children Emma and Ben came over to help me sort through all the bags of lost and found clothes I had picked up from various Fairfax County public schools. The bags of light weight clothes got a pink stripe of duck tape on the outside to indicate that they were going to Ghana. I also put a bright pink stripe on all of my boxes in to the shipping container so that everything going to the children's center could be easily spotted when the container is opened in Ghana.

The heavy clothes and winter coats got a blue stripe on the bag. I wasn't sure what I was going to do with them until I met some women from Sudan while I was picking up donations at Wolftrap Elementary. Just last night those two women picked up 8 huge bags of really nice winter coats that will be going to refugee families arriving from Darfur who have no winter clothes for their children. These coats were really nice. Now a child has one less thing to worry about when arriving at a new school in a new county. He or she will be warm and look cool in a new North Face jacket or Abercrombie sweat shirt. I think it is an interesting circle because it was in a history class at Oakton high school where this all began. My daughter became fascinated by Africa, Darfur in particular and she knew that one day she would go there. I never would have dreamed that I too would go to Africa and make helping children there my life's mission. Life is funny. I think it is so beautiful how our children enrich our lives in ways we never expect. If we encourage them to find themselves and follow their own path in life they may end up showing us a new path to follow in our own lives when that chapter of motherhood is over. Thanks Alexandra!

My easels is calling my name so I am off to paint now.  :)