Sunday, December 19, 2010


My wanderlust led me to the midst of hustle and bustle. At first sight it reminds you of any large city, people and cars everywhere but this is no ordinary city, this is Cairo, Egypt, with a mind of it's own; where antiquity exist side by side with modern. The sighting of a horse - drawn carriage or a camel in the midst of heavy traffic seemed natural. The stop lights if you can find them, I was told are for show, no one pays attention. Instead, the blowing of the vehicles horn is a language on its own and the horn is the master of the road, which the drivers understand very well. When a driver cuts off another the horn gives off an angry sound, stay in your lane brings out a warning sound. Letting a fellow driver through is music to the ears, a courtesy sound that seemed to say, thank you, and so on. The Pyramids, the sphinx, citadel and oh yes, Khan el Khalil Market, where haggling is a daily exercise; the alluring smell of incense, all add to Cairo's flavor. When I gaped at pedestrians trying to cross the highways, laden with cars, the guide put me at ease, letting me know it is a way of life. This is the city that makes no excuse for its appearance, it does not hide its laundry because company is coming. The attitude is "take me as I am." And I loved it!

The next leg of my journey took me to Aswan where my travel partners and I boarded the Sonesta for an adventure down the River Nile and to Luxor with its huge columns. The ship took off and my eyes darted from left to right, not wanting to miss the splendor of the river banks with its lush vegetation. And in each town where we disembarked, the captivation prevailed. The chapters of my history book, things that I had learned about on ancient civilization began to come to life. This tour of an historical era took my breath away. The stories, the secrets of the Pharaohs, the kings and queens revealed as we strolled through tombs and temples and listened to the tour guide translate the meaning of the hieroglyphs, the ancient Egyptian script. The brilliant people who designed these structures thought about everything, the preservation, the art with meaning, the architectural designs, the calendar of different seasons which included harvesting and days of celebration.

We learned about the the valley of the kings and queens, about Queen Hatshepsut, described as the greatest female ruler who dressed herself like a man and called herself pharaoh. New information has been revealed of the life and death of King Tut. Aswan and Luxor and the towns in between that we visited have a laid back attitude but boast of importance, nevertheless. There is more exploration everywhere, looking for lost treasures and restoring the treasures of the mysterious and magical ancient Egypt. So many will keep coming to see Egypt's pride and joy.

Like the gorgeous towns, I have many stories to tell but too many to reveal here. This one however is a contender for the centerpiece of my journey. When we disembarked in Edfu, a town along the riverbank of the Nile, a young girl called out to me to buy her goods. She did not have much, a few bracelets with the scarab(beetle) in a blue stone. I was hurrying to keep up with my group and could not stop. The young girl about ten years old, told me in well-spoken English that she would see me when I returned. Sure enough, there she was and we hugged as if were long lost friends. There is something about young entrepreneurs that tugs at my heart; of course I helped to boost her enterprising spirit, bought a few of her goods and gave her enough to buy some more stock.

A new found acquaintance on the ship asked out of the clear if I was a dreamer and I answered with a resounding yes. I am always dreaming about the next destination, I love different cultures, I love learning new things, it has made my life so much richer. It has taken a longtime to get here, setting sail on the Nile has been a dream come true. As my mind wandered, while driven to yet another excursion, I peeped through the window at a horse-drawn carriage with a happy face tourist. The horse's gait was full of excitement, as if it was happy to share the road with modern transportation, bursting with pride as it kept pace. "Look at me, I am hot to trot." As it merrily galloped along.

Shokran, Shokran, Egypt for your invitation and the lessons learned. I had my fill of falafel and pita, delicious dates and yogurt and tasteful local dishes. This new year I plan to feast on koshary, a simple vegetarian delight. Thank you for allowing me to climb through the narrow shaft of the Great Pyramid of Khufa in Giza, bent over in an awkward position, determined to make it to the top. Thank you for pointing me to the Nubian village, sailing on the faluca (sailship) putting me closer to the stomping ground of Queen Nefertiti. Now when I wear my cartouch or some other Egyptian ornament, I will understand better the symbols and the history behind them.

You have guessed right, my mind is wandering to the next globe trotting but for now I will savor the time I spent with this wonder of the world. Nature has been very generous to Egypt and likewise Jordan, but Jordan is another story for another time.

Sunday, November 14, 2010


A new season had began and the time had come for us to be back together for more of a good thing, this time around there was going to be dancing. It was three (3) months since our last gathering and we were hungry, not only for the delicious cuisine that the 20/20 Downtown Club promised but we were 'starving' for relaxation and mingling.

We stepped into a crowded room where people lined the walls and I immediately knew that we had made a huge mistake, there was music alright, so loud that it was about to pierce our eardrums but hardly any standing room. The manager politely told us that we had not made any mistakes, we had a confirmed reservation but they just could not accommodate us.

We were happy to make a quick exit and we headed to Maryannes, our stomping ground, the same restaurant where we had left our footprints three(3) months ago, at our last gathering. They welcomed us and quickly set up the tables to accommodate us. We have sang praises for the great tasting dishes but tonight Maryanne's has earned yet another stripe, this time for superb hospitality. We were off to a good start; the laughter, the chatter, the clamoring for attention set the tone for our end of year outing and we were determined to have a blast. There were a few new faces and the meet and greet and catch-up started. We studied the menu, some of us already knowing what delicious choices we would make.

The Birthday Girl was surprised when the waitstaff brought out a cake with wishes of long life emblazoned on top. We all sang with gusto, out of tune, in high pitched voices, what did it matter! We had set this time aside to perform the BALANCING ACT. Everyone seemed relaxed,it is as if we had put all our worries on the back burner and there was no room for arrogance. Tonight we were able to quiet our minds, even in this din. We had cut ourselves some slack and we had the time of our life.There was certainly a lot of energy in this place.

And the winner is? Lucky walked away with WORDS, a compilation of quotations, poems and photos. Some of us tarried a while longer as the group dwindled. "Keep it together, until the next time," was my way of bidding everyone a safe journey. This Women's Club group handled the night's missteps well; our feathers were not ruffled, we took it all in strides. As I stepped outside, the warm air hit my face, I looked up to the clear skies and whispered "color me happy."
It was Maurice Chevalier who wrote:
"Each moment is a treasure, enjoy it!
We are travelers on life's highway, enjoy the trip.
Each lovely twist and byway, each bump and dip.
Voila, that's life, enjoy it!"

A Merry New Year to you all!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Make A Difference Day - October 23, 2010

I was not sure if we needed a special day to do good deeds but each year that I read about the ideas and the effort so many people made on this one day I began to think that for those persons who gained from these acts of kindness, what a wonderful day this must be for them. Make a difference day is sponsored in partnership with the HandsOn Network and supported by Newman's Own and more information can be found at
This year CHOOSE TO CARE committed to making a difference by providing a brand new pair of shoes to 20 boys and girls. When traveling in certain distant lands you inevitably come face to face with so many children and young adults walking around in flip-flops that have worn thin, sometimes a piece of bark or cord fashionably tied up what's left of the shoes on the young child's feet, while others walk around shoeless. From these experiences and knowing the importance of protecting ones feet from cuts, infections and ill-fitted shoes, CHOOSE TO CARE A Not for-Profit Organization was created to bring pride and joy to the child or young adult in need of a brand new pair of shoes.

Since taking this journey we have partnered with other Not for-Profit organization which work with the youth in various capacities, here at home and abroad. One such partnership is the Vineyard International Christian Ministries Church, located in the Bronx, through which Choose To Care has provided shoes for the children of newly arrived immigrant families or others who find it difficult to fully provide for their children. Sometimes within families, there are 3-4 children in need and only 1 child may receive so that other families can benefit also. The coordinator weighs the needs and at times boys will receive while girls have to wait their turn or vice versa. On October 23, 2010 we wanted to make a difference in the lives of the children who were passed over because prior donation could only stretch so far. On this day 20 boys and girls received a brand new pair of shoes. There are still others but next time around, we promise. We hope this small gesture will produce happy feet and place a smile on their faces.

All is Well!

Friday, October 15, 2010


For the past month or so I have been served up a plate full of negative encounters. Usually I have the resources to deal with the struggles of life. I mutter sayings such as "water off my back," "this too will pass," "Que sera sera" and I go my merry way, letting the chips fall where they may. But of late these ruse are coming so fast that I am working so much harder to find inner peace and inner strength.

While I was pondering these events in my life I came upon this book titled: CHANGING SHOES by Tina Sloan. I am fascinated by any reference to shoes and the settings in which it is used knowing there is always a deeper meaning. This is right up my alley and in keeping with the mission of CHOOSE TO CARE a non-profit organization, formed to provide a brand new pair of shoes for children and young adults in need, so that they may journey to a more meaningful life.

The author of CHANGING SHOES talks about the importance of wearing the right shoes for the right moment and what each pair of her shoes did for her in different situations that occurred in her life. It made for excellent and easy reading and gave me a nudge to face the albatross around my neck once and for all. What shoes should I wear while going on this venture? I brought out these well-worn pair of pumps, the one that conforms to the feet and fit so well that it painlessly takes you where you want to go. This pair of pumps says, with happy feet you will feel on top of the world and have no fear going there. Sure enough it took that albatross right off my neck.

But the story I really want to share is the story of Anthony Mulongo, Founder and Director of Mudzini Kwetu, a home for the parent less girls. He had traveled to a few cities in America{NY,Boston,Washington D.C.} from the coastal area of Kenya to tell his story of rescuing young orphaned girls from the dangerous streets of Mtwapa, Kenya. He is greatly supported by Thomas Keown, founder of One Home Many Hopes, a Boston-based nonprofit organization. To join their efforts or to learn more, go to

A rainy day calls for the right and sensible shoes but I carried along my stylish pump, the one that says, this is important business and you need to get on board. I was on my way with my co-worker to meet this man who gave up his budding career to take on this precious mission.

I did not need to change from my lowly rain boots, they were right for the setting. We were in the company of a vibrant group of people all revved up to give a helping hand. The founder, Anthony Mulongo, a humble young man was pumped with questions after questions. Some of the attendees were curious, others fact finders and a few gave suggestions on how to garner more donors. At the end of the night, this Rescuer gave sound reasons why we should help to build a school in his Kenyan community.

On the screen of the video that tells the stories of the young girls, were shoes of all sorts belonging to the girls I assume. This was a nice touch. Each pair represented a deeper meaning for the girl who owns it and for the persons who made it possible for her to own a pair of shoes and so much more. One of my newest and favorite quote comes from the founder Mudzini Kwetu. It goes:
"If we don't have shoes
no one has shoes.
If we have shoes
we all have shoes together."
He is certainly wearing the right pair of shoes and making a difference in the lives of these parent less girls.

I don't expect a pair of shoes to wipe away my troubles but I have translated my experience into a new attitude, laying my burden down and making sure I am wearing the right pair of shoes. So from October 18 to November 20 and beyond we can put our best foot forward and help ONE HOME MANY HOPES{OHMH} to reach their goal to build a school for 700 boys and girls in the Kenyan community of Mtwapa.
Keep choosing the right pair of shoes!
All is well.

Sunday, September 5, 2010


I still remember the long flight home from Brazil. I had visited Bahia, a tropical paradise strewn with poverty. In Rio, the Favella, stretches of slum is the address for the very poor. The sight eats away at your heart. On the plane ride home I curled up in my seat, with a muddled mind, trying to get comfortable. I had put on my "thinking cap" and jostled to position it just right because I had some serious planning to do. I knew I did not have the means to do much but there has to be something I could do. In my travels and here in Brazil, children and adults were walking around in flip flops that had worn thin. Sometimes a piece of bark "fashionably" tied up what's left of the shoes to their feet. Others walked around in their bare feet. That was my AHA moment. "I will place shoes on the feet of the shoeless children and the young adults." We know the pride and joy that age group gets from having a brand new pair of shoes. That's it, I tried to make a convincing argument with myself. "I want to protect their feet from cuts, infections and malformation, squeezing into too tight shoes." And so began the idea of CHOOSE TO CARE, finally I curled up and slept peacefully the rest of the way home.

That same night after unpacking, I wrote down my plans and just to let you know, giving birth was not an easy passage and I will save you all the labor pains; but with some pushing, CHOOSE TO CARE came to life. Now 3 years old, still in the toddler stage but growing by leaps and bounds. We have made connections with a number of organizations that assist children and young adults, who are in need. So whether it is for the young athletes who need good shoes on their feet while they hone their skills, or for the children who no longer have to hold their heads in shame and will not miss a day of school because they are now sporting a brand new pair of shoes; it is our honor to protect their feet. Not too long ago I had the great pleasure of watching two very poor young girls in Zambia with brightly lit faces, choose not only one but two pairs of shoes for themselves. This was their special treat.

So as we approach another year we will buy more pairs of shoes, we hope to put more smiles on the faces of the youth in need and to erase any doubts we may harbor that all things are possible. Thanks to all who have contributed to keep this organization viable from the embryonic to the toddler stages, you have been a wonderful cheerleader."

"My vision is clear.
My mind is set.
I have gotten this far
And there is no turning back."

All is well!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Mysterious One{Excerpt from the MENDACITY}

After a long pause from the usual fun loving activities that the villagers were used to,Caridad decided to cast off the 'mourning' and bring back the happy times. Through all of this Edra continued to strut her stuff. There is something to say about those who create discord and can live happily ever after. This was Edra, undisturbed by the rift she had caused, took herself out of this dismal picture and almost with a scorn wondered what is ailing us, as she goes about her business nonchalantly.

Here comes Edra, she was armed with boxes of her photos, singing at night clubs, community halls and weddings. Her small flier with bad spelling and bad grammar stated that she was available to perform for any occasion. But Caridad saw this as an opportunity to assist once more, maybe focusing on this talent would get her out of this rut she seemed to get herself in. Edra loved to be the center of attraction, she was a fierce competitor and shut down immediately if anyone seemed to be moving in on her spotlight.

The villagers were planning a social gathering where anyone could 'show us what you got.' This was right up Edra's alley and she began secretly to put her program together. We know this for sure because while everyone talked about their costumes, their dance steps and other plans, her lips were shuttered tight. Strange, they labeled this. Edra wore so many tags. Caridad also began to notice a splash of bright color in her clothing. The somber looking outfits were fast disappearing. Many thought that the long sleeves and polyester clothing in the midst of the summer heat were meant to draw attention to the Unique one, Edra. But this only drew more whispers and no one gave her the time of day, except Caridad; others giggled and made her the centerpiece of their conversation.

That's exactly what Edra wanted, the half smile, the tall tales became her way of operating. And through this a strange thing happened, Nubia and Sierra were drawn to this mysterious one; totally immersed in her stories even though they did not believe a word she uttered. These two villagers had their shady past also but were converts who had began to backslide when they started to keep company with Edra. The Mysterious one began to bring small tokens and trinkets as gifts to lure the villagers and once the bait had been set, she was able to reel in Nubia and Sierra. She had bought them out, they were intrigued by the imaginary life she portrayed and through the laughter and cunningness she continued to recruit.

Each of Edra's finger had a ring, a watch on each wrist. There were chains roped around her neck, some thick, some thin, all different lengths. The silver anklet hung from dry ankles and the broken down shoe with scoffed heels had seen better days but Edra was on display. This was her new thing, loads of jewelry, diamond studs in a eight-hole row alongside her ear lobe. What a spectacle she had become! Again,Caridad knew this was a cry for attention but the villagers just added this to their list of strange behaviors.

These villagers loved the excitement of celebrations, the connection they shared was further glued during these precious moments that they came together as if only this clan exist in the great wide world. This talent show had them revved up and ready for bursts of laughter. Those belly laughs were memorable as they watched their peers get down low and dirty. Caridad's mind strayed to Edra."What is the mysterious one planning for this much anticipated event?" She knows that if Edra did not win a prize, if all eyes were not focused on her, then she would act out her disappointment and bring sadness to the village.

Caridad was startled by the presence of Mercy who had returned for a visit. Everyone welcomed her and the cold reaction from Edra was expected. Mercy was cordial and as she caught up on all the happenings, Caridad knew she had to get the show on the road to avoid stirring up any bad feelings. For a long time there had not been such great fun but Mercy's presence had Edra seething, her eyes showed disapproval and Caridad knew that she was planning to do something unpleasant.

The villagers were chanting 'Edra, Edra' much to her delight. She walked in rapid pace, gyrating, swinging her hips, bobbing her head from left to right. She was stooped to the ground, her stares were directed to Mercy and seemed to say,"can you do this?" "No you can't!" "I am the star and I will never allow you to rain on my parade." She swung around with blood shot eyes and the trademark smirk on her face. She beckoned to her two posse and tried hard to engage the rest of the folks who were gaping at this pathetic scene. Some hid their faces too ashamed to look at this spectacle. Who is this mysterious woman? Caridad was certain of an unknown
past and she expected more trouble from the village braggart, another name they had put on her.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Come Join Our Community of Spirited Women Next Time Around.

Mary Ann's Tribeca Mexican moved away a few blocks but that did not stop us from hunting down the new location. We wanted to once more experience the great tasting food and free-spirited atmosphere. This gem of a restaurant is a perfect reason to get dolled up. It has been only three months since the members of the Women's Club met but everyone was greeting one another with excitement and glee, as if years had passed since we last met. This is what I am trying to tell you, the atmosphere at Mary Ann's allows that openness. We were loud, our smiles spread across our face from ear to ear. We called out the person's name as they entered, we ran over to hug another who had escaped us in all this merriment. It was as if the paparazzi was in town but no, it was the amateur photographers from our group, snapping away; bright lights shone from their cameras as they call out for someone, anyone to come over to pose for yet another photo.

The restaurant's other patrons were eyeing us with smiles pasted on their faces, the looks said, "may we join your fun loving group?" We talked at rapid speed, some worked the room, moving from table to table, meandering from end to end, bouncing into each other, until we finally settled down to allow the waitress to take our orders. Kudos to the brave soul who dressed up and modelled one of the dresses on display. I told the story of the big heart seamstress who was making these beautiful dresses for young girls in Zambia and Haiti. Thanks for the entertainment, you looked marvelous.

Our non-stop chatter was about everyday living. Among us were three retirees and three others who had flown the coop and had new employers but still wanted to hang with us. There were also new faces and of course the regulars, loyalists to the bone. The conversations became livelier, especially for those sipping liquor-infused drinks. From the looks of the empty plates, Mary Ann's had earned another stripe in the great tasting category.

Each time we meet I gain a greater appreciation for living, living with intentions. Tonight I got the genuine flavor of this gathering. Our small group of twenty-one showed sheer bliss. It was a small but mighty group, full of energy. But what was all this hoopla about? As we bid adieu, our restaurant jester, who may have taken a sip too many called for a monthly gathering, like she always does when she is 'high' on excitement. She even wanted dancing added. See you in three months my friends, by then you will be hungry again, rather starving for another girl's night out. I make no promises but I will see what I can do about us cutting a rug{dancing}.

The glow from our faces lit up the way as dusk began to fall. On the way home as my mind wanders, I couldn't help thinking why this gathering continues to gain momentum? Why the novelty has not yet worn out? Tonight we had laid down our worries, if only for a moment and brought sunshine into our lives. That's what the hoopla was about and I can still hear the chatter and the laughter even hours later.
Looking for the next cuisine, setting the next gathering date are done with doses of love for the women who warmly received the open invitations.
All is well!

"When We Have Shoes, We All Have Shoes, When We Have No Shoes, We have No Shoes Together"

When I read this quotation, I thought how befitting, this sets the tone perfectly for the Choose To Care Organization which provides shoes for underprivileged children at home and abroad. I know very well that this wise man is not referring to shoes. Anthony Mulongo to whom this quote is attributed is the founder of "Mudzini Kwetu", a home in distant Kenya, East Africa, for parent less young girls who are left on the streets to fend for themselves. I am also in awe of Thomas Keown, a man from Boston who founded "One Home Many Hopes" here in the USA to help Anthony Mulongo. I have followed their progress for over a year and I am amazed at their achievements. They are now laying the foundation for a new home to accommodate more parent less girls. One day I will appear on their doorsteps to offer my services. For now CHOOSE TO CARE Organization has gladly made connection with One Home Many Hopes/Mudzini Kwetu and has added them to our list of beneficiaries. Here is an updated list:

*Association Solidarite Chambellanaise, Brooklyn based/building an Elementary School in Haiti and other projects.

*Active Compassion Transforms(ACT), NY based/ supports the School of Hope in Cape Town, South Africa.

*Adults, Juvenile, Empowered(AJE), Miami based/ supports orphanage in Haiti.

*Anchovy Primary School,Jamaica, West Indies/supporting the very poorest children.

*Child Fund,USA based/shoes for children in Sri Lanka.

*Children International,USA based/shoes for sponsored children in Zambia

*Fiver Children's Foundation,NY based/mentoring program for disadvantaged children.

*Vineyard Ministries,Bronx based/youth Program.

Peace and Love!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Linda and her 'Mean" Machine

Linda called, all excited. She had just read in the Woman's Day magazine about a woman in Utah who after hearing about young girls in Zambia who were without clothing had decided to do something about it. She began to make dresses using a simple Tee shirt as the top and attaching a skirt in various styles. Soon after this story was publicized another group of women thought this was a great idea and formed a sewing club to make these simple dresses.

This is the power of word of mouth and this brings me back to Linda who was bursting at the seams, no pun intended as she related the story to me. Linda has introduced her game plan to her sewing group and word of this good deed has began to spread like wildfire in her neighborhood. Those whose fingers are not too nimble have donated tee shirts or a small token to purchase tee shirts. Others have made a few dresses once they had gotten the gist of this simple pattern.

I have seen the dresses and I am amazed at the beauty of these styles. Some of the dresses are made with pleats, some are gored. There are those for casual wear and others for a dressier occasion. She has pledged to make one hundred dresses for the Utah group and they will be responsible for shipping the goods to Zambia.

Opportunities to volunteer are everywhere. Linda bubbles over with excitement when she talks about the ease and pleasure she gets from cutting and stitching. This on top of all her other volunteer demands. She never seem to tire. I went shopping with Linda to pick up some more tee shirts from the discount store. Her "little dress shop" a back-room in her house, was neatly packed with tee shirts and scraps of materials that will turn this ordinary top into a thing of beauty.

She told me that her neighbor asked,"what about Haiti?" and without missing a beat she made a promise to sew for them too. The sewing machine will be working overtime but Linda will whip up these dresses at the bat of an eye. The group who started this has invited Linda to their big charity celebration in the upcoming year but she is too humble to participate in such activities. My friend told me she would pay her to make a dress for her grandaughter and I told her that this request is on the house. Linda is my mother and she does not charge for her kindness.

All is well!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Furor in the Village{Excerpt from the Mendacity} by BRAWTA

The villagers were not going to tolerate this anymore, this woman had landed on their doorstep and had caused more trouble than she was worth. They demanded that Caridad, the overseer fixed this new dispute or else they were forced to take sides. Caridad appealed to the clan but discussion after discussion would not appease them. This time Edra had gone too far, she had threatened a fellow villager and denied that this ever took place. Words of disgust rolled off their tongues when they described Edra and her malicious ways. The village reeked with hatred. The once lively place had unhappiness dwelling in it's midst. Caridad was disappointed that they would not give any more chances to Edra but she respected their decisions.

Edra was a dismal picture, a half smile was forever pasted on her face. "Good, it seemed to say, I have put you in your places, now let's see how Caridad is going to fix this?" Caridad knew that if she abandoned her, Edra would sink into a deeper depression and cast a worst shadow over the village than she had already done. What is the solution? It is as if the goddess of Joy had deserted them and in it's place Lucifer had cast a spell commanding evil, calling for darkness, removing laughter.

Caridad, not one to take defeat knew that there must be some way out of this mess. She sized up the situation, decided she would deal with the clan much later, right now Edra was the danger she had to pay closer attention to. What would be her next move? No one had enough eyes to watch her, all they knew was that she was not good news and they were keeping their distance. Caridad had a long talk with Edra, her dull appearance, fierce bloodshot eyes frightened her but she refused to show fear. What did this woman want? Why was she bent on destroying all goodness? Where did this darkness come from?

Caridad listened to stories of her family, a mother who had died when she was young, shot by an unknown perpetrator. She described a house full of siblings, aunts and uncles who thought their children were of a better and more wholesome stock. Caridad found so many holes in these intriguing stories and she asked only a few questions because Edra began to slur her words, move around uneasily and peppered each sentence with "you know", "It's like", "That's what I am talking about." whenever Caridad added some sympathy to her long and doubtful tales. Fearing that she would make things worse, she kept her doubts to herself and allowed Edra to spin stories after stories which were weaved with lies and drama.

Caridad knew that Faith can do miracles but how do you talk about the Divine One, the mercy of the Father, The Forgiving one? How do you introduce such language to someone who took her lessons from the street and according to her have participated in numerous unpleasant and dangerous experiences. She told the story of her sideline as a dancer, She danced in many community events and was looking to become a budding star. As she began to get gigs she saw hope but in this business she quickly learned there are cut throats. When someone else received a job with a big band, she was angry that she lost out on what she thought would be a chance to launch her career. She lashed out at the dashing recruiter with whom she claimed she was having an affair. Once she realized he had eyes for this other person, she reported the affair to the Authorities because she was just sixteen years old. Before long the recruiter had a mental breakdown and had to leave town.

This story would remain etched in Caridad's mind and she knew that this woman had unfinished business to take care of, she needed deeper consultation. Caridad knew that beyond that tough exterior was a child-like manner that made you feel pity but Caridad also knew that wickedness was lurking just around the corner and would pounce on you at any given moment. Right now Caridad knew she was handcuffed to this sordid mess and it would be a long time before the key would be found to unlock this tight hold.

Caridad dismissed Edra and remained alone to take in the day's event, Her mind began to wander and for a fleeting moment the thought of dropping Edra like a hot cake came to her. This would ease her trouble and bring the village back to vibrancy. She knew this was wishful thinking. She had long felt this call to her life to give a helping hand and although sometimes the call is not easy she never allowed that to get in her way. Helping the downtrodden is a throwback to the way Caridad was raised. Her Granny Maudeline was always ready to help those in need including Caridad's friends. This explains Caridad's link to Edra.

Thursday, August 5, 2010


The sparkle of my journey of faith to Zambia has not faded although it has been some time now. After returning from that awesome visit with Margaret and Elizabeth, the two teenagers whom I sponsor through Children International, I wrote and thanked them for allowing me in their lives and for the wonderful experience I had on our various excursions. I waited anxiously for their reply."Wait a minute Mr. Postman, look and see if there's a letter in your bag for me?"

Their letter was short and sweet. In their child-like handwriting, they wrote of the happiness they felt on seeing me and that they were wearing their new clothing to school. "I remember what you told me about doing my best in school and I am studying very hard." Elizabeth wrote. I am glad she has began to heed my advice, because only through education will they have a chance to a better life.

Mr. Postman flooded my mailbox with a very important letter from Ecuador where another of my sponsored child lives. The news is also exciting, my sponsored child will be graduating from High School and I see another journey in the works. This time I hope to witness a young man prepare to meet the big wide world.

So when people ask me why I give, my response is always that this simple act has touched the most important aspects of my life; faith, family and education. I give because it provides an opportunity for those in great need to have a constant means of support in our uncertain world. After all Today's teenagers will be tomorrow's adults.
All is well!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Fallen Masks:Excerpt from the Mendacity by BRAWTA

Crestfallen and petrified, Mercy Palomino came running through the door to get Caridad, screaming that Edra had threatened her. In a rage she had wanted to attack her but Mercy ran away to get help. Caridad always knew it would come to this, she had seen it brewing. Caridad and Mercy had a close connection and that did not sit well with Edra. Although everyone, even if some were reluctant, had reached out to Edra, that was not enough. It seemed as if when things were serene, it was a clue for her to stir up trouble. Caridad had no choice but to take disciplinary actions, it had passed time to think this would go away. Edra was foaming at the mouth with anger,her eyes were bulging and she spewed out words so mumbled that you would need an interpreter to understand. But Caridad recognised this ploy, Edra had used it many times before, when she was caught in the wrong. The fast talking and gibberish was meant to throw off any blame from coming her way. Mercy was equally angry but looked rather frightened and took this attempted attack very seriously.

That evening a division became evident, never to be mended again and when Mercy left the village for good, shortly after this unfortunate incident, Caridad was saddened by this disruption that tore them apart. One by one the masks began to crack from the other villagers and a full blown war of words erupted. No discussions, no mediation could quell this blow out and Caridad threw up her hands at this shouting match, this radical shift.

It got so bad that many of the villagers would not walk down the same street with Edra, they took a different path. From the get go they had wanted to go the opposite direction, away from Edra but gave in to Caridad's call for solidarity. There were no words of joy spoken at the lunch room, lunches were no longer shared even the village jester had dried up. They continued to celebrate birthdays but there were no more outings and this went on for about two more years.

The black cloud came back with vengeance, the melancholy mood set in again with Edra and Caridad had her hands even fuller. This day the masks began to shatter and the villagers sighed a relief,they had named her a persona non-Grata, their faces now say and they no longer had to wear a mask. There goes that half smile again, Caridad knew what that meant, once again she had brought sadness to the village and this time she had managed to drive one of the dwellers out. She was so full of herself that she had totally ignored the fact that Mercy had left to start a new life as she had planned.

Edra could not stand this silent treatment although she had caused this on herself, she pointed fingers and laid the blame elsewhere. She even turned on Caridad, the only person who gave her the time of day, not because she deserved it but because of her warm heart. How could she abandon this dweller as diabolic as she was? But Edra continued to fight against Caridad with her few posse, visitors to the village and her family members. Edra's campaign was meant to tear down Caridad and although her spirit felt broken for the moment she was not about to let this nincompoop trip her up. But was it too late? She left the broken masks as they were. She would no longer persuade the villagers to do what they were not feeling. She on the other hand would not give up, she did not think it was impossible to live peacefully together. This riptide she knew would go away, only a matter of time. Some called her a wishful thinker, a mender of souls but in all of this she held her head high. The erect posture meant she had some serious business to take care of to mend this village. The written reprimand handed to Edra shattered the last remaing masks, that of Caridad which had to be taken off to help her get a handle on this very serious crisis that had become an albatross around her neck.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Gaining A Foothold:Excerpt from the Mendacity by BRAWTA

Months had passed that left them weary, but Edra was now participating in more activities. She was an early riser in the village and although Caridad sensed danger, she translated that into a positive sign. By now Edra had began to gather her posse. Many mornings she could be found lurking around the corner with the cleaning man. Her laughter was thunderous and she was always whispering and playing the cat and mouse game, watching for Caridad or other villagers. This was a different Edra, the villagers began to gossip about what they called strange behavior but Caridad would not entertain any of this, she did not mind hearing her laugh. They had suffered for months through black clouds and finally the sun was peeping through.

Caridad did not want to show that she was not comfortable with this change, she had a weak feeling in her stomach every time she came up on her rendezvous. By now her entourage had grown to include the handyman and a flock of women who all looked like trouble, in other words cut from the same cloth like her. Soon some of the women who came for service in the village community began to ask for Edra by name. They all fit the same profile, meanspirited, loud and sassy. Bad karma, the villagers called their presence. Whenever they arrived it was as if the village was filled with toxic fumes, they were ready to provide service to these troubled souls so they could leave and take their bad spirits with them. Edra was gaining a foothold, she finagled herself into the life of one of the villagers and together they began a menacing act, throwing seeds and disrupting our sacred ground, now she had company to help perform her bad deeds.

Many were lukewarm but she was getting there, some human beings are easily pulled in, if you keep working on them. She began to tell tales, they were flowery and full of holes and almost everyone was more leery of this new act. The melancholy look was turning into burst of laughter, the villagers did not know which was worst. They continued to make merry, each month as they celebrated each persons milestone, a birthday, a new birth,nothing was off limit to have a joyous time. They were back in business, the village felt like before and so they began to relax but Caridad never closed her eyes on Edra. She knew it would only be a matter of time that this new found personality would revert to the old self. Caridad had seen the mood swings.

Nevertheless Caridad began to plan activities for the village. One such fun time was creating fabled characters much like the Aesop tales that she grew up reading and enjoyed so much. Although Caridad was not an artist, she was able to sketch the inhabitants of this idyllic village.For example, there was the everready battery for the staff who was always willing and ready to go the extra mile; for the suave persons, the profile was portrayed as movement slowly carried by the wind. Caridad drew an eye and a reflection in a pool of water for Edra who would constantly look in the mirror. The buddies had a jolly good time identifying themselves. Between the outings, the birthday cakes and meals fit for queens and kings, they certainly had a whopping good time. They worked hard but never forgot to live.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Flashes Of Hope:Excerpt from the Mendacity by BRAWTA

Caridad sat down with Edra to see if she could get to the bottom of this turmoil. For the month since she arrived, she had turned the place upside down. Caridad was uncomfortable broaching this subject but knew this had to be done. She fumbled awkwardly and began with extending an invitation to an upcoming after work get together. As much as she wished that she could side step the many issues, Caridad knew this was the moment. The villagers were buzzing about Edra's unkempt look. Foul smells were attributed to her, some held their noses, others disappeared as soon as Edra entered their space. Caridad had brought in deodorant, body wash and cream, to keep the odor down and the dry skin away. She knew it would be difficult to explain such gifts but she would give it a try. Edra took Caridad by surprise, she thanked her and said she was happy she brought this concern to her. Caridad knew this was too easy and expected some repercussion. Caridad shivered at the half smile that broke out on Edra's face.
She must have spent the night getting a new hairdo because the next day her hair was neatly styled, every strand in place, a far cry from the days past when pieces of weave were found in the hallway, bathroom or anywhere Edra had visited for the day.

The villagers were coming around, they were still faced with a rebel but nevertheless a cleaner rebel who smiled more often, who had began to have civil conversations. One day when they were all sitting down at lunch, which happened rarely now; the stand-up comic of the village cracked a joke and Edra began laughing. Her laugh continued when everyone else's had ended. The group stared away and Caridad felt uneasy. They wanted laughter but this did not feel right. They let this slide like so many things because they were banking on change. They wanted to be as cohesive they were before so that they were willing to savor flashes of hope.

By now they had extended their celebrations to include birthdays, the entrance of a new addition to our world and tying the knot. As if that was not enough, they had laid claims on the families of the villagers and if one of the children did well in school, it was a reason to bring out the drums. They knew little of Edra, everything was shrouded in secret and when she did speak and they compared notes, nothing seemed to match,everyone had a different version. "Who is this among us?" Caridad began to wonder. The mysterious one lies through her teeth. "Liar, liar, pants on fire" she thought she heard voices chanting. Caridad dismissed this but knew for sure that she would not give up, she believed in giving everyone a chance, she believed that some good can come out of this. This was a troubled soul, calling out for help and although they were not Social Workers, they collectively had a lot of love and caring to give.

Caridad truly believed that if they continued to nurture, paid attention and showed this person that she is loved, that a miracle will happen. It was hard work, straightening out every misunderstandings, pushing her suspicions aside that people were talking about her, giving individual attention so she would not feel left out. This certainly took a toll on them, but Caridad counted the crack of a smile coming from Edra as a blessing.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Black Clouds(Excerpts from THE MENDACITY)

As the story goes, right after talking to the boss, Edra began rolling on the ground, groaning and howling. The people around her were amazed at this outburst. "What could have brought this on?" they asked. Some bad news, they thought! Edra was out of control, how long would this go on? The crowd of on-lookers were shaking their head. "She is hallucinating," one cried out. The staff was nervous and knew that they had to act fast;just then the second call came in. It was the boss again. After some cajoling, Edra came to the 'phone. Suddenly the moaning stopped, she stood straight as an arrow,she would get to stay on the job for now but she needed to do what is right. She would be transported somewhere else. The grimace on her face was replaced by a forced smile,"I have pulled this off again" her look seemed to say.

Edra landed in this idyllic village, this was where she was given a second chance. The inhabitants were hardworkers with contentment written all over their faces. In this community of workers merriment was the order of the day. Each morning as they gathered to start the day's work, it is as if the sun came along to brighten their days. As they went about their activities, caring for the folks of the community, they were planning their next outing. It was as if they could not get enough of each other.

Edra stood by the door murmuring under her breath. This was not a good sign, they immediately saw black clouds as the sunshine seem to disappear. The look on her face was one of evil and sadness combined, a melancholy glare. Caridad James the overseer of this charistmatic group, knew that she would not allow anyone to destroy their happy 'home. She had experience with naysayers, ball busters,pretenders and that bunch of troublemakers. At this moment she began to reflect on the brood she manages and remembered a few dissidents.

Take Agata, she puts up a fight for any change. She was so used to upsetting the barrel that it took her a long time to recognize even when the change was beneficial to her.
Leonardo kept the bible close by, it was tattered giving you the impression that this was his regular storybook. Yet he was cunning, conniving at first but gradually came along for a peaceful ride with the rest of the gang.
Let's not forget Charmaine, a complainer who had every ailment you could think of. She kept a medical book nearby, willing to try any new remedy at the drop of a hat. This was so out of control that something had to be done to quell this distraction. Finally, no one paid any attention to the stories of these various illnesses and the complaints all but vanished. So Caridad had no doubt that this newcomer could be straightened out in no time, at least that's what she thought.

Caridad introduced herself and the rest of the staff and knew right away that this one would be a challenge. She thought she had seen it all but even the repenters shook their heads, vowing to stay their distance. There was trouble brewing in paradise, sunshine was replaced with black clouds, they were forever putting out fires and Edra was in the midst of this chaos that had overtaken the village. They had allowed bad spirit to creep in and now they must fight to get back the joy that once flowed in their path. Caridad called a meeting with a few of the long time residents, including Agata, Leonardo and Charmaine, she wanted to bring Edra into the foal and needed some assistance. They were resistant but Caridad reminded them of their beginning and their turnaround. The truth is that they now seemed like saints compared to the daily disruptions that they were now experiencing from Edra. The group relented and made it easier for Caridad to bring the plan to the rest of the folks.

Friday, June 11, 2010


Travel to Africa demands an open mind, I told my friend who had a difficult time understanding this journey of mine. This time, this trek will lead to Zambia where I will meet Elizabeth and Margaret, two preteen girls who I know only from photos and letters. The arrangements for the visit were made through Children International the U.S.A. based organization that provides for their well-being. I called the Headquarters in Kansas City a few days before my departure to assure them that I was making the trip and they assured me that the folks at the Children International Headquarters in Zambia would be expecting me. I came armed with contact numbers, rules and regulations from the organization and of course the latest photos of Elizabeth and Margaret.

When I made contact the sound from the voice on the other end said "ready, set, go" Oh ye of little faith I thought, after months of communication via E-mails, why wouldn't everything be in place? It was the beginning of winter in Zambia and the sun was playing hide and seek but the warmth of the smiles from the group who greeted me soon let me forget the chill in the air. As I went on my guided tour, I began to learn each persons role at the Headquarters and they welcomed me and marveled at my philanthrophic spirit. Their extended open arms meant a lot but I quickly downplayed the small role I am playing in these two young girls' lives and wanted them to know that I have made it my duty to make a difference in the lives of as many children as I possible can.

The road to Kanyama was paved with potholes of anxiety, and happiness all rolled in one. The bumpy road did not seem to bother the driver or the guide who were transporting us to the Children International Center where I would first meet Elizabeth. Another round of introduction and tour of the Center was the order of the day. The center was packed with children and adults and alive with activities. I later learned that some of the parents of the children who are lucky to be counted as members of this center, do volunteer to help out in various areas, making it a real community affair. We entered a classroom and a group of boys and girls greeted us in unison "Good afternoon and welcome, we are glad to meet you," they screamed with joy. We thanked them, listened to them rattle off the alphabet, pronounced big words and I watched their smiles lit up the room. As we departed and the door closed behind us, I could still hear their infectious laughter, even in the midst of such poverty. These were very young kids being prepared by their teacher to enter the very few community or public schools that exist. In the midst of all this excitement, Elizabeth, her mother and baby sister were patiently waiting to meet me. I had passed her on the way in without noticing her presence in the sea of faces but at this formal introduction, she became familiar. I pulled out the photo I was carrying with me and she shyly smiled. After a little chitchat and lots of smiles, we started out to the township where the family lives. Realizing the distance Elizabeth had to walk to get to the Center, my stomach was in knots. Her feet were the only means of transportation, yet this young girl has the fortitude to regularly attend the Center's program.

After we entered the road leading to the family's home, the whole neighborhood came out to see us, adults and children peered around corners. A group of young children were chanting "Bazungu" meaning "White people" the guide explained that they were only used to seeing "Bazungu" on these missions. I am sure others will come when they can. The space was tight but they welcomed us in their humble home. I sat on a tiny stool, the only seat in the house, everyone else stood. I gave the gifts I had brought, games, books, clothes, sweets, etc. Elizabeth and her family were delighted,a skipping rope and a colorful skirt received wide grins. Then we were on our way to meet Margaret and her family who were in another Center located in Chibolya, which was certainly not around the corner.

As we traveled on more bumpy roads, I glanced back at the quiet young girl in the back and wondered about her future. At this Center we repeated the activities as before, tour of Center, introduction to staff, volunteers and children. This time I was prepared, I knew the drill and I instantly picked Margaret out of the crowd. We chatted for a while, smiled a lot and then headed for their house. Along the way they proudly pointed out the school she attends. We came to a halt in the road as the van, our transportation, struggled to mount the rocky road. We advised the driver to stop and we left Elizabeth, her family and the driver waiting in the van, while we walked the rest of the way to Margaret and her family's abode. We didn't want to chance having the vehicle conked out on us.

This time we were greeted by Margaret's uncle and cousins. You see, Margaret's mother died a few years ago and her mother's sister, her aunt went to the village, where they lived to get her and raise her on what little she has for her household. Her aunt's husband, her uncle, proudly told us that he built this concrete house after he retired. The house albeit small had the luxury of electricity which is so rare in these areas. Again, I disbursed the gifts, chitchat and as per the organization's regulation, a family member must be present with us, so Margaret's 20 year old cousin joined us the rest of the way. Margaret's aunt had been out for many hours already and must stay home to prepare the family's meal.

The plan consisted of having lunch and then going on a shopping spree. Our group had swollen to two guides, Gladys and Melody, Elizabeth and her baby sister cozily strapped to her mother, Margaret and her cousin, my traveling companion and me and of course the driver. This was the families' first outing to a shopping center and on the recommendation of Gladys and Melody, we made ourselves comfortable at a restaurant called Steer, which had a menu with various choices. We ate and the guides prodded the girls to talk, after all they told them,"do you know how far they came from to see you?" The parents said the girls did not sleep all night, they tossed and turned, full of anxiety. While we ate, I took the opportunity to advice them to stick to the program at the Centers. I encouraged them to study hard, keep learning, never to give up. Dream big I continued because all things are possible. Will my words take root in their young minds? Only time will tell.

Shopping was fun, I gave them a budget and the freedom to choose the clothing that meet their fancy, watching them brought excitement for all of us. The guides were snapping away, they wanted to capture every moment. I wanted to make sure their feet were protected in sturdy walking shoes, after all they walked everywhere, far and near on perilous terrain.One of the girls picked out a strong looking pair of school shoes, the other a more dressy selection. I like that they have a style of their own and my concern for a sensible selection seemed not to matter right now. They chose the pairs of shoes they liked.

When we parted company, I had time to reflect on the day's journey. Here I am in the warm heart of Africa, I am convinced it is in their DNA to be naturally friendly. Our trusted guardians, Gladys and Melody did a fantastic job. The driver took to the hazardous roads with confidence and took us safely from town to town. The children were quietly absorbing this day, their tell tale faces showed happiness. The parents were exuberant and wished us God's blessing. Before I left for Zambia, I asked and answered the question:"What will I say to two young girls?"(See blog of 5/16/10). I came, I saw and I felt contented but listen up, more stuff to tell them.
Margaret, Elizabeth, you should trust life to take you as far as you want to go.
I have pledged to coddle you through the hard times you certainly face.
But never forget there is always HOPE.

The day's event opened up my soul even further, my soul was filled to bursting. That night I slept like a dead person,already I miss engaging in colorful conversations with the locals, but I'll be back. You just wait and see!

"I have always known that at last
I would take this road,but yesterday
I did not know it would be today."
Ninth Century Japanese Poet,
Akiro No Narihara

All Is Well!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Ready to Try Something New?

The advertisement asked if we were ready to try something new. We headed to Sripraphai Thai Restaurant on 4/23/10, on the recommendation of a colleague who had high praises for the delicious food and the moderate prices. The turnout was great, new faces graced our tables. So many choices. "Ask for mild-flavored" was the advice, because even then you have to be able to stand the heat. Some of our fearless sisters took the full potion of spices because they love peppery dishes.

It was an evening also peppered with joy and laughter. This was our stolen moment. A time when we took a break for a girls night out, that was so pined after. It was a time to discover the taste of pad-thai and massaman and other mouth-watering dishes.

After dinner we lingered a while, then said our goodbyes. And I heard them say "when and where is the next evening out?" So our getting together is not yet stale, as a matter of fact it has become a necessity. So I am searching for our next cuisine, simple and sophisticated meals from around the world. And I am asking anyone with delicious tips to pass it on.

Enjoy your summer and see you in July!

Peace and Love

Sunday, May 16, 2010

What will I say to two young girls???

The time is drawing nearer and although this journey is constantly on my mind, a few personal setbacks placed my planning on the back burner. But now that my mind is clearer, my thoughts are back to my preparation to meet these two preteens who reside miles away and are also I guess anticipating my visit.

For starter, I have began to learn a few words in their language. That always break the ice and quite often produces a wide smile. This is what I do in my workplace, greet someone in their native language and it can magically put them at ease.

I am also thinking that I will talk about LOVE. I will assure them that they are loved and although it does not take away the actual rigors of their lives, love will certainly make it more manageable.

I will talk about NEVER giving up but working hard.

I will say, enjoy your family, Love your family, treasure your family, they are your most valuable commodities.(I will have to translate that big word)

As Martin Luther King, JR. said "Take the first step in Faith. You don't have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step." And that's what I will do in a couple weeks when I head off to this distant land.

Two very poor kids have been given the chance through Children International to have a brighter future. Two very poor kids that I am now connected to when I became their sponsor, a small act that allows them to have a nutritious meal, new clothing, medicine, education and a glimpse into a normal childhood. These are two very poor kids that I will now pay a visit, to tell them how much I care about their well-being, that I want them to get the most out of life.

Will these two young girls understand these messages, even if I could deliver them in their own language? So do I prepare a written speech or greet them with open arms and let my caring shine through? I think I will rely on my warm heart for guidance and that's the language we will all speak and understand.

We will go to the village to see where they call home and meet the family, whoever they are. We will have an outing to a fun place of their choice, a make a wish if you please. We will go shopping for shoes and other necessities and we will laugh those belly laughs that comes from deep down in our souls. And for a moment we will cast aside life's storms. I will say "Ndine okondwera," which translates, "I am glad to be part of your life."

I have already warned my travel companion to bring with him lots of patience, understanding, caring and love because these are the main ingredients for a journey of this sort. Travel through Africa demands an open mind. And if I may add, you also need faith. I have faith that this will all work out. Stay tune for my leap of faith to Lusaka, Zambia.

Peace and Love!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

I am Making My List and Checking It Twice

It is coming down to the wire! The departure dates have been decided upon and we are ironing out other details. If you have been keeping up with me then you should know that this journey will take me to a distant land to visit two young girls that I have been assisting through Children International to get the basic but so very essential needs such as clothing,medical check-up, maybe the only substantial meal of the day, schooling and after-school activities. This is a safe haven for these underprivileged children and it is hoped that this will be a stepping stone for a better future.

So now I am having some serious talk with the goddess of Travel Protection "you are going where?" she asked. The time is drawing nearer and I am making preparations ahead so I logged into my children International account to get an update on their hobbies,etc. The two young girls both like to color, love playing outdoors,dancing, drawing and playing with dolls. They also love math, reading and science. A very impressive and balanced resume I must say.

With That I began to make my List, skipping ropes, jacks(who remembers this?),picture books, crayons .... I have been looking for the perfect doll but everyone tells me it is not the season, they are plentiful during the holidays,(the things you discover) but I am still looking. Shopping, selecting just the right gift is a lot of fun but here comes the question "What will I say to two young girls who do not speak my language?" My connection are the letters we have written to each other over the years that mainly tell me about playtime and school. But the goddess of Travel Protection reminded me that I have been preparing for this for many years. In my line of work I am constantly dealing with people who do not speak the same language as I do. The magic of a smile is a big boost.

I have received from Children International a list of Do's and Dont's. They are great guidelines to prevent any faux pas. Again the goddess of Travel Protection chimed in to put me at ease. I have dealt with many cultures so that ingrained in me is the ability to be culturally sensitive at all times, another lifelong learning that will prove helpful on this journey. I am learning a few words just like I do at work when I meet someone who speaks another language. This always make the person comfortable. My travel companion and I will be escorted by staff and family members at all times, safety issues I reckon. I fully understand this because I am coming from a security-driven environment where the identity of the families we serve are to be safeguarded by all means.

Now that I have these essentials under my belt, I should not have any trouble enjoying this long awaited journey. There are gifts, clothing, language, rules of conduct, tickets, passport, etc, etc. I am making my list and checking it twice.

So Long!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

About To Make It Happen

Dear Family & Friends,

On the top of my wish list for many years is the line: I would like to get the opportunity to visit the children I sponsor through the Children International and Child Fund organizations. Finally I am planning to take a 'bite' out of that wish list. I have been busy planning a trip to Zambia where I sponsor two beautiful children, Margret and Elizabeth. While I am there I would like to provide shoes for the many young underprivileged children who benefit from the services at the Children International Center. They receive medical benefits, they participate in after school activities,they are provided with decent clothing, among other things. There they are fed what may be their most substantial or only meal for the day.
In these hard economic times with so many who have so little, any
amount donated will be used to brighten their lives and is greatly appreciated. CHOOSING TO CARE reigns as my mantra! More updates coming your way.

Thank you.

Saturday, March 6, 2010


"How wonderful it is that nobody
need wait a single moment before starting
to improve the world."
Anne Frank

I keep my TO DO LIST very long, it is constantly updated, the accomplishments are crossed out with a big smile and another activity is added; so my list is eternal. I even go a step further and add a travel section. I get a lot of pleasure planning for the parts of the world I would like to see, always thinking it will happen, just when, remains the question. The lure to where I step foot is a mixed bag of reasons and includes:

To see a colleague's homeland
To take in the scenic beauty
Just for relaxation

Lately, I have added missionary work. Although I have always done a little of this on every outing, it has never been official. Now I am ready to go on what I consider an important journey. I am a sponsor of 5 beautiful underprivileged children through Children International and one child through Child Fund. These are two United States established organizations that work in various countries to give these children a fighting chance in this difficult world. These organizations have built centers in various countries to accomodate these children, giving them a safe place to go to receive medical benefits, enjoy a meal which may be the only real one for the day, get clothing, books and help with schooling and participate in extracurricular activities. This will cost a sponsor twenty-two to twenty-eight dollars{$22-$28}. For more information, visit:

So now I read from my list, it says "Plan to visit all the countries of your sponsored children" They are scattered, from Zambia, Honduras, Ecuador, India to Arkansas, USA. How will I choose where to go? This time I am heading to Lusaka, Zambia. I have researched the distant land and came up with 'impoverished' which is of no surprise. I am drawn to this poverty stricken land, where I am sure to find gem; this is where two of my sponsored children call home. I have contacted Children International and I am making plans for my visit, which I hope will bring small moments of kindness and goodness in a harsh world. As time draws nearer I will update you!

So Long,
Peace & Love!

Sunday, February 28, 2010


"When spider webs unite,they can tie up a lion"
Ethiopian Proverb

A few months ago I was "hanging with the mentees",Lee-Anne and Mishqa, two lovely young ladies from the School of Hope, Cape Town, South Africa. They were my charge for the day and were part of a group of mentees sponsored to visit New York City. I took them to see the work world of my co-workers. Today, I have listened to Lee-Anne talk about her experience growing up in South Africa, she remained in NYC for a while longer speaking to others and spreading the word about the wonderful job the ACT organization does and the many ways she has benefited from this ACT of kindness. At this luncheon, planned to drum up support, we listened to Lee-Anne's words of praise, laced with gratitude for this vital organization that has given her a fresh perspective on life. She has entered through new doors and is now ready to take the plunge to a new journey.

Much praise was given to the ACT team and to the extraordinary human Erika, who has just returned from a month's long visit to the School of Hope, Cape Town; where she began the challenging job of putting together yet another group of mentees. She is on a mission to bring change to the lives of these youngsters. Her fearlessness and calm demeanor are admirable. Her connection with the youth of Cape Town, South Africa,priceless.

I came away knowing that there is so much more to be done. I know for sure if we band together the possibilities are endless albeit the challenges. So long Lee-Anne,you are returning home a changed person, keep going, I will be checking on you. BAIE DANKIE for your confidence and pluck! Thanks for the gathering, it was nice to see the folks from whom HOPE springs. The food was delicious too.
I invite you readers to be part of this ACTion. To find out more, visit the

Peace & Love

Friday, February 5, 2010

The Promise of the Future

I picked up the'phone and carefully checked my list, careful not to leave out anyone of my dear friends from Beloved Haiti. I am concerned and wanted to know what fate had brought them. Some fared better than others, a sigh of relief when the news was good. I allowed the tears to roll shamelessly, staining my face as I watched the gruesome images flashed across the television screen. Sometimes I grimaced at the sight of blood or the limp bodies strewn among rubbles.

I felt like the Town Crier, even though there could not be a soul alive who had not heard of this disaster. But I felt the urge to check on my neighbors, expressing solidarity, telling them to forge on because better days are coming.

I really want to believe that the future holds great things for the country I only know and love through association. Made an honorary citizen by my closest and dearest friends, I have listened to stories upon stories; learned of the beautiful mountains, swayed and rocked to Tabou Combo, Sweet Mikey, New Look and other outstanding musical groups. Sometimes I crave for jhon jhon,legumes, bouillon and so many more delicious dishes. Artwork grace my walls, made by the skillful hands of a Haitian Citizen who may no longer exist. I had become acclimatized to the Haitian way of life, so much so, that the names of towns roll off my tongue. The familiarity of things Haiti, had rubbed off on me. BEAUTIFUL HAITI, this pain and anguish will go away. We will band together to build back what mother nature has destroyed.

So when I say SAK PASE HAITI? {How are you?} I hear fearless and strong responses:
NOUS SOMMES BIEN, MERCI {We are fine, thank you} Right now we are BROKEN, but slowly and surely we will MEND. That's the spirit! Better Days will come! Haiti will get a second life! We will never lose HOPE!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Digging Our Feet In Deep

"There can be hope only
for a society which
acts as one big family,
not as many separate ones."

As we ushered in the new year and ignoring the winter blahs, the Women's club met at Deans, a SoHo neighborhood restaurant to chow down some Italian cuisine. We welcomed the new faces and thanked both old and newcomers for joining our soiree. The house music was up loud, bent on drowing out our conversations but was no match for us, we needed to have a voice, we needed to be heard. After placing our order, the Manager played our tune:CELEBRATE! by KoolAnd the Gang as an interlude to emphasize the reason for our gathering; to celebrate ourselves.

Tonight our thoughts turned to many of our co-workers who are faced with the arduous job of caring for loved ones who are under the weather. Our concerns turned to Haiti's disaster and an on-looker, another diner at a nearby table, chimed in to cheer us on as we send goodwill to the Haitian people.

I shared the adventure we had in the past week with 2 visiting students from Cape Town, South Africa. The folks at the Ridgewood Center did a fantastic job in showcasing their stuff. My celebration today, was centered around an organization called, ACTION COMPASSION TRANSFORMS,(ACT) for short which sponsored these amazing children, giving them HOPE. Read all about it on my blog titled:"Hanging with the Mentees." This act of kindness has brought such joy.

The food was pleasing to the palate. The crusty bread dipped into the flavored olive oil said,"here's to your health." The cuisine was delicious to the last drop, there were many a clean plates and no complaints. They have earned their stripes!

We made the rounds to greet each other, lingering to chitchat and play catch-up. Choose TO Care is opened to new ideas, bursting with the enrgy of renewal. We are deeply committed. We are in a revved up state of mind to give HOPE where we can, again and again because the dividends on our investment when we give of ourselves is tremendous, just out of this world. Thanks to all who think CHOOSE TO CARE is worthy of their time. The goals we set for the new year is merely to improve upon what we did last year and continue to strive to make this a better world for us all.

We gave a nod to our next get together and as we stepped out into the night, I could only hope that each and everyone of us will reflect on our purpose and celebrate our remarkable journey, even when there are roadblocks. Together we will go far.


Friday, January 15, 2010

Hanging with the Mentees

"Hope sees the invisible,
feels the intangible and
achieves the possible"

The Mentees are here, the Mentees are here reads Erika's E-Mail. You could not help but hear the excitement pouring through. I have followed the journey of these courageous students by viewing the website,www.Active Compassion and through E-Mail updates from Erika, the Executive Director of this progressive organization, so aptly titled, Active Compassion Transforms, ACT for short. With hard work and dedication, the ACT team was able to bring 10 students fro the School of Hoope, in Cape Town, South Africa; who were given a chance through the kindness of the ACT team and others who are giving them hope in their young lives.

On this incredible trip, the mentees would meet their Mentors who had spent months through interACT, a secure online mentoring program, getting to know each other, listening to the heartbreaks of these wonderful children. They spent time building a relationship and the mentors guided them in the right direction. These dedicated souls were living up to ACT's mission which invites you to take action, to have compassion and such acts will certainly lead to transformation. The students were also paired with individuals who were established in fields that piqued the mentees interest and they spent time shadowing and learning the ropes of their careers they hope to pursue. Having fun in the big apple was part of this amazing journey.

My two charges were Mishqa and Lee-Anne who are interested in Social Work and Child Care. I took them to a WIC center and all the staff got involved in showcasing our work world. They were given a brief history of WIC and then stopped at each work 'station' to learn more about the daily activites. We were entertained by a video of past events while getting ready for the day's get together. Lee-Anne and Mishqa donned gloves and aprons, chopped and stirred, adding their culinary skills to the preparation of the kale and bean soup. The Nutritionists gave their good for you blessings as we dived in to this delicious soup made by the hands of those who cared. Good to the last drop!

Everyone was in step as we moved to the beat, challenging our limbs and having fun. Lunch was a spread of yucca, rice and beans, chicken, plantains and green salad with avocado, washed down with orange juice or water.

We walked through the neighborhood, pointing out places of interest and walking off the hearty meal that seemed to have stuck to our ribs. We romped a little, posing for photos on sidewalk benches. When we returned to the WIC center, Lee-Anne and Mishqa were given the opportunity to talk about their day, which they eloquently described as one of joy. We feel the same, thanks for sharing bits and pieces of your lives with us.

On the weekend the mentees decided to thank their mentors and all who contributed to make it possible for them to take this journey. They prepared tasty and satisfying dishes from South Africa, names that have now escaped me. We were treated to dancing by a fearless mentee, who creatively did a solo act. We had a poet in our midst who made his feelings known through his words. He told us the interpretation was up to us. Poet Laureate, I heard words of pain, joy and most of all gratitude.

Their teacher, who looked as youthful as those whose lives she was working to transform, spoke from the heart about the transformation she is witnessing in her beloved students. Tears were shed, tears of joy and gratitude for Erika and her crew. The students were lost for words except to say,thank you. And if may add my penny's worth, Thanks to the ACT organization for their superb job! Erika, et al, you are an inspiration and I am so grateful Carol to have met you that fateful morning, on the street while I was hustling to fundraise at Jamba juice. Glad to have been caught in the ACT.