Friday, July 15, 2016

Skype Call

Today we had a Skype call with the camp. It was the first time I had talked to all of them at once in a year. Our president, Dr. Jenkins, attended the call and the folks in the camp were thrilled. They told us how they were continuing and expanding on the programs we started last year, and about the challenges they are facing. At one point, the Girls Empowerment Group sang us a song (in the picture above). Several of our staff came by to attend as well. Teddy and his team did a great job and we all were uplifted by the experience. After the call, I chatted with my president a bit about the possibility of bringing Teddy over for some training for a few weeks. I have to double down and get busy and get back on track to return and possibly to bring Teddy over. The potential is exciting, the work overwhelming, the rewards incalculable. 

Monday, July 11, 2016

Cool Stuff From The Camp!

I was really amazed (but not shocked) to see that the folks in the camp were still working hard and carrying on all our programs and activities. Recently, they participated in the World Refugee Programme and again held an American Fourth of July Celebration. They are wonderful people and it is starting to bother me that I haven't made it back (far more than I would care to reveal)

The Team
Saint Fort has gone on to Kinshasa, but the fantastic four remain - From left to right: Yvon, Scholastique, Juliet, and Teddy. Please keep Yvon, his wife, and newborn daughter in your prayers as mom and little girl are struggling.  The two ladies here still manage the primary school program and the girls empowerment group. Teddy, of course, remains Teddy.

Skits by the Primary School Children under the three banners close to my heart :)

The Girls Empowerment Group representing in the World Refugee Day Parade

The English Club proudly displaying our flag and their new curriculum

Limbo remains a staple

Juice Time!

One of my guilty pleasures that remains strong there - Buck Buck

Hopefully, we will have a Skype call this Friday with the camp. I was very disappointed when the funding didn't come through to return this month, but doubly resolved to work something else out. This project is the epitome of my career ambition - go somewhere, give some folks some tools and kindness, step back and watch them run. I want to run with them a bit more......

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Theater Fun

This week the ESL Conversation Group visited the Fine and Performing Arts building via a private tour from Tommy Hensel the director. We had a lot of fun and learned a lot. We had several new students today from Syria and Egypt. We met in our regular building the walked over to Tommy's place. I made a wrong turn along the way and nearly doubled the trip, but it was a nice day for a walk.

Our first stop was the Art Gallery where we looked at art from members of the local community. The students enjoyed the works and asked lots of questions.

Next, we went into the large theater and learned about all the back stage rigging and lighting. The students took a ton of pictures and were amazed by the network of lighting and curtain mechanisms.

Tommy took us into the small theater, and much to my delight, through the set design workshop. It contains a woodworking workshop so I was finally in my element. The students were very curious about the construction of these sets and Tommy did a good job explaining. Note the wire ceiling, it would become the highlight of the tour :)

I don't think they believed Tommy when he said he would take them up and let them walk on the ceiling, but he did! They were a bit reluctant at first, but had a lot of fun - it was almost like a trampoline surface. They also got a very close look at the lighting systems.

Tommy took us outside to the new Shakespeare garden and then we made our way back to the classroom to talk about the experience and to do some writing. One of the new Syrian girls was enthralled with the working sundial in the garden. It was a fun and rewarding day. I am constantly reminded how much good there is in the world working with this group and the various folks that join in to help us. 

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Floating Shelves

A few months ago, a friend asked me to help him create shelving to store his 1000 or so DVDs and video games. At first we contemplated book cases and other traditional and bulky alternatives. Then, I stumbled on the idea of floating shelves that look like they are just simply attached to the wall with out any visible supports. I got very intrigued with this and did a lot of research. My journey ranged from IKEA to some creative do-it-yourself options. My main design challenge was that we needed shelves that were almost eight feet long - most of traditional floating shelves are much shorter given the obvious support limitations their designs provide. We also didn't want extremely thick shelves, given they were holding thin cases. In the end, the lightweight of the DVD and video game cases helped us scale down the thickness of the shelves while still providing adequate support. They turned out great; Tony did a good job on the finishing process!  Below is a quick summary of the process:


We set up our operation in his driveway on arguably the hottest day of the year. I was fasting so the five or six hours we spent really did me in. We ripped down 2x4s to one and one half inches for the frames. We then added little "arms" to the ends and in the middle of the long frame pieces. The two frames on the left side of the picture above are in the positions they would eventually be secured to the wall in. We used long 4inch coarse screws into the wall studs. We eventually found our rhythm and cut all the necessary frames and trim pieces.

Here you can see the frame attached to the wall and Tony now adding trim around the outside of the frame. The trim is MDF (medium density fiberboard) that is easy to work with and paints nicely. After he wraps the trim around the frame, he attaches thin plywood to the tops and bottoms. After a bit of wood filler and paint, the final result:

And with some of his 1000 DVDs and games:

This project was fun and innovative. It is far less bulky than a cabinet and best of all, it cost less than $75 to complete!