Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Quite the Holiday

I am currently sitting at the E Street Cafe in Encinitas, CA. It is raining here and the beach is only blocks away. Mom sits across from me and we discuss everything HANDS related. She is applying for a retail license right now as I type and we hope to very soon be ready to start focusing on selling Nepali products. She heard a lecture given by Robert Thurman on the state of Tibet recently and was inspired to start working on a new, yes another new branch for HANDS to head into. Apparently Robert Thurman says that Tibetan's and their cultural heritage are just too strong and well-adjusted to the rugged Himalayan environment to ever be truly finished off. He believes they will out-survive the Chinese and that in fact the Tibet invasion will eventually, many years down the road spell the beginning of the collapse of the Chinese Empire.

The key to my mom's current idea is that the Chinese have started a new strategy (perhaps not so new) of killing yaks which have long since been a major part of Tibetan nomadic society. In that we are already so into exchanging yak hair products she wants to further the promotion of that along with a new take on it which would focus on the importance of retaining Tibetan cultural practices. It may not sound like much of a big new thing in writing but coming from across the table and with the mighty roar of Amma-la it carries a certain "can't fail" energy that excites me.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Cold Day in Colorado

I have just gone through the process of moving into a new house in Boulder, Co. My room mate and I have been sharing a small, one-room studio for the last semester and now are moving up to a full-on 2-bedroom duplex. Its on 17th and Walnut, very close to downtown and very reasonably priced for such a location. The stress of securing that place, along with the ending of a very busy semester, combined with the bone-chillingly cold weather has left me with a lingering illness that is making it difficult to function. It seems to be better though with each day and soon I'll be heading home to the California coast to get some great family time in.

Next semester I will be only taking 2 classes with hopes of spending a lot more time working on HANDS-related work. We are planning to reorganize our very foundations before moving on. I have a few hopeful looking prospects with possible grantors, and will be focusing a lot of time and energy on writing grant applications in the coming months. Because of the success of our Nepali product sales we will also be looking into the resale aspect of our work and hopefully will figure the procedure for setting up an online store.

Due to some confusion with credit cards our old website which was created, designed, and maintained by our Minnesotan sister and daughter Stacy, is not going to be up anymore and instead this blog page will be our online headquarters.

A lot of exciting events will be happening for HANDS in the new year, including a very special guest visit to our school in Nepal. My professor from Naropa University, Debbie Young, the Early Childhood Education department chair, will be in Bhutan in the first week of April and for the next two weeks she wants to visit Nepal and help in whatever way she can with our work there. She will visit our school location and possibly implement some teacher training programs, and find out what sort of woman's issues may need some attention, something that she is experienced with. She has an NGO of her own which is focused with working in Nicaragua, primarily in an area known as Jalapa. The NGO she has been running for 18 years is called America's Association for the Care of Children, AACC.

I unfortunately will be tied down to my classes and job in Boulder, as much as I would love to be there to show her everything in person. But on the bright side there will be a lot of activity focused around international aid happening in Boulder during the month of April, most notably the Colorado University Conference on World Affairs which hosts over 100 different guest speakers on issues happening across the globe.

The other point to cover is that work will be formulating in the coming spring around the construction of a new school, the second one. Right now it is still just in the "talk" phase but we have a location ready and I think it will be possible to organize much of the construction from the States now that we know the process and how it will go. Then we will be making a visit sometime in May to finalize the deal. We are looking into locations as well as a new application process still and nothing is set in stone as of yet. But most likely there will be some physical work happening in Nepal again for us soon, as well as a lot of scholarship, sponsorship work for the children at the Buddhist Child Home orphanage.

Happy New Year everyone, and have some great holidays!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Lots of News

Hello everyone! This blog has fallen by the way side as my classes and academic schedule have become quite the full platter. However, over the past 3-4 weeks lots of news has come up for HANDS and I feel it is now time to share again, and to become once again a regular blog page, with more consistently updated info.

Heres to it, hope you all begin to once again regularly check up on this page. Please e-mail me feedback about anything including adjustments to this page that might make it more presentable for you.

November 14th we had our second annual fundraiser at the community hall in Santa Margarita, CA. I flew out from Boulder to partake and to honor guests with my presence as keynote speaker. We had an incredible evening. Roughly 100 people in attendance and over $5,000 raised! That is nearly double of what we raised last year! Thank you so much to everyone who attended, and to all those who volunteered their time to help set up and attend the different stations. We now have around $11,000.00 in our HANDS account, which brings me to the next subject of interest; plans and projects.

Before I get into the details about the first ever official HANDS board meeting held in our Margarita home over Thanksgiving break I would like to share the amazing opportunity I and my parents had to attend a talk by Greg Mortenson, the author of 3 cups of tea and Stones into Schools. We saw him give a talk in Salinas, CA to a relatively small audience. He spoke a lot on the global importance and value of receiving an education, especially for women, and went into detail on a few very moving stories from Pakistan and Afghanistan. After his talk he was doing a book signing and after standing in line for about an hour we got to have a quick exchange of words, handshakes, and autographs with the man himself. Such an honor! He is an incredible person and very real! During our brief one on one I slipped him a HANDS brochure with some personalized notes, and my mom presented him a Nepali gift bag.

On Saturday the 27 of November we had our first ever official board meeting since we have gathered members of our extended family to help with the HANDS project. Those in attendance are all people who now will have a say in the undertakings of HANDS and the direction we will be headed. My girlfriend Bree came home with me for thanksgiving and was also present during the meeting taking everything down on her laptop, which is what I will now use to transcribe onto the blog.

Those in attendance and now part of HANDS decision making were: Heidi , Ptolemny, Sam and Tahira, Kate, Julee, and Jan and Don.

Here is the transcription from Bree's notes, its a lot, but worth looking into, lots of valuable new information came from much brain storming and think tanking.

Board Meeting – Hands in Nepal Nov. 27, 2010

1. Fundraiser:

- what went well? what did you like about the evening?

- what could be improved upon? any new ideas?

  • $5,012, money from fundraiser… now total over $11,600!!
  • Latest Nepali scarfs, all the rage! They will go like hot cakes! Price of the scarves will go up in price.
  • Food was set up very nicely, two tables in the middle of the room, more people could reach it at one time. – Danny likes that idea versus a
  • WINE! Get wine donation again for next time.
  • Silent Auction and 50/50 Raffle : More raffle items for next fundraiser, maybe prizes! (Jan)Bought a ticket to get in was also part of a raffle, different than a raffle.
  • MUSIC – having a headliner was great, a great act. Keep your ears open for another band interested in playing.
  • (Jan’s idea) Chapel in Morro Bay behind bookstore around New Years fundraiser, “Hands Unplugged”
  • GUEST BOOK! We need to get people’s e-mails, for newsletter (Jan and Don have addresses from checks)
    • o E-newsletter,
    • Have greeters at the door, here is the silent auction, here is the store, - describe to them the different areas
    • - maybe wearing certain outfits to identify those that can be targeted as volunteers.
    • Concern: are we tapping into the same people, how often can you ask for money??
    • o Additional ideas: tapping into a new source of people, spread the word
    • o Utilize the bookstore: selling items that you produce and the name, contact cards, etc. thus access to a larger group of people
    • o Presentations: Jan has been working on presentations around the community (has someone interested in supporting two children)
      • Americas Association for Women(sp?) – Presentation in February, specifically interested in women and girls issues.
    • o Go to various organizations looking for speakers to present different non-profits and ideas. Different organizations, build relationships with them. Then being able to utilize their source of people.
    • Good idea to keep the money separate, did that! – Store brought in the majority of the money, tickets were about $1,000
    • How few people read posters, how can it be spread by word of mouth. Maybe let’s not waste energy in posters, new times, and newspapers.
    • o Talk to new times, three weeks before, link the new times to the fundraiser as an advertisement. Show the success that is being shown.
    • o Maybe focus on toilet facilities, amazing to people when it is discussed with people who don’t know, then take that angle
    • o Free Speech Areas at Cal Poly.
    • o Greg idea: a postcard about the event, an eye-catching photo with a little blurb about the event.
    • Different shops around town for selling merchandise, put out the books on Hands in Nepal (they have contact information at the end of the book). Book signing, meet Danny; maybe making the book smaller where there isn’t a loss.
    • o A part of the curriculum in school, classrooms can integrate the book into the curriculum. Teachers would consider this as a project or gift for a class and would bring the word out.
    • o Ex. Monterey classroom, had fundraiser and made $600 for HANDS
    • o Pennies for Peace, gets the name out there and then the kids are working to help fellow kids.
    • o Don: having younger people speak about HANDS, being young shows a different perspective and impresses upon other peoples.
      • seeing the hands on experience, seeing the school, knowing the people and the area.

2. Finances:

      • Book keeping: maybe too big for our britches, Toby in SLO. Nonprofit budgeting, quarterly meeting will cost $600-$900 to keep the books clean, a good clean record.
    • o Heidi: will help file taxes, CPA needs to file it. (New Treasurer?)
    • o Need to set up a formal set of accounts, will have the information you need. A formal set of books.
    • o Filing the taxes need to be updated with the status.

New Connections:

    • Grant-writing: Danny will be working on grants next semester.
    • Joe Karsner: meeting with Danny during graduation.
    • Conference on World Affairs at CU: April 4-8, 2010

3. Scholarships:

    • Talk to Durga with about the children at BCH. Tahira(sp?) can translate with Durga. $1500 a year to sponsor children, seemed a bit high.
    • Need to make clear, the accountability of what the money is being spent on and how to monitor the money being spent.
    • Get pictures of children in school.
    • Durga says this is her first time, new kids. Next kids, get photograph and story from them. Jan and Heidi will get stories and visit all the places.
    • 4 scholarships. Need to get the details down. Still leaves money for another school.

4. Applications and Next School Location

    • Applications – getting more information from different areas who want to get scholarships. Do the work to get the budget. As if they are applying for grant. Find out that they need to get an application. Get an outline, budget for materials, transportation, people (work), etc. all inclusive on the form.
    • o Maybe inclusive in application, how can the community maintain the sustainability.
    • Village closer to the city: about an hour away from the city, the feeling Danny got was that they were savvy to NGOs, felt less intimate with the people, different feeling. Not ruled out, still need a school.
    • Danny would prefer to go to the more remote villages. There are hundreds of villages that are cut off, with high illiteracy rates.
    • How do others feel about the other village? Possibly put it up for application. Start spreading word to encourage people to apply as if for a grant.
    • Make clear that the application isn’t a promise.
    • It’s important to see these places.

5. Debbie Young's visit to Nepal in Spring

    • Debbie Young wants to have teacher training programs. Wants to go to the government, getting Naropa’s name registered with different Ministries.
    • Getting the Naropa students on delegations and then getting the Cal Poly students as well.
    • Have a dialogue with the women of the village, starting to talk with the issues that come along with women.

6. Hearts in Nepal – Jan

    • Mission statement: add at-risk to description of girls, why they would live there.
    • Safe house: girls of teenage years could live in a place in Kathmandu, trundle sewing machines. Something made of yak hair, girls can stitch and sew and go to school. Kelsang may need to guard them, from prostitution. (Making something and then creating a sustainable business)
    • How do we keep schools sustainable? Maybe one more school, we can still do a lot with the school we just did, it is a good example of doing good. Let’s focus on energy on keeping this school and program sustainable.

7. Next Board Meeting

    • Board members input:
    • o Stay in remote areas, the scholarships snagged me in, support education will support the community.
    • o Move slowly, gradually. Make sure what you’ve done is successful and sustained. Need to have a program that provides a foundation that works. Take a project and make a difference and learn from it.
    • o Darka school will have new bathrooms soon.
    • o Interested in planning a winter fundraiser?
    • o Media: take the time to make a movie about HANDS, show and present the idea through video format. Show success is critical.
    • Next board Meeting:
    • o When? End of January or Beginning of February when Tahira comes back from Nepal.
    • o What? Talk about Tahira’s trip, update from Danny on new connections, accounting update, media update, etc.