Monday, November 23, 2009

The Shoeboxes Begin Their Journey

Himself and I took the shoeboxes we collected from church over to the collection point today. Not bad for a first year – we had 53 boxes (plus some were taken over to the Chic FilA). I hope to triple that number next year!

While we were at the collection center dropping off the boxes, Best Friend and Pirate 1 showed up with their boxes. Pirate 1 jumped right in on helping process the shoeboxes. I bet he’ll be helping even more next year!

The display at church.

All of 53 of the boxes at the collection center, ready to be processed.

Pirate 1 helping with processing.

This is what it's about...

"Little Bird's Box" ready to go somewhere in the world.

"Little Red Truck"

Sunday, November 22, 2009

A Hero for Today: Efren Peñaflorida - CNN Hero of the Year

CAVITE CITY, Philippines (CNN) -- At 16, Rhandolf Fajardo reflects on his former life as a gang member.

"My gang mates were the most influential thing in my life," says Fajardo, who joined a gang when he was in sixth grade. "We were pressured to join."

He's not alone. In the Philippines, teenage membership in urban gangs has surged to an estimated 130,000 in the past 10 years, according to the Preda Foundation, a local human rights charity.

"I thought I'd get stuck in that situation and that my life would never improve," recalls Fajardo. "I would probably be in jail right now, most likely a drug addict -- if I hadn't met Efren."

Efren Peñaflorida, 28, also was bullied by gangs in high school. Today, he offers Filipino youth an alternative to gang membership through education.

"Gang members are groomed in the slums as early as 9 years old," says Peñaflorida. "They are all victims of poverty."

For the past 12 years, Peñaflorida and his team of teen volunteers have taught basic reading and writing to children living on the streets. Their main tool: A pushcart classroom.

Stocked with books, pens, tables and chairs, his Dynamic Teen Company recreates a school setting in unconventional locations such as the cemetery and municipal trash dump.

Peñaflorida knows firsthand the adversity faced by these children. Born into a poor family, he lived in a shanty near the city dump site. But he says he refused to allow his circumstances to define his future.

"Instead of being discouraged, I promised myself that I would pursue education," he recalls. "I will strive hard; I will do my best."

In high school, Peñaflorida faced a new set of challenges. Gang activity was rampant; they terrorized the student body, vandalized the school and inducted members by forcing them to rape young girls, he says.

"I felt the social discrimination. I was afraid to walk down the street."

Peñaflorida remembers standing up to a gang leader, refusing to join his gang. That confrontation proved fateful. At 16, he and his friends "got the idea to divert teenagers like us to be productive," he says.

He created the Dynamic Teen Company to offer his classmates an outlet to lift up themselves and their community. For Peñaflorida, that meant returning to the slums of his childhood to give kids the education he felt they deserved.

"They need education to be successful in life. It's just giving them what others gave to me," he says.

Today, children ranging from ages 2 to 14 flock to the pushcart every Saturday to learn reading, writing, arithmetic and English from Peñaflorida and his trained teen volunteers.

Our volunteers serve as an inspiration to other children," he says.

The group also runs a hygiene clinic, where children can get a bath and learn how to brush their teeth.

Since 1997, an estimated 10,000 members have helped teach more than 1,500 children living in the slums. The organization supports its efforts by making and selling crafts and collecting items to recycle.

Through his group, Peñaflorida has successfully mentored former gang members, addicts and dropouts, seeing potential where others see problems.

"Before, I really didn't care for my life," says Michael Advincula, who started doing drugs when he was 7. "But then Efren patiently dug me from where I was buried. It was Efren who pushed me to get my life together."

Today, Advincula is a senior in high school and one of the group's volunteers.

Peñaflorida hopes to expand the pushcart to other areas, giving more children the chance to learn and stay out of gangs.

"I always tell my volunteers that you are the change that you dream and I am the change that I dream. And collectively we are the change that this world needs to be."

Friday, November 13, 2009

Amazing elephants - Edie and Emily

Here is an incredible story of just how intelligent elephants are. The two mama elephants are wild living orphans rescued and brought up by the Sheldrick Trust.

When you look at the photos, remember they have been living in the wild for quite a while.

On the 18th Edie brought her calf back to the Voi Stockades, wise enough to know that she needed the assistance of her erstwhile human family to save her baby, who was growing weaker because she lacked sufficient milk to nourish it during such a difficult time. With her were Mweya, Mpala and Morani and Irima. Dairy cubes and other supplements were hurriedly sent down from Nairobi, to help Edie’s milk bar and save little Ella, who thereafter became visibly stronger by the day, her mother having enjoyed supplementary feeding.

Meanwhile, unbeknownst to us and the Keepers Emily was trying to do the same, but her baby born last December, being older, was in a much more dire condition and, in fact, not far off dying. Therefore Emily’s journey from Ngutuni was painfully slow because little Eve was so weak, but finally she managed to make the Voi Safari Lodge waterhole, which is about 3 or 4 kms. from the Voi Stockades.

They immediately rushed back to the Stockades to get Keeper Mishak Nzimbi, who has known Emily since the day she came into the Nursery aged just l month. Mishak is, and always has been, the favourite Keeper of all our elephants, irrespective of age, and deeply trusted by Emily. Mishak walked straight up to Emily and her calf who was lying at her feet and was greeted by an outstretched trunk. He had come armed with the supplements provided for Edie, and when the calf managed to struggle to its feet to suckle, he and the other Keepers slowly accompanied Emily and her baby back to the stockades. It was a laborious journey that took the next 6 hours because the baby could only walk a few paces at a time and had to rest frequently, but in the end they made it.

For the next 2 days Emily remained at the Stockades, delighted to find Edie, her baby and some of the group already there, and embrace the newcomers newly arrived from the Nursery, namely Lesanju, Lempaute, Sinya, Shimba, Mzima, Wasessa, Tassia and Taveta. Mercifully, it had already rained in Voi, and the country was turning green, so fresh green grass and new shoots were also readily available. Once little Eve had regained some of her strength, being a wild baby, she took to giving the Keepers quite a run around, but soon understood that they were friends, rather than a foe. Other members of Emily’s unit have since begun to trickle in whilst yet others are still elsewhere. By month end both Emily and her baby along with Edie and hers were well on the road to recovery and were able to move further afield from the stockades.

Edie and feisty little Ella.

Emily and Eve.

Emily, with keepers Julius and Mischak working things out.

Emily following the keepers back to the stockade to bring her baby to safety.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Centerpiece of our bird garden

One of the areas I’m working on in our yard is a butterfly and bird garden in the front yard. At this point it’s mostly in the planning stages. I marked out a border this summer but since then have decided we need it to be larger.

However, we have already made some purchases for it. We just recently found this beautiful handmade bird feeder on the road out to the highway. The builder is a carpenter and makes them from scraps from his jobs.

I think he did a great job!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Whooping Crane Class of 2009 is heading south!

I used think that herding cats or kindergarteners was about the most difficult thing you could do. That is… until I started following the reports on the hand-raised whooping cranes that will be following the ultra lights to Florida.

I’ve taken some clips of the “Early Bird E-bulletin” we get every morning. Wow! These folks are really dedicated!! If you'd like to donate to help with the migration, go to:

Date: October 9, 2009
Reporter: Liz Condie
Location: Necedah, WI
Today was almost the twelfth consecutive day of no flight training with the Class of 2009. In fact, as a result of poor weather, there have only been a handful of training days throughout the past few weeks. All three Cohorts have been together at the Canfield site for some time, and while they are socialized, until this morning they had not flown as one group. And to say that that was happened this morning, would be considered a bit of a stretch.
All the birds were released from the pen together, but getting them all in the air and following was another story. Here a bird, there a bird, everywhere a bird.

Date: October 13, 2009 - Entry 1
Reporter: Liz Condie
Location: Necedah, WI
While Wisconsin may have seen snow in October before, this is the first year we've experienced it before leaving on migration.

Date: October 15, 2009 - Entry 2
Reporter: Liz Condie
Location: Necedah, WI
We woke to a third morning of rain and wind, and as the weatherman said, "If you don't like today's weather, wait a while, it's going to get worse." Dropping temps and freezing rain could be in the offing. Ugh.
Obviously, the OM team and the Class of 2009 will once again be going nowhere.

Date: October 16, 2009 - Entry 2
Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject: 2009 MIGRATION IS UNDERWAY - of a sort
Location: Necedah, WI
Six days after our October 10th target departure date, the Class of 2009 finally got off on the first leg of their first migration. Sort of....
Camp came alive early. At 4am the temp was 26F and the sky was clear and filled with stars. There wasn't a leaf stirring on the trees - all signs of a potential fly day. By 6:30, vehicles were being warmed up, and the entire team was in motion.
Just after sunrise this morning (7:17am) all four pilots left OM’s hangar for the short flight to the East pensite. While Chris, Brooke, and Richard circled above, Joe, today's lead pilot, landed and signaled the ground crew to open the pen doors. Bev subsequently reported that six were reluctant to come out of the pen, but eventually they got airborne.
And that's when the Crane Rodeo started.

Date: October 16 - Entry 3
Reporter: Liz Condie
Location: Necedah, WI
This will be a poor substitute for an exciting lead pilot report, but I'm afraid for today you will have to make do with me as other pressing duties are keeping Joe away from his computer this afternoon.
By the time the cranes settled this morning, we had all 20 birds safely tucked in a pen - but in four different locations.
Back at the East site, from whence this willful bunch of 20 recalcitrants began this morning, are: 912, 918, 927, and 929. In the pen at the West site are: 901, 907, 910, 904, 913, 914, 919, 911, and 903. Keeping each other company at the Canfield site are 905 and 925.
Thanks to 906, 908, 915, 924, and 926 - and their fearless leaders, pilots Brooke and Richard, we can say the 2009 migration has officially begun - sort of. Brooke managed to lead three birds and Richard two, over to the our first Juneau County stopover site. Bev and Brooke have already moved to that location where they will remain camped until our next move.

Date: October 17, 2009 - Entry 2
Reporter: Liz Condie
Location: Necedah, WI
Joe, Richard, and Chris took to the air again shortly after 4pm to try and take advantage of the late afternoon calm. Erin and Geoff manned the pen doors for the release. Four of the 13 chicks that remained on the refuge, (those at the East site) are in the air (following Richard) and are enroute to Stopover site #1 where Brian Clauss is waiting to call the birds down.
CraneCam viewers were treated to quite an extended view of the departure as the trike circled around giving the chicks time to 'latch onto the wing'.
Now we have 11 birds at Stopover #1 and 9 still at the refuge. It may not be the fastest way to do a migration leg, but it is progress - - and we'll take it!

Date: October 20, 2009
Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject: AM I ALLOWED TO SAY, "D--N"?
Location: Necedah, WI
Although east winds opened a potential window for us this morning, we thought a flight today might be a challenge – and it proved to be that and more.
The pilots deployed for an attempt to lead the nine chicks remaining at the West pensite to our Stopover Site #2, as well as to pick up the 11 birds from Stopover Site #1 and lead them there as also.
Everyone was off and running - Heather and Erin to release the birds at the West pensite; Bev and Geoff to Stopover site #1 for the release there, while Brian Clauss went to get in position in the tracking van. Jack Wrighter, Gerald Murphy, and John Cooper were each in a vehicle at the East, North and Canfield pensites to play swamp monsters, in person or with vehicle horns, in case birds decided to land out there.
When Heather and Erin released the birds, Joe, today’s lead pilot, got eight of the nine into the air. One bird, 911, hung back and wouldn’t come out of the wet pen. (Poor Erin got a freezing cold soaking trying to coax him out of the wetpen.) Despite Joe circling and circling to try and get the birds to form up on his wing, they wouldn’t cooperate, and it was another Crane Rodeo.
While Joe flew off with one bird on the wing, Richard swooped in to help with the round-up. And Brooke, who had been on his way to Stopover Site #1, turned back to also lend a hand.
Eventually they got seven birds back on the ground at the West pensite, which, including 911 who never got out of the pen, made eight. Joe managed to make it to Stopover site #1 with his one bird, 907.
So the scorecard now reads: 12 at Stopover Site #1 and 8 still on the refuge. I guess that's progress - but d--n, will we ever get going?!?

Date: October 21, 2009 - Entry 1
Reporter: Liz Condie
Location: Necedah, WI
Today's story can be told in just one word - rain. The inclement weather moved in last evening, persisted through the night, and as it continues, negates any opportunity to fly this morning.
Heather and I are debating whether this is, "Operation Stagnation" or, "Operation Frustration". Seeing this is the 12th morning past our target departure date, I guess both descriptors work.

Date: October 22, 2009 - Entry 2
Reporter: Liz Condie
Location: Necedah, WI
Maybe weathermen have a quirky sense of humor. This morning's forecast called for a 40% chance of rain - despite the fact that it hasn't stopped raining since early last evening. Large or small, every indentation in the ground is brimming with water. The puddles are everywhere - and they are likely to grow larger as the prediction for tomorrow is a 100% chance of rain.

Date: October 23, 2009 - Entry 1
Reporter: Liz Condie
Location: Juneau Co. WI
You might think that with all of our trailers and motorhomes parked within steps of each other, that communication between team members would be a simple matter. The reality is that at any one time we can have 16 people all going in different directions and all doing different jobs. Not surprisingly, this often leads to several left hands not knowing what the right hands are doing. In the absence of knowledge, assumptions are made.....and you know what they say about ‘assume’.
This is how today got to be Migration Day #8. Yes, that's right, it's Migration Day #8. But, no, you haven't missed anything. While I’ve been waiting for ‘a departure flyover’ and all of the birds to be at Stopover #1 to begin counting Migration Days, I discovered that Joe has been updating the Whooper Hotline daily counting October 16 as Migration Day #1. Sooo, that is how today, October 23rd, got to be Migration Day #8.
Yesterday afternoon, the last eight birds still on the refuge made an inauspicious departure when they were crated and moved to Stopover Site #1. Hopefully, the strange location will encourage their attentiveness and loyalty to the aircraft on the next leg of the migration.
A whooping big thank you from the Class of 2009.

Date: October 31, 2009 - Entry 1
Reporter: Liz Condie
Location: S. Juneau Co. WI
Last year, for obvious reasons, we took to calling the Dairy State, 'Wind-consin'. This year however, 'Wet-consin' has been struggling mightily to wrest away the title - and it may be winning. Yet another fight broke out between them last evening as Wind fought Wet in a titanic battle that raged on through the night.

Date: November 1, 2009 - Entry 2
Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject: BREAKING NEWS 8:40am CST-ish
Location: Sauk Co, WI
It appears as if the cranes and planes are coming in to circle the pen at Stopover #3 in Sauk County - and - it appears as if they have all 20 birds. No doubt you'll be as anxious as I am to read the lead pilot's report of today's flight.
Tune in later this afternoon. Note that it could be quite late this afternoon before it can be written and posted. Everyone now has to drive back to the refuge, pack up, disconnect, and secure our motorhomes, hook up trucks and vans to trailers, clean up and break camp, drive the 60 road miles back to our new camp site, and then get set up there.

Date: November 5, 2009 - Entry 1
Reporter: Liz Condie
Location: Green Co. WI
DistanceTraveled: Green Co. WI to Winnebago Co. IL - 34.0 Miles
Accumulated Distance: 130.4 Miles
As you can tell by the subject line above, we've left Wind-consin (or Wet-consin) behind and are now in flyway state number two, Illinois - or as Brooke calls it, "the land of flat".
As darkness fell yesterday it got colder and colder. That was good news. The return of the chilly temperatures heralded a change in wind direction. As the winds swung around from the south to blow from west and then from the NW, the temperature continued to drop.
By early morning it was 29F, and while we had almost negligible westerly surface winds there were gusts up to 2mph. Aloft the NW winds were stronger, reading around 10mph which meant if it wasn't to trashy, the planes and cranes would have a tailwind to give the a little push.

Date: November 7, 2009
Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject: Migration Day 23
Location: Winnebago Co. IL
As with yesterday, today's weather is not amenable for a flight with cranes and planes. We have a mild 54F. But even on the surface the winds are strong, 5 - 9mph out of the SW, and aloft they are blowing a stiff 35 to 40.
Whether you say it in Spanish, - demasiado viento; in French - trop de vent; or in German - zu windig, it's too windy. This will be Down Day #2 in Winnebago County, IL.

Date: November 8, 2009 - Entry 1
Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject: Migration Day #24
Location: Winnebago Co. IL
If, instead of being in Illinois, we were in Holland, Poland, or Italy, we would describing this morning's conditions as: te winderig, zbyt wietrznie, and troppo vento, respectively.
Yes, once again it's too windy for the cranes and planes, so this will be Down Day #3 in Winnebago County.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Bonfire and steak fry

One of the great things about living out in the country is the fact you can have a bonfire cookout (after a quick call to the Forestry Service to get a burn permit).

This evening we had our best friends over for just that. Chad, Brenda, the Pirates and Diva Dog spent the whole afternoon and evening with us. While the “Y” chromosomes satisfied their pyro streaks, the “X” chromosomes were inside enjoying the peace and quiet – while satisfying our crafting streaks.

After a few hours the “Ys” informed us that they had a proper bed of coals for the grilling of porterhouse steaks. Alrighty then! Let the cooking begin! The “Ys” grilled the meat (let them sear their knuckles!) and the “Xs” did the rest… mashed potatoes & gravy, green beans, peas, sautéed onions & green peppers, Amaretto sautéed mushrooms. The weather was absolutely perfect so we ate outside. Even Sasha got in on it; with her own meaty bone to gnaw on.

Once the meal was over, we gathered around the fire (which the “Ys” added more wood to) and roasted marshmallows for dessert. From there into the night we visited, tossed sticks on the fire and looked at the stars overhead. (There is so little light pollution out here that you can see the Milky Way fairly easily).

It was one of the most relaxing evenings I’ve had in a long time!

Himself by the fire

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Sundar - sponsored thru Compassion

Since I’m writing about our sponsor kids, it’s time to tell you about Sundar.

In January-ish we lost our sponsor child from Ethiopia. At the same time, my favorite writing buddy lost his sponsor. Compassion called me to let me know and to ask if we would like to become his new sponsor. That was a quick “Yes!”.

Sundar lives in India. He is 8 years old and lives with his mother. His father is deceased. His mother’s occupation is listed a “Laborer – rice mill coolie”.

He likes to play group games including ball and hide-and-seek. He also enjoys reading.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Thought on Daylight Savings Time...

Just WHO decided that playing around with the clocks was a good idea?!