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Saturday, October 25, 2008

Teaching teachers

Sometime back in the spring, we submitted a conference proposal to the organizers of COTESOL, the professional organization for English as a Second Language professionals. The title of our presentation was: Stringing Together Benevolent Enterprise and Basic Skills, or, How to accidentally start a nonprofit.

We believe we have a program worth explaining. Beyond the origins of the program itself, A Little Something has helped the participants acquire language, literacy, and math skills, as well as improved critical thinking and life skills.

Before coming to the U.S., most of the women we work with were not accustomed to having so many decisions to make. They definitely weren't ready for the barrage of options and expectations they now encounter on a daily basis in this country. We believe that the women who are participating in A Little Something have benefited from it so much that we wanted to share the idea with others who might find the idea useful in their programs.

We didn't have a lot of hope that many people would attend the presentation. It was scheduled in the last time slot of the last day of the conference. We kept our fingers crossed that people would come and there would be more people in the audience than there were presenting (six). Jaime, Anna, Susan, Sharon, Haiffaa, and Khadiga were prepared to tell our story to anyone who came to listen.

Our worries were unfounded. About 15 people came to learn about an interesting way to combine benevolent enterprise with basic skills. They learned about the project and the people involved. Two adventurous participants volunteered to be part of a hands-on jewelry lesson--given entirely in Arabic. Thanks to Barb Vaille and our volunteer (whose name we didn't get) for their willingness to try something new!

We'll be doing a similar--but much longer and more in-depth--version of this presentation at the international TESOL conference in March. There are 8,000 people expected at that conference, so with a little luck, A Little Something might just rock the multicultural education world!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

The other season

You probably learned that there are four seasons in the year in North America, but there is actually one more season. For those who make and sell crafts, the prime selling season starts in Sepetember and wraps up just as holiday gifts are starting to be unwrapped.

Imagine creating a boutique that, in order to be successful, has to be attractive, well organized, stocked, properly merchandised, and adequately staffed. This boutique also has to fit into a 10'x10' space, be completely portable, and put together in about an hour by as few as two people. Maybe one. And then it's all done in reverse at the end of the day.

Let me digress for a moment to appreciate my husband, Leo Livecchi. He is that invisible ALS member who loads my car on sales days, then unloads and unpacks the canopy, the boxes, the furniture, and our endearing mannequin. He helps me re-sort the merchandise into the right containers and then puts all of in storage until the next round. After that, he cooks dinner for me because he knows that if he doesn't, I'll just eat peanut butter out of the jar and call it a night. He's not just a great husband, he's an outstanding volunteer. Without his care and participation, our project would probably falter quite a bit. Yeah, Leo! All he really wants in return is for the crafts group to find a way to rent an office so that our home will no longer be crammed full of the beads, boxes, books, and piles of craft supplies that belong to A Little Something.

So far, we (A Little Something) have five sales scheduled for this season. If you're in the neighborhood, please stop by, say hello, buy something lovely, and, maybe staff the table for a few minutes--we might need a restroom break--or hang out and help us pack up at the end of the day.

To find out where we'll be this fall, check back soon--there will be a list of sale dates over on the right side of this page.

See you soon!