Donate any time!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Always thankful

Before I get into the subject of this post, I want to issue a small apology that this post wasn't here on Thanksgiving Day. As Chief Blogger, I try to be timely in posting, but this holiday finds me mostly in a horizontal position, tissues strategically placed nearby along with two vaporizers, at least one cat, and frequent cups of hot tea. I'm feeling somewhat better today--relatively speaking--so I didn't want to delay in saying what is ever-present on the minds of the members and organizers of A Little Something.

This Thanksgiving, we take time to appreciate the many people who support us in so many ways. We are thankful every single day, but in our busy lives, we don't always take the time to articulate this deep appreciation we hold in our hearts. We have known from the beginning that we had a worthwhile idea, but we also knew we were going to need a lot of help to make the dream a reality. We've come so far in a little over a year, it feels like we've been traveling at warp speed.

Many people have taken the time to tell us how we have impressed them with our work. Let there be no doubt--we work very hard on this project, in addition to doing our "real" jobs and tending to our families. Still, our load has been lightened countless times by the kindness of friends and strangers alike. We have worked, but you have been beside us--guiding us, encouraging us, supplying us, and sometimes holding us up at those times when we felt too tired to remember why we were doing this at all. You reminded us. For this, we are deeply grateful.

I can never make a complete list of everyone who has contributed to our project in the past 14 months. What surprised us, though, was that so many people who had no idea who we were had faith in us and most important above all else--had faith in the refugee women who were taking this leap of faith and trusting us to see them through to something better for themselves. We believe that when someone believes in you, new possibilities are easier to believe in yourself. Call this the chain of believing.

Oh, how I wish we could remember everyone we want to thank this Thanksgiving. Please don't be offended if we don't mention your name--we are thankful for your support, be it through cheerleading, encouragement, advice, idea sharing, jewelry lessons, financial assistance, or for sending us some of the bajillion beads that have kept the project going.

First, thanks to James Horan, Slavica Park, Denise Lines, and Sheryl Johnson whose support within the Colorado Refugee Network gave us credibility from the beginning. Thanks to Tammy Powley of for lighting an Internet flame that we hope will never go out! Tammy has also found quieter ways to help us out--because she is kind and special! One of our other first friends (thanks to Tammy) was Margot Potter, crafter, author, and QVC pitch woman extraordinaire. Margot has connected us to some invaluable resources, and she has always been available for much-needed emotional support on those really tough days. Her books are well used in our program, and she has never missed an opportunity to share information about A Little Something and about refugee concerns, as well. She also added a little sparkle to our supply stash--something we never could have done on our own. Rock on with ya bad self, Margot.

Speaking of Potters, Drew Potter of Beadalon generously facilitated a major donation of supplies. I know there's always a tax receipt with a dollar amount on it, but in the end, some gestures are priceless. Likewise, Sara from Softflex hooked us up with some desperately needed stringing wire--one of our costliest expenses. What a relief to have our pennies to spend on other desperately needed items!

The folks at Beyond Beadery (Betcey Ventrella) have certainly done their part to very generously help our bead show budget go a bit further. A lot further. More than once. Even after we already cleaned out the dollar bin.

Arwa Jumkawala's dad sent us the heaviest box we ever received. We never knew you could actually fit that many beads in a flat-rate Priority Mail box, and we were amazed by this feat of Tetris-like skill. The beads were fabulous, too, and they have become a staple in every new-start kit we send out. Darlene Milam is our most-delayed thank-you note recipient, but she doesn't hold it against us. Capitola Girl actually had a friend hand deliver her bead donation--because lugging beads to Denver is so much easier than shipping! For The Love of Beads sent us some beautiful beads even though they were just getting started themselves, just as Cara Holland made her own generous donation while her new business was so new it hadn't even opened yet.

The members of's jewelry making forum support the women of ALS in too many ways to list. Thank you Anne Weinheimer and Rena Baum for putting together the best-labeled bead donations ever and for being so concerned for our collective health and sanity. The online community has supported the women of ALS very generously and bloggers, posters, emailers and others kept the word moving all over the Internet. We received assistance from people we didn't even know in the virtual sense. Here are some of those folks, plus a few who help us "in person:"
DD Hess (the women love your beads!)
Janet in Connecticut
Jannifer L.
Jeanine P.
Jennifer (St. C.)
Keller in Kent (first name unknown)
Kelley (squared)
Laura L.
Lesley in Canada
Lynn (Plum Cow)
Mary V. in Dublin
Michelle Mach
Solamente/Melanie Schow(your beads took our breath away!)
Val K.

Closer to home, Katrina, Lisa, Christy, Susan, Slavica, Julie, employees of Whiteman elementary and Emily Griffith Opportunity School (who will buy even the most "Charlie Brown" pieces in our collection), the treasurer's office at EGOS, and the many volunteers have lent a hand to benefit the refugee women working in this program. Also, African Community Center for inviting us to be part of their 2008 African Extravaganza, our first really big event. Izzy Sandoval, your generosity in lending us your van has broadened the possibilities of what we can do and where we can go with the women--Your kindness widens our world!

Jean Clark and Ginny Czarnecki get a special thank you today. Jean and Ginny joined us very recently, and they are fearless. They are willing to try anything and learn anything. They've taken on the often grueling task of taking our show on the road to craft sales. Although it is the season for church bazaars and alternative gift markets, it is sometimes difficult for Susan, Anna, Jaime, and I to be available to go to the sales since we all have erratic work schedules. Thank you Jean and Ginny for helping our co-op members get their creations to market! Thank you for driving SUVs. Thank you for having good upper body strength and a good eye for arranging the table and for having a good head for problem solving and for remaining unfazed by early-morning wake up times. Thank you!

I probably forgot a lot of people. I apologize for that. My head is stuffy and my body is tired, so I'm not thinking as well as I should be. If anything occurs to me while I'm sleeping, I'll edit the post later.

We are blessed to have so many friends. The list here is incomplete (by a lot), yet it is still long. There is so much to be thankful for: Friends and supporters, patient husbands, women who are finding confidence and skills, all of the healthy babies that were born to our members this year, newly arrived refugee women who seem to find us almost immediately after arrival, our own energy, and a successful (if tiring) first year.

We could never have done it without you. Thank you.


Sharon, Anna, Susan, and Jaime

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Stretching the possibilities

Thank you Beadalon!

Recently, A Little Something was very fortunate, indeed. With the help of Drew Potter at Beadalon, we were able to receive a large quantity of stretch cord. Stretch cord is a favorite stringing material among the Beadwomen, especially for our beginner-beaders who don't yet feel comfortable using tools and crimps.

All stringing media tend to be our costliest expenditure. We are grateful and relieved, and yes, very excited about this wonderfully generous windfall. Thanks, Beadalon, and thanks, Drew!!

Monday, November 10, 2008

What we take for granted

Today, November 10, is a day when bloggers around the world are sharing their thoughts about refugee concerns. How could we not participate?

In an average week, I spend about 70 hours doing something refugee related. There's teaching, running the Denver area's in-home tutoring program, catching up with students and volunteers, and of course, working on the many details of A Little Something. People talk to me. They tell me their stories, even when I never ask a question. I absorb all of these bits of information and try to make sense of them in a larger context. Often, there is no larger context.

On Saturday, I spent a good part of the day rearranging the things in my basement. I did this to make room for the many things A Little Something seems to acquire as it goes along. While rummaging through a box of files, I sat down on the tile floor and visited with my past.

Before I worked with refugees, I had a thriving career in the cable television industry. I did many jobs and worked on some fascinating projects, but at the time, I was one of a handful of pay-per-view specialists shaping the future of what was to become on-demand programming. The work was fast-paced, challenging, and fun. I met a lot of people, including more than a few who were well known in the entertainment world.

While sorting a box, I came across a picture of me with Don King. It made me laugh, but later I remembered why I gave up a more glamorous life for the one I have now. Shortly after I was transferred to Denver, I became a volunteer in the program I now manage. Until then, I didn't know anything about refugees. Once I learned, my life was irrevocably changed.

In the 13 years I've worked with refugees, I have never ceased to be amazed at the resiliency of the human spirit. I don't know that I would have the strength to make the refugee's journey, and so I admire the people I know even more.

The women of A Little Something have stories as varied as their backgrounds. They have all experienced loss, though, and many still live with uncertainty. These women are survivors. They have endured things that most of us would find unimaginable. Although the women have survived, many have lost loved ones. Some have been lost through fatal incidents, while others are truly...lost.

In every conflict, people get lost. Often, families scatter during an attack, but they are never able to completely reunite. In the U.S., we tend to buffer potential uncertainty by believing in the systems we have in place that identify us, even when we, ourselves, cannot. Elsewhere, the task of keeping track is not so simple. It can take years of walking and asking, walking and asking, before a missing person's whereabouts is determined.

One woman recently told me her story of trying to leave her country while she was nine months pregnant. She had to stop to give birth along the way. She said there was no razor to cut the baby's umbilical cord, so a woman traveling with her found a sharp rock to do the job. She said she had terrible abdominal pain, but it wasn't safe to stop, so she held her newborn close to her chest and forced herself to keep going, despite the pain, the fatigue, and the bleeding. The thing that troubled her most, though, was that she had nothing with her to wrap up the baby. She feared he would die from exposure or be snatched away by a lion. Fearing the latter, dreading the loss of yet another loved one, she stopped sleeping until she reached Kenya.

This story made me think of the clean, bright, and modern maternity wards in our hospitals, birthing centers, midwives, doctors, and Apgar scores. Most people just have no idea what millions of births are like in the harshest areas of our world.

I looked at the picture of Don King and me. I remembered. It was the people. I left the cable industry and its flash because I wanted my days to count for something--for someone. I hear the refugees' testimony every day. Each new story reminds me I have skills and talents that can help other people find their new place in a chaotic world. I cannot fix their problems or patch together their shattered lives. Still, with some compassion and professionalism, I can help someone take one more step toward gaining instead of losing.

If our situations were reversed, I could only pray that someone would be there to offer the same to me.

To learn more about Refugees United, an organization that helps refugees reunite with loved ones, click here. Spread the word. Dialogue fosters awareness.