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Monday, January 26, 2009

One step forward, two steps...sideways

There is a statistic about blogging that claims more than half of all blogs haven't been updated in two months or more. I don't want us to be a statistic, so it's time for an update.

The Bead Women are in an interesting phase. We have always operated without any one of us "at the helm," really, so sometimes our project just rests a bit until someone initiates action. It's one truth that exists in a world of busy lives and hectic work weeks. The refugee women have their share of busy days, too. Also, they get sick, we get sick, they have family crises, we have family crises...We're not so different in terms of what distracts us from building an enterprise.

Our meeting with our new attorneys at Holland and Hart (we have attorneys! From Holland and Hart!!), gave us a lot to ponder about how our project is moving forward. Becoming a formal organization that exists on paper will bring tremendous change and a lot of responsibility. Do we have the time and resources to do that? Can we learn all of the tax-related rules we'll need to know? Can any of us file a business tax return? Do we need to be more diligent about our accounting? Do we even know how to do that or how to manage important papers?

Starting a business--not to mention a nonprofit--involves a lot of things. We need to assemble a Board of Directors. Since it will need to be a "working Board," we need to find people who can help us through our growth period. We need to think about the tax implications that incorporating will have for the refugee women. Also, we continue to have the potential for rapid growth. Although it's tempting to do everything we can while we can, we also need to consider if bigger is better. For our group, maybe not. We don't get paid to work on this project, and we still need to tend to our real jobs. There aren't enough hours in the day.

The women in our group are doing well, for the most part. Haiffaa has graduated from our project and is now selling her handmade jewelry on her own. Khadiga got a job at a discount store, and her depression seems to be lifting (she had a rough year). It looks like Sharifo has been teaching other Bantu women how to make jewelry, and she and several of the women who live in her complex are getting together for jewelry-making sessions. One of the girls we took to the bead show last spring, Arbay, has blossomed into a creative, skilled jewelry maker with a keen eye for design and beauty.

Our Bhutanese knitters made some, uh, original hats this year. OK--they might be a bit bizarre. Nevertheless, their creations showed us that these knitters are skilled craftswomen with a desire to work hard on their projects. None of the Bhutanese jewelry makers have started yet--we just haven't had the time to make up starter kits and get them distributed.

On the more productive side, I spent most of my Christmas break reorganizing the basement of my home to make it more of a A Little Something warehouse and less of a repository for things we don't use. Now, if I could just get the other women to come over and sort and organize beads with me!

We are fortunate that we continue to have friends around the U.S. and beyond who remember us and send us beads and beading supplies. Someone else just donated 300 yards of purple cotton fabric (thanks, Alyce). We'll probably teach some of the women how to sew tote bags, and we'll make fabric panels for our booth along with a lot of other purple things. Omhagain is our resident fine artist with a degree in textile design from a university in Darfur. She hopes to teach some of the women the process of block printing on fabric. We will create a world swathed in purpley fabulousness!

So many ideas, so few hours in the day.

A few weeks ago, we had a business meeting to look at what we've accomplished, what we need to change, and what we should do to ensure a healthy future for A Little Something. this could be big. It could be a substantial organization that helps much larger numbers of women than we can do now. We aren't nearly as interested in being big as we are in being the right support for the women involved.

We have some changes on the horizon, including within our group. Your chief blogger has been "unwell" with an increasingly agitated central nervous system. I've learned more about the human nervous system(s) in the past year than I ever wanted to know. If I am to discourage my body from short-circuiting and acquiring permanent nerve damage and immunity problems, then I must take a breather and not do so much. Stress is taking a very high toll on my health. Frankly, I thrive on "doing," and I do not consider my work with refugees to be stressful, but apparently, my nervous system disagrees. This change in my participation is a direct, strict doctors' order, otherwise I wouldn't change a thing. I can't bear the thought of leaving the project completely, so although my official exit date is March 31, I definitely plan to stay involved in some way--I'll still be here in some capacity, although what that will be remains to be seen. There's a lot to be done yet.

Our friend and colleague, Katrina Wert, will be working with us for awhile to help coordinate our incorporation. She'll also help me transition out of the project (or at least downsize my repsonsibilities) while making sure that the things I do are well documented and reassigned within our group. If only we could just connect a computer to my brain and do a simple data download. It would be easier, but Katrina is very capable and competent, so I'm sure all of the stuff in my head will be sufficiently extracted. In any case, you'll be hearing less of my voice here and more from Jaime, Anna, Susan, and Katrina (I hope).

Looking ahead, our post-holiday hiatus is behind us and now it's time for Team A Little Something to jump into our next round of group gatherings and lessons, English/parenting/life skills classes at Anna's school for the moms in our group, sales, presentations, connecting and partnering with other nonprofits in the community, and incorporating our project into a legitimate business.

Anna has been having health troubles of her own, but as soon as she's back on her feet, we'll have updates from the field once again--with pictures!

Stay tuned!

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