Thank You for Your Service

September 13, 2011

Leah Mamhot and her mother, Rosalia Mamhot, 73, with Isis Initiative founder Cheryl Hatch, waiting for a ride to town. They are going to attend Parents' Tribute Day at La Salle University in Ozamiz City in the Philippines, where Leah lives and received her degree in Elementary Education with a major in English.

Next month Isis Initiative, Inc. will celebrate three years of service.

It started as a gesture of thanks that became the seed of an idea that bloomed into a grass-roots international non-profit.

Many of you know the story: how I skipped covering the Iraq War only to injure myself in the Philippines. The young woman, Leah Mamhot, who sat by my hospital bedside, had dreams of attending college and becoming a teacher. The tuition and fees were beyond her means; I offered to pay her way.

When friends–and strangers–heard the story of Leah’s dream and her hard work, they offered to help.

I created Isis Initiative, Inc. with a lot of support from friends and family. From lawyers at Jeanne Smith and Associates in Corvallis, Oregon to Louise Barker and Mike Corwin at OSU Federal Credit Union to Mike McInally, publisher of the Corvallis Gazette-Times, who ran a December holiday story about our fledgling efforts.

Isis Initiative, Inc. is a shared accomplishment. And there are three people–friends and former colleagues–who stepped up and have stayed the course. They have volunteered and served as board members since day one.

Samanda Dorger teaches journalism at Solano Community College in Napa, California, and works with the students at their college newspaper, The Tempest. Sam and I attended grad school in the School of Visual Communication at Ohio University, worked at the Naples Daily News (FL) together and have found ways to meet for adventures in Paris, Lahaina and Anchorage over the years of our friendship. Sam is our treasurer…though her real talent and contribution is design. She created our website and our newsletter.

Melanthia Peterman is a my former colleague at the Associated Press, a wife and mother of two who runs her own business, Little Sprouts Gardening. Melanthia is our secretary and she has offered me the sanctuary and hospitality of her home and garden many times. We frequently hold our board meetings in a teleconference from her Seattle dining room.

I’ve known Alice Anderson since she was a baby. Her mother and father and I attended Oregon State University together…and worked on the college paper. Alice is a senior at College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, Maine. She brings youth and fresh ideas to our table. She created our Facebook presence and convinced me to embrace social media.

This month, I’m sending them my thanks..and a gift…for their service.

A young girl in Mali looks at herself in a mirror. This photograph appears in the new book, "I am Because We Are" by Betty Press.

I found the perfect gift…a book by women celebrating women and their wisdom: “I Am Because We Are” by Betty Press.

I first met Betty Press when she and her husband, Bob, were living in Nairobi, Kenya and working for the Christian Science Monitor. We were all covering the famine and civil war in Somalia. They were generous, kind hosts, offering me shelter and hospitality in their home when I would return from the madness of Mogadishu.

Bob and Betty returned to Africa, this time to Sierra Leone, in 2008, when Bob received a Fulbright. They have now helped us identify five young women in Sierra Leone who are candidates for scholarships.

Betty’s photographs and her beautiful book are indeed the perfect gift. Purchasing the books, I support the decades of humanitarian and documentary work of an esteemed colleague. Offering the books, I share the stories and wisdom of African women with my friends, who’ve joined me on a journey to help women get access to a college education…and wherever that journey may lead them.

Thank you for your service. Samanada. Melanthia. Alice. Betty.

A Nigerian woman cleans rice in this photograph by Betty Press. View Betty's work and her new book at

On December 12, 2010, we conducted our annual board meeting by teleconference with Melanthia Peterman, the secretary, and I, Cheryl Hatch, the president in Seattle. Alice Anderson joined us from Corvallis, Oregon. Samanda Dorger was absent and I presented the treasurer’s report on her behalf.


I called the meeting called to order at 12:05 p.m. We approved the Aug. 1, 2010 meeting minutes.

Old Business:

Oct. 12 fundraiser in Corvallis brought in $940.

Hatch hired Bev Brassfield, a Corvallis bookkeeper, to handle the record keeping for the account, starting with our current fiscal year, which began on July 1, 2010.

New Business:

Marathel Guinsayao is moving into her second semester of second year at Western Mindanao State University.

Leah’s mom had a stroke and has been unable to gather and update on Marathel. She plans to travel to visit her before Christmas and pay her board fees and collect her most recent grade reports.

Isis Initiative has until June to find a new candidate to send to university. If we miss the June deadline, our next deadline will be September 2011.

We plan to focus our efforts at LaSalle University Ozamis City. We were excited to offer a scholarship to Marthel, who is attending university on the Zamboanga Peninsula, near her family’s mountain farm. We have discovered that maintaining communications and monitoring her progress is difficult from a distance. We have chosen to recruit scholarship applicants who are interested in attending La Salle University Ozamis, the university Leah Mamhot attended and from which she received her diploma in 2007.

We discussed the possible uses for the raw video of Hatch’s trip to the Philippines for Leah’s graduation in 2007. We plan to turn it into a educational DVD and a potential fund-raising tool. Anderson suggested having a student volunteer cut the video and produce a short (three to four minutes) promotional piece. I will explore the possiblity of finding a student a University of Alaska Fairbanks, where I’m currently serving as the Snedden Chair in the Department of Journalism.

Website development: Isis board members will keep control of web maintenance until we have more material to showcase. At that point, Isis Initiative will revisit outsourcing development.


My brother, J Hatch, has donated proceeds of sales from his CD. You can download songs at his website. (If you launch the music player after entering the site, you can listen to three cool original tunes while you browse.)  We will begin planning next Corvallis concert and intend for it to become an annual fund-raising event. The J Hatch Trio performance in 2011 will be the third annual concert. The trio played at Block 15 on Mardi Gras night 2009 and at the home of Beth Rietveld and Sam Stern on October 16, 2010.


Peterman will create our first newsletter and have it ready to mail to our donors and supporters in January 2011.

Our meeting adjourned at 12:50 p.m.

Training Day

November 5, 2009

Last year when I was starting to organize Isis Initiative, Inc., I attended a conference sponsored by Financial Stewardship Resources in Corvallis, Oregon. It was $90 well spent.

I made valuable contacts and learned vital information that helped me prepare our application for 501 (c)(3) status for the Internal Revenue Service.

If you sit on the board of a nonprofit or you’re thinking of creating your own 501 (c)(3) organization, I highly recommend that you consider attending the 6th Annual Nonprofit Board Training in Corvallis on January 23, 2010.

Follow the Web link below for more details about the conference and how to register.


No One Is An Island

August 18, 2009

Captain Casey poses for a photo with some of the school children on Mayreau island in the Grenadines.

Capt. Cornelius "Casey" Plantefaber poses for a photo with school children on Mayreau island in the Grenadines. Casey was instrumental in raising funds to establish a local school on the island. Captain Casey died of cancer on July 23, 2009. In his memory, he asked his friends to donate money to help the school he founded.

Isis Initiative, Inc. received $1,150 in donations for the Captain Casey Scholarship Fund.

This is a new project for Isis, brought to us by our treasurer, Samanda Dorger, from her good friend Anne Stanley, a dear friend of Captain Casey’s widow, Charmia.

Our primary project offers scholarships for women overseas who have the desire but not the resources to attend college. We have just awarded a scholarship to our 2009 recipient, Marethel Guinsayo, who plans to study education and become a teacher on her island, Mindanao, in the Philippines.

The board discussed the opportunity to help the school children on the Caribbean island of Mayreau. We felt the school children’s needs met our mission’s criteria. The story of how Captain Casey felt compelled to help the children parallels in many ways the story of why Cheryl Hatch founded Isis Initiative, Inc.

When Captain Casey saw a need, he took action.

One person inspires another person, who inspires others to make a difference.

How Does Your Garden Grow?

August 16, 2009

Melanthia Peterman and Cheryl Hatch pose in an innovative pumpkin patch during a garden tour in Issaquah, Washington.

Melanthia Peterman and Cheryl Hatch pose in an innovative pumpkin patch during a garden tour in Issaquah, Washington.

Melanthia and I were colleagues at the Associated Press in Seattle years ago. Now she’s a mom, a gardener, a blogger (–and in her spare time, she’s the secretary for Isis Initiative, Inc..

After our board meeting on Friday night, I stayed for the weekend. On Saturday, I accompanied Melanthia on garden tour, hosted by Nola, a local gardener and blogger.

I watched as a gaggle of gardening aficianados wandered among raised beds and compost barrels, chatting, sharing trade secrets and tips. Outstretched arms with tiny digital cameras were drawn toward bright blooms, pumpkins and seed pods the same way  flowers lean toward the light.

Here’s where I stretch a simile, string it up.

As I listened to the gardeners, I realized that starting a garden, tending it, sticking with it and waiting for it to bloom and bear fruit is a whole lot like starting a nonprofit.

Alice in Wonderland

August 4, 2009

Alice Anderson cradles a blue lobster on the pier at the Zone C Lobster Hatchery in Stonington, Maine. Blue lobsters are rare and the color is the result of a genetic mutation.

Alice Anderson cradles a blue lobster on the pier at the Zone C Lobster Hatchery in Stonington, Maine. Blue lobsters are rare and the color is the result of a genetic mutation. Photo by Cheryl Hatch

It’s a seven-hour drive one way from Middletown, Rhode Island to Stonington, Maine. I made the trip to visit Alice Anderson. And Maine is one of two states (North Dakota the other) that I hadn’t yet visited.

I’ve known Alice since she was a baby. She’s also a valued member of the Isis Initiative Board of Directors. Since we support women’s education, I think it’s important that we have someone who is actually a college student on our board. Alice offers a young yet wise voice to our meetings and our mission.

Alice will be a sophomore at College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, Maine, this fall. An aspiring marine ecologist and animator, Alice scored a summer paid internship at the Zone C Lobster Hatchery in Stonington, Maine.

Local fisherman and historical ecologist Ted Ames created the hatchery. In 2005, Ames received a “genuis grant” from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation for his work studying groundfish populations along the coast. Using the grant money, Ted now runs the hatchery, where they raise larval lobsters to supplement the Penobscot East Bay lobster fishery in order to secure a future for fishing communities.

Yesterday morning, Alice gave me a tour of the lobster hatchery. In the afternoon, we hiked through a lush forest in the Barred Island Preserve to a cove. Alice explored the tidepools and we braved the chilly water–for about five minutes.

While I was here, we each sent out invitations to our Facebook friends, inviting them to become fans of our Isis Initiative page. Alice sent over 200 invitations; I sent 100. Our fan base quadrupled overnight and we received an island-to-isle Internet donation for $200 from a friend and fellow journalist now calling England home.

I arrived here in the fog and I’ll leave later today under sunny skies…probably. The fog ebbs and flows here like the tides.