A Christmas card from Leah

December 27, 2012

Leah Mamhot spends time with her classmates before her last final exam at La Salle University in Ozamis City on Mindanao in the Philippines.

Leah Mamhot, second from left, spends time with her classmates before her last final exam at La Salle University in Ozamis City on Mindanao in the Philippines. October 2010 Copyright 2010 Cheryl Hatch All Rights Reserved

Leah is the inspiration for Isis Initiative, Inc. (If you don’t know the story, click on the link.)

A few weeks ago, I received a Christmas card from Leah. I had been calling her for days, trying to reach her in the aftermath of Typhoon Bopha. When I looked at the map on the news, it looked as if the storm has passed right over her village of Sinacaban on Mindanao.

Her letter was postmarked Nov. 21, 2012. Well before the storm.

“Dear Cheryl,

How are you? I’m praying to God that you and your family are okay after typhoon Sandy. But I guess it didn’t affect Texas and Oregon.”

She continues:

“Anyway, I bought a motorbike with sidecar last Oct. 27. Our neighbor is renting it…I’m saving the money for Benjie and Joven’s allowance.”

Leah now has a government job teaching in an elementary school near her village. With her income, she is able to provide support for her mother, who is paralyzed after a stroke, and she’s sending her two nephews to school. Joven is studying to be a mechanic and Benjie is is studying criminology.

Leah signed her letter:

“Thank you so much for uplifting our economic status.”

Of course, Leah did the heavy lifting. She went back to school at 31 and graduated with honors and recognition. She taught in private schools and in temporary positions, all the while keep her eyes on the prize: a government job with benefits. Leah persisted until she got her dream job.

And now she’s helping her family. She told her nephews they don’t have to pay her back for her support. She did ask them to build their parents a nice home. They live in a wooden structure now. Leah wants them to build something more solid.

Like the future she’s created for herself and her family.

I finally reached Leah by phone last week and learned that she is well and her family and home were unharmed. She reminded me it’s been too long since we’ve seen each other.

I haven’t seen Leah in five years. I made a promise to myself that I’ll spend next Christmas with Leah and her family.

NOTE: If you’d like to learn more about Isis Initiative, Inc., please visit our website at isisinitiative.org

Lillian G. N. Baio poses for a portrait in her Sunday best in Sierra Leone. Lillian has begun the application process for a scholarship from Isis Initiative, Inc. She wants to pursue studies in Peace and Conflict. Photo by Betty Press

We are excited to announce we plan to offer a scholarship to a young woman in Sierra Leone. Lillian G. N. Baio completed secondary school with financial support through a program and grant by the International Rescue Committee.  She wanted to continue her education, yet there were no additional funds available. She wants to major in Peace and Conflict studies and we want to help.

Sierra Leone is slowly recovering from 11 years of brutal civil war, which ended in 2002. If you’ve seen the movie “Blood Diamond” or read “A Long Way Gone” by Ishmael Beah, you know something of the war’s depravity and devastation. The average annual income is Sierra Leone is $220. The adult literacy rate is 27 percent (Source: UNESCO EFA Monitoring Report 2009), one of the lowest in the world.

We are grateful to friends of Cheryl Hatch, Bob and Betty Press, who recommended Lillian for a scholarship. Bob and Betty worked for years as journalists in Africa. When Bob received a Fulbright grant, the couple spent a year from 2008 to 2009 in Sierra Leone.

We expect to pay about $850 annually for tuition, room and board, books, uniforms and other expenses.

You can learn more about Isis Initiative, Inc. and our work at www.isisinitiative.org. You’ll find a link to our PayPal account if you’d like to support Lillian’s education.

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.

Proceedings:

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.

Fund-raising

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.

Newsletter

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.

Party On

October 10, 2010

J arrived today, welcomed by me and grey skies at Seattle-Tacoma Airport. And so much laughter. It’s one of the best things about hanging with my brother: he’s funny and quick-witted.

We went straight to Taste of India for lunch, shopping for beer and snacks at the Metropolitan Market, then we settled in to watch the SF Giants v. Atlanta Braves.

We just returned from a walk round Green Lake. Tomorrow we head for Corvallis.

J has been a great patron of Isis Initiative, Inc.  Join us on Oct. 16 for our fundraiser and performance by the J Hatch Trio.

Thank you to Beth Rietveld and Sam Stern for hosting the party.

My friend, Kathleen Hennessy, reminded me of the deadline (today, Oct. 1, 2010, naturally) for submission of photo essays for the social activist award from PhotoPhilanthropy. This is brilliant idea and a great organization “promotes and connects photographers with non-profit organizations around the world to tell the stories that drive action for social change.”

I spent yesterday and today putting together a photo essay, Leah’s Dream. It features photographs from my visit to witness Leah’s graduation from La Salle University in Osamis City in 2007.

Leah Mamhot spends time with her classmates before her last final exam at La Salle University in Ozamis City on Mindanao in the Philippines. Leah graduated in elementary education in 2007 and now works as a teacher near her village, Sinacaban, on Mindanao.

PhotoPhilanthropy offers a number of awards in different categories. I entered in the category for professional photographers and first prize is $15,000. Imagine how many scholarships and how much good work we could do with that money.

And it’s a win-win scenario. My photography and the work of Isis Initiative, Inc. will be featured on PhotoPhilanthropy’s website.

Thank you to Kathleen and PhotoPhilanthropy and to all the featured photographers for the work they do to contribute to social change. And thank you for the opportunity to share our work and commitment to provide access to higher education for women who have the desire but not the resources to get a college degree.

When I accepted a full-time job at our local newspaper last fall, I thought I would be grounding myself. I imagined a regular routine and paycheck would support my work on Isis Initiative, Inc. Turns out the job can sometimes be more grinding than grounding. I found myself spending less time on the nonprofit–and less time on this blog, obviously.

Yet, the job has presented me with new opportunities to share the work and make wonderful contacts. Last week I interviewed Sandy Neubaum, the associate director of the Austin Entrepreneurship Program at Oregon State University. Sandy is a dynamic, passionate advocate for “doing good while doing well,” using business practices and profits to address social issues. She has 20 years experience working in nonprofit organization. Doing my job covering the higher education beat, I met a fabulous new mentor.

Sandy teaches BA162, a class in social entrepreneurship. Students divide into teams and create a fundraising project. She gives them $100 to invest and they’re expected to turn at least $150 in profit. Those profits are then invested in real nonprofit organizations.

When I was observing Sandy in class, she mentioned Isis Initiative, Inc. She asked me to give an impromptu five-minute speech about Isis and our work helping women overseas gain access to college education. Isis Initiative, Inc. is one of the nonprofits to which the students may choose to donate at the end of the term. I was so surprised and honored to have Isis selected.

Now we’ll see what the students do. Stay tuned.

Women Helping Women

April 11, 2010

Beth Rietveld is the director of the Women’s Center at Oregon State University. In the past, she’s admired my photographs and asked to exhibit them next fall. In February 2009, she attended our Mardi Gras fundraiser. 

Kurdish women who have lost their husbands and homes hope for assistance as they wait outside the parliament building of self-declared Free Kurdistan in Irbil. November 1993

Recently, she purchased 100 of our notecards to use for thank-you notes for the center. 

With that purchase, she made a donation to support our work; and, each time she sends a note, she helps share our message and our work.

We are proud and appreciative of the support. Thank you, Beth.