September 1, 2010

I’ve been waiting to post the exciting news that Leah had received her public school teaching position. Sadly, she didn’t.

Leah taught two years at a private elementary school with the dream of securing a government job in a public school. The public school position offers the security of a lifetime appointment, benefits and a salary that is nearly triple what she earned at the private school.

She did everything right. She was number three on the waiting list. The first two candidates had received their job postings. She was next. She did not renew her private school contract. Instead she accepted an offer to fill in for a teacher who took maternity leave. She was told she’d have the next available position at the school.

When the position became available, the school administrator awarded it to someone who had family connections to the local mayor or the school administrator (I can’t remember which now). The person who got Leah’s job was ranked 11th on the waiting list, eighth behind Leah.

Leah said she cried and cried when she learned she’d been passed over. She hasn’t yet received her salary for the two months she served as a substitute. Her family went without electricity for a while because Leah didn’t have the money to pay the bill. She sold their pig to secure funds to help with expenses.

Leah doesn’t complain, though. She takes action. She went to the governor’s office and explained her situation. She asked for a teaching position and she’s been promised one in a school in a neighboring village. She said: “God is always taking care of me.”

She wants a job in a school near her village so she can stay in her home and continue to care for her aging mother and her two brothers. She’s helping pay for her brother’s education now.

When I posted this news on Facebook, my friend, Michelle Jolin, left the following comment:

“We’re so lucky on so many levels–including the one in which most of us get through life without ever having to pay a bribe or worry about such entrenched nepotism that you can’t get a decent education or a good job without powerful friends helping you.”

Leah refuses to pay a bribe. She said she knows it would make the path easier; however, she doesn’t believe in bribery. She has faith in God, herself and her hard work.

I am so proud of Leah. She has faced obstacles ever since she returned to college 15 years after she’d left high school to earn money for her family after her father died. She continues to believe and to push for what she wants, what she’s earned. I look forward to the day I can write a post announcing Leah’s new job.

And I’m so grateful to my friends and all who support Isis Initiative.


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.

After Midnight

February 3, 2009

The moon is framed in the top right pane of glass. It’s bright, a half-moon, titled slightly, with its diagonal running from 2 to 8. I’m up way too late.

There are petty things I could rant about…like laundry room etiquette…and yet I’ve had a grand day. I find myself going to bed happy and waking up happy. And there’s this bright moon in the sky keeping me company.

The swim-a-thon garnered $335 in donations thus far. I spent my morning hand writing…funny I need to specify “hand” writing, since most writing is done on computers now, via e-mail, or blogs, or Facebook. I’m learning the beauty and benefits of these modern tools.

Yet I adore a handwritten note. With a beautiful stamp, paying homage to someone or something. A piece of art on the envelope. I smile when I open my post office box and find a note, a personal note, with human handwriting, among the mass-generated machine labels on credit cards offers and solicitations.

I’ve traveled the world and I’ve sent postcards from some crazy places, from the anarchy of Somalia once, just to see if the my thoughts and writing would reach the intended destination. From war zones and moonlit beaches. From forests and deserts.

I love writing and sending notes, cards, letters. I look for special paper, the right card, a fine stamp. I put time, care, thought, energy into my personal correspondence. And it makes me happy, truly happy, to send my cards and letters. 

I sent more than 50 e-mails telling people about my swim-a-thon. I got a handful of responses. It seems a few people still write checks and mail them; however, I received inquiries about online donations.

So, I opened a PayPal account.

You can now donate through our Web site.

Or you can send me a check and a note in the mail. Thank you.

Good night moon.

Clair de lune

January 12, 2009

Alice Anderson, one of our board members, created a Facebook page for Isis Initiative. If you’re a Facebook fan, please check it out and share it with your friends. Alice included photos from my trip to the Philippines in October 2007 to meet Leah’s family and attend her “Tribute Day” at La Salle University in Ozamiz City.

I’ve been resisting the Facebook movement. All my board members, Alice, Samanda and Melanthia, use Facebook and have been encouraging me to join. 

As a journalist, I’m a fan of persistence. 

I climbed to the top of the hill in Chip Ross Park today, hoping to see the moon. I had cause to be hopeful: the clouds had drifted apart in the afternoon. There was a chance the skies would clear.

I found a quiet spot, facing east, framed through some tree branches dripping with lichens. I sat for 45 minutes, watching the clouds crawl over the horizon, their bellies go pink and then blue gray. No moon.

I got home and sat at the window and watched the horizon beyond the Willamette River, certain the clouds would break. Denied. 

One last look, I thought. I peaked out the window. I saw the moon, about 15 degrees above the horizon, brightening as she broke free of the clouds. I hurried back to my room, added layers of clothes and dashed to the riverbank.

A broad band of moonlight swirled and eddied on the swollen Willamette. I gaged the moon’s rising against a bare tree branch. First the branch cut across the moon’s middle; then she climbed above it. I shifted my gaze from the moon to the river.

A path shimmered in a wide, waving band from the bank below my feet to the other side. I could hear the pulse of the river as the current gently surged and slacked. The shimmer dimmed, the band dissipated into intermittent sparkles.

After less than 20 minutes, the clouds had conquered the moon once more.


“Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”

–Ralph Waldo EMERSON