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.



March 14, 2010


"Justice." A painting in egg tempera by Oregon artist Julie Green.

I purchase art to mark special occasions in my life. When Isis Initiative, Inc. received non-profit status from the Internal Revenue Service last October, I decided to celebrate with a painting.

I had seen Julie’s painting in two separate exhibits. I asked her if she still had it and told her I’d like to buy it. And I told her why. We both thought “Justice” was the perfect choice. She gave me the friend’s plan and allowed me to purchase it in installments. It’s a beautiful approach. It gave Julie time to spend with the painting, time to say goodbye. And it gave me a way to work the purchase into my budget.

Last Thursday, on a rainy Oregon night, we shared a pot of tea and conversation in front of a fire before I took the painting home.

It was the perfect transition. It’s the perfect painting to celebrate Isis Initiative, Inc. and the work we do. Justice. Educating and uplifting women goes a long way to creating justice in our world.

And I love supporting and celebrating an artist and a friend like Julie Green. And I love having her painting to celebrate our work. And I just love the painting.

Going the Distance

October 22, 2009

How far is it to Domingag, Leah?

600 pesos, she answers.

I meant distance. On the bus.

I thought I’d get a distance in hours or days. I got an answer in local currency.

Leah can tell me the value of anything, in pesos. And she understands and appreciates the value of the her education, beyond the count in pesos. She understands and supports the value of the opportunity Isis Initiative, Inc. seeks to offer other young women.

After a few more questions, I learn it’s more than a bus ride. Marethel Guinsayao, our scholarship recipient, lives with her family in the mountains in Zamboango del Sur on the Zamboanga Peninsula.

To reach Marethel, Leah takes a jeepnee to Ozamiz City. A bus to Molave. Eventually a motorcycle to Marethel’s village. I think I’ve got that right. It will take Leah most of a day to reach Marethel’s home. And 600 pesos roundtrip.

Leah gets a week’s paid vacation from the Montessori school where she teaches, starting Oct. 31. She will use a couple of her vacation days to travel to meet Marethel and ensure she gets settled into her program at Western Mindanao State University. Leah wants to personally monitor the use of our funds. She’ll pay for the tuition, the boarding costs and the two school uniforms.

Leah will gather receipts and send them to us in the United States. She’ll keep her own records of our payments and use of funds.

Leah makes our work possible. Leah exemplifies the best of what we hope to achieve with Isis Initiative, Inc. She graduated from La Salle University, Ozamiz City. She started teaching third grade in a school near her village. And she has continued to support our work with her time, her honesty, her enthusiasm and her common sense.

And those long bus rides to make sure our money is well spent.

Thank you, Leah.

Belated Birthday

September 7, 2009

I haven’t been able to reach Leah yet. I’m sure she’s OK. She’d have no reason to be on a ferry these days, although she has traveled by ferry in the past. School’s in session and with the +15 hour time change, it’s tricky to catch her outside the classroom.

I remembered her birthday is in August. When I spoke with her recently I asked for her birthdate. She said August 15.

I called her on August 15–the day after our last board meeting–to tell her we’d chosen Marethel Guinsayao as our scholarship recipient. I asked Leah to extend our congratulations to Marethel….and did not wish her a happy birthday.

Last year I sent her a card and a small gift plenty early enough to reach her before her birthday. I enjoy sending cards and good wishes and I’ve always been good at remembering and delivering them. This year, for whatever reason, my calendar has been unreliable.

Talking to Leah on her birthday and not wishing her a happy birthday sent a message loud and clear. Get organized, Cheryl. Get back on track.

I went to my local independent bookstore, Grass Roots Books and Music, and ordered a date book to keep a record of the birthdays and anniversaries of my friends.

I’ll have it this week.

I’m sending Leah a card, a gift and my belated birthday wishes.

Please join me in wishing Leah a happy birthday.

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.

The late Captain Casey, of Windjammer Company, gave the seed money to start this school on Mayreau, a small island in the Caribbean with one road and 300 residents.

The late Captain Casey, of Windjammer Company, gave the seed money to start this school on Mayreau, a small island in the Caribbean with one road and 300 residents.

Samanda Dorger, our treasurer, brought us a new opportunity to support education on another island, this one in the Grenadines. The story comes to us through Samanda from her friend, Anne Stanley. It’s a chance to carry on a worthy cause and a seafarer’s tradition.

Capt. Cornelius “Casey” Plantefaber died last month after a long and happy career as a tall-ship captain in the Caribbean. Here’s a bit of the story about his work for the school children of Mayreau.

“Casey always seemed to have a love for the water and his career was certainly a reflection of that passion. Initially, Casey ran the Miami Beach Marina for many years until he became involved with Windjammer Barefoot Cruises, working as a Fleet Captain, having been at the helm of every one of its sailing vessels.

This leisure cruise line was based out of Miami. Its ships were former yachts and commercial vessels, refurbished as cruise vessels to accommodate 60-100 paying passengers and 20-40 officers and crewmembers at a time. Casey’s job was a main component in his life as he was truly happiest on the open water. He remained with Windjammer for nearly 30 years, working hard to help others enjoy a relaxing and unique vacation experience.

One of the things that made Casey so special was his gigantic heart, coupled with his spirit of compassion. As a Fleet Captain, Casey insisted that every ship’s captain “adopt an island” to sponsor. Casey chose the very poor and desolate Caribbean island of Mayreau, the smallest inhabited island of the Grenadines, with an area of about one-and-a-half square miles, and a population of about 300.

At the time, this island had virtually no commerce and the only school available was off-island for children who had the means. Casey was instrumental in raising funds to establish a local school. Each year, he challenged passengers to provide backpacks filled with school supplies for the local children. He became a legend on the island and passengers delighted in seeing the children run down the hill to the harbor yelling, “Captain Casey! Captain Casey”!

A scholarship in his name has been established to continue providing educational opportunities for the children of this island.”

Isis Initiative, Inc. promotes healing, communication and connection through education and the arts. We currently offer scholarships to women in the Philippines who have the desire but not the resources to pursue a college education.

We are excited to expand our outreach and honor Captain Casey’s legacy helping the school children on Mayreau.