Tonight, June 27, I will join Rochester, N.Y., artist and radio show host John Magnus Champlin in studio from 8 to 9 PM EST to talk about adventure and all our work with The Friends Project to share this idea of Do-it-yourself change!

We will share some fun stories about falling in anaconda holes in the Amazon, swimming with caiman in Peru (well, hopefully there weren’t any at night!), and our projects that currently assist students, farmers, families and widows in Zambia and Nicaragua.

As always, if you can’t tune in on the radio, you can listen in online:
http://www.rochesterfreeradio.com/listen/

 

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Me with new friends at the New Year’s gathering funded in part by The Friends Project. (Ndola, Zambia)

A friend of mine shared feelings today about what has happened in the last 13 years.
 
“It was thirteen years ago, when I left Kakuma Refugee with nothing, but only with IOM bag and pair of clothes, heading to an unknown world.”
 
It is difficult to imagine, truly, what this is like, leaving a war-torn country, alone, with a change of clothes, and absolutely zero guarantee of things working out for you upon arrival in your new home, only hope.
 
The guys from Sudan who were granted visas to come from refugee camps — most walking through several countries to find safe haven, as kids — came without English, without job skills, or any clue what life was like here.
 
Today my friend is talking about humbly taking stock of what he’s accomplished in his mission for education: a bachelors, a master’s degree. A family. His continuing thirst to know things about this world and who we are in it.
 
Several years ago, I wrote a feature story about him before his college graduation from a state public school. I remembered how the guys had never shopped in a store, used a microwave or stove, and walked into Rochester as if from another planet not too long ago.
 
I read this and am filled with awe at momentous obstacles he faced and the courage you gotta have to take them on. You never know who is sitting next to you, or their dreams or where they came from. It could be amazing, and often is if you let in the silence and listen.

945174_453636481415889_304206658_nThank you to a generous gift of $140, four teens from Las Minitas, Nicaragua, will be attending high school in neighboring El Sauce.

Each $35 scholarship includes support for a backpack, notebooks and transportation up and down the mountain for the Saturday classes. The teens help their family farms in the week, then attend weekend classes. Often, they walk three hours one way.

Congratulations to them!

Russ and Kathy Thomas of Rochester, NY, made the contribution in honor of Wendy and Jim Thomas. Want to join our effort? We are currently raising money to send a Masai young man to guide school (Kenya) and three college scholarships for 2016 to Las Minitas teens Alonso and Jessenia.

 

Alonso:

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Celebrating the opening in June 2014.

I’m honored to be part of the Earth Week Activism Day activities at SUNY Geneseo, in Geneseo, NY.

I’ll be giving a lecture with photos about the school we built and The Friends Project initiative.

“The power of one: Want change? Do it yourself.”
In 2014, Kris Dreessen set out on a journey around the world to prove the power everyday people have to make a difference. Learn about how she crowd-funded to build a school in Nicaragua and empowers others with small grants through her grassroots, word of mouth organization. Meet the people she met in Australia, Africa and beyond whose stories demonstrate how one act can change everything.

 

Join us!

2 to 44PM

Bailey 203

SUNY Geneseo 

 

Roasted beans? College.

It’s been a tough season for Las Minitas coffee farmers with whom we work, but we were able to get in organic, shade-grown coffee from a nearby settlement. Not too much, but it meant I had 14 bags to sell to help fund college scholarships.

We now have $140 toward each of two scholarships for Alonso and Yessenia to attend college in Leon. Each $300 covers all costs for the year.

They are the first to attend college from Las Minitas.

We are still hoping to raise another $400 for the scholarships.

 

Upcoming Events

2015

FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 6

“Embrace Every Angle”photo exhibition KMD_0931-treated-sized-wordmark-small

Carlson CoWorks, 60 Carlson Road, Rochester

6 to 8 PM

I’m a contributing photographer in a pop-up exhibition of photographs organized by yoga instructor Lisa Savage-Katz, focused on embracing who you are and your body, in all conditions and shapes and sizes, and loving yourself. I will have four images in the show, which feature Liza doing yoga poses in various and often surprising locations. A portion of the sale of prints goes toward community projects: Sale of my prints will benefit The Friends Project and our Masai scholarship project. I will be at the opening.

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SUNY Geneseo, Geneseo, NY

Distinguished speaker series, All-campus lecture

2:30 to 3:45PM

Kris Dreessen gave up most her belongings in 2014 to live her dream: To travel around the world helping to document tribes with disappearing or changing languages, and sharing stories of everyday people who make a difference in the lives of others. She started by living with Nicaraguan farmers in El Sauce, with whom she built a preschool using $5,200 raised from family, friends and people who support the idea of do-it-yourself change. She has collaborated with linguists working with groups with under-studied languages in Kenya, Senegal and Australia, and is creating a visual and written scrapbook of the communities, focusing on what is important to them, changing culture and traditions still in use. She has been an outdoors and feature reporter, editor and photographer for newspapers and has visited 35 countries, usually solo and always with more memory cards than cash. Living with colonists in the Amazon rainforest inspired her long ago to share stories that might otherwise go untold. In 2006, she created The Friends Project, a grassroots effort that funds small improvement projects in developing communities she visits that are driven by residents.

Celebrating the opening in June 2014.

Celebrating the opening in June 2014.

Remember when 250 of us raised $5,200 for materials and partnered with the farmers in Las Minitas, Nicaragua, to build a preschool!

I wrote a story about it … and finding second family when you dive past the surface … and it’s published in my home city (Rochester, NY)  newspaper, The Democrat and Chronicle, and Rochester Magazine.

I just now noticed our friend on the left pointing at us. Yep, WE do this. Booboo-Yah!

Thanks!

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The Rochester Magazine 10th anniversary issue.

The Rochester Magazine 10th anniversary issue.

One year ago this month The Friends Project opened the preschool in Las Minitas, Nicaragua.
On the newsstands today, the 10th anniversary issue of Rochester Magazine features a personal essay and lots of photos about our project!
It’s a celebration of community, collaboration and an intimate look at what it was like to build it beside the farmers.

Kool and the Gang had a good point: “Celebrate good times! Come on!”
Run to the newsstands and spread the word: Everyday people can make tremendous change — just ask us!

Me, dancing with teacher Marisela, to mariachi music during the opening.

Me, dancing with teacher Marisela, to mariachi music during the opening.

Joselito, holding his version of The Friends Project logo, during the first day of school at the preschool, 2014.

Joselito, holding his version of The Friends Project logo, during the first day of school at the preschool, 2014.

Children at the Las Minitas school, June 2015

Children at the Las Minitas school, June 2015

It was this month last year that I gathered outside the Las Minitas preschool with more than 60 people, who had walked and ridden their horses to celebrate its grand opening — and new opportunities for their children.

When I see these photos, I am again floored by the support the idea to help the farmers create a school received from everyone in Rochester, and beyond.

Celebrating the opening in June 2014.

Celebrating the opening in June 2014.

As I told community leader Alcides, “people want to be a part of your vision.”

Our $5,300 paid for a mason and helpers, the materials to build, and confirmed to Alcides and the other families that we are in this together.

See little Joselito’s fingerprints at the door? They will be there long after he and the current 17 students move on to elementary, then high school and then … who knows.

That’s a great feeling.  WE do this!

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During a class. June 2015.

During a class. June 2015.

Margaret Nsombo, left, with some of the neighbors she and her friends help.

Margaret Nsombo, left, with some of the neighbors she and her friends help.

OUR GRASSROOTS EFFORT, THE FRIENDS PROJECT, IS PROUD TO PROVIDE $500 IN SCHOLARSHIPS.
NDOLA, ZAMBIA —
On the outskirts of Ndola, schoolteacher Lillian Hetman, Margaret Nsombo and a group of their friends have started their own outreach, based on faith and faith in their ability to help their neighbors.

One day, they hope to have a building to gather in; right now, they envision what they can do between shoulder-height walls of logs and a small foundation. It will be a meeting place that symbolizes what they have been doing for several years — providing school fees and supplies for young children whose families can’t afford it, food for the most needy, and friendship.

They are living the concept that it “takes a village to raise a child.” The Friends Project is honored to join their effort.

On New Year’s Day, people come to Margaret’s house for soda and well wishes, a new beginning.

Margaret Nsombo, middle, Lillian Hetman, second from right, and other women from the outreach at their future gathering place.

Margaret Nsombo, middle, Lillian Hetman, second from right, and other women from the outreach at their future gathering place.

One day, Margaret and Lillian and the ladies walked with me to their future gathering place. I met a family who knows their work first-hand, and some of the kids who rely on their community approach to opportunities to have one at school.

They do it with no outside funding, and no deep pockets to reach into. Still, they get it done.

This week, The Friends Project provided a $500 gift to the women’s outreach; it will be split between students for their fees, as much as it can go around.

Some of the recipients are pictured here. We look forward to updates and seeing how the students are faring.

One gift, many possibilities. Young minds that we can only imagine now where they will go.

Me with new friends at the New Year's gathering.

Me with new friends at the New Year’s gathering.

MEET SOME OF THE STUDENTS THE $500 SCHOLARSHIP MONEY IS ASSITING IN SCHOOL FEES:

School children who will receive scholarhips for school fees.

School children who will receive scholarhips for school fees.

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School children who will receive scholarhips for school fees.

School children who will receive scholarhips for school fees.

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