Friday, December 15, 2006

Disaster Aid

It seems the more fundraising we do, the more interested we become in how other aid organizations operate and spend their money.

This story from the Reuters Foundation looks at a report from the International Red Cross, which details how much money was distributed per person per disaster in 2005. Given the relative value of dollars around the world, it's difficult to know how much assistance a person receives from the money they're given. Still, the power of the US dollar is rather striking.

Which brings up another interesting article from MSN. According to this report, if you earn more than $2,200/year, you are in the top half of the world's wealthiest. The report also says the three richest people in the world have more money than the bottom 48 counties combined. It doesn't name names, but I'm presuming they mean Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, and Carlos Slim Helu, who have a combined net worth (according to Forbes) $136.86 billion.

CB

Thursday, December 14, 2006

The Beginning

Tomorrow morning I will go to Bremer Bank here in Morris. I'll sit down with one of the friendly tellers and wire $1,500 to Standard Charter Bank in Pokhara, Nepal to the account of Dinesh Rajbhandari.

I will give the teller an account number from which to take the funds. Then she (they're all women at Bremer) will ask me for an account number and something called a Swift code in order to complete the transaction. As it will be Friday, there will be trays of cookies set out for patrons. I can't resist; I'll take one and leave.

In the banking world, this is a fairly mundane transaction, but for us it represents a monumental step for Sam's House. It is our first official disbursement of money.

Dinesh will be using the money as a down payment on some furniture he's ordered from a local carpenter--beds and tables. It also includes our first three month's rent on the house in Pokhara.

We were granted our non-profit status on January 11 of this year, and in less than twelve months, through the incredible support and hard work of friends and family, we've managed to raise enough money to give Sam's House three years of support.

So it will not be without some gratitude and reflection that we make that wire transfer tomorrow.

Thanks to all of you who have helped--either through donations, spreading the news, or just a kind word shared. It has all meant the world to us, but more importantly, it will mean the world to many young children who benefit from your generosity.

CB

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Slogging through Bureaucracy...

We've written in this space before about the (sometimes) archaic and (always) frustrating procedures for registering anything in Nepal--visas, permits, etc. As Jennifer would say, "a complete Weberian nightmare!"

Actually, she wouldn't say that but she should.

Truth be told, Nepal's maddening bureaucracy is just a function of the country's overall economic lack. I won't bore you with an explanation. As Jennifer would (should) say, "It's Durkheim writ large!"

Dinesh has been racing around the last month trying to have Sam's House completely registered prior to my arrival next month. On the constitution he submitted a few weeks back, each trustee's signature was required on each page of the constitution for a total of 400+ signatures. By comparison, Jennifer and I signed a couple pages en route to our Sam's House registration with the IRS.

I don't want to beleaguer the point... but here is a tale from Dinesh from a recent e-mail. Prior to the recommendation letter Dinesh mentions, he needed to collect signatures from people near Sam's House saying they wouldn't be opposed to an orphanage in their neighborhood.

"I am glad to inform you that we have received a recommendation letter from the Pokhara Municipality. Now, with that letter, we will need to go to the District Development Office then finally District Administration Office. The members of the board will also need to be present in the DAO. So, we are planning to go both places on Sunday. The DAO will require police reports of all board members so I guess, that will take some time. Getting the five signatures from the people in the neighborhood was much easier than waiting 2.5 hours for an officer to get his signature on the recommendation letter in the Municipality office. He had gone to a motor-bike repairing centre to get his motorbike repaired during his office hours!!!"

In other news, Dinesh has started gathering price quotes for furniture and other house materials. Next week he'll start advertising for house mothers and sisters to work at Sam's House.

CB

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

A Positive Note

In this blog we have certainly expressed reservations about recent developments in Nepal. Our experiences, and more importantly, the experiences our Nepali friends, have conditioned a rather cynical view of political and economic gains.

This editorial, from the LA Times, provides some positive perspective on what the Nepali people have accomplished with the signing of the peace accord.

CB

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Peace Accord Signed

Earlier today the Nepal government and the Maoist rebel army signed a peace agreement, ending ten years of fighting. This article summarizes the details.

This article from the BBC offers a more revealing insight into the effect of this conflict on Nepal and the Nepalese people. As you can see, there is still a great deal of reservation about this agreement going forward.

In some ways, it does seem to good to be true. The Maoists stood for (and still stand for) the creation of a communist state. Does this mean that Prachanda, if elected, will attempt to overhaul the entire politico-economic system of Nepal? Would that even be possible?

And, we have to consider, what would a Prachanda-led country mean for the future of INGOs in Nepal such as Sam's House. Would we still be welcome?

Stay tuned.

CB

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Peace Finally?

It appears the Maoists and Nepal government are preparing to sign a peace accord after ten years of fighting and strikes and blockades... and, not to forget, the decimation of Nepal's already meager resources--human and otherwise. You can read about it here.

Although this next article has dampened my hopes. In the run-up to signing the accord, the Maoists have renewed their "membership drive" in the rural areas, recruiting as many young people as they can. The Maoists have been known to forcibly coerce young people into the party--a practice they will not be allowed to conduct after the accord is signed.

Under the accord, both the Maoists' army and the Nepalese army will be confined to barracks and other areas, and all their weapons will be held in lockdown, supervised by United Nations officers. It is difficult to imagine all the weapons finding their way into these stockades.

Of course, our interest in these developments is not solely altruistic. Jennifer and I have been wanting to establish a summer study program in Nepal since we arrived at UMM. Last night we had a booth at the International Country Fair. We had several inquiries about offering summer study in Nepal to which we robotically reply, "not until Nepal is taken off the State Department's warning list." This peace accord represents a big step in that direction.

We have a summer program already designed and ready to go. We drew it up two summers ago with Dinesh. It features a six-day trek in the mountains followed by two weeks of cultural study, a one-week homestay with a Nepali family, and then a quick tour of Kathmandu and the many important cultural sites there. Once Sam's House opens, students will also be able to volunteer hours with the children.

Speaking of children, UNICEF just published a report regarding the welfare of children during the Maoist conflict.

---------------------------------

Dinesh wrote today describing the first board meeting of the Nepali trustees for Sam's House. His wife, Rekha, was elected chairperson and Bharat Malla, owner of a local travel agency, was elected treasurer.

It seems we like to complain about bureaucratic inefficiency. In truth, we don't know the half of it when compared to other countries. Dinesh is busy registering Sam's House with the Nepal government. He went to KTM this weekend to get signatures from some additional trustees...

"You can't believe how many times a member needs to sign on the papers. I thought I had all the papers ready for the board meeting. But a member (lawyer) spotted that the format that I used in writing the constitution was the old one. I had taken NCH's constitution as a model, but now it has changed. So, I had to change the whole thing and write it again with the new format which took me 7 hours. The constitution is written in Nepali and has 11 pages. We need to make seven copies of them to submit in different government offices and each board member needs to sign on top and bottom of the each page. So, each person has to sign 154 times. Can you believe it?"

That's our leader: Dinesh-ji.

He's (understandably) rather anxious about the registration process because, as you can see, it requires an incredible amount of work and detail, but also because without the proper connections, the processing of your file can take a very long time. Some groups work in Nepal without registering, knowing that the Nepal government has enough challenges without trying to fish out all the development groups working off the books, so to speak.

A word about our Nepali trustees... it is customary in Nepal for trustees to receive payment or favors for their service on a board, even if it is a charitable organization. From our perspective that seems highly unethical and self-serving. It is our policy that no trustees will receive compensation for Sam's House work. We have insisted upon this from the start, even for the Nepali board.

This has created a unique challenge for Dinesh because the custom of perks for board service is so ingrained. To his everlasting credit, he has assembled a group of professionals who understand this policy.

Insisting on this policy has created some culturally-awkward moments for Dinesh during the recruitment of trustees. He tells them up front that there will be no compensation. It is a very un-Nepali way to conduct business. I think this also speaks to the quality of people we have on our Nepali board. We'll have pictures and profiles of this group on our website soon.

CB

Friday, November 03, 2006

Our First Home!

Dinesh has just reached an agreement for rental home for Sam's House. Pictures have been posted below.

The house sits in the Bagar area of Pokhara, toward the north end of the city. It's situated in a residential area, a good distance from the main roads, so the children will have safe walkways and plenty of peace and quiet.

To get a better idea of the location, go to the Sam's House website and click on the "Nepal & Pokhara" link. Then click the link for the map of Pokhara. You'll be able to see Bagar toward the top of the map, near the confluence of the rivers. It's a very nice, peaceful area.

This home is owned by an ex-Gurkha soldier and his wife, and its style is fairly typical for Nepalis who have better income than most. As we mentioned in an earlier post, many ex-Gurkhas have invested their retirement pay almost exclusively in housing and land.

Dinesh says they are in walking distance to many stores, schools and a hospital. Best of all, the Rajbhandaris will not have to move as their house is less than a 5 minute walk.

This will be Sam's House for the next three years (hopefully), until we raise enough money to secure some land and build family-style homes.

Anyhow, this is a huge step and Dinesh is doing a wonderful job preparing everything for our opening in January 2007.

I'll post more pictures as they arrive.

Love, CB


Another view of the house that includes a piece of the side yard. Posted by Picasa


Bedroom on the first floor. Very spacious. Since these photos were taken, the owner has re-painted the bedrooms. We could always use a volunteer to paint some fun things on the walls. Posted by Picasa


Sitting area on the first floor. A similar room is available on the other floors. Posted by Picasa


The front of the house viewed from the driveway. Three floors, lovely vegetation and a spacious side and backyard with a vegetable garden. Posted by Picasa


A side view of the house. On each floor, there are three large bedrooms, a sitting room and an office. Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Running for Sam's House

Team Sam's House completed the Detroit Free Press marathon last Sunday. It was gorgeous day (in the high 40s) and spectacular route except for the stiff head winds we faced for about half the run. My brother John, brother-in-law Tom Lundin and I ran the full marathon. Sister Julie Lundin ran the half--without breaking a sweat, I might add.

We ran with Sam's House shirts, kindly donated by Irwin and Ruth Rothchild. We had the website on the back of the shirt--on the risky (and somewhat faulty) assumption we would be ahead of more people than we would trail. Or was it that we thought people behind us would be more likely to donate than those who raced past? Nonetheless, we did get a few inquiries throughout the race to which we responded as much as breath would allow.

The route crossed into Windsor, Canada for three or four miles then returned through a tunnel beneath the Detroit River. Remkarkably, we teamed up with Julie at mile 5. She had been forced to start from a different lane for half-marathon runners. We thought we wouldn't see her until the end, but she spotted us coming over the bridge into Canada and waited for us so we could have eight miles together.

But now for the important details... We raised approximately $2,300 for Sam's House, which equates to roughly a month's operating costs: food, salaries, tuition, rent, and other expenses.

And that term, "operating costs" is closer to becoming "actual operating costs" each day. With the marathon pledges and other donations, we are on track to reach our fundraising goal and open in January 2007. Dinesh, our director in Nepal, has reached a rental agreement for a home in Pokhara (pictures to come).

The donations received for the race will go to support 15 orphaned or abandoned children in the coming year, giving them food, shelter, education, and best of all, the caring support and security of a home.

Like all of our fundraising efforts to date, we did not run alone... On behalf of everyone at Sam's House (and Team Sam's House), we'd like to specially thank the following people for their support:

Darla Dackiewicz
Jim Wojtkun
Lisa Dauderman
Sara Green
Mike Strauss
Stephanie Bane
Dave Morawski
Stephanie Landes
Sarah Melamed
Chuck Hurley
Corie Dimagard
Howard Landau
John Buchta
Craig Riner
Cathy Hunt
Jack Goldsmith
Mike Rotella
Jeff Harris
Dan Fauver
Dave Prusak
Joe Gaulzetti
Tom Rossi
Dana Moses
Margaret Atkinson
Tim and Jennifer Atkinson
Kathy and Mike Kraft
Pat and Bill Lundin
Gene Clair and Sue Audey
Wayne and Denise Dannels
Irwin and Ruth Rothchild
Jon Rothchild, Charlotte Radler and Theo Rothchild
Maureen and Tad Androsik
Dave and Patty Blanchong
Dave and Amy Arrighi
Sheila Brennan and Ian Bird
Carole Butler
Anne and Steve Noonan
Carlise and Steve Stembridge
Audrey and Roger Mark and Family
Jennifer and Tamler Sommers
Jen Lund
Brook Miller and Chrissy Kolaya
Wendy Hyatt
Jennifer and Brad Deane

Thank you, thank you, thank you...

CB and JR


Celebrating the completion of the race. What a granola bar and bottle of water can do for your disposition. (Thanks to Jen Forshey for these photos.) Posted by Picasa


Sprawled on the turf at Ford Field just after the finish. John is doing a yoga stretch and not praying. I was thinking, "a walk-a-thon might be more appropriate." Posted by Picasa


Passing the halfway point, running north toward Belle Isle and Grosse Pointe, trawling for donors with the website on the back of our shirts. One person has already e-mailed. Posted by Picasa


Trapped (but not really) behind runners around mile 12 near downtown Detroit. More than 4,000 people ran the marathon and over 15,000 took part in the day, either running the half-marathon or marathon relays. Posted by Picasa


Team Sam's House lined up before the race. From left to right that's me, brother John, sister Julie Lundin, and brother-in-law Tom Lundin. Chilly temps in the morning with 30 mph winds warranted heavy gear, except for my Nordic brother-in-law, who ran much of the race in only a sleeveless shirt. Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Rummage Sale Success!

The rummage sale in Bay Village netted $8,200 for Sam's House, a figure that surpassed everyone's expectations. For anyone who's ever participated in a garage sale, I think this would be an impressive figure. More than half that number came from donations!

We are all the more overjoyed then considering that $8,200 equates to three months of operating Sam's House. Imagine that: two days of work resulting in three months of shelter and food and education for needy children.

Of course, calling the rummage sale "two days of work" shortchanges the people who worked on it for months ahead of time, either collecting donations, designing flyers, renting space or publicizing the sale.

Then there were the Herculean efforts: Bill Lundin who drove to Alliance and back on Friday night for tables; Mike Kraft and Moe Androsik who entertained and provoked shoppers with their hilarious banter; Marge and Katie Forshey who sorted and priced thousands of items; Jen Forshey and Johnny Butler who drove all over the greater Cleveland area to collect rummage; Jennifer Atkinson and Kathy Kraft who tamed the mountains of donated clothing; Susan Lowe, Carole Butler, John Butler, Julie Lundin and Cathy McPhillips who spread word far and wide. And many, many others, not least of all the hundreds of people who donated goods to the sale.

Speaking very personally, the sale was a heartwarming experience, reminding Jennifer and me of how lucky we are to have such an incredibly generous family and group of friends. People we hadn't seen in months showed up to donate huge amounts of time, energy and money to help Sam's House.

Based on the sale's success, and current donations, we are planning to open Sam's House in January 2007. It will be an absolute privilege to take your generosity and turn it into a loving, friendly and nurturing home.

Because we cannot possibly find words to express our gratitude to everyone who helped with the sale, please accept this list as evidence of our heartfelt thanks and appreciation. We keep you in our thoughts and close to our hearts at all times...

Moe and Tad Androsik
Jessica, Olivia and Alexandra Androsik
Tim and Jennifer Atkinson
Michael and Marcie Atkinson
Colleen Atkinson
Margaret Atkinson
J.D. Aylward
Bay High School cross-country team
Sheila Brennan and Ian Bird
John and Carole Butler
Johnny Butler
Kevin and Catherine Butler
Dan Enovitch and the Bay Village Parks and Recreation Department
Eileen Fisher
Jen Forshey
Katie Forshey
Marge and Jim Forshey
Danny Forshey
Jeff Gallatin (Westlife newspaper)
Tom Harkness
Bonnie Hunt
Arlene Inks
Patty and Steve Jankowski
Java Bay coffee shop
Sheila Kako
Jenny and Joe Knap
Kathy, Mike and "Senator" Ted Kraft
Don Landers
Karl and Susan Lowe
Christopher Lowe, Cameron Lowe and Linda Ho
Mike and Dennis Lowe
Julie and Tom Lundin
Bill and Pat Lundin
Tammy and Mark Lyons
Coletta Malloy
Wanda and Bob McNeil
Cathy and Jim McPhillips
Laura and Sean O'Reilly
Amy Seeley
Patsy Skelley
Dick and Marcia Wren

Love to you all,

CB and JR


The marquis in front of City Hall. Posted by Picasa


Tom Lundin and Tad Androsik apply the latest marketing arrangement theory to the furniture section. Posted by Picasa


Jim McPhillips and Kevin Butler man the bake sale station.  Posted by Picasa


Cousin Catherine Butler and Jen face the onslaught of buyers. Posted by Picasa


Evelyn Lundin spreading the word about Sam's House. Posted by Picasa


We had so many donations, the furniture section had to be moved outside. Posted by Picasa


Room 2--the night before the sale. Posted by Picasa


Room 1--the night before the sale. Posted by Picasa


Cousin Sean O'Reilly looks suitably impressed to find a price tag among the piles of donated clothing. Posted by Picasa


Carole Butler reluctantly stopping work and posing for a photo. Special thanks to Susan Lowe (design) and Julie and Tom Lundin (donation) for the Sam's House t-shirts. Posted by Picasa


Jen Forshey directs table traffic. Posted by Picasa


The 5,500 pound sleeper sofa, responsible for three hernias and five fused disks. Deftly handled here by the strongest man in North America. Posted by Picasa


Mike Kraft contemplates a purchase. As lead barker, Mike was responsible for nearly all the sales on Saturday. Posted by Picasa


Members of the Bay High School cross country team volunteered invaluable hours. Without them we'd still be unloading. Posted by Picasa


Brother-in-law Tom Lundin tests out a mini-trampoline before approving it for the showroom floor. Posted by Picasa