SOS holiday party, silent auction, gift certificates for massage….

I am really feeling jazzed! I’ve been a supporter for many years of the Save Our Springs Alliance, a local environmental group dedicated to preserving the quality of “the soul of Austin,” Barton Springs.

bartonspringsIf you’re not familiar with Barton Springs, it’s a large spring-fed urban swimming hole with a natural bottom, populated with plants, fish, salamanders, crawdads, and other wildlife, including humans. It’s got a nice view of the downtown skyline and is a must-see stop for tourists.

The water is unchlorinated and cold, and it feels fantastic! It takes courage to get in because it’s so cold (68-70 F. year-round). I am mostly a warm-weather swimmer/snorkeler there,though I’ll do the New Year’s Day polar bear dip if the weather is decent.

Keeping the springs clean and healthy is a challenge in an urban environment, and SOS does a good job.

Every year SOS holds a holiday party and silent auction. It’s one of the best nonprofit parties around, with good food, live music and dancing, an excellent silent auction, and lots of fun people.

This year for the first time, I had something to donate to the silent auction. I donated an Ashiatsu gift certificate for a 90-minute session. I stopped by the SOS office, my first time there, to drop it off and was warmly welcomed by Pat and Bill and recognized as a long-time member.

Wow, I wasn’t expecting that!

Anyway, if you’re interested, come to the party and bid on an Ashiatsu session with me and whatever else you like! It’s Thursday, Dec. 6, 6 pm-midnight, at Mercury Hall. Here are the details.

I also have massage and Ashiatsu gift certificates available for purchase. You choose the denomination — my sessions start at 30 minutes, and recipients can always upgrade to add more time.

Making a difference: An invitation to try Kiva and get $25 to lend

I’ve been making microfinance loans for several years now through Kiva. It gives me an amazingly good feeling to lend $25 along with a bunch of other people from around the world to help someone struggling in poverty get ahead and to receive updates on their repayment status.

I could be in their shoes. After all, isn’t every person just another version of me?

I’ve made 15 loans so far, to people in Benin, Ecuador, several in Peru, Kenya, Paraguay, Costa Rica, Pakistan, and Nigeria. The one to Pakistan took a long time to repay, and I could infer from reading the news why. That country was in quite a bit of turmoil right after I made that loan.

I’ve lent to individuals and groups, men and women of various ages. One was to a Costa Rican mother of four and grandmother, very stylish, who is a talented seamstress and dressmaker. Maria also teaches sewing classes. Her loan, now repaid, was for a better sewing machine for making alterations. Here’s her photo. Doesn’t she look competent?

I am discerning about the reason they want a loan. I’d rather lend money to someone who is creating something or offering a skilled service than if they are reselling Pepsi. Who needs Pepsi?

Several of my loan recipients have done embroidering, weaving, sewing, and tailoring — which require real skills. Others have been in food and agriculture — food stalls, dairy, livestock, fruits and vegetables.

Aside: I wish Kiva would identify the people who are raising livestock, dairy animals, and crops organically. I’d like to encourage that kind of agriculture. That food might end up on my table someday, or yours. Wouldn’t you  prefer organic? Couldn’t the whole world return to growing our food organically?

When loans are repaid, I relend the money. You can also take it out of Kiva if you want. I usually give Kiva a little extra for their operating expenses. That part is tax-deductible as a charitable donation.

Anyway, this is by way of inviting you to make a loan through Kiva. Right now, if any friend of mine joins Kiva for the first time, we both get $25 to  lend. 

All you have to do is click this link to go to my personal invitation page. Find a borrower you like, click “Lend $25,” and follow the instructions from there.

I just used my free $25 to lend Zilola in Spitamen, Tajikistan, some of the $600 needed for her to buy a computer. This mother of three, who works at  a sewing workshop, plans to offer computer services to generate more income for her family. She’s had a little training in business and computer use. Her children will benefit and will help her with this business.

Sounds like a forward-thinking, savvy mom to me.

Actually, the money has been pre-disbursed by a local microfinance operation that works with Kiva as a field partner. The nuts and bolts of microfinance are sophisticated.

IMON International has a four-star risk rating, has partnered with Kiva for over 4 years, and has made over 6,000 microloans totaling $7.5 million in Tajikistan with a default rate of 0.03%.

That seems pretty sound to me.

My loan actually goes to IMON to replace the money they’ve already lent to Zilola. I will get updates on Zilola’s repayment. (Note: The recipient I originally chose, Hout, worked with a Kiva field partner that did not meet Kiva’s standard for participating in this special offer, so if you read this post twice, I’ve replaced Hout’s info with Zilola’s.)

However the money flows, it is doing good, and I feel more connected to this amazing planet we call home.

I make microfinance loans through Kiva because it makes me feel good to help others. My heart connects to their lives and their dreams of lifting themselves and their children out of poverty, of living fuller, more satisfying lives in their families, communities, and world. I want that too.

Their stories become part of my story.

If you’d like to participate in Kiva and start with a gift of $25 to lend, just click this link.

The gifts from telling the truth: a moving story

My friend Carol Waid, co-founder of the nonprofit Truth Be Told: Helping Women Behind and Beyond Bars, tells her story and the story of her work. Very, very moving. Click to read A Co-Founder’s Journey: Carol Waid’s Story.

I served as a board member for Truth Be Told for a couple of years when it was a new nonprofit. I used my writing and technology skills to start a newsletter and help them get organized to track supporters and receive donations so TBT could become stable — which they have!

I have attended several incredibly moving graduations and have gone into the prisons myself to teach writing and the three points of view to the women. I’ve also brought in dear friends who became facilitators. Maybe at some point, I will get to do that too.

Working with Truth Be Told is something I am so honored to have been able to do in this life. It is part of my heart.

Here’s an excerpt from Carol’s story:

I went to treatment some 13 years ago and in treatment I pretty much did the same kind of work that the facilitators guide the women to do, telling the TRUTH about our lives, through a process of using a lifeline to see your life.  I did not even know my own story, much less know how to talk about.  When I did a lifeline I was able to see the reasons I would try to take my own life at 15 and why I would choose the vehicle that I chose.  I began to see why I would choose a violent teenager to fall in love with and obsess over, even beyond his death.  I began to see how depression was in my fabric, and the fabric of my family.  I was shocked to discover that I had moved 32 times in my short 17 years of life and it began to make sense to me why I didn’t know what a friend was, or how to be a friend.

I also began to understand why I was scared to say my name and be seen.  What I didn’t know, for a very long time, and still struggle to accept, is that I am courageous and strong and compassionate and loving and smart and gentle and authentic, but I have to fight off what rules, which is fear and timidity and anger and depression and insecurity and the curse of believing I am nothing and not special.

In treatment I saw my life’s path before me, which gave me a map to work with all these years.  This is the work we do with the women who reside in prison, for many of them they are creating a map of their lives and they are discovering what has been the thread that was sewn into their fabric.  They are then given the tools to pull out threads that do not belong in their tapestry and to appreciate and respect the threads that remain and so beautifully they get to continue creating a new rows….  This work is crucial to healing.  Healing is what opens the door for living a blooming life.  A blooming life includes living in the “free” world and becoming a citizen that can help the world change for better.