Thursday, January 24, 2013

Donation or Investment - Part One

I know you have many requests for your dollars, and so - no surprise! -- I am asking too.

Here is my pitch:

I am not asking for a donation but an investment.    I want to supply every one of my twenty-four 2013 first year student nurses with a small netbook computer.   They will cost about $300 each, or a $7,200 total.  
The 2011 First Year Class with their new netbooks.
A course textbook costs from $50.00 to 150.00 [plus] for every course.  Some courses require two textbooks.  So if I were asking for textbooks for the four courses I teach, a low-ball average would be the same $300.00.

The netbooks will be used by the students for their entire diploma programme for every course -- and as an added benefit they can play games, listen to music, watch YouTube, and socialize on Facebook.  [Another benefit:  this is a painless way to learn computer skills and there is no need to run a course to teach them.]    They could then almost be like student nurses in the North -- and that is really the point, isn’t it?  

Unless they master the computer skills of the present, they will never compete in the future – and your children will be asked by some “do-gooder” like me for another donation for their children.   Our parents and grandparents made donations, as they did really care for the less fortunate.  However, we still have the “poor” with us… and so will our children’s children .....  unless something different is done.  

I am not asking for saintly altruism; I can accept "informed selfishness":  

Canada and the United States will need many more nurses than we are educating today.  We will need immigrants to look after us oldsters.   I don’t know about you, but I would really like immigrant nurses who are as skilled as our homegrown nurses.

The overall health of a country’s population is a critical factor in its ability to develop economically.  And this is where nurses come in.  Guyana nurses are in the trenches fighting for good nutrition, sanitation, public and school health.   If we can help them do their jobs better today, there's less probability our children will need to help their children.

You won’t get these annoying posts from me.  I may be projecting here, but the begathons, like “Goldie” on PBS make me crazy.   So if I get enough dollars for my first year students, you won’t hear from me again… till next year.   [Well, maybe I lie, as the 2012 First Year students do not have netbooks.]

I can’t distribute indulgences now that I am on Martin Luther’s team.  However, I can assure you that you will feel saved, be part of the elect, lose weight, sing an aria at Lincoln Center [for Canadians, Roy Thompson Hall] and your children will think you are fabulous.   

 I have tried to secure a grant -or even a discount- from foundations or companies, but have not been successful.    (I still am writing new applications and a few have not yet been answered.)    So I need to count on my friends, blog readers and rich, old former students in order to make these computers happen.    

And you can invest right now... See "Donate" in the right column above. 

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

St. Ann's Orphanage: A refuge for vulnerable children

I just came across this newspaper article from The Guyana Chronicle  via Beverly Trach.   I wanted to share it with you because the Sisters and Matrons do such a great job at St. Ann's.   However, they did not mention their great photographs with my camera that I post in my blog.

St Ann’s Orphanage : A refuge for vulnerable children

Saturday, 26 February 2011 10:37   The Guyana Chronicle
THE ST ANN’S Orphanage at 247 Thomas Street has been a home and refuge for many unfortunate girls for many a years.

The institution was begun way back in July of 1851, when a Roman Catholic Bishop took two girls from the Alms House to the Ursuline Convent and asked the nuns, who had just arrived in the country, to give them a home.

These girls were soon joined by many others, and thus St Ann’s came into being.

At present, there are 37 girls at the Orphanage, but the normal number is usually about fifty.
St Ann’s has accommodated as many as 102 children at one time or the other. The Orphanage caters for girls between the ages of four and 6. But sometimes, as in the case of two newly-admitted siblings who had a three-year-old sister, an exception can be made to avoid separating the family.
After secondary school, and at about the age of 16, the girls move on.

In the early years, the Orphanage catered primarily to orphans. Many come today because they have been abandoned, neglected, or abused.
The girls remain until they have completed secondary education. Jobs are secured, and they move on, once they can support themselves. If they wish to continue on to higher education, they are given assistance. The St. Bernadette’s Hostel was opened primarily as a ‘half-way’ home for girls leaving St. Ann’s.

There is good collaboration between the Orphanage and the Ministry of Human Services and Social Security. Minimal financial assistance is received, and social workers are attached to the Home.
Children coming to St Ann’s are screened by officers of the Ministry, and must be recommended by them. The Ministry offers training courses, which are attended by staff of the Home.

St Ann’s has no definite income. Some generous people continue to give donations each year. The Home depends on ordinary donations of food, clothing and money. Each day, without fail, people arrive with cooked meals, bags of rice, sugar, flour and all sorts of other things.

Guyanese returning home from overseas go out of their way to bring very nice things for the girls. But most of the people who bring things to the Home are ordinary folks from places like Ruimveldt, Albouystown, Agricola, Sophia and Charlestown. They make the sacrifice to help.
Each year, the Good Friday collection in all Catholic Churches is divided between St. John Bosco Boys Home and St. Ann’s.

In times of illness, the St Joseph Mercy Hospital gives free service and medication when they have it. The girls are treated very well there, with no distinction made from any other children. Any child with a chronic disease is taken to see the doctor as regularly as necessary.


Whenever medical outreach teams visit Guyana, they often come to the Home and check all the girls. They then make the necessary diagnosis and prescriptions. A local pharmacist has offered to assist the Home. She has examined all the medicine chests to ensure everything is in order. She assists in purchasing whatever is necessary.

Many children arrive at the Home with academic problems. Some have missed school for two to three years or more. There are even those who have never attended school. In one case, a child of thirteen had never gone to school. She did not even know the alphabet.

If these girls are sent to government schools, they are placed according to age chronologically. Because they have missed school for some years, they cannot follow what is being taught in class. This leads to much frustration and plenty of disciplinary problems.
Many of the girls at St Ann’s attend the Marian Academy. Each child going there has to have a sponsor to pay the fees. Many people have given generously to this cause. There is a firm in Georgetown that currently sponsors five girls.

Many times the people who help are those who have lived at St. Ann’s as small girls. They are usually married, and have done well for themselves. They write to the Home and offer to help a child. Help comes from places as far away as Australia, Canada, the USA, Venezuela and at home here in Guyana.

All the girls learn responsibility by doing chores. Each child has a department to look after. They sweep, dust, mop and wash dishes. Duties are rotated regularly, so everyone gets a turn to do most things. Even the little ones learn to help, by picking up paper. They are taught that cleaning their surroundings is a part of life and a daily duty.

The girls at the Home are more fortunate than many others. They eat very healthy meals each day, they have plenty of clothing, they get all their school books, shoes, uniforms; and their education is assured.
The staff is comprised of very devoted and capable women who play a major role in taking care of the girls. These are ordinary women and mothers who dedicate themselves to serving the children and being positive role models.

St. Ann’s continues to keep its doors open through the kindness and generosity of caring Guyanese.
Each day, a miracle unfolds with a simple knock on the door, and a small donation of some kind.
You can offer your help with something as simple as taking a few children for a walk at the weekend, or spending an hour playing with them at home.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Welcome to 2013 and the Future

In Memoriam:  

I cannot think about the St. Joseph Mercy Hospital community without affectionately remembering Dr. Danny Daniel.  He died suddenly at the end of November.   Doc was a leader at the hospital and in his church ministry.   He will be missed by many in Guyana.  For me, Doc was always a welcoming face.  Every year I returned he would greet me as if I was a long lost friend.   I will miss him.
I have committed myself to return to Mercy for another three months in September.  Planning for something 200 plus days away is human hubris, as not even “later in the day” is guaranteed.   In spite of what the future will hold with health, finances, motivation…  I will live “as if” I’ll get there again.  I hope that you will travel with me.
This last year, I have enjoyed the living closer to our family though I didn’t like moving and downsizing at all.   I am amazed how quickly I have forgotten the hassles of the move and life in Ayr has taken on a comfortable routine.     
Today, I have an itch to “do” something.    And the something calling me seems to be: Guyana and teaching.     I had looked around at do some other volunteer work, but nothing really interested me… and it seems that I am “involved” with Guyana the whole year:
Anne and I are off to see Sister Sheila [my first St. Joseph Mercy Hospital CEO. Photo below.] in Buffalo.   She has received new textbooks from Trocaire College .  So on our way to retrieve our vacationing daughter, Christine, from the Buffalo Airport: we will pick up the texts; have a meal with Sister Sheila and stay overnight at the convent.   And then sometime later arrange to get the texts to Toronto for shipping by Guyana Christian Charities.   [Maybe I should check for a convent in To?  

I have some special tasks that need to be done before September.

 First,   I may be testing the theory that the faculty doesn’t need to be a content expert for the course to be successful.  While I have been reading Neurology for Dummies; I am struggling with page 3.   As I have bemoaned before, Tony Carr is not returning in 2013 but he is going to help me revise and improve each of the problems.    This will take a long time as there are at least 36 pages with 4 sections each.   It is a good thing Tony agrees with me on everything.

Second, I need to get our pages printed ahead of time rather than doing them before each class on our flat’s printer.   Why you may ask?   Well, I just don’t share Tony’s commitment and pleasure in “fixing” the printer every day and refilling the ink cartridges, tricking the printer into thinking the old cartridges are new.   And I doubt I will be making as many “last minute” improvements.     I guess that I am just lazier.    I will have to be really organized; maybe learning neurology will be easier.

Third, I would welcome a partner – or several part-time partners [one month].    So if you like high heat and humidity, dieting on chicken and rice, paying your own travel and insurances…  Have I got a deal for you!  If you are tempted at all, get in touch with me and I’ll tell you even more benefits.   One of the credit card commercials has the punch line: ”Priceless” - and itis true: the gratitude of the students offsets any inconvenience.

Also, with a partner, we might be tempted to teach some ethics to the second year students whom I missed as First Year students in 2012. 

Fourth, I have been begging for companies to consider donating netbooks or at least give me a big discount…  So far the responses have been in the deafening silence category.    I am open to any suggestions.   [I am even open to being an adopted by a rich, not too healthy couple who want to spoil their “kid”.]  

Fifth, speaking of begging, the netbooks we purchased from China were okay, but they started to have problems with the heat/humidity and a somewhat inferior construction.    I want to improve the units this year, so they will last for all the students' years at nursing school.   I will write a separate blog of why these machines are the best choice, but it means that I will need some donations to buy them. 
Sixth, there are many practical, co-ordination issues including securing scheduling, arranging a flat to stay in, recruiting some of the local faculty with whom to collaborate, buying a printer, finding out what I need to buy to make sure there is wifi in the classrooms, doing what needs to be done in Ayr before I leave...

So the 2013 Adventure has begun…