A desperate family tableau

I’m a self-confessed travel addict but no matter how much one enjoys the experience of visiting new places (or revisiting “old” ones), travel does come with its ups and downs…in the case of the Paris metro, there’s lots of ups and downs in the ubiquitous stairs, especially when carrying luggage.

However some experiences reach deep into our hearts and minds.

As we walked up the hill from our wonderful hotel, we were confronted by a 2014 “holy family” tableau which has seared itself into my mind. “Syria, Syria, food, food” he said, waving a pre-printed sign in a plastic sleeve. His face was gaunt and his eyes desperate. Beside him his wife sat with a blank gaze, traumatised by lack of food or the things she’s seen in their country’s conflict. Their daughter, a toddler, sat docilely on her mother’s lap. Everything about them spoke of hunger, trauma and desperation.

Inured to rounds of importuning beggars we initially walked past them but this little family group was different. Their hopelessness spoke volumes and the next thing I was sobbing in tears. We turned back, giving them a donation with the universal sign of food and eating.

On our return a few hours later, they were in the same place, but now the toddler sat on the footpath, looking more animated and nibbling on a simit, a kind of Turkish roll available from mobile stalls for about 1 Turkish lira or 50 cents. Once again we turned back and gave them another donation.

We’re great believers in Kiva and have been part of Genealogists for Families since it was set up by Judy Webster. It makes a difference to those who’ve made steps towards independence and helps them protect the most valuable thing in all our lives – our families.

But how does a family like this one of Syrian refugees ever get to that stage of semi-independence? They are probably among those sleeping rough under the bushes and trees near the waterfront. Most likely they were in the only clothes they owned. You can’t fake the desperation in their eyes and faces…I have no doubt in my mind their circumstances were drastic. How will they ever break loose from this cycle of homelessness and despair? Even a basic job like collecting recyclables from the rubbish bins requires a large bag and trolley in which to carry them. And there we were, having spent what to them was a life’s fortune on a five week trip, buying gifts for our own family and complaining about the amount of luggage we had.

That tableau will remain in my memory for a very long time to come: the impact of war and conflict on the ordinary person.

This post is dedicated to my blogging friend Catherine Crout-Habel from the Seeing Susan ~ Meeting Marie ~ Finding Family blog. Catherine passed on to the land of her ancestors around the time we returned home. I’d never met her in person but felt I knew her from her intelligent and humorous posts. She was a woman who cared deeply for the underprivileged and I’m confident this experience of ours would have resonated with her.

Kiva: More bang for your buck today

kiva lgeThanks to an alert by Genealogists for Families team captain, Judy Webster, I found there’s a chance today to double our impact when making loans on Kiva.

This is how it works:

  • Go to www.kiva.org
  • You can join to choose the Genealogists for Families team if you like
  • Click on Lend
  • Look for anyone who has this caption against their name: 

    Double your impact! 

    An Anonymous Kiva Lender will match loans made to this borrower

  • You can select specific countries, male/female, specific types of loan eg housing/clothing/services etc.
  • You can also check the type of loan by clicking on “learn more”, including how secure the microfinance organisation is. Also check the person’s repayment schedule to see what the repayment time period is.
  • Once you’ve made your selection go the checkout and make your payment (Paypal is one of the options)

Over the coming months you’ll receive repayments on the loans. You can choose whether to reinvest your repayments or you can take the money back.Mr Cassmob and I have chosen to build up a portfolio so that when we’re both retired we can continue to make loans using our repayments.

Please be aware these are loans, not gifts, you are helping others to build their self-sufficiency and strengthen their security. The team has lent $97,000 since it’s inception only 2.5 years ago.

You can learn more about Kiva through my page here. Why not join us on Genealogists for Families today while your loan will give more bang for each buck.   Even if you miss today’s double-impact special, why not join us. Help other families make a difference to their lives.

Kiva loans

Advent Calendar of Memories: Day 8 – Christmas Shopping & Kiva

The topic for Day 8 of the Advent Calendar of Memories was Christmas ShoppingFor many of us, the focus of the Christmas season isn’t on “things” but on family and friends. Still, we like to give presents – large and small – to those we love. Do you shop during Christmastime or do you shop much earlier in the year to get it out of the way? Have you seen a change in your shopping habits as you’ve gotten older? Do you shop online? Do you participate in Black Friday or Cyber Monday activities? What was Christmas shopping like for your family and ancestors?

blogged on this topic back in 2011 so I’m not going to add much to that. Yes, I shop online for some gifts. I also do lay-bys for the grandchildren some time during the year. When I have to go shopping in the real world I try to get there before school closes to minimise the aggravation factor. Just yesterday there were several people in the toy aisles saying “I’m over this!”

As a family we decided that we were getting carried away with gifts so some years ago we swapped to the Secret Santa model where each family draws another family for a large-ish gift (about $75) and then each person draws another (<$20). The grandchildren of course get their own gifts but we try to contain our shopping spree so they don’t come to expect that every thing they want, everything they get.

kiva lge

We have also used Kiva as one of our nominated gifts. In only two years, our original gift has grown from three normal donations to 11 donations, with four having been fully paid out already and further loans paid from those repayments. Talk about the gift that keeps on giving!

Back in late 2011, Judy Webster established the Genealogists for Families group within Kiva and what an impact it’s had! Thanks to the generosity of genealogists world-wide, other less advantaged people have had the opportunity to further their economic independence. Here’s some stats to show just what we’ve achieved in a couple of short years. It would have been great to reach the $100,000 mark by end 2013 but that may be a goal too far. Why not join us in making a difference for other families around the world, surely the essence of the Christmas spirit. You can read a bit more about the process here. Just think, not only can you make a difference, you don’t have to go anywhere near the shops!

Team Impact Report

In 2011 the group made $US 6,675 loans. In 2012 this grew to $32,200 and in 2013 to date, $US42,700. Total $
A few breakdowns in the stats – the female:male distribution probably reflects the gender distribution of the team of genealogists making the loans.
Gender of Borrowers
74% Female (2,272)
26% Male (819)
Category of Loan
  • Agriculture  693 loans 
  •  Food 693 loans
  •  Retail 471 loans
  •  Services 355 loans
  •  Arts 190 loans
  •  Housing 156 loanssanta-shopping-300x199

This post is part of the Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories (ACCM) which allows you to share your family’s holiday history twenty-four different ways during December! 

Learn more at http://adventcalendar.geneabloggers.com. You can see the posts others have submitted on the Advent Calendar Pinterest site.

Kenya and Kiva

Image purchased from Shutterstock.

Image purchased from Shutterstock.

Have wondering where I’d vanished to? We have been adventuring in Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda, spending time with two of our daughters, one of whom lives in Nairobi, and seeing all sorts of wonderful animals from A to Z. We had a great time of it but must admit to being a little weary after the adventures.

We found the Kenyan people so friendly and engaging, and also very keen to better their lot in life. We who are used to conventional shops for all our necessities, or even our wants, were amazed by the sheer variety of products available on the roadside, each little stall or activity run by an enterprising individual. Admittedly we had flash-backs in part to visits to Bali over the road-side furniture manufacturing and stalls, but there were still significant differences. Whole stretches of footpaths had become garden pot sales areas, or mini (or not-so-mini) plant nurseries.

606 roses 2

Two dozen roses for about $5 is a good deal.

The abundance of roadside flower stalls with utterly magnificent roses and all manner of cut flowers was such a temptation, and while as a tourist one can’t usually take advantage of such things unless staying put for a few days, we were spoiled by seeing great arrays of them in our daughter’s home, and for a ridiculously cheap cost. Did you know that many of the flowers you see on display in Europe’s hotels and restaurants come from Kenya, especially near Lake Naivasha where the poly-tunnels are huge? Neither did I until the impact of the Nairobi airport fire made it clear.

The airport fire occurred about a month before we were due to arrive. It was certainly different to be processed by immigration in a marquee, though by the time we returned from Zanzibar, the newly built multi-story car park had been transformed into a very efficient arrivals hall. Having checked in, cleared immigration, and with “no guns beyond this point, on our outgoing flights, we headed for our departure lounge, which for each flight remained in a marquee or large tent, rather making me wish I’d dressed more casually given the heat in the confined space. We were taken by the inspirational signage near the baggage bays saying things like “every bag you lift raises Kenya up”. Not sure the men who unloaded the bags the first day were quite “on the page” with that one though <smile>. Kiva1

Business is done in all sorts of places, with little grocery and clothes shops everywhere. I saw quite a few micro-finance lenders’ offices which of course reminded me of Kiva. I’ve previously been reluctant to provide loans to those simply on-selling goods, but now I realise just how critical this is for people’s economic survival. I’ve also wondered from time to time why teachers might be applying for loans when they already had good jobs. That question was answered for me by a friend who is working as a teacher’s aide in Uganda. The monthly salary is an absurdly low amount and much lower than other career options. A gardener in a unit complex might have a reliable job, but his wages are very low and any medical expense, or the cost of a family funeral, will play havoc with the family’s budget and savings.

The impact of Jomo Kenyatta airport's fire.

The impact of Jomo Kenyatta airport’s fire.

And so, with a fair bit of credit in my Kiva account from repaid loans, I’ve made several loans to hard-working Kenyans. If you feel motivated to join Kiva, you don’t have to support Kenyan loans, but do have a look at the Genealogists for Families Team to see just what great work has been done, in a very short period of time. Full credit to Judy Webster for setting up this team in honour of her father.

Another reason for providing our support for Kenyans on Kiva right now, is that they will be doing it tough as the economic impact of the Westside mall terrorist attack hits home. Sadly it’s likely that it will also impact tourism numbers to the country and ordinary Kenyans, working hard to provide for their families, will suffer. We were in Nairobi, staying less than 500 metres away, when the assault took place so it was very much “there but for the Grace of God” for us. Sadly 67, or more, people were not so fortunate. The knock-on effect will be huge as people curtail their trips to the shops and stay out for shorter times. Everyday Kenyans rallied to support those injured in the attack, or the families of those who were killed, with their prayers, support and blood donations, irrespective of their religious affiliations.

Mr Cassmob and one of our Samburu guides, Anthony.

Mr Cassmob and one of our Samburu guides, Anthony.

Our final safari, to Samburu, overlapped with the final days of the siege and the guides were already concerned about the impact on their livelihood. We can honestly say that the siege did not ruin our enjoyment of Kenya and all it has to offer.

Ordinary Kenyans were so inspiring with their commitment to learning more (languages, skills etc) and improving their lives. We would visit again tomorrow – after we catch up on our sleep.

605 roses 1

So if you’re on Kiva, or if you’ve been thinking about joining, why not provide your support to Kenya at this difficult time and show the people the world is thinking of them. The image on my sidebar will take you to Genealogists for Families.

In the coming weeks I’ll be posting photos and stories from our Kenyan travel on my other blog, Tropical Territory and Travels, and you’ll soon see why we absolutely loved this amazing experience.

PROWLS Report Card on 2012 activity

MM910001158 (1)On 2 January 2012 I posted my goals and aspirations for the year under the acronym PROWLS. So what does my report card look like? How did I do? Did I achieve my goals? Well my obsessive self says “not well” while my realistic self says “okay”….but not necessarily at what I intended initially. In fact the acronym should probably be WSLOPR or SWLOPR!

This is another of my epic posts, so don’t feel you have to stagger through it (just read my response to the Accentuate the Positive meme). This post is partly for my own benefit – an opportunity to reflect on what I did achieve, where were the gaps, and what might I do in 2013. Essentially a quality improvement process….<smile>

P FOR PUBLISH: Successes

Beyond the Internet

Beyond the Internet

    • 52 weeks of the Beyond the Internet series (over the year the steady digitisation of records became clear as topics increasingly “sat on the fence” between the real and virtual worlds.
    • The April A to Z challenge in which I wrote (extensively!) about places we’d lived which had been part of our/my family’s heritage, recent and historic.
    • Alona’s Family History Alphabet series: more “off the cuff”, about attributes we need or share as family historians, which generated a fair bit of conversation from my fellow genealogy-obsessives.
    • Two Blurb blog-to-books (somewhat tedious and time-consuming): (1)  my own personal history, based on the 2011 series, 52 weeks of Personal Genealogy and History and (2)  a collection of my other blog posts.
    • Rewrote the overseas portion of one of my family histories with a view to potential publication and handed it over for editorial comment, and then let it languish.
    • Started my Tropical Territory blog and tried to post either every day or every couple of days –until November when life took over and I lost the faith with it, or maybe just the energy.
    • Developed an addiction to Vistaprint, ordering business cards (complete with surname and place interests on the reverse), Kiva T-Shirts, note pads etc etc:  I used some of these products to promote Kiva Genealogists for Families throughout the year. (Did I mention I can be obsessive?)

P FOR PUBLISH: Gaps

    • My potentially-publishable family history languished at re-writing the Australian component. Solution 2013: refer the overseas component to a friend for further comment and re-kick-start the Australian section.
    • The children’s family photo history never got off the starting blocks. I was impressed by Carole Riley’s family history photo books that she showed me at Unlock the Past in Brisbane. Solution 2013: write the text, collect the photos in one place so I’m good to go when there’s another special.

R IS FOR RESEARCH: Successes

Family historians are stars.

Family historians are stars.

    • Opportunistic rather than planned out.
    • Finding my Gavin family marriage in Dublin!
    • Tracking the Dorfprozelten emigrants, and my own 2xgreat grandfather’s step-siblings’ migration to the States….but where did his brother get to?
    • Travel in 2012 didn’t leave me much time to get down and dirty in the archives though I did find out more information about my Melvin family in Queensland and helped Mr Cassmob with his Victorian ancestry a fair bit – leaving him lots to do in retirement <smile>.

R FOR RESEARCH: Gaps

It doesn’t feel like I achieved much research-wise in 2012 but perhaps I also need to look again at my papers and notes from early in the year.

I’ve missed the consistent research sleuthing in 2012 so I want to pick that up in more detail in 2013.

O FOR ORGANISE: Successes

It would be handy to have more arms

It would be handy to have more arms

    •  Labelling and sorting some of my non-digital photos and records progressed (is it every fast enough?)….still lots to be done there.
    • Following the disastrous loss of my hard drive back in August, I got a new backup system in place, thanks to advice from a friend. This is working so much better than how I used to do it, as I really thought I had all my bases covered, only to discover more time (and data!) had slipped past than I realised.
    • My folders and trays are organised (my desk not so much!) but there’s just so much info I need to get across –perhaps I should have done Michelle Goodrum’s 21st Century Organised Family Historian series! Certainly a possibility for checklisting in 2013.
    • An organisational tick also for having planned out the Beyond the Internet series and the two A to Zs from the beginning, and following them through.
    • Added translation options to my blog, and new statistics facilities.

O FOR ORGANISE: Gaps

I’m still dithering on whether I want to use Relatively Yours, The Master Genealogist or Family Historian though I now have all three on the computer. I still like RY’s ability to cope with “messy” family relationships but I don’t think that it’s had the development money thrown at it that some overseas programs have.

Goal: Increase my use of Evernote for information things I find.

W FOR WRITING: Successeswriting

    • This has a big tick as I did a lot of writing this year: 235 posts across the 365 days on this blog and 173 on my Tropical Territory blog, also 718 photos on this blog and 466 on TT (the latter was supposed to be photos only).  It was also supposed to be a photo a day but I lapsed big-time on this especially after mid-November.
    • While some of my posts respond to themes, others result from some “inspiration” that strikes, usually in the wee hours of the morning or when I first wake up.

W FOR WRITING: Gaps

  • I did start two other blogs From Dorfprozelten to Australia and GrassRoots Queenslanders. The problem is that I can’t quite decide if I’m better to keep all my topics in one place rather than try to grow yet more blogs and perhaps not have them shared as widely.

 If you have more than one blog, how do you find it works?

L FOR LEARNING: Successes, and decision gapslearning

    • Attendance at a flurry of Darwin talks in early 2012 from various experts – very interesting and with new information.
    • Attendance at the Unlock the Past Seminar in Brisbane for a couple of days due to an unanticipated family event. I learnt a lot but perhaps more than anything was delighted to meet some of my geneablogging mates there and at a Kiva gathering early in 2012.
    • RootsChat online, blog reading, book reading etc I’ve managed to fit in as much as possible given my distant location.
    • Pharos courses which proved interesting (though I’ve yet to decide whether to do a one-place study, and if so whether it should be Broadford, East Co Clare or Murphys Creek, Queensland).

In 2013 I want to learn more about Evernote, Scrivener and other tools to help me be organised.

S FOR SHARING: Successes

    • sharingThis may be an A+ topic. My blog posts have been well received and I thoroughly enjoy the comments I receive from people. It’s important to me to recognise that others have taken the time to comment so I like to maintain our virtual conversation by replying as soon as possible.
    • Since I know how important it is to me to feel like I’m not writing into a vacuum I want to maintain my blog reading and comment on others’ posts on a regular basis.
    • It’s also fun to follow the memes that are created or the themed topics that others suggest (Sharing Memories, Abundant Genealogy, Library Loot, A to Z, Carnival of Genealogy, Fearless Females, Saturday Night Genealogy Fun). I find them great ways to see our commonalities but also our differences, as well as document more of our own or our family’s stories.
    • Boosted my readership beyond Australia’s shores though Oz remains my main support base.
    • Shared my research skills and knowledge by helping a few friends with their own research or their trees, or even just brainstorming things together.
    • Talking on “Writing your family history” during Seniors Week was also one of my sharing activities and I was happy to find that people found it helpful.
    • On a fun note I participated in two swaps organised by Faith, Hope and Charity, one for the Jubilee mid-year and one for Christmas. Keep an eye out, they are good fun.
    • One of the big sharing successes has been the linkages:
    1. My blog drew in Cass family connections which led us to visit Melbourne mid-year for an amazing exhibition on Mr Cassmob’s great uncle, Brigadier WEH Cass and his wife Helena.
    2. The blog as a draw-card for the Dorfprozelten families. There are times I’ve felt like a matchmaker extraordinaire and some where I’ve been able to fill in the gaps in family connections and vital data.

 WHERE TO FROM HERE?Where to

Overall I’d say it’s not a bad report card. I’m disappointed at my gaps in research and publishing in particular so I’m hoping to address those more in 2013. Also a “could improve” in the Organise heading. Let’s see how the year progresses.

HAPPY NEW YEAR TO ONE & ALL. May you have health and happiness in 2013 and make many wonderful friends online and make many family discoveries.

Images are from Microsoft Office images online.

My new Genealogists for Families page

As my regular readers know I’m a big fan of the Kiva Genealogists for Families (GFF) team and the good it’s doing for those who are less fortunate than us which is why I have the big green Kiva badge on my sidebar.

Shauna Hicks gave me the great idea of adding a dedicated page to my blog about GFF. I’ve previously posted here so I thought I’d make my new page a response to some hypothetical FAQs.

Why not pop over and have a look at it? If you can think of something I should have added do let me know in the comments section and I’ll modify the page.

Meanwhile here are some graphs to show where our loans have been made and how they’re being used. These loans are joint loans by Mr Cassmob and me even though the name on the GFF membership is mine.

Strangely the category “personal use” is actually for the borrowers to build their own homes. The construction category is for those in the building industry.

How our loans are distributed.

Our combined loans on Kiva’s GFF team.

Genealogists for Families on Kiva – making a difference world-wide.

Since its inception in September 2011, the brainchild of Judy Webster in Queensland, the Genealogists for Families (GFF) team on Kiva has achieved:

  1. A growth to 168 team members lending money to help other families grow economically strong.
  2. 553 loans of $25 or more have been made
  3. A total of over $15,000 has been lent
  4. GFF won the 2011 GeneaBlog Award for ‘Best New Community Project’

It’s worth knowing that this is an entirely virtual community of genealogists and their friends or families, who have teamed up to make a difference.  Some of us know each other in the real world, some know each other through social media, others have never met.

This is where we’ve lent our money (click to enlarge):

 

So what’s so special about Kiva?

  1. Funds are lent to individuals or collaborative groups who are trying to establish themselves economically and support their family: this is grassroots assistance and really makes a difference.
  2. These are LOANS not donations, so when they’re repaid you can choose to relend or get your money back. I suspect most supporters would relend, so your money keeps on doing good, year after year, without you doing another thing, or potentially giving another $.
  3. These are loans through organisations which work to overcome poverty, establish savings plans, support entrepreneurial activity, and assist women and children to a better life.
  4. The repayment timelines vary depending on the business or industry (agriculture has longer timelines), so you can choose whether you want your loan to rollover quickly or slowly.
  5. You can choose whether to top up repayments as they come in and make new loans.
  6. $25 per lender is combined with $25 from other lenders to reach the borrower’s goal amount. Repayments are pro-rata at each payment point until the loan is fully repaid.
  7. There is a minimal default rate: these are people who really want to succeed. Very occasionally the payment might be a little late. We have made the decision that even if an occasional loan defaults, we can absorb that level of risk.
  8. You, the lender, gets to choose who you want to support, what type of business, in which country or region.
  9. You also get to feel a sense of ownership and a “feel good” glow!

How do people raise their loans:

  1. Nearly every lender seems to have a different strategy. Some are doing online marketing surveys to bring in money to support their lending.
  2. Others time their loans for significant family or family-history events eg birthdays, Christmas, anniversaries etc.
  3. Others tuck away their small coins until they reach $25.
  4. GFF gatherings donate a small amount per person and this goes to another loan.
  5. You can learn a little more about our lending team and why different team members have got behind the project on the Genealogists for Families blog page. While you’re there have a look at why Judy set up this team.

Please join us on Genealogists for Families, we’d love your company and we’re proud that our loans are making such a big difference to other families.