Thought for the Day

“Life is full of beauty. Notice it. Notice the bumble bee, the small child, and the smiling faces. Smell the rain, and feel the wind. Live your life to the fullest potential, and fight for your dreams.” -Ashley Smith

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Ethiopia: The Children’s Hero

"With literate children there is no limit as to how much we can do."  -Gebregeorgis

Yohannes Gebregeorgis brings literacy and imagination to the children of Ethiopia.

Born in rural Ethiopia to an illiterate cattle merchant who insisted upon his son’s education, Yohannes Gebregeorgis had seen few books in school. When given his very own book at age 19, a love for literacy was ignited that produced a lifelong commitment.

Today, at 56, Gebregeorgis is establishing libraries and literacy programs to connect Ethiopian children with books. It wasn’t until he became a children’s librarian in the United States that he realized what the children of his native home were missing. Forced to flee Ethiopia to the United States as a political refugee in 1981, Gebregeorgis ultimately put himself through a university, obtaining a graduate degree in library science. He relocated to the Bay Area, taking a post at the San Francisco Children’s Library in 1985. There, he met “The Little Engine That Could,” “Captain Ahab” and “Peter Pan.” He realized the impact children’s books could make on a child’s sense of wonder and vision.

Gebregeorgis found that, among the brilliantly illustrated books in 70 languages, there were none in Amharic, the primary language of Ethiopia, and none representing the places and characters of Ethiopian lore. So, he wrote one. “Silly Mammo” was the first bilingual Amharic-English children’s book, and it led Gebregeorgis to establish Ethiopia Reads in 1988. Using proceeds from book sales and grassroots book-a-thons, the nonprofit financed his efforts to bring children’s libraries to Ethiopia.

“Most Ethiopian children have only access to textbooks in the classroom…Books children read outside of school, those are the spices of education…Children could imagine everything from books — connections to other cultures, to other people, to other children, and to the universe at large. It gives them hope. It gives them pleasure. It gives them everything that they cannot otherwise get in regular textbooks.” –Gebregeorgis

In 2002, Gebregeorgis left his job and his home and returned to Ethiopia with 15,000 books donated by the San Francisco Children’s Library. With them, he opened the Shola Children’s Library on the first floor of his Addis Ababa home. Young readers quickly overwhelmed the three-room home, requiring the addition of two large tents to provide shade for hundreds at a time.

“I just wanted to come back to Ethiopia and help children have a future, have hope,” says Gebregeorgis. Today, Ethiopia Reads is doing just that. In addition to the original library, the organization established the Awassa Reading Center and Ethiopia’s first Donkey Mobile Library. Inspired by a similar concept he’d seen in Zimbabwe, Gebregeorgis customized a donkey-pulled trailer-cart that now makes weekly visits to rural villages around Awassa. Ethiopia Reads recently held its fifth annual Ethiopia Children’s Book Week, and has given over 100,000 children access to its libraries along the Ethiopian countryside.

“With literate children there is no limit as to how much we can do.” -Gebregeorgiscat in the hat

Source: cnn.com

Happy Birthday Red Cross

August 22, 1864 – Today’s Date in History Spotlights the International Red Cross 

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The Geneva Convention of 1864 for the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded and Sick of Armies in the Field is adopted by 12 nations meeting in Geneva. The agreement, advocated by Swiss humanitarian Jean-Henri Dunant, called for nonpartisan care to the sick and wounded in times of war and provided for the neutrality of medical personnel. It also proposed the use of an international emblem to mark medical personnel and supplies. In honor of Dunant’s nationality, a red cross on a white background, the Swiss flag in reverse, was chosen. In 1901, Dunant was awarded the first Nobel Peace Prize.

 In 1881, American humanitarians Clara Barton and Adolphus Solomons founded the American National Red Cross, an organization designed to provide humanitarian aid to victims of wars and natural disasters in congruence with the International Red Cross.  Through over 700 locally supported chapters, more than 15 million people gain the skills they need to prepare for and respond to emergencies in their homes, communities and world.  As part of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, a global network of 186 national societies, the Red Cross helps restore hope and dignity to the world’s most vulnerable people.

For more information visit the International Committee of the Red Cross website @ www.icrc.org or the American Red Cross website www.redcross.org

Squirrel Joins Family Photo

In the isolated beauty of the Canadian lakes, Melissa and Jackson Brandts positioned their camera for the perfect holiday picture.  While snuggling up close and smiling for the shot, an unexpected visitor stopped by…

squirrel crasher pic

The little ground squirrel popped up in the foreground after Melissa Brandts and her husband had set the timer on their camera for a picture of them by Lake Minnewanka in Banff National Park.

Mrs. Brandts explained: ‘We had our camera set up on some rocks and were getting ready when this curious little ground squirrel appeared, became intrigued with the sound of the focusing camera and popped right into our shot. It was a once in a lifetime moment – we were laughing about this little guy for days!’

The image is so exceptional that, had it not ran on the prestigious National Geographic magazine’s website, many might have assumed it had been digitally altered.

Flying Frog, Smallest Deer Among Array of New Himalayan Species

A flying frog, the world’s smallest deer and a green viper feature among 353 new species found in a decade of research into the eastern Himalayas.

green viper eastern Himalayas

The discoveries from 1998 to 2008 put the region on par with Indonesian island of Borneo as a “biological hotspot,” the World Wildlife Fund International said on Aug. 9th in a report titled the Eastern Himalayas: Where Worlds Collide. The findings show the importance of protecting the area, which spans northern Myanmar and India, Bhutan, Nepal and Tibet.

The species uncovered include 16 reptiles, 16 amphibians, 14 fish, two birds, two mammals and 61 invertebrates, as well as 242 plants. The finds include the Arunachal macaque, the first new monkey described by scientists in more than a century, the venomous emerald-green pit viper, and the fossil of the oldest gecko species, trapped in amber and dating back 100 million years.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature estimates there are 8 million to 14 million plants and animals in the world, of which only 1.8 million have been documented.  We have a lot to discover!

Source: Bloomberg.com

Helpful Travel Tips

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Finding the cheapest fare requires specific research. Here’s a list of tips to find a decent airfare:

1. GETTING DIRECTIONS
Several Web sites can indicate whether fares between specific markets are heading up or down and can alert you to unusually low fares. Farecast.com tracks fares from nearly 100 domestic cities. Plug in your departure and arrival dates. The site makes a prediction and also indicates how sure it is of that prediction. Another good fare-trending site is farecompare.com.

2. CHECK WITH AN AGGREGATOR
Booking aggregators – including kayak.com, mobissimo.com, bookingbuddy.com, farechase.com, yapta.com and cheapflights.com – scan numerous booking sites at the same time and cull the results.

3. LOOK AT AIRLINE AND AIRPORT SITES
See whether they can match the lowest fare you’ve found. You may get extra frequent-flier miles for booking directly, and you’ll avoid service fees. Also, check flight schedules on the local airport sites to make sure you’re not missing a carrier not listed on major booking sites. Southwest, for example, doesn’t sell through third-party providers.

4. FEES
Most airlines now charge fees for checked bags, overweight luggage, meals, unaccompanied minors, well-positioned seats, etc. The fee schedules can be found on individual airline sites. Also, pages on several general travel sites, including kayak.com /airline-fees, have fee charts that cover multiple airlines. Southwest is one of the few airlines bucking the added-fee trend.

5. LAST-MINUTE SPECIALISTS OR AUCTION SITES
Check out the packages at services such as Lastminute.com, which offers late-breaking air-and-hotel combos. Although you might not need the hotel, the package price could beat the no-advance-purchase fares offered elsewhere. On a site such as skyauction.com, you can bid for an airline ticket; just remember that once you buy, you’re stuck with the ticket.

6. TURN OFF THE COMPUTER…AND CONTACT A TRAVEL AGENT
Many charge fees for booking a ticket, but a good agent knows where to look for cheaper fares and can give you pointers on how to find them. Also, for complicated itineraries, such as an around-the-world ticket, check with an agent who works with consolidators; many consolidators don’t deal directly with the public.

5-Year-Old Helps Feed Nearly 18,000 Hungry San Franciscans

phoebe

It started off with a simple question by Phoebe, an adorable little girl with a big heart. After seeing a person holding a cardboard sign begging for food, Phoebe wondered, “Why does that man look so sad, and why is he holding a sign in the street?”

A grown up conversation ensued. “What can we do to help?” asked Phoebe. Her parents told her about one possible place the hungry could go for help; The food bank. Her ambitious goal was to raise $1,000, in two months. Why $1,000? No one knows; Phoebe couldn’t even count denominations of money before the project.

“Phoebe focused on the smaller picture, and what she could do,” her teacher explained. She decided to collect cans as a project to complete her mission. Phoebe knew that she could raise money by recycling cans, because her dad would bring her and her sister to trade cans for cash on the weekends. She was especially encouraged after talking to officials at the San Francisco Food Bank. They told her several agencies had pledged to provide $9 in food for every $1 donated to the food bank.

With a little bit of guidance from her teacher and a whole lot of support from classmates, Phoebe wrote letters to 150 family, friends, alumni and neighbors. She received 50 responses. Word got around about the 5-year-old girl who wrote, “Dear Family and Friends… My charity project is to raise lots of money for the S.F. Food Bank. They need money. I am collecting soda cans. Would you please give me your soda cans and bring them to With Care…”  Donations started pouring in… Friends, family and even anonymous donors dropped off cans, checks and cash at the colorful storybook-looking day care.  

Phoebe’s once overambitious goal seems minuscule compared to the check for $3,736 she gave to Paul Ash, the executive director of the San Francisco Food Bank. With matching donations from the charity’s large network, Phoebe’s donation resulted in $33,624 worth of food — or 17,971 meals — for the city’s hungry.

Source: The Huffington Post

Whale Saves Drowning Diver

“I began to choke and sank even lower, and I thought that was it for me – I was dead. Until I felt this incredible force under me driving me to the surface.” -Yun 

whale_beluga_submerged

A beluga whale saved a drowning diver by hoisting her to the surface.  Terrified, Yang Yun thought she was going to die when her legs were paralyzed by crippling cramps in arctic temperatures. Yun had been taking part in a free diving contest without any breathing equipment. The beluga whale, named Mila, had spotted Yun and used her sensitive dolphin-like nose to guide Yun safely to the surface.