Saturday, May 24, 2014

Connecting with All Americans Through Reflection and Remembrance

In education we pause to reflect on our educational practice and its impact on teaching and learning. So too, in life, we engage in the process of reflecting. As we approach another Memorial Day weekend of recreational activities and breaks from routine, I am reminded that this holiday is a day to remember, reflect, and honor those who fought and perished as they tried to uphold the concept of American freedom. 

Perhaps this antique postcard represented Decoration Day.
Finding an antique postcard in my ephemera collection, started me wondering about the history of Memorial Day. I began the research process and uncovered several interesting facts about the holiday. Memorial Day traditions are rooted in a celebration called Decoration Day that dates to post-Civil War time.  In 1868, to honor freedom and those who fought to uphold it, flowers were placed at gravesites of soldiers who gave their life to safeguard the nation.  After World War I, the day was broadened to include soldiers who died in all American wars. Not until 1971 was Memorial Day declared a national day of celebration by Congress.  Then, in 2000, President Clinton decided it was time to ensure that America remembers its fallen war heroes. He signed into law "The National Moment of Remembrance Act." At 3:00 pm on Memorial Day, all Americans are encouraged to pause in silence to reflect, remember, and honor those soldiers who died in service of their country. Moment of Remembrance founder, Carmella LaSpada, stated that this is "a way we can all put the memorial back in Memorial Day." 

Whether we celebrate Memorial Day by attending parades, speeches, ceremonies, barbecues, or recreational events, we can take time to reflect and remember the significance of  the day. While I do not know anyone personally who perished in an American war, I do know countless men and women who committed to serving America. 

To put the memorial back in Memorial Day, I dedicate this poem that I wrote. It is based on a quote from Henry Ward Beecher's piece, The Honored Dead, that was published in 1863.
"They hover as a cloud of witness above this Nation."

Poetry Friday is hosted graciously this week by Diane Mayr at Random Noodling.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Creating Hope from Paper

On Long Island, sound school systems, ongoing learning, and daily meals are the norm, so it is difficult to imagine places where these basics do not exist. But life without learning and food is a reality in many countries across the globe. Until we are connected in some small way to this unthinkable situation, we will not be able to understand the depth of the issue. It is with hope for better tomorrows for the children of poverty in Masese, Uganda that this blog post is written.

Four years ago the Garrity and Silon families, joining with HELP International, traveled to Uganda to visit the Masese people. There, they encountered the struggles facing the village people who were living in slum conditions near the Nile River in the town of Jinja. Poverty, disease, such as Aids, and distressing conditions were prevalent. Women without husbands and orphaned children raised by grandmothers comprised many of the households. With a strong desire to reach out and help, the Garritys and Silons channeled their energy to provide the Masese people with a sustainable living opportunity, schooling opportunities, and hope created from paper.

Through the efforts of these families, the Mothers of Masese, as they are now known, craft jewelry, belts, and bags created from 100% recycled paper that they roll by hand, dry in the sun, and weave together in bright visual patterns and shapes. 100% of proceeds from the sale of the jewelry not only support the women but have helped build the HELP elementary school, pay the salary of the Ugandan teachers, and provide breakfast and lunch during school days. A fence to safeguard the school is being built, supported through additional fundraising efforts. What grew from a school of 40 children to 500 children is an amazing feat of a humanitarian effort started by the Garritys and the Silons.

With one look into the eyes of the children of Masese, many images arise. May this poem about a journey that started with hope fill your heart with a desire to support this worthy cause, HELP Uganda, through the purchase of Bigger Than Beads products. 

Photo taken of Masese Child by Trish Garrity
My Eyes Speak

My eyes, dark and piercing, 
Speak of my village,
Impoverished and ill-equipped,
Hidden from other eyes
But real to me.
My eyes speak of a streaming tear,
Struggles to stay alive,
Education non-existent.
This is my Uganda, 
The land I know
But you did not.

Anticipating a connection-   
Your life to mine-
Across the deep sea,
You traveled
With hearts full of hope.
You came wide-eyed;
Scanned my tattered surroundings.

Bellies extended, ragged clothes
Did not push you away
But called you to help.
Because of this,
My eyes now speak- 
Whisperings of a dream, 
Housed in hope.

My eyes as deep 
As pools of reflecting light,
Visualize images of new life:
A school building bubbling with excitement,

Writing and drawing tools,
Hearty meals of warm food, 
Children engaged in learning,
Prideful work for Masese mothers.

And now, your eyes continue to meet mine,
In unspoken words,
Each time a bead is crafted, 
Jewelry and bags sold.
Beads upon beads
Stringing together a future-
An action beyond imagining
That gives Masese a renewed tomorrow. 

You and I can connect to the world of the Masese children through the HELP Uganda project and the purchase of the Mothers of Mases' beaded treasures, Bigger Than Beads. From the United States to Uganda and back again, the Garrity and Silon families brought supplies, shoes, and a pocketful of hope to the Masese villagers. You, too, can continue a tradition of giving back to the underprivileged. Hopefully, you will JOIN the fundraising efforts. 

Those on Long Island are invited to partner with Sportset Health and Fitness Club and Come Together Yoga
as they support "HELP Uganda" 
with a fundraiser to raise money for the HELP School

Fundraiser will be held at Sportset Health & Fitness Club
Rockville Centre, NY

You can also shop the collection at Bigger Than Beads at


This post is included in Poetry Friday's May 23, 2014 edition, where you will find posts many other poems. This weeks' Poetry Friday is hosted by Violet Nesdoly from the "branches of the latest avian property."