This is the time where everyone reminisces on what happened in 2012.  I would say 2011 and 2012 are years that changed my life and made me realize what I really want to do in life and what I really value. 

But for for my year in review this year these things stood out….


I traveled to Zanzibar, Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda, a Hurricane on the East Coast and am heading out to New Orleans and Nashville for New Years Eve. 

I lived in Tanzania and fell in love with the idea of putting my education degrees to good use working in Educational Development, and learned a lot about what people need and do not need in life to be happy.

EdPowerment grew to a strong credible organization and is now searching for grant funding.

I have returned to America, and although the reverse cultural shock has been hard, I have managed to readjust most days.  



I have reconnected with family and friends and have made it a point to spend as much time with people I love as I can.


With EdPowerment’s Autism Connects Tanzania program we hosted 4 amazing workshops, built a playground for students with disabilities, helped fund a center dedicated to helping kids with autism, brought in professionals in the field to meet with Tanzanians about autism, and helped fight a stigma that keeps many children and families locked in their homes. 

With Kilimaehwa Educational Center, we finished an amazing afterschool group, painted a mural, hosted a few sports days, and fell in love with the idea of empowering young people through connecting them to community members.

Our Sponsorship program grew from 18 kids to 30 kids.  4 students are now in University studying education, medicine, law, and computer technology and 6 just graduated high school and are awaiting their exam results.

I have maintained my blog and gotten an entry published in a woman’s travel magazine and am starting a possible draft of a travel novel.  (Goal for 2013- We will see)

I have rejoined my Interact students and volunteered at a local food pantry with them and helped them raise money and food for their local community.

My goals for 2013….

-Find grant money to help allow EdPowerment to continue doing educational development work

-Travel back to Tanzania for two months to host more ACT conferences and help facilitate the work we do there though EdPowerment

-Host an amazing EdPowerment fundraising campaign in March & April with various activities people can participate in

-Pay off all my credit card debt and debt I owe to individuals

-Become more emotionally and physically healthy

-Travel to visit friends in Los Angeles, Portugal and Djibouti

-Write a draft of a travel novel about my experiences visiting over 33 countries

-Spend as much time with my family and friends as possible

After all of the negative things happening in the world, sometimes we have to look at our own lives and the things we can control to remember life can pretty good.  Try to spend this week  thinking about the amazing things that have happened in your life and make some goals for 2013 and plans of how to accomplish them.  Don’t just make new years resolutions to work on for a few weeks and forget about.  Make actual goals and plans to make them happen.

After having the life I thought I wanted fall apart, making goals for change and for new adventure helped me get through it.  And looking back my life now is so much better than it was before this huge change happened.  So give it a try.  What do you want to do next year, where do you want to go, and how do you plan on getting there.  

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Albert Einstein once said, “Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow.  The important thing is not to stop questioning.” 

I think he had a pretty good point.  (:

Happy New Years!

 
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Hello!  Long time and no post!  Sorry about that!  I know in my last post I wrote about how I was going to try to post every week and was going to use my positive attitude to find things in America that were interesting and adventurous.  Since my last post something definitely has happened each week that is interesting and exciting but life in America moves so fast and the things on the to do list keep piling on.  It seems that after one item is checked off or one event ends another one is added or another thing happens.  Often the high speed makes it difficult to slow down and reflect on things.  The goal of this post is not to write about the challenges of life in America but to highlight the adventures I have experienced while living here.  So, here are two of most interesting moments in the last month and a half.  After reading my top two feel free to take a few minutes and leave me a note about your most interesting adventure this month.  With life being so fast sometimes it is nice to stop for a few minutes and think about something crazy, fun, exciting or adventurous and reflect on it.  So please click the comment tab and add your own.  I am interested in you too.(:


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A Hurricane- Sure, why not?

The end of October, Jillian and I took at trip to the east coast to meet with Moira Madonia, our EdPowerment founder, to talk about our programming and fundraising plans.  Before we left my dad said to me, “You are going to New York, are you sure it’s safe?”  My response was, “Dad if you are worried about me travelling to New York, you really need to check your involvement in my life.” At the time, as we both laughed at his question, neither of us had any idea Frankenstorm, the super storm, was on the way to the coast to run over everything in its path.

We got to New York and spent Friday hanging out in New York City (my favorite city in America).  We walked through the amazing fall leaves in Central Park, watched the hustle and bustle of people from all over the world exploring Time Square, met some really awesome old friends for dinner, shared stories and had drinks with another non-profit founder, and had lots of fun.  Saturday we spent the day at Moira’s in New Jersey planning and working on EdPowerment.  Now fully aware of the storm headed our way, we were sure our flight on Sunday night would still take off since the storm wasn’t coming until Monday.  Sunday during a skype meeting with other members of our board, we found out all airlines out of La Guardia were cancelled and we would not be able to get another flight out until after the storm hit.  This meant we were going to wait out the storm in New Jersey and then could maybe get a flight on Wed. evening if La Guardia opened again.  After phone calls to work, family, and friends and planning 3 days of lesson plans for my sub we started to prepare for the storm.  With Moira, her husband, and her son we did some shopping and stocking up on water, food and most importantly- wine.  We charged all of our electronics, pulled out flashlights and prepared for the worst storm ever to hit the east coast.  The power went out Monday night at 6ish and as the wind blew around us at record speeds we tried to sleep.  We woke up to trees down everywhere and power lines all over the streets.  With the power out and no access to the news but the radio we had no idea how bad it was until friends of ours from countries like Canada, Tanzania, and Australia started calling to check in on us because they saw footage we could not.  Some of our friends who didn’t know we were in New York but also did not know the geography of America even called to make sure everyone in Chicago was alright. (: The biggest challenge for us was now figuring out how to get home.  We heard on the radio that La Guardia was mostly underwater and we were not thinking we would make it out on Wed.  I called my school to inform them I had no idea how to get home and to make some plans to prepare for my absence if I was out all week. 

In the afternoon we took a trip to Moira’s friends house where there was a generator.  Walking into her house you would not have had any idea a storm hit.  Music was playing, there was a fire in the fireplace and all the lights were on.  My first thought was how, although this storm has devastated thousands of people on the Eastern seaboard, America has the resources to truly get through so much.  This woman’s generator was big enough to run electricity to surrounding houses and I am sure this mess of a storm will be tended to quickly compared to other parts of the world.  When events like this happen in the underdeveloped countries aid and resources can take months or years to get to people. 

One nice thing about the generator is we were able to charge all of our electronics and call the airlines.  After finding out our flights were cancelled for a while and could not be rescheduled until the following week we started looking into buses.  We thought we could bus to another city like Boston or Philladelphia and fly from there.  Or worst case, we could bus home.  After bus companies were not answering and our inability to access their websites, we tried accessing the airlines.  We found out that all surrounding airports were not running at full capacity and it would be difficult to fly out of them also.  We then called car rental places.  With Moira’s help we were able to secure one of the last cars at Enterprise Rent A Car and had 20 minutes to get to them before they closed for the day.  Racing to get the car and get on the road before it was too dark felt like we in an End of Days type movie were people are trying to run to get out of the danger zone.  We said goodbye to Moira and her family and hit the road around 7pm Tuesday night.  We drove 4 hours through the darkness of hilly Pennsylvania, stopped at a hotel, slept and woke up to drive another 10 hours the next day.  We drove through the snow and rain of the hurricane to make it home in Chicago and return the car without getting charged for another day.  While we were happy to be home, it did feel like we left our friends to weather through it and after getting to the hotel in Pennsylvania and seeing pictures of the devastation for the first time on the news we realized how lucky we were to be where we were throughout the duration of the storm.  So many where devastated by that hurricane and lost so much. The entire eastern seaboard has been changed and will never really be the same.  

On the way home we saw a huge fleet of Com-Ed (the Chicago Electric Company) trucks heading out to the area to help out and although I know the people will be suffering for a long time to come I was appreciative that our country is developed enough to have the resources to deal in times like this, when so many in the world do not have the organization or the systems set in place to deal with something like this.   In the midst of such devastation we sometimes forget how lucky we are to live in a place that has the resources, money, and means to deal with even the worst of situations. My thoughts are always with those that lost everything and I am helping to organize a trip for some of my students to go to the East Coast to help volunteer for spring break, but I also think of the places where things like this happen and there is a lot less money and help.  All in all though, another first to add to my life of adventures- a hurricane and a cross country road trip.


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Jill and I went for a walk in the rain Monday morning to check out the wind of a Hurricane.
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Driving through Pennsylvania it was windy, rainy, and snowy.
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Jill driving at about hour 2 of day 2. Only 8 more hours left at this point.
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Sweet home Chicago!
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Writing....For Real!?!?

As some of you know I have been writing blogs since my first trip to Africa in 2008.  I enjoy writing and telling my stories and a few people have told me to share my stories with magazines or write a book.  I enjoy writing but I have never been sure if I could do anything with it.  I mean, I am a writer who doesn’t know how to use commas (if anyone can help me with that I would greatly appreciate it) and has a major spelling problem.  But then I thought….. I do have some really funny and interesting stories and my life is not at all what you would call traditional...so why not give it a try.  I decided to take a chance and actually see if anything could happen with my writing.  I submitted my first writing piece to the Women’s Adventure Magazine’s website.  And guess what….they published it.  I was so excited to have something I wrote published by someone else, even if it was on their website, that my confidence meter went up a little bit.  I figure most writers also use  editors so maybe with my awful use of grammar and punctuation I still have a chance.  Anyway feel free to check out my first writing submission by clicking the link below.  I am not sure where this will lead or if it will lead anywhere but I am going to submit some more so we will see. 

Womens Adventure Magazine

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Well, more adventures have definitely happened, check out some of the pictures below to see what I have been up too.  But I am also interested to hear yours. 

Click the comment link below and tell me something interesting (:

…..And if interested in what we did accomplish in New York during a hurricane.  Check out some of our new EdPowerment program videos, our website updates, and soon we will have new EdPowerment brochure.  If interested in joining our EdPowerment mailing list email me at: kerrielliott@edpowerment.org  

www.EdPowerment.org

Long Term Sponsorship Program Video

Autism Connects Tanzania Video