Monday, November 17, 2008

Hands of Hope

This Holiday Season - Give a Gift that Transforms Lives

Hands of Hope, a charity of Women Helping Women A World Away, is announcing that their Holiday Gift Cards are available for purchase. These cards provide food, income and water for impoverished women and children in Zambia, Uganda, and Southern Sudan. They can be purchased on the Hands of Hope website for $15.00, $30.00 and $50.00. Purchasing these cards will provide goats, chickens or wells to help change lives. What could be a more meaningful gift for holiday giving for family, friends, and customer appreciation?

Hands of Hope helps mobilize communities to respond to the needs of women and children around the world. With an ever-expanding support base in the Chicago area, Hands of Hope works to raise community awareness regarding poverty and HIV/AIDS in Africa and its relevance globally. We are confident in the integrity of the channels we have established so that contributions provide the highest possible impact for the most critical needs.

A teacher who received a Hands of Hope greeting card from one of his students, remarked:

"This was the most profound gift I have received from a student in all my 38 years of teaching."
Roger Prazaider, 5th Grade Teacher, Geneva, IL

This is a gift you can't afford NOT to give! A perfect gift for everyone in your life. Scroll down further to read about how Hands of Hope began and about their current projects.

How Hands of Hope Began:
A few women, A trip to Nigeria

Hands of Hope was started after a trip to Nigeria in 1999 disclosed startling conditions affecting women and the girl child due to the cultural practice of early childhood marriages (as early as age 11.) The pregnancies that follow come at time when a young girl is not adequately physically developed to permit the passage of a baby, which can lead to a prolonged and obstructed labor, death of the baby, death of the mother or a horrendous physical condition called vesico vaginal fistula (VVF). The immediate consequences of VVF are urinary incontinence, dermatitis, and some may suffer from paralysis of the lower half of the body. The social consequences of this condition are severe in a culture where a woman's value is based on her ability to bear children. Estimates are between 250,000-700,000 women are afflicted with this condition in Nigeria alone.

"To meet only one of these mothers is to be profoundly moved...Mourning the stillbirth of their baby, incontinent of urine, ashamed of their offensiveness, often spurned by their husbands, homeless, unemployable except in the fields, they endure, they exist, without hope..."

As a result of that trip and of others hearing about the plight of women and children in Nigeria a northwest suburban community of Chicago came together, bringing their skills and resources, to help address the critical needs of women and children a world away. Our initial efforts funded a hospital addition which is being used for the surgical repair of women with VVF in Jos, Nigeria. A grass roots effort of just a few has now grown to include over 250 volunteers, annual fundraising events, and cooperative relationships with other helping organizations. With an ever-expanding support base in the Chicago area and a clear vision focused on making a difference, Hands of Hope works to raise community awareness and provides resources to women and children that offer education, address health concerns and provide the tools and resources for women to be economically self sustaining. Our efforts bring hope and open doors of opportunity to women and children who want the same things we all universally value; health, safety, the ability to make a living and provide a viable future for their loved ones.

Today, Hands of Hope targets the enormous impact of poverty and the HIV/AIDS epidemic on women and children in Africa.

Chicken Cards

These lovely cards each represent a gift of twelve chicks. Help an impoverished family with a gift of chicks. $15.00 each

The inside of the card reads:

A gift of twelve chicks has been purchased and given to an impoverished family in Africa in your honor by:___________

As the flock multiplies, a struggling family will be given the hope to survive.

Your gift will help those in need for generations to come.

Goat Cards

These lovely cards each represent an actual goat being purchased for a needy family. Beyond providing much needed milk, a few goats can quickly become a herd, providing sustenance and additional income that can make the difference between whether a child goes to school or not. $30.00 each

The inside of the card reads:

A gift of a goat has been purchased and given to an impoverished family in Africa in your honor by: _____________

Offspring from your goat will be passed along to other needy families in villages where people are struggling to survive. This gift will bring hope and survival to many a continent away.

Well Cards

$50.00 each

The inside of the card reads:

A donation has been given towards funding a well in the Western Province of Zambia in your honor by: ______________

Statistics show that nearly half of all people in developing countries suffer from health related problems caused by unsafe water. In addition, African women and children spend several hours every day collecting water which is often miles away and may or may not be contaminated. This well will provide clean and safe drinking water and will go a long way to ease a heavy burden for hundreds of village people who struggle daily with basic physical needs.

Current Projects

Holistic Resources to Mongu in the Western Province of Zambia

Training, technical assistance and resource development in production and post harvest management for over 1000 rural farmers (approx. 6000 people)
Development of agricultural business services to create markets for farmer crops
Access to credit and financial services to minimize risk and maximize return for farmers

Education - Limulunga Community School

Funding a school building - 600 children receive an otherwise unattainable education in this poverty stricken rural community
Providing school uniforms, books, supplies and equipment
Funding a "children in crisis" project for critical needs of students
Providing desks for 600 children


Provide wells and irrigation systems for farm families

Completed and Ongoing Projects

Emergency Refuge Support - Southern Sudan

Agricultural tools and seeds for 350 families returning from war
Goat and Chicken Projects - Southern Sudan, Uganda, Zambia

Providing Goats and Chickens to an expanding network of over 2000 poor rural families
Microfinance Loans - Congo, Rwanda, Uganda

Provided women seed money to establish or expand viable businesses and provide sustainable income with affordable financing that changes the future of families and transforms poverty-stricken communities.
Education and Vocational Training Center for AIDS Orphans - Uganda

Working directly with First Lady Janet Museveni, we helped fund an educational complex that serves 400 children with secondary education and vocational training
School for the Blind Children - Zambia
Provided clothing, bedding, first aid kits, musical instruments and transportation for Sefula School for the Blind which cares for 200 children with urgent needs
Health Care
VVF Hostel and Vocational Training Center - Nigeria

50 bed hospital wing and rehab center serving over 2100 women suffering from horrendous gynecological problems as a result of early childhood pregnancies and subsequent pregnancies
Emergency Assistance - Southern Sudan

Mosquito nets and water containers for over 200 families returning home to rebuild their lives after 21 years of war.

Contact at Hands of Hope:
VickyWauterlek, Hands of Hope, 847-381-7367

Friday, November 07, 2008

That time of year again

You would think I’d be better at time management by now. Unfortunately every year around this time my writing gets pushed aside by all the other things that need done in preparation for the holidays. Between shopping, planning menus and creating newsletters to include in my Christmas cards, my regular writing schedule takes a beating.

Not this year. Just like I’m already planning to insure my weight loss survives the party going ahead, I need to make concessions so my writing won’t fall by the wayside until January.

All it takes is a little planning and forethought on my part. Regardless of what else needs done, I should be able to find two to four hours each day to devote to writing. The optimal solution is to focus the first few hours every day on writing. I seldom start a day without a cardio routine. I already know if I don’t exercise first thing in the morning, I’m not going to do it. My writing needs to be a top priority too.

I think it goes without saying that it’s imperative you write something every day. Even on Thanksgiving Day when you’re planning for company and checking the turkey and shining the mirror in the guest bathroom, take a few minutes to write. End your day in the middle of a scene (or even in the middle of a sentence), and you’ll never be faced with a blank screen at the start of your writing session.

Have a target word count to aim for each day regardless of what else is going on. I know you have to be practical that some days you can’t reach that goal. So lower your word count on the days when you’ll be out shopping with friends or wrapping gifts. But still write something.

It’s okay to count planning, outlining and editing as part of your writing. You might find you need to allocate a day for coming up with ideas (brainstorming), a day for planning in more detail, then three or four days to write the first draft. Those activities are good to focus on while your watching the turkey or stuck in traffic on your way to the mall. Take a notebook with you. Instead of focusing on the idiot in front of you who missed the light, think about your heroine and her current problems. They are probably more interesting than yours anyway.

Happy writing. And oh yeah, don’t forget to get in that cardio time. You’ll feel so much better on January 1st.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Before taking yesterday off to work at the polls, I interviewed Karen Fabian about her book Firestorm of Dragons. Today we will get to know Karen a little better by talking about Leaps of Faith.

Believe in a future where science and faith live side-by-side? Leaps of Faith contains 15 stories exploring space, time and faith. Can an ancient religion bring hope to first-line explorers for whom each trip is potential suicide? What does it mean when a physicist finds God's face in the stars? Is there a "saint gene" and can it be reproduced to create miracles? What happens to your soul when your body is shattered into quantum elements and reassembled on another world? How will the Christian faith transform alien thoughts and traditions?

Read as time travelers seeking to change Biblical history and space travelers harvesting "angels" are brought to faith by their experiences. Experience tender romance and heart-pounding adventure. Laugh at the foilables of man.

A 2002 EPPIE finalist for Best Electronic Anthology, Leaps of Faith promises the best in Christian sci-fi.

Welcome, Karen. Can you tell us what you most enjoyed about compiling this book?

Discovering the many angles at which people examine their relationship with god in the future--and reading some great stories.

Was it hard to select stories for Leaps of Faith?

Actually, no. We had about 100 stories submitted, I think (It was sooo long ago, it seems), but many of them missed one of the three core values of the anthology:
1. make the Christianity real and positive
2. make the science plausible and believable
3. show us how science and religion can interact positively together.

The stories in this anthology didn't just meet these three requirements, but also made us laugh out loud, shed a tear, or sit back and think. The authors made the choices easy for us.

What do you want people to get out of your book?

Hope for our future. An understanding that affirming God's role in our life doesn't mean rejecting the value of science or progress. Finally, a pleasant few hours of faith-filled escapism.

Do you write a lot of Christian science fiction yourself, and if so, why?

I actually did not set out to be a Christian sci-fi writer. However, faith and sci-fi are both integral parts of who I am, so that has come out in my writing. On a literary standpoint, I think religion makes an interesting point of conflict, adds to a character and feeds a part of the reader's mind and soul that other genres don't.

I've written and sold a few stories about the Rescue Sisters--nuns who live and work in space doing rescue operations. In addition to Leaps of Faith, I've edited the anthology, Infinite Space, Infinite God and its coming sequel. (From Twilight Times Books, In the fantasy realm, I've got a Catholic dragon detective and his nun partner. That's been an interesting universe to play in, since I have a magical parallel universe interacting with ours. It's been interesting to imagine how the reality of magic changes the development of Christianity. I've several stories and two novels out or coming out so far.
Finally, I'm working on my first Rescue Sisters novel, Discovery. I'm already talking with a publisher about it, but there are no promises.

What's the challenge of writing in this genre?

Placing it. If you want to really be open and frank about religion--not preachy, just prevalent--then you can get a story that's too "Christian" for sci-fi and too "sci-fi" for Christian. Fantasy and Horror share the same dilemma. In fact, there's a group of writers of speculative fiction called the Lost Genre Guild who are working to break these literary barriers.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Firestorm of Dragons

Readers, please help me welcome author Karin Fabian to Joy in the Journey. Karin is also the editor of Infinite Space, Infinite God, thought-provoking sci-fi with a Catholic twist.

Welcome Karin. I know you have several interviews over the month of November that cover you and your story and characters, so what can you tell us about Firestorm of Dragons as a book?

I loved this anthology. The level of imagination and the quality of storytelling humbled me. I think I have a lot of talent and a terrific story--and I do!--but compared to some of the others... Wow! I'm in great company, and readers are in for a great ride.

Aside from your own, which story is your favorite?

Dragonscaling! by John Teehan. Seriously tongue-in-cheek parody of extreme sports written as an instructional article for people who want to climb dragons for fun or complicated suicide. Some of his phrases are priceless!

What else do you like about the anthology? Anything you don't like?

I love the breadth of takes on dragon stories. The only thing that bothered me is there is one story that I'm not comfortable with for kids under 16. It's probably not as bad as some YA stuff out there, but it prevents me from recommending it to a lot of kids who might otherwise be able to enjoy the book.

What drew you to write for a dragon anthology?

It was something I hadn't done before. I've written about psychics, barbarian swordswomen and, in the sci-fi realm, artificial intelligence and colonizing the solar system. Plus, the guidelines specifically said they wanted something unique. That challenged me.

Now, I'm overjoyed, because it's given me my favorite universe to play in--the Faerie/Mundane worlds of DragonEye, PI.

What's next for you?

In sci-fi, I have a new anthology out, Leaps of Faith, which is Christian SF. I'm working on a Rescue Sisters novel, Discovery, with three nuns who do search and rescue operations in space. They are also favorite characters of mine.

In fantasy, I have two DragonEye, PI books coming out in 2009: Magic, Mensa and Mayhem and Live and Let Fly. These are much funnier than "Dragon Eye, PI" and have a great cast of mythological characters and clichés turned on their heads--because DragonEye is nothing without clichés.

You have a special offer for readers?

Yes! If you register on the DragonEye, PI, website this month, I'll give you a free story, "Amateurs: From the Case Files of DragonEye, PI," plus a special on the DragonEye holiday story, "Christmas Spirits." It also signs you up for the every-other-month newsletter, A Dragon's Eye View, with notes from Vern, fun Faerie facts, and news on future stories and books.