Tag Archives: education

What We Are Doing This Semester

Greetings,

One of the tricky parts of homeschooling is adjusting our curriculum to remain student-centered.  If the work is too easy, too challenging, or not in the best format for the child, we have to go back to the drawing board.  Otherwise, we may be giving assignments that are not engaging or not being retained.

Last semester, we used Time4Learning for our core classes (Math, ELA, Science, etc…), Kamali Academy’s curriculum for Africana History ideas, and a mix-mash of other resources.  We belonged to a homeschool collective in Houston where my son was also able to learn Gardening, Sewing, Yoga, and Martial Arts.

hotep

Having fun down by the Mopan River.

In September, we moved to San Ignacio, Belize.  For the first 5 weeks or so, we continued to use Time4Learning, also spending a lot of time outdoors, going on low-cost excursions, cooking, playing chess, watching movies, and just bonding.  We have also had some fun day trips; for example, we caught a bus to Chetumal, Mexico a few weeks ago for around $25USD.  I am also in graduate school online with the University of Houston, assisting with Instructional Design for Kamali Academy, and working on some new books, but it is a lot easier to manage my time here.  I always seem to have more time than tasks.

My 12-year-old son, Hotep, loves to create video games in Scratch (scratch.mit.edu), so he has been spending at least 2 hours a day just programming games, alone or with friends.  There are two other boys about his age on our street that he hangs out with every day.  He is also working on writing his first fiction book, a chapter book about a boy with unique shapeshifting powers.

Since we live in the rainforest, the internet connection is sometimes unreliable.  In hindsight, it would have been a good idea to buy textbooks and workbooks for the year and bring them rather than to depend on daily internet service.  For the past few weeks, I meditated on how to solve this issue.  At least 2 days of each week, Hotep is either unable to access Time4Learning or it runs terribly slow, resulting in him spending twice as long to complete his assignments.  Today, I cancelled our Time4Learning subscription and designed a new curriculum for the rest of the school year that involves downloaded books that can be accessed offline, active time outdoors daily, and fun educational activities.

nika

Taking a walk by the river.  The river was high this day because there was recent flooding.

I would like to share our curriculum outline with you to get your feedback and maybe also help you through your process.

  • Math – downloaded 7th grade math textbook from ck12.org
  • Grammar/Vocabulary/Language Arts – downloaded Middle School Grammar textbook/workbook from vanlueschool.org
  • Writing/Publishing – downloaded composition textbook from ck12.org for; also working on fiction book and self-publishing completed book of poetry
  • Typing – freetypinggame.net
  • Ourstory/US History – Classical Africa by Dr. Molefi Asante (e-book)/A Young Peoples History of the United States by Howard Zinn (e-book)
  • Science- learning about Belizean ecology outdoors (helper site: http://www.ourbelizevacation.com/ecology-in-belize.html); also downloaded Life Science textbook from ck12.org
  • Technology – Video Game Programming and Animation using Scratch (scratch.mit.edu)
  • Physical Education – 30 min together per day outdoor exercise/play
  • Spanish 15 – 30 minutes together per day using Berlitz Essential Spanish (print) and Pimsleur Spanish (audio)
  • Weekly Field Trips Friday – i.e. nature walks, bus rides to other cities, Cahal Pech, Belize Zoo, Jaguar Reserve, etc…

The structure of our courses will be a combination of guided and independent work.  Ourstory and US History will be on alternating days, Monday through Thursday.  On Wednesdays, we will work on book publishing rather than Science and Technology.  I had gotten away from spelling tests, so I will be resuming giving him spelling words on Monday and spelling tests on Fridays.  If we have a short field trip some Fridays, we will also do some fun learning activities and watch a movie or a documentary.

We have about a month and a half left in this semester, so I will work out the kinks of our new program during that time.  What are you using for your children’s curriculum this semester?  Do you have any ideas of what we might add?  Have you ever had to adjust your curriculum mid-semester?  Please comment with feedback and questions.

Love and Light,

Nikala Asante

 

Do You Have a Book in You?

Greetings Homeschooling Family,

Do you have a book in you?  Have you always wanted to publish a book, e-book, manual, or series, but you just aren’t sure how to get started? Or maybe it is your close friend, parent, or spouse that always talks about wanting to publish and you just don’t know how to support them in achieving their dream.  Maybe you would like for your students to publish a collection of their poetry or essays or to publish a novel for this year’s big school project?

Many people have been asking me lately about the process of self-publishing, so I am offering consultations at an affordable cost.  Visit my other blog, nikalaasante.com, and select one hour consultation if book publishing is an objective that you would like to accomplish.  During our session, I would walk you through the entire process of publishing and also include a complimentary e-manual that I wrote for you to reference back to, “Self Publishing on a Shoestring Budget”, a complimentary Manifestation Planner to guide you through each step of publishing your book with a checklist, and for my blog readers, I will be adding a bonus 30 minutes to your one hour consultation.

What you will get out of the consultation and e-manual:

  • Walks you through the entire self-publishing process – on a shoestring budget!
  • Explains the differences between traditional publishing and self-publishing.
  • Presents the options available for self-publishing your book.
  • Helps you choose the right self-publishing method for your book.
  • Gives instructions on how to obtain your ISBNs and copyright.
  • Guides you to get your book listed for sale on amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com
  • Guides you to publish your book in print and e-book formats.
  • Discusses marketing strategies that will help you sell your book!

As far as my credentials, I graduated with Honors from the University of Houston with a BA in Creative Writing and I have successfully written, edited, designed covers for, published, and marketed 5 books thus far in the Genres of Non-Fiction, Fiction, and Poetry with an emphasis on Africana Culture & History and Education. People often see my books and ask me, “Who published you and how can I get published?” I respond, “I published myself and you can too.” :-)

Click the Picture Below to Link to Page to Reserve Your One-on-One Consultation:

publishyourself

 

The Best Education Money Can’t Buy

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Outside of homeschooling my own son, I also tutor other students part-time. They are mostly private school students. At a session this week with a 7th grader for Pre-AP Algebra, my son, who is in the 6th grade, wanted to jump in and help him with a difficult problem. I stopped my son because I like to give my older students more time to figure it out on their own, but I was proud of him for understanding the work and for taking the initiative to want to help.  It let me know that I was doing something right. :-)

This exchange prompted me to think  about the sacrifices that we make for our children. The parents that I work with often select their neighborhoods and their career paths based on wanting their children to have access to the best possible education. Likewise, I make many decisions based on wanting my son to receive the best education – the one that God has blessed me to provide to him.

At times, I have thought about how I could possibly be making more money if I did not spend the time that I spend with my son.  Maybe you’ve had similar thoughts.  Yet, my sacrifices in the financial area have allowed my son to be more advanced in many subjects than my private school students, though their parents are much stronger than me financially.  Please keep this in mind if you’ve had any financial challenges due to working less hours or not working as a homeschooling mom.  We don’t always have to have more money to do more for our children.  Sometimes having less allows us to do more – and  as a bonus, our children learn not to be materialistic.

For 5 years now, my son has been out of the public school system. At first, I was really just hoping that I was doing the right thing, lol. Thanks to my heightened investment in supporting his academic growth, along with support from friends and strong sister-mentors in my community, we quickly witnessed major improvements in his reading, math, and interest level.  Within 2 years, he had strengthened academically more than I imagined that he could have so speedily.  I knew then that we had to stick with independent education.

Of equal importance to academics, he has had the space over the past 5 years to pursue computer programming, animation, chess, creative writing, visual art, and drumming to the point where they have become passions for him. He has also had space – physically, mentally, and emotionally – to research extensively on one of his greatest loves in life – animals. At the same time, he has a great sense of his culture and history, thanks to both our studies and our strong community.

If I had a lot of money, maybe I would have enrolled him in a private school and secured private tutoring for him from the beginning. When he was struggling with reading at age 6 and I felt like his teachers were against him instead of for him, maybe I would have said, “Forget this – you’re going to the best school that money can buy.” I’m so glad that I wasn’t rich, because it turned out that learning to be my son’s educator was the best decision that I’ve ever made.

If you are considering homeschooling or just starting out, stay strong in your mission. When you feel you are not doing a great job, ask yourself what you can do differently and make changes. All teachers make mistakes. It’s important to recognize these challenges and fix them instead of beating ourselves up about them. When you are doing a great job, celebrate that too. Set goals for each semester and celebrate the goals that you are able to achieve. Homeschooling is like gardening – it’s hard work and you may not the results clearly from the beginning, but it will result in a beautiful harvest.

Also, when you feel discouraged about financial challenges, look at all that your children are able to gain from your sacrifices.  Many resources can be had for free or very little money, so it is not necessary to have a lot of money to homeschool.  Stay strong, focused, and positive – you’re giving your children the best education possible!  Even more importantly, no amount of money can replace the family bonds that are forged all while providing an excellent education!

Stay tuned for the next post which will have money-saving tips, goal setting tips, and other tools for providing the best education that money can’t buy. ;-)

With Love,

Nikala Asante

 

 

 

Book Release + A Contest: Character Building for African Centered Scholars

Greetings,

The time has arrived!  Character Building for African Centered Scholars is available both as a trade paperback and as an e-book!  As you requested, I am running a CONTEST to give away some copies!  The first 7 people to comment on this post will each receive a free e-copy of Character Building for African Centered Scholars.  (If you are one of the lucky winners, please leave a review on Amazon!)

Even those who win copies may still want trade paperbacks too, so here is all of the info for where to snag your copies. (Also, you can check out the awesome Amazon previews!!!):

Character Building for African Centered Scholars, Grades 1 – 4

Character Building for African Centered Scholars, Grades 4 and Up

Again, thank you for your support, and I will be posting lots of great free resources for the semester soon, so be on the lookout!

Grades 1 - 4

Grades 1 – 4

Grades 4 and Up

Grades 4 and Up

Would you like to have a simple, fun, and interactive way to teach your children African centered moral and spiritual principles in a way where they can easily understand and apply them?

I am excited beyond words to announce that I have released a book series titled Character Building for African Centered Scholars.  The first two books are for Grades 1 – 4 and Grades 4 and Up.  The following books in this series will expand more in detail on the ideas covered in the main books or add to them.

In Character Building for African Centered Scholars, your students will learn character building principles from Ma’at, Iwa Pele, Nguzo Saba, the Adrinka Symbols , and more!  The many sacrifices that we make to educate our children are for one reason and one reason only: to shape them into successful, critically thinking, and independent adults with good characters.   Each book is fun, interactive, and written in a way where it serves as both a textbook and a workbook!  I’m so thrilled and you will be too!

With Love,

Nikala Asante

New Book Series: Character Building for African Centered Scholars

Greetings,

Grades 1 - 4

Grades 1 – 4

Grades 4 and Up

Grades 4 and Up

Do you struggle with your children’s behavior at times?  Are you looking for a way to include Character Building in your curriculum, but can only find overly simplistic or strictly religious workbooks on the topic?  Would you like to have a simple, fun, and interactive way to teach your children African centered spiritual and moral principles in a way where they can easily understand and apply them?

I am excited beyond words to announce that I am releasing a book series this August (just a few weeks away!) titled Character Building for African Centered Scholars.  The first two books are for Grades 1 -4 (77 pages) and Grades 4 and Up (107 pages).  The following books in this series will expand more in detail on the ideas covered in the main books or add to them.

In Character Building for African Centered Scholars, your students will learn character building principles from Ma’at, Iwa Pele, Nguzo Saba, the Adrinka Symbols , and more!  The many sacrifices that we make to educate our children are for one reason and one reason only: to shape them into successful, critically thinking, and independent adults with good characters.   Each book is fun, interactive, and written in a way where it serves as both a textbook and a workbook!  I’m so thrilled and you will be too!

Pre-Order Now for a 20% discount!!!  Your book will be shipped by August 31, 2015.

Each chapter is easy to read for self-guided work, with images and lots of activities.  Also, there are additional activities in the back of the book to keep your student engaged and developing an excellent character:

Read an excerpt from the chapter discussing Ma’at (From Character Building for African Centered Scholars: Grades 4 and Up):

MA’AT

“I have satisfied God with that which He loves.  I have given bread to the hungry, water to the thirsty, clothes to the naked, and a boat to those without one.” – The Book of Coming Forth by Day

Ma’at is a concept of morality that originated in Kemet (ancient Egypt).  The figure of Ma’at as expressed in hieroglyphic carvings is that of a woman with extended wings or a woman with a feather on her crown.  According to this spiritual philosophy, when a human being transitions out of the physical realm (death), he or she meets Ma’at, and then his or her heart is weighed against a feather.

If one’s heart is weighted heavily with wrongdoing and poor character, it will be eaten by Ammit, a monstrous being who is part lion, part crocodile, and part hippopotamus.   Once this happens, one will not be able to achieve eternal life, but will instead become a restless spirit – a ghost.

How do we interpret this in modern day terms?  First, let’s look at the meaning of eternal life, or immortality.  Can one truly become immortal?  If so, we have not witnessed this phenomenon on earth.  Science has not generated immortality on earth, nor has religion.  However, we do see that humans have achieved immortality through their legacies.

For example, let’s examine the story of Imhotep, who is best known for being the architect of the oldest known pyramid.  He was born around 2,667 BCE – nearly 5,000 years ago.  Imhotep was born neither rich nor privileged, but he worked hard to develop his intelligence and to be of service to those greater than him.  He did not just sit around and think, “I wish that I was smarter,” – he studied regularly to build his knowledge.  He did not just read to make good grades or to impress others.  He put his knowledge into action.  In turn, he developed himself into the first known physician, a legendary architect, a brilliant poet, a scribe, an astronomer, and the advisor to King Djoser.  He went from being a regular kid with no special head start in life to being a multi-talented genius who gave advice to the king.  Wow, isn’t that incredible?

As a result of Imhotep’s practice of good character, he left a legacy that is still widely honored and studied nearly 5,000 years later.  That is a form of immortality.  Imagine – what if people are still learning from your life 5,000 years from now?  That was the goal of many ancient Egyptians – to live their lives so well, with such upright actions, with such beneficial works, that people would still study their lives as examples for how to live, thousands of years later.  Let’s now examine the principles of Ma’at to understand how the Kemetic people went about striving towards immortality.

SEVEN PRINCIPLES OF MA’AT

  1. Truth
  2. Justice
  3. Harmony
  4. Balance
  5. Order
  6. Reciprocity
  7. Propriety

What do these principles mean and how can we practice them daily?

TRUTH – Truth is to tell what really happened, i.e. not telling lies.  But, truth is also to understand what is real and what is false.  When we commit to learning history, we can separate fact from fiction and take action based on full knowledge.  For example, we know that Christopher Columbus did not discover America, so we do not honor him, celebrate him, or idolize him in any way.  We instead honor and celebrate real leaders who made sincere contributions to the advancement of African people all over the world, and to all humanity.  Truth also applies to being able to critically analyze the information that we receive for flaws or biases.  If we read a news article that refers to one young male who got into some trouble as a criminal, and another young male of a different ethnic group or culture who made a similar mistake as a troubled teen – that is a bias.  They may have both been troubled teens who needed help.  You can then write in to the news outlet asking them to make a correction, or you can write your own newspaper or blog to report from a more unbiased perspective.  Actions like these would demonstrate your commitment to truth, and also help shape your legacy.

(Pre-order now!)

Check out the Table of Contents for Character Building for African Centered Scholars: Grades 4 and Up.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Introduction                                               7

How to Use this Book                                 11

Character Building Principles:

Ma’at                                               16

Iwa Pele                                            47

Nguzo Saba                                     61

Adrinka Symbols                              74

Character Building Examples:

Queen Nzinga                                  81

Shaka Zulu                                        82

Marcus Garvey                                83

Fannie Lou Hamer                            85

Alice Walker                                     86

Putting Principles into Practice:

Creative Writing                               89

Music                                                          90

Visual Art                                          91

Technology                             92

Critical Thinking                                93

Community Service Extensions                 94

My Glossary                                               97

My Notes                                                    101

Thank you for reading this far!  I may run a contest to offer free copies to select followers.  Comment if you would be interested in a contest of this nature. :-)

All the best to you and your family!

Love and Light,

Nikala Asante

 

Book Release! Tomorrow Will Be Better (plus a contest)

Greetings!

I hope that you and your family are doing well.  Exciting news!  I’ve recently released my newest book - Tomorrow Will Be Better.  Tomorrow Will Be Better is an intimate conversation, a history primer, a discussion of current events, a Spoken Word Collection, and an invitation to engagement in social justice – all in one.   It is a non-fiction book with a target audience of African American youth between ages 14 and 25 seeking to better understand themselves and their roles in the world (although it is appropriate and a great learning tool for persons of ANY ethnicity, ages 14 and up).

As a thank you for your continual support, I am giving out free e-copies of Tomorrow Will Be Better to the first 10 readers to comment on this blog!  Additionally, those who re-post this blog to their page will be entered to win print copies of Tomorrow Will Be Better (with a US mailing address).  Thank you for your support and be sure to check out the full description below!

Tomorrow Will Be Better by Nikala Asante (<—- View Table of Contents and read a sample on Amazon)

Tomorrow_Will_Be_Bet_Cover_for_Kindle

Best,

Nikala Asante

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Hello, I’m Nikala Asante – a 29 year old mother, creative writer, Spoken Word artist, independent educator, Web Series producer, and international Human Rights advocate.  As the mother of a 10 year old son, the future of our youth is extremely important to me. In this vein – for the past 6 years, I have been actively tutoring and mentoring inner-city high school and college students. Through this work, I have been blessed with an understanding of the challenges that my generation and my son’s generation faces, as well as methods to overcome these challenges.

Concurrently, I have been blessed to traverse 9 countries in Europe, Africa, and the Caribbean over the past 4 years, engaging in service and research projects that granted me a greater understanding of the world at large. All of this from the basis of a rough upbringing, earning my GED at age 22, surviving an abusive relationship, and many other immense struggles on the path to self-actualization.

Now, I am sharing my own life story, documentation of my travels, historical and cultural context for each place that I visited, how these histories and cultures connect to current events in the United States, and creative responses to what I have witnessed a concise collection of chapters, Spoken Word and interactive workshop modules. I earnestly believe that this book can and will change lives. I appreciate your support!

Who This Book Is Written For

This book is targeted to African American youth, ages 14 -25, but can be enjoyed by any mature reader.

About The Author

Nikala Asante is a creative writer, Spoken Word artist, web series producer, independent educator, and international Human Rights advocate from Houston, TX. Asante fell in love with organizing around Human Rights after traveling to the Dominican Republic to learn about garment worker rights organizing with Solidarity Ignite in 2013. Since then, she has returned to Dominican Republic and Haiti independently and with the University of Houston to help set up medical clinics, to distribute food and water, to plant food bearing trees in deforested areas, to deliver needed supplies, children’s vitamins, and toys to orphanages, and to create archives of personal narratives about Haiti’s 2010 earthquake.

In her community, Asante organizes homeschooling parents around educational events and field trips to advance their children’s learning experiences, as well as tutoring and mentoring inner-city youth. Asante has received numerous awards from the community and university, including the prestigious Gilman International Study Scholarship. She was featured in Defender Networks’ Black History special on young leaders following in the footsteps of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr in 2013, on PBS NewsHour in 2015, and has spoken on Human Rights in two documentaries (“16th Strike: the Documentary” and “Nice: A Place to Start”).

Asante has published two collections of poetry, Graffiti Nommo and Re-Divining Self. Additionally, Asante recently published her first web series in 5 episodes, Pharaoh the Web Series — available for viewing on YouTube. She is currently in the process of developing her own non-profit to connect students with international service learning opportunities – Asante Global Works.

nikalaasante.com

Asante Global Works

blackhomeschoolmom.com

Pharaoh the Web Series

Roadschooling for International Service Work in Haiti: Part 2

Greetings,

Thank you for reading this far!  Please feel free to refill your drink as I share the remainder of our January journey and a bit about our future plans with this work.

At Sadhana, I was inspired by how well organized that allocation of our duties were.  Because we were cooking on an open fire, someone had to be cooking literally all day. We did it collectively, in shifts The first cooking shift began at about 6:00 to have breakfast ready by 8 or 8:30.  The next shift began right after breakfast and the final shift began right after lunch.  Also, we tended to the area.  I dug holes with a pick axe to plant citronella around the kitchen hut and main hut.

We washed dishes daily with sea sponges, ashes, and vinegar.  We stumbled through cacti and tall weeds to collect fallen sticks to light our daily cooking fires.  I embraced the hard work, even in the 90 degree sunlight.  The only job that I avoided was cleaning the restrooms – makeshift 3/4 enclosed palm leaf huts with buckets inside for pee and poo.  I really avoided that job, lol.  My son did hard work too, but I let him take a lot of breaks.  He was so excited to be able to come home and tell his friends that he used a real machete.

There were bonuses to being at Sadhana.  We not only got to participate in all aspects of reforestation, but to distribute food bearing trees to neighboring residents around Anse a Pitre.  It filled me with great joy.  Other bonuses that warmed my heart were:

  • Distributing clean water through the community every time that we “flooded” the canal to irrigate the trees.  The water had to flow by people’s houses and yards before it reached the treed areas.  Women would stand outside with buckets and jugs collecting the water to bathe, wash clothes, and even to drink.
  • Learning the art of water conservation AKA “How to Grow a Forest in the Desert”.
  • Learning to build a rocket stove – an outdoor stove made of red soil, water, and donkey poo.  The donkey poo acts like concrete and is completely hygienic after the drying and the heating.

  • Learning to use solar ovens to prepare simple meals.
  • Participating in the distribution of and a workshop on solar ovens to the local women.
  • Solar oven cake!!!
  • Conducting research and experiments to see how to build a natural refrigerator and how to make ice by using a solar oven at night (only partially successful, lol).
  • Friday Documentary Film watching nights (with Solar Power, projector, and a sheet!)
  • Learning about local culture.
  • Dancing to Haitian drumming.
  • Practicing Capoeira Angola with international volunteers.

  • Drinking rich creamy Haitian hot chocolate on a cold night with my friends. (It gets cold at night in the desert.)
  • Learning to cook new healthy meals.
  • Making new friends.
  • Seeing children’s smiles surround me every time that I took a walk around Anse a Pitre.
  • Holding a Writing Workshop and poetry reading for the Sadhana community.

  • And mostly, my son’s enjoyment of it all, his growth, his writing, his love for Haitian food, love for being outdoors 24/7, inspired love for helping others, and his excitement to return and continue helping at the earliest opportunity.

I have been teaching my son bits of French, Spanish, and Kreyol over the past few years without enough consistency and no formal lessons.  After this trip, he is motivated to learn all three languages without prodding, because he wants to be able to communicate on his own in situations like our recent trip.  I cannot measure the effect that our journey had on him now, because I am confident that it developed him in ways that I will not notice until he is an adult.  I am so happy with how everything went.  So, so happy.

I will return to Haiti March 13 – March 23, 2015 to continue equity creating work in the areas of clean water security, fresh food security, and preventative health. Many people have asked me about how they can support these initiatives. Thus, I am offering this campaign as a means of making our efforts cooperative.  The fundraising goal is $1,200.  If you would like to contribute, I have a page set up at https://www.crowdrise.com/nikalainhaiti.

We are so excited about the itinerary! My friend Happy, an experienced RN, and Nailah, a 19 year old certified permaculturist, will be traveling with me. We will volunteer at Sadhana Forest in the mornings through Thursday, March 19. In the afternoons, we will travel to assess methodology for planting trees in the neighboring town of Recif. A representative of Sadhana has volunteered trees and extra hands so that we can plant right away, while we assess how to plant more!Also, we will document how the town of Thiotte builds their natural rainwater collecting barrels, and if their method is replicable in other areas of Haiti for gathering clean water.

On Thursday, we will make our way to Port au Prince to the Family Nursing School at 28 Delmas. I built a relationship with them on my May 2014 trip to Haiti, where I set up medical clinics in tent cities with the University of Houston Honors College Medicine and Society Program and assisted Dr. Carl Lindahl in training Haitian earthquake survivors to conduct interviews of other survivors to preserve authentic narratives and serve as a tool for mental healing (survivortosurvivorstories.com). The interviewers were paid for a full year’s Haitian wages for less than a month’s work – finally, fair wages!

In Delmas, we will meet with Haitian survivors who are interested in being future interviewers for Survivor to Survivor to offer them that economic and service opportunity. Also, I will facilitate setting up a space for Happy will teach a workshop to a large group of nursing students on maternal health. Lastly, I will travel with the director of 28 Delmas to take pictures of an area where he is building a school and a community to assess and document it so that I can help with their water supply.

A few people in Houston have pledged possible assistance through either well digging or water filtration, so I need to see which system would work best for the area. Also, this new community in Delmas is a desert area similar to Anse a Pitre, so there is also the potential for food growth based on what I’ve learned.

Thank you again for reading and please feel free to comment or email me with any questions that you have.  The next post will present options and advice for parents to travel with their homeschooled children for international service work.

All Love,

Nikala Asante

Roadschooling for International Service Work in Haiti: Part 1

Greetings,

I would like to share a rather long post with you about my and my son’s recent service work in Haiti.  Please grab a cup of coffee and settle into a comfortable chair.  This will be broken into three posts, of which this is the first.

Sadhana Forest Haiti

Sadhana Forest Haiti

With cooperative support, my nearly eleven year old son and I were able to travel through Santo Domingo to the border Haitian town of Anse a Pitre last month.  This was my first time taking my son on an international service trip with me.  My friend Sarah, a University of Houston Psychology alum and child educator, traveled with us.  Once there, we engaged in reforestation with a permanent community, Sadhana Forest.

It was quite the adventure getting there.  The Spanish that I learned waiting tables for 5 years as a teen paid off in navigating through Dominican Republic.  The first little road bump was when our taxi did not show up at the airport.  I was able to secure a taxi and negotiate the price.  We made it safely to our hostel in Zona Colonial where we slept the first night.  You see, the Haitian border is only open during certain hours of the day, so if you do not arrive in Santo Domingo before 6:00 am or so, you have to wait until the following day to make the journey to la frontera (the border).

We rose around 4:30 am, which was too early to get the complimentary breakfast, but I was prepared.  I had so many Cliff bars in my bag, lol.  Our taxi arrived around 5:00 am to take us to the bus station.  As we drove along, he pointed out Chinatown, beautiful governmental buildings, and the Presidential Palace.  The Palace is constructed much like the United States capitol building, but with what appeared to be Christmas lights illuminating it through the morning darkness.

We arrived at the bus station, which was well lit and bustling with people, nothing like what was described in our communication with Sadhana.  Sarah was the first to realize that we were at the wrong bus station.  There was no way to be sure, but she had a feeling.  I communicated with the taxi driver again that we wanted to go to the border town of Pedernales.  He insisted that we didn’t  - that to get to Haiti, we should take the air conditioned tour bus to Port au Prince.  He thought that we were confused about our destination.  We insisted, no, we want to go to Pedernales.  Finally, he resigned with a frown to take us to the bus station to Pedernales.

The sky was still dark as he drove us down a narrow alley filled with discarded clothes and cans.  My heart was almost jumping out of my chest.  No, let’s go back to the tourist bus, I wanted to say.  As we pulled into an even narrower, darker alley, he pointed to a guagua, or minibus, and said, “There.”  The sun started to rise, bolstering my confidence as we moved our luggage to the guagua.  Shortly, women began to set up cooking stations along the street to sell sausages and bread to workers.

The bus began to fill with mainly Haitians, trying to return to the border.  Then, with chickens and small farm animals.  The bus driver moved us to the front because we were, “Las Americanas”.  I was a twinge guilty, but also thankful, for the privilege of a US passport.  The ride would be 7 hours long and I did not have to worry about the noise and smell of chickens bombarding me for the entire trip.

Once we arrived in Pedernales, our group that was scheduled to meet us was not there at the bus station.  I was so nervous just standing there with luggage and a young Caucasian woman, both of which identified me as not from there.  Pedernales is actually a very safe town, but at the time, I didn’t know that yet.  Moto conchos (motorcyle taxis) crowded around us to offer rides to la frontera.  Sarah was nervous about riding a moto concho, but our bags were too heavy and conspicuous to drag for a long walk.  I realized that we should we packed only backpacks.  I turned to Sarah and said, “we’re going to have to ride the motos.”.  She reluctantly agreed.

I had seen 4 or 5 people at a time riding moto conchos during my 2013 Human Rights trip to Dominican Republic, so I wasn’t nervous about riding.  I knew that the drivers were very skilled.  I placed my son in the middle so that he was sandwiched between me and the driver.  Another moto took our big “checked” bags, while we carried our backpacks.  We held on tight for a bumpy and gorgeously green ride to the border.  Once we arrived, I realized that Sarah had placed her leg on the hot part of the moto and burned it.  She knew not to do this, but in her nervousness, accidentally did it anyway.  The locals began prescribing remedies.  ”Toothpaste,” they said.  Sarah pulled out her toothpaste and swathed it across her leg and foot shaking off the pain like a soldier accustomed to adversity.

The border was so calm that we should have realized that something was not right.  A verbal stir went about of “pasaportes” and “las Americanas”, before we were swept into the Dominican immigration office.  Our passports were stamped and we were allowed across the bridge.  It was not until we crossed into Haiti that we were informed that both offices were closed for the day due to an earlier protest.  They let us through because of our nationality.

In Anse a Pitre, a young Haitian man from Sadhana was waiting for us – Roosevelt.  He informed us that someone was at the bus station now looking for us, but had been a little mixed up on the time.  There is an hour difference between the DR and Haiti.  I was so happy to have confirmation that my journey would soon reach a destination, I wanted to go right away.  We hopped on moto conchos again to reach the forest community.  The area was clearly a desert as far as climate – there was so much dust and many rocks and cacti.   Yet, as we neared Sadhana, mango and avocado trees replaced cacti, with mountains swooping overhead in a breathtaking horizon.

Since we arrived on a Friday afternoon, our volunteer requirement would begin on Monday.  We were able to take a tour of the facilities and visit the local beach.

After becoming acquainted with the rules and expectations of the community, eating a delicious meal of black beans, rice, fresh eggplant, and green salad, and enjoying a documentary with our new friends (The Coconut Revolution), we were guided to our beds.

 

The “tetras” were room slots about 15 feet in the air to prevent scorpions, tarantulas, centipedes, and such from crawling over us while we slept.  I felt like the main character in the movie Avatar when he found out that he had to sleep in a hammock tied between trees far above the ground.  I feared that we would fall, so I brought our luggage up to my son and I’s room to surround us like a fortress.

Our first work day was Monday.  We rose at 5:30 am for stretching and activity assignments, and began daily by 6:00 am.  Our volunteer work was titled sevas, which I believe is Sanskrit for service or a love offering.  It’s funny how when I thought of reforestation, I just thought of planting trees.  I did not get to plant a tree until maybe the third day there.

I carried heavy buckets of water around the grounds to water trees, cut weeds with a machete to mulch trees, reached nervously (for fear of spiders or scorpions) into piles of fallen bamboo leaves to mulch trees, cleared the canal of clothes and trash to allow water to flow through to irrigate trees, carried saplings in buckets for 2 mile stretches to reach yards in need – not to mention what needed to be done to maintain the facilities and volunteers.

See more about our journey in the next post!  Meet you there!

Best,

Nikala Asante

Fundraiser – A Custom Story for Your Child: $5

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As a part of fundraising efforts for current projects, I am running the special of a lifetime.  Right now, I will write a customized story about your child or children for only $5.  Check out the info below.  :)

Does your daughter want to be a real storybook princess?  Does your son want to be a real superhero?  I can make that happen.

I will write your child into a personalized one page digitally illustrated story in the setting of your choice in 7 days or less.

A Little About Me:

I am a homeschooling mother with a BA in Creative Writing from University of Houston.  Additionally, I have published two collections of poetry and short stories, contributed to major anthologies, and currently manage a blog site for African American home education resources, blackhomeschoolmom.com.  Also, I have 9 years of experience in Graphic Design.

Added Value:

  • Professional quality stories from a mother, educator, and published author.
  • Affordable for all parents.
  • Requests to write in friends or grandparents will be granted as well.
  • With a photo of your child, his or her actual picture can be featured in the story!
  • Print the story at home and frame for a lifetime memento of love.
  • Makes a great birthday or holiday gift!
  • Cheers sick children up instantly too.

Order your child the greatest gift of all today - a customized story!

Example without background setting or photo (both can be added at no extra cost).  I wrote this story today!  Thank you for your support.  Visit Fiverr to order your customized story: http://www.fiverr.com/nikalaasante/write-your-child-into-a-personalized-story

story

Fulfilling Responsibility: My Drop in the Bucket

Coaxing a small girl to take deworming medication.

Coaxing a small girl to take deworming medication

Greetings,

As I recently shared, I spent two weeks of service in Haiti in the latter half of May.  Here in the States, I often feel that I am living in false reality.  In the age of social media, talk is confused with action and acknowledgment is mistaken for participation.  When I am not actively contributing to solutions – my intelligence is only self-placating and my degree useless.  It is not enough to know.  I must do.  It is my human obligation to direct my life in a way that adds to alleviation rather than exacerbation of the ills of the world.

 It is my human obligation to direct my life in a way that adds to alleviation rather than exacerbation of the ills of the world.

Due to the United States unique and often exploitative relationship with Haiti, anytime that I buy a shirt, I may be supporting a sweatshop.  The CEOS get rich while the workers have to choose between eating and sending their children to school.  Anytime that I use my phone, I may be supporting a call center that does not allow pregnant women to breastfeed or take restroom breaks.  These are all things that I have heard personal testimonies of well-known American companies doing in Haiti.

I cannot completely eliminate my role in Haitian exploitation because imbalanced trade with developing countries is so circumferential to our economic system.  However, I can proffer alms to equity.  As a good friend recently told me, it may be only a drop in the bucket, but if no one puts any drops in the bucket, the bucket will be empty.

My “drop” is a choice to support a young girl’s education.  Elandia is in second grade. Her favorite class is reading.  Elandia, her mother, and 2 sisters live in a small tent in CAPVA since the earthquake of 2010. Someday, she wants to live in a big house and have her own bed.  She aspires to be a doctor because there are many sick people living in CAPVA that aren’t able to receive medical care.

Elandia Pierre-Louis

Elandia Pierre-Louis

I met Elandia while running a deworming station near her school.  Contrary to the norm in Haiti, Elandia’s mother does not have to pay for school.  It is funded by donor contributions.  Elandia and her classmates’ educations depend on people continuing to care enough to donate.

Whether Elandia has a uniform each semester (usually children in Capva’s only real outfit) depends on if those who begin to donate remember that children are always growing.  Some of Elandia’s friends came to school nearly naked because no one donated for uniforms for them this year.  Some boys wore only women’s blouses that hung to their knees, because that was all they had.

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 How you decide to put your drop in the global bucket is your choice.  Today, I made my first $30 monthly contribution to Elandia.  My $30 will pay for her books, uniforms, and help to keep the school running for her peers.  If you would like to do the same or find out more, please visit holdthechildren.org.

Many friends have told me that they want to contribute to an international aid group, but are afraid that the money is not really going to the children.  I visited Elandia’s school myself and can vouch for the credibility of the organization.  Thank you for taking the time to read this post.  God bless you.

All Best,

Nikala Asante