Memorial Day Weekend…!

“For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”              ― Nelson Mandela

This is Memorial Day weekend in the US. If you were following this Blog last year, my  message today may sound familiar. We take this special time to honor the military service of those who fought and died in prior wars and conflicts in defense of our country. We also honor the service of the members of our armed forces who served and survived and especially those who have returned home with physical and psychological injuries. Finally, those in uniform today continuing to protect our freedoms deserve the best we have in leadership, the tools needed to protect us, and the healthcare they have earned serving on our behalf.

It continues to be my preference to look upon this holiday as a time of remembering…”Remembrance Day”.  We are called on not only to remember those who fought for our freedom, but remember what those freedoms are.

US Flag.2I am constantly reminded of several of the personal freedoms I enjoy. Writing a Post each week is one that has become very important to me. Some countries where my Blog is read have very tight government controls on the freedom of their people…such as China and Korea. There are so many other daily activities we participate in that only “freedom” would allow.

While visiting my local bank the other day for example, I was reminded of an experience I had in Costa Rica. As “free” and as beautiful as Costa Rica is,  freedom there may not always look the same as “freedom” here in the US, especially in the course of daily life.

In Costa Rica a few years ago, I learned that I could not enter directly into the main lobby of a bank. During busy banking hours, I had to stand in a long line on the public sidewalk to wait my turn to enter the bank. When it was my turn, I was only allowed to enter the outer section of the bank which was a small room that prevented me from entering the main lobby. For security reasons, the door I entered from the sidewalk was also locked behind me (as I recall) to keep those still waiting on the sidewalk outside of the bank until it was their turn. Only a set number of banking customers were allowed in the main lobby at the same time and apparently the number matched the number of bank teller counters available. When a bank teller became free, the inner door was unlocked and I could then enter the main lobby and was directed to the available bank teller. Giving me these directions were armed guards stationed inside the lobby. Also, I was directed to remove my sunglasses and my baseball cap which allowed the security guards and the security cameras to get a near perfect photo of me while in the bank lobby.Vietnam Veterans Memorial - These colors don't run

Curtis Montgomery

Curtis Montgomery “True American Veteran”

 

Oh, I should not forget to mention that the security guards posted inside the bank held drawn automatic weapons and appeared more like military guards than Moon Security personnel. These security guards were on full alert and had very little interest in small talk and provided no other forms of courtesy towards bank customers. I only point this difference out to show how “freedom” can feel very different in different places. And, what we have in the US on a day-to-day basis should be appreciated.

My local bank’s security guard is not wearing military dress and the weapon is holstered if in fact there is a weapon. I am not sure since it could be a stun gun or pellet pistol. Regardless, I do not feel intimidated. Instead, I am greeted and there are times when the security guard opens the door me and other customers. Once inside, I am free to stand in line to wait on an available bank teller or even sit down in one of several comfortable chairs provided. I am not asked to remove my sunglasses or cap for a convenient mug shot. As I leave, it is likely the security guard will open the door again and tell me to have a good day.

Costa Rica as I mentioned is a “free” country and the people are great. And, there are a few benefits many Americans living there enjoy. However, it would be a gross mistake to assume all “freedom” is the same among free countries.

Please thank a family member, a friend, or a stranger today who has served to provide us an exceptional form of freedom to enjoy. And remember those who are not around who did their share to protect our way of life. And, certainly all is not 100% right with the USA regarding our freedoms. It appears it will always be a work in progress. Whether in uniform or not, we all have a responsibility to “provide”, “protect”, and “preserve” the freedoms that have been paid for by many.

Let us not lose sight of the fact that every American of every color, race, and gender has been represented in our fight for freedom. On Memorial Day, it is not the color of me or you…”it is the color red, white, and blue”.

As is my annual tradition, I salute those friends of mine who served and died wearing our country’s uniform during the Viet Nam ConflictThey are Danny Watkins from Meadowview, Virginia; Michael Charles and Kenneth Delaney both from Bristol, Virginia; and Frank Campbell from Chilhowie, Virginia. I continue to honor each of them by name as my way of publicly remembering their service and sacrifice while serving our country.  This is my Remembrance Day! 

God Bless America!

 

 

The “Difference Makers”…!

It’s easy to make a buck. It’s a lot tougher to make a difference. By Tom Brokaw

The Post submitted last week by Angela was enjoyed by a large number of you and she and I appreciate you checking in to get the message.  Angela’s words mean a great deal to us since she has been on the front line at the Learning Center and sees first hand how much the difference “Friends of Copey” has made during her time as the Executive Director.

In Angela’s words; “Friends of Copey” was a new hope and support for students in need of scholarships as well as a network of people invested in the project’s future. We could never have imagined that we would be able to receive two students from the US and bring two of our high school students abroad, but it is happening.”

At this point in time we are all riding high on the wonderful events taking place while we are also preparing for Angela’s final departure from the Learning Center. Her time is growing short. In a couple of weeks, Angela will

Casey and students

Casey with students

be traveling with the Copey students to the US and on to Emory & Henry College. Upon her return to Copey, she will then head off to China to teach for the summer. The next few weeks will certainly be an emotional roller coaster for all of us.

If you have not been reading Casey’s notes regarding her experiences at the Learning Center along with her and Xavier’s impressions of the people and places, you are missing a real treat. Casey has even developed a list of “Tico Tips”.  Check it out by clicking on http://caseyincopey.weebly.com/.  Both Casey and Xavier are already entering their third week today at the Learning Center and their expectations for their volunteer experience all seems to be going as planned or perhaps

even better. Their week days have been filled with teaching and interacting with the other volunteer staff, Marguerite and Markki. Other contacts have included interactions with parents and their Host families. While they spend time teaching English, they also spend time learning Spanish, learning first-hand the culture of the community, and of course, seeing the very important need for this form of educational opportunity for the young and some of the adults in Copey.

Their weekends have been spent seeing other parts of the country. Last weekend they visited San Jose, the country’s capital and found how urban and westernized the large city is. I believe this weekend included a visit to the beautiful beach of  Manuel Antonio located on the Pacific Ocean side of the country.  Having been there myself, I can attest to its beauty and the high energy level generated by young people from all over, many restaurants, bars, vendors, and other sites usually seen at beaches. I am certain their impressions of the large city of San Jose and the life in the area of the beach are about the very opposite of life in Copey. Hopefully, soon we will see some of the contrasting photos on Casey’s Blog soon.

I can predict that by the time they hit their full stride, it will then be time to pack up, say goodbyes, and return home. Returning with them will be many memories of their time in this very remote town of Copey. They will also return with memories of sights and sounds outside of the Copey community.  And, we should not forget they will be leaving behind many memories as well. I know well that often when you are truly giving…you are also truly receiving.

Even though they will return in a couple of weeks, it is not the end of the journey for them or for any of us. There is so much packed into this summer. Both Casey and Xavier, as college students will have first-hand and reliable knowledge of the value of working closely with the Learning Center. They will be in the best position to attest to the richness of the volunteer experience from a volunteer student’s perspective and will be a significant source of encouragement for other students who may consider future volunteer opportunities in Copey. Perhaps most important, as they reach the mid-point of their volunteer time, is the fact “they are difference makers!”

GOODBYE!!!

This all does seem like a time of great transition. The volunteer teachers who have served since last September are now completing their volunteer time at the Learning Center this week. I want to say a “special thank you” to both of them on behalf of “Friends of Copey”. Markki Meyer from North Branch, Minnesota and a graduate from the University of Minnesota will depart Copey. Also, departing Copey is Marguerite Malloy. Marguerite grew up in New Hampshire and graduated from the University of New Hampshire. Both of these outstanding teachers have been “difference makers” during this year of notable progress. I will introduce you to the new crew next week as they prepare to take over the Learning Center and move us further up the ladder towards success.

 

 

 

 

 

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Angela Speaks to “Friends”…!

Dear Friends of Copey,

I hope this post finds you all well and enjoying the springtime. We have been having a delightful time with Casey and Xavier, our volunteer visitors from Emory & Henry college,

Angela Casey and Xavier

Xavier, Casey, and Angela

and Noelia, Celeste and I can’t believe that the big trip to the US is nearly upon us. As some of you may know, I will be stepping down as director of Copey Learning Center (CLC) at the beginning of June, so Arthur (Scrapper) invited me to take this opportunity to share a reflection about my time working with this wonderful project- a project that could not have been successful without him, Dr. Church, and all of you (Friends of Copey) in your kindness and generosity towards this community.

My experience with CLC started when I first arrived in Copey in 2010 as a Peace Corps Volunteer. Because one of my primary assignments was to work with the Learning Center, then barely six months old, one of the members of the board came to meet me in Santa Maria, the town at the bottom of the mountain. We put my suitcase in the back of the pickup truck, and drove up…and up…and up! When we finally arrived in Copey, I couldn’t believe my good fortune. Not only had I arrived in a breathtakingly beautiful place, but I was quickly welcomed by an incredible community with a clear vision for its children and its future.

town of copey

Copey Community

From late 2010 to 2012, I worked alongside the members of the board to keep the Center in volunteers, build our connections and resources, and continue to improve our institutional organization. During that time, I also taught some of the classes and put together a little children’s choir, getting to know my students and their families, taking part in community activities, and little by little becoming a part of their lives as they became a part of mine. Once I had finished my initial Peace Corps Service (27 months), I moved to the country’s capital, San Jose, to work but I returned to Copey nearly every weekend for the next two years to see my host family, my friends, my neighbors, and (last but certainly not least!) the man who would become my husband. When we got married, I moved back to Copey, and dove back into the Center, this time as the Executive Director.
Angela

Angela with students

You can probably imagine that over the course my two years absence, some key elements stayed the same, while other things changed and grew. What stayed the same was the level of commitment from parents, students, and members of the community to keeping the project alive by recognizing its value in the community and supporting its efforts. What changed, in large part thanks to Scrapper and all of the Friends of Copey, was new hope and support
zzztree planting.1

Angela Teaching Environmental Restoration

for students in need of scholarships as well as a network of people invested in the project’s future. We could never have imagined, that we would be able to receive two students from the US and bring two of our high school students abroad, but it’s happening. Hardworking parents who didn’t have the opportunity to become literate have the pride of watching their children become bilingual, and students who would otherwise have limited access to artistic, cultural, and environmental education are able to participate in enriching experiences on a daily basis while becoming proficient in another language.
As I think back over the past six years, I have so many wonderful memories of working
20160512_153419

“Happy Brihday” Angela

with these students, and the time has passed in a blink of an eye- finger painting and singing songs with first graders who are now sixth graders headed off to high school. Making up silly stories about cookie thieves with fifth and sixth graders who are now in university. Donning our homemade Christmas capes and excitedly heading up the mountain to sing as guests for a neighboring school during a holiday gathering. My high school students throwing me a surprise birthday party. My adult students reminiscing about local history in English… I have come and gone for CLC, but my time with all of these students has been so precious, and I am so thankful to everyone who has made it possible for us to have had these experiences together.
 Holes.1
 Some of the Center’s students will use English in the future to study medicine. Some will use it to travel, to talk to their grandchildren, to find well-paying jobs. Some will continue to study for the joy of learning another language, to understand music and movies… Others may find that their lives lead in another direction, but I have no doubt that even the students for whom English doesn’t end up playing a role in their daily lives will look back on their time in the Center- connecting with others, mindfully developing values and character, and engaging in a variety of experiences- as time extraordinarily well and happily spent.
Thank you again, so very much, for the opportunity to be a part of this project and for your continued support of Copey Learning Center. God bless you and your families.
Angela Tribus, Executive Director

Happy Mother’s Day!

“The mother’s heart is the child’s schoolroom.” – Henry Ward Beecher

I extend to all Mothers a hearty and happy Mother’s Day. Another year has passed and we continue to find reminders of Mom all around us. Coming across these reminders is common and instead of sadness we typically find comfort and even some humor. The other day I came across a small box and inside were several of Mom’s credit cards, her driver’s license, and an insurance card. It all caused me to smile as it brought about memories of things now that seem funny although maybe not so much at the time.

Regarding Mom’s driver’s license, I remember when I started hearing about a few of her driving near mishaps as she got older which began to really concern me. The older she got, the more cautious and careful she was about making decisions while driving. The slower she drove while trying to be careful, the more of a danger she became for others on the road. To pull out into traffic or pull into a parking lot, and making turns all took longer for her to do. ???????????????????????????????

I was very nervous the day I decided that I should ask her to hand over her driver’s license and stop driving. I was not sure how she would take this and I anticipated her not agreeing with me. However, just before I brought up the subject, she blurted out she was no longer going to drive and handed me her driver’s license. I was shocked and surprised that she came to this decision on her own. The memory of that day puts a smile on my face. I was so happy and relieved that I did not have to tell her driving was no longer an option. I was just as relieved knowing the world was going to be a much safer place. I just love Mom memories.

In honor of Mother’s Day, I again want to recognize a couple of Moms I spoke of last year; Ms. Lucille Lee who passed away August 6, 2014 and Ms. Marilyn G. Dunn who passed away March 23, 2015. More recently, Aunt Sissy who passed away, was also a mother, grandmother, and great grand-mother. I know this day is a day of very mixed feelings for Calvin, Joanne, and Linda as each continue to adjust to not having their Mom around on this day. I understand.

Tomorrow will be the start of a new adventure for Casey and Xavier.

Today, they are at their respective homes enjoying their family and Mother’s Day before leaving for Copey. They are expected to arrive late tomorrow in San Jose. Yes, Casey admitsCasey Xavier Leaving Town

they are very nervous! I know, I am also as nervous as they are. I want the very best for them both. I am fully convinced their time in Copey will be both rich and unforgettable. Similar to Hailey who did a similar volunteer trip to Copey a couple of years ago, both will experience a whole new perspective on life outside of the US, life in a rural community, life among non-speaking English people, and they will see first hand why “Friends of Copey” is committed to this effort. By this time next week, you will likely be treated to very special news and photos covering their first week as volunteers at the Learning Center. I have not heard if Xavier has a journal but Casey does. You can keep track with me by clicking on  http://caseyincopey.weebly.com/ . Let’s keep them in our thoughts and prayers while we appreciate their spirit of adventure and willingness to serve others. We are very proud of them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spending Gratitude Time…!

“When we give cheerfully and accept gratefully, everyone is blessed.”
Maya Angelou

It grows more challenging each week to list all of the many wonderful things going on under the banner of “Friends of Copey” and the Learning Center. Here are only some of the highlights:

First, Casey and Xavier gave their Copey presentation to an audience of zzzAmpersand Presentationstudents, faculty, and the public last week during the First Annual Ampersand Day at Emory & Henry College. A number of the college’s students provided presentations about work they have begun under Project Ampersand which encourages students to connect what they care about to what they are learning—to design and implement projects that contribute positive results to our world. The Copey presentation was well received and soon Casey’s and Xavier’s bags will be packed. Their scheduled departure date is just next week…May 9th. They have received information on their host families where they will be staying. All “Friends” are invited to keep track of Casey’s and Xavier’s experiences and accomplishments during their 5 week stay in Copey. Casey has started a journal that is already fascinating to read. Check it out at http://caseyincopey.weebly.com/    final.2

Next, Celeste and Noelia (pictured right) are looking forward to their departure to America in early June. They are busy polishing up on their English, while also practicing and rehearsing some special surprises for their audiences when they arrive at E&H College. Angela is finalizing some of her plans to speak to classes as a “guest” professor. This is going to be a dynamite team of Copey, Costa Rican ambassadors.

“Mission Accomplished”

Even though we may still have a couple donations slow to arrive, we are in position to declare “mission accomplished” on our efforts to raise the money needed to cover the transportation costs for Celeste, Noelia, and Angela. I will have plenty more to say in the near future about the outstanding response and demonstration of generosity and support received from the “special selected” group of E&H College affiliated friends of mine. I have personally received several wonderful notes and verbal expressions from several donors. Even a few have thanked me for inviting them to be a part of this historical event.

Soon, all of the Anne G. Broady Scholarship Fund recipient letters will be mailed out to all of the AGB donors. I am still receiving donations for the scholarship fund even Holes.1

though we are almost three months into the school year. “Just Amazing!”  The additional funds to support scholarships are always welcomed.

If you donated funds to help support the Executive Director’s position, do not feel left out. We have a special “thank you” in the works just for you.  Sometimes, we have to give Angela a break. “Friends of Copey” puts a lot of demands on her at times and we often forget she is still trying to run a school and achieve successful outcomes.

Remember “Holes” from last week’s Post? A few have written to inform me they have also read the book and have even seen the movie that followed staring Jon Voight, Sigourney Weaver, and Henry Winkler to mention only a few of the cast.

The Learning Center received visitors from the Lowell School located in Washington, DC. Lowell School is an independent, co-educational Pre-Primary through 8th Grade school.Lowell VisitorsThis is their second visit to the Learning Center. Last year they were in the Copey area on a volunteer project for creating little stoves to donate to indigenous communities. They came by for some cultural exchange. They indicated their interest in helping the Learning Center obtain a new projector.

“Just Feeling Blessed” Post received a lot of attention last week. Thank you! I realize many of my Blog followers wonder if there are really any “Friends” connected to this Copey project. There are plenty and always enough to get done whatever we set out to do. Sometimes I end my day totally amazed and “just feeling blessed”. Who could not feel blessed when you see before you significant events shaping up that will literally impact lives. Those of you who support scholarships, support the ED position, and now the transportation costs along with those who pray and wish all goes well all have a stake in the outcome. Has been awhile since I have mentioned this but our motto still rings true. “When many will do just a little..a lot will get done for kids.”

zzzBanner of FOCFinally, thank you for the several notes of condolences. Aunt Sissy’s memorial service was held on Saturday and unfortunately, my sister and I could not make the trip back to Virginia. We sent our condolences. So, we must keep moving on and on we go!  In case you are wondering…I have had plenty of hazel nuts this past week.