Service & Social Learning – Mixing in the Mud

UVA ASB Argentina GroupSometimes it takes getting your hands dirty to make a difference. A group of University of Virginia students learned that “first hand” in January when they spent their winter break working outside of Buenos Aries, Argentina.

Their initial assignments seemed impossible for their two-week stay – build an adobe hut/bathroom, tame an overgrown space and prepare it for gardening, paint some buildings, and plant seedlings. But they accomplished their goals and within three months the fruit of their labor is growing abundantly. CNN’s feature “Kids in Argentina learn to grow their own food” shows the garden, the organization leaders they worked with, and most importantly the impact on the children.

From the article –

In January, a group of students from the University of Virginia spent two weeks
at the Semillas al Viento farm, working directly with children and instructors
to clear additional farming land and build adobe huts and bathrooms.
They also left a sizeable donation.

They have continued to stay connected via social networking, sharing pictures through flickr, communicating via facebook, email and gchat. When electricity and an Internet connection could be found, they provided an occassional blog entry during the trip.
Adobe hut

Ruben teaches us how to make adobe, which is made from dried grass and dirt. After gathering these things you mix them together with water using your hands. You then move on to mixing with your feet, a la “I Love Lucy”.

We also did some gardening work the first few days. One thing I found really interesting and admirable about Semillas al Viento is how resourceful they are. They recycle EVERYTHING and incorporate this into their gardening techniques. They
take a page of newspaper and wrap in around a toilet paper roll, fold the excess up, and make a mini cylinder. Soil will be put in the planter and plants in their first few weeks will grow there and eventually be transferred to the garden. They plant tomatoes, corn, acelga (chard), lettuce, flowers, and other things. They also use
cut up soda bottles to protect the trees from the lawn mower. All in all it was very interesting to see gardening in another country.

The hands-on learning extends into technical areas too. The site leader for the trip volunteers as Alternative Spring Break (ASB) webmaster. You can easily make a donation online. BellCow, Inc. helped the Argentina group by funding their daily transportation to the work site from their Buenos Aires hostel (which was without electricity for almost a week and lacked running water for a few days).

The original photos taken in January with inserts from the CNN report in April, show how far the community garden has developed in a short time. Good intentions, hard work, committed leaders and a little horse manure go a long way.

Retro Fun

  • By dawne, on April 21st, 2010 at 8:03 pm. Filed under: Laughs

Spring cleaning has uncovered some newsletter archives from 1984. Pyrotechnics, a brilliant or sensational display, as of rhetoric (The Random House Dictionary), was published for 9 academic years (1983-1991) by Academic Computer Services at DePaul University. The articles are quite entertaining in today’s state of technology.

Especially loved this classified:

“ACS is selling terminals, which for a variety of reasons we no longer need.
Prices range from $75 to $450. In addition, we have a limited
quantity of 300 baud acoustic modems for sale at $40 each.”

So, when you bemoan the cost of the iPad, just think, 26 years ago, you could have purchased a terminal for the same price – and, yes there is a reason they were called “dumb terminals.”

Can’t help but appreciate those computer graphics, created on the original Macintosh.

Vax 11/780 - Cygnus

Visit to Fountaindale

Rob Zschernitz from NSLS and I had a great visit with Paul Mills. Paul is the Technology Services Manager at Fountaindale Public Library District in Bolingbrook, IL. We’ve had the pleasure of working with Paul for the past decade when he was at the Prairie Area Library System. It was great to visit a friend and see his excitement in leading technology initiatives at Fountaindale.

And, what networking manager wouldn’t be excited with the clean canvas in front of him. Fountaindale is building a new library and it promises to be quite a showcase. With great leadership and a supportive community, this library is already a showpiece of great Illinois libraries at work – can’t wait to revisit when the new building is open.

Zafen – It’s Our Business

Put this in the category of “Excellent people doing excellent work.”

DePaul University is commemorating the 350th anniversary of Vincent de Paul’s and Louis de Marillac’s deaths by creating opportunities to collaborate in support of microfinance programs geared towards Haitian development, with emphasis on direct funding for Haitian business and education initiatives.

The website,, provides a gateway for matching projects with donors.  Search for projects which match your passion and track progress to bring these initiatives to reality.

Special thanks and kudos to David Miller and Marty Kalin for writing the code to manage the matching and tracking process of projects.  Their minds are sharp and quick – they probably designed this on a napkin and wrote the code one weekend. While some of us were pulling weeds preparing for spring gardens, they planted seeds that will grow for lifetimes.

I just helped fund a “non-wood Charcoal Production” project. During the process I found some really neat networking features. It grabbed my gravatar image and it allows you to create teams. Ok, old DePaul ACS gang, I’m recruiting you to help.

Libraries I Love – The British Library

British LibraryThe British Library is one of those places I want to work when I grow up, or start over with my next life.

The King’s Library displayed behind glass in the center of the public space is my favorite part of the library. Knowing that only library staff are allowed into the King’s Library makes me want to work there even more.

The gallery of treasures is indeed that. Highlights for me included the sacred texts – such a wide and varied collection of early religious texts. The diverse style and art is amazing.

The pristine original wood blocks made by John Tenniel as illustrator for Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland were displayed. Thought to be long destroyed, they turned up in 1981 in the bank vault where the publisher first stored them back in the 1860s. Dodgson’s (Carroll) hand drawn drawings on the original manuscript definitely set the mood for these beautiful illustrations. With the release of the new Alice in Wonderland movie, “Alice” history and London pride of ownership was pronounced.

Seeing John Keats’ letters and then watching “Bright Star” as my in-flight movie selection on the way home brought those mournful words to life.

And of course, for me, I always notice the “Way Out” signs. Seeing those just makes me want to go crazy instead of follow orderly toward an exit.

Nutritious Relationships

I have an article hanging on my bulletin board that I clipped from Western News, WIU’s alumni news about 5 years ago. It is turning yellow and the photo of author, Gordy Taylor (now retired – Associate Vice President for Alumni Programs) is faded. But the sentiment and thoughts Gordy shared in that article remind me daily of the importance of relationships.

Gordy was asked by a friend “You’ve had this job for 26 years, you still seem to be at the top of your game, and you’re still having fun – how have you done it?” His response – “I’ve managed to surround myself with quality people who care about me and have enriched my life in every conceivable way.”

Inspired by an article “Are Your Relationships Nutritious” by Lisa Mascuro, Gordy managed to put into perspective the importance of healthy relationships in all walks of life, not just personal.

Nutritious people are good listeners and they accept you for who you are, not what you can do for them. They help you achieve your goals, help you to be a better person, and provide encouragement. They are honest and truthful.

The article inspires me because it reinforces the impact we have on others. It makes me think about the positive impact nutritious people and relationships have on an organization. Related to network theory, it manifests as a virus spreading – a good virus. The more people working in an organization who are engaged in positive work and relationships, obviously the healthier the outcome.

Personally, I find no greater professional reward than mentoring others or helping solve a problem with someone. It is the collaborative exchange – the healthy give and take, sensing the spark (whether giving or receiving) that makes the shared end result that much more gratifying. Success for all is very heady stuff.

Healthy and nutritious professional relationships can shift the focus from the drain of office/organizational politics to the excitement of creative energy.

As I reflect on all my professional nutritious relationships, of which I am thankful there are many, I’m going to enjoy my chocolate candy bar. You know, nutrition doesn’t have to rule all aspects of your life :)

©2010 BellCow Inc.