things are changing...


I don’t want to take away from the previous post but I wanted to make sure that you all knew some things are being changed with the site. The address is still the same but the look is different. My old blog (or at lease the old look) is still available at, and will remain “active” until around April or so. Please bear with me as I make this transition and forgive any downtime that may occur. Make sure you update your RSS feeds as the previous one I used directs to the old site. Use as the current feed please.

If you have any questions, feedback, etc. please let feel free to drop me a note. I can be contacted via twitter or by email (remove the spaces and “at”) info “at”

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Children and Technology

So, today I spent the entire day devoted to one unit. I was only supposed to spend the morning but I stayed into the evening as a favor for a coworker who wanted to take a trip this weekend. Of course there were times I had to stop the action and remind the children what their boundaries were but overall it was a great time...a learning time.

While the children were watching a movie I took the few minutes of relative calm and quiet to start updating and redesigning my blog (see below for more information). As the movie wrapped up I was bombarded by a ton of questions, many of which made me pause and think. "How much did you pay for the computer?", "If I type my name,, will I see photos of myself?", "Why won't you tell me the price of the computer"?, "How can you type so fast without looking at the keyboard?", and so on...

Some of the questions were quite easily answered, such as the typing question. Some took a bit more explaining but I seemed to get the answer out in a reasonably understood manner. What really bothered me though was the persistence in wanting to know the cost of my computer. In general I don't have a problem sharing information like that, I don't by extravagance but I do buy quality.  With the children though expenses are a boundary that I want to be firmly set. How can you explain to a child that the computer you are typing on costs 4 or 5 times what their family makes a month?

In the best of situations, not being sick and having a voice, with adults, and not worrying about shame I am not the best person to explain technology. For me I just *know* tech., it is something that is difficult to explain, especially how to do things. Give me control over the computer and I can show you what to do in seconds but ask me to explain it and we're both in for a long discussion that may end in confusion. Climbing? I can teach and explain that. Computers? I can show you but please don't ask me to explain very much, esp. in detail. So here I have a group of children that aren't tech. savvy asking me questions that I don't feel comfortable answering, what do I do? Inside I was getting quite irritated, even with the knowledge that they are curious and really don't know the answers. There is some hope in that we are looking at having someone develop a tech. curriculum for the children (note, I am not volunteering to teach this...give me sex education any day), but it doesn't change the fact that my Apple laptop is a luxury item here and costs more than these children will see in a long, long time. I left, returning to my apartment this evening with a sense of loss. Most of these children won't work in a field where they require major computing skills, but they don't even have the basic understanding of how things work and how to figure it out on their own. I am looking forward to seeing how our curriculum develops over the next year, we really need it.

* Note about blog updates...I am still toying with the idea of reformatting and redesigning my blog. I have a nice and mostly working draft up now but there are a few technical issues that are keeping me from committing to the new design, mostly involving MobileMe and some scripting that I want to run from the site (which Blogger allows). Unless I find a work around on this issue I will continue to host my blog at and run the main website via MobileMe, since it is less dynamic in nature.

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From 1999 until 2009 I worked at a residential program in Virginia that provided care and case management for [mostly] inner city and at-risk children. The types of children we encountered were on two ends of a continuum, one expressing poverty and the other displaying privilege and resources. The children that drove me crazy I think were the ones that came from the wealthier end of the spectrum, children that had every physical need met but still chose to engage in reckless and often anti-societal behaviors. Their parents were generally well educated and had standing in the community. It often only took one meeting with the family to develop an understanding of how the child formed his outlook on life and behaved the way he did...the behaviors and attitudes were often a direct response to the lack of structure and discipline in the family. Divorce, alcohol and drug usage, or lack of parenting skills were the foundations that helped to draw these privileged children towards stealing, vandalism, or acting like their parents. The children and families coming from impoverished background provided a different set of challenges, though the behaviors expressed by the children cannot be excused, they were easier to understand. In either circumstance the children and their families were hurting and needed help, even if they weren't reaching out for it willingly. The behaviors, no matter how maladaptive they were, served a purpose (survival), and most of them originated from their families of origin.

As I walked through the school on Monday and watched the children prepare to leave I noticed one child in particular. He comes from a Palestinian camp and has two older brothers residing with us as well. As he left his class to get his coat he made a happy-dance, ending with him jumping up and down as he put on his coat (he is only 5 years old). His expressions, movements, and voice were just like his brothers. As I observed this child it made me think of my own behaviors and how similar I am to my family and those I am close too. Who we are today and how we are regarded by others are directly influenced by the ones who raised us and those we grew up with. Some of the things we do may be a mirror of how our fathers or mothers raised us, learned behaviors and responses to happiness, joy, anger, sadness, or stress. Some of our behaviors may be an intentional and direct response to not do things the way we saw our families do them.

If you want to be exposed, to see yourself as others see you, work with children. Their ability to candidly say what they are thinking can be a bit difficult to swallow initially, but it is refreshing and quite enlightening. In working and living with several children from a single family I am faced daily with how cycles and patterns are expressed throughout the generations. I am forced to learn about myself and how to relate my past, the good and the bad, with the children I am here to serve. If I am doing my job correctly and living my life in a transparent manner I must examine each thought and action, none of this is easy and can be quite unpleasant at times. When a fight erupts on the football pitch do I stand back and hope another staff member deals with it (avoidance) or do I address the conflict and help it become a teaching moment for the children? When I misinterpret a gesture or comment from another staff member do I let it simmer and stew until I develop resentment or do I let it go, understanding that none of us are perfect and make mistakes? How I raise my voice, even when appropriate, is something I have to weigh (I hate my voice when it is loud and I strongly dislike shouting).

Avoidance, aggression, coping skills, morals, values, conflict resolution, and love...just a few things we learn from the adults in our lives. Though my family is not perfect and I can easily point out flaws I am blessed to come from a home that provided stability and the opportunity to not fear when my next meal might be, to not fear if I'd be warm or have a safe place to sleep. So many things that I've taken for granted, that I am sure many of you have as well, are basic needs that many children in America (and throughout the world) don't experience with any consistency. Though I didn't expect to work residentially for as long as I have I am thankful for my time at Opportunity House, as it helped me to appreciate what I have, where I came from...and it helped prepare me for working with similar children here in Lebanon.

It has been over 10 years now that I've been working with children and their families. While I'd like to say that I'm an expert I won't make such a foolish claim, I am well aware of my limitations and faults. I am equally aware of how much I enjoy what I do and how fulfilling my life is. I can't change and improve the lives of every child in Lebanon but I can impact those that I encounter.

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Go figure

Ok, so I've met a bunch of people online, mostly via Twitter, since I've been in Lebanon. In fact, I didn't start using the service until I arrived here. Tonight I went to a meeting of young professionals, authors, artists, and designers/illustrators, all of us coming together to see how we could help needy children in Lebanon. Under the name of Fun(d)raising this group has already started to reach out to the community by helping children this past Christmas. I was initially intimidated  as I didn't personally know any of these individuals and didn't know how the evening would progress, the biggest doubt being that I was a foreigner coming to a table of "locals"...what could I possibly offer? My worries were soon dispelled as I was warmly welcomed, joining the conversation and sharing my perspective as a person who is currently working with the population they want to reach.

Though coming from a different angle than my work at Dar el Awlad there are many similarities with Fun(d)raising and Kids Alive, one example (ok, 3 perhaps) being that we want to see children lifted up, loved, and encouraged. It is obvious and painfully clear that all of the abandoned, hurting, and needy children in Lebanon can't be reached. The one truth, the one thought that offers relief is that while we are unable to reach every child we can make a difference in the lives of those we encounter. The reason I am in Lebanon is to be at Dar el Awlad, that is my priority. I never thought that my career would revolve around children, remember that I was supposed to be wrestling snakes and swamp critters before things got changed around in 1999. Now that my daily life and vocation is solidly entrenched in child welfare I am energized when I encounter new ways to serve, encourage, and enable children to succeed in some way. My focus isn't being taken away from Dar el Awlad at all, I see this opportunity to partner with Fun(d)raising as a chance to reach and impact children I might not normally have a chance to help.

It is refreshing and encouraging to witness the energy and care that this amazing group of young people hold for the children they wish to help. So many programs in Lebanon involve foreign aid and organization. Fun(d)raising is a local, grass-roots effort to motivate fellow Lebanese towards social responsibility and taking care of those that are overlooked in so many ways.

Most of the postings on this blog are related to my life and service here in Lebanon, so most of you that read it are from America and likely supporting the work I am involved in. As I consider joining up with Fun(d)raising I will post and link to events and programs that are developed. Please re-tweet, cross-post, forward, whatever you wish to others that may find this information interesting. One of the main goals here is to engage and encourage the tech-savvy Lebanese to lend a hand and get involved, so if you know people over here please let them know about this.

Well, it has been a long day and I have a few more things to do before I go to bed. As always thanks for your prayers and support. Here are a few photos (two of downtown this evening) to check out.
Al Amine Mosque, Martyr's Square

another mosque (not sure of name), downtown

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Sounds like a complaint, but...

Tuesday was great. My start to the day was a bit slow and I was a bit late, but the lateness meant I had a chance to visit with a friend at his computer shop he is opening up. We talked about design and business and drank super-strong and super-sweet coffee for an hour or so before I wandered down the hill. I've taken to listening to my iPod as I walk now, probably not a great idea in a city so full of cars and scooters, so when I heard the honking behind me I just moved to the right a little and kept on walking. The honking continued so I took out the earbuds and noticed that two of my co-workers were the "honkers" in question. I got a nice drive down to Mkalles and only had to wait a minute or so for the bus.

Went to Hamra to visit Café Younes, one of the best places to relax and get work done in Hamra. I had forgotten my power brick for my laptop so was forced to use the battery, which was a blessing as it kept me from using the internet except for when I needed to send out some emails. Got some paperwork done before switching over to writing out some postcards and letters that desperately needed to be sent out. Wandered from Younes around 3 or so and made my way down to AUB to send some mail and visit a professor I had become friends with several years ago. Left AUB with the professor and his wife, they dropped me off somewhere along the corniche between Barbir and Raouche, as they left for home. Had an amazing walk to Barbir, the weather was cool but the darkness made it seem much later than the 6:30 it actually was. Found it difficult to navigate the roads once I got to Barbir, they are doing some major construction there and it was quite confusing at night. Once I managed to get to the right road I waited...and waited...and waited. No buses. So I walked, from Barbir to Abraj, where I caught a service and made it back to Mkalles. The nice thing is that Beirut isn't too big and walking from one place to another isn't too difficult, just glad my sense of direction was working and the weather was nice.

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Amazing Day...of course I didn't take photos though

I have a nifty new cell phone, my third one since being here in Lebanon, and it has a great 5 megapixel camera. I am taking more photos since I don't have to carry my regular camera around, but I still haven't gotten into the habit of taking pictures for some reason. I think I am conscious of looking too touristy instead of like a person who lives here now, just not sure.

Ok, sans photographs, it is an amazingly warm and beautiful day here in Lebanon. The cold and rainy weather has given us a respite and we are in spring-like temperatures and conditions. Spent (still down here as I write this) the morning and most of the day in downtown Beirut, people watching, writing, thinking, and eating lots of flavorful food from the farmer's market in Saifi. Currently I am sitting at Costa Coffee, though I'd much rather be at Café Younes. Hoping to make a quick trip to Beirut Souks to check out an "outdoor" store I've heard about. Sunday there will be a memorial event, commemorating the death of Rafik Hariri, who was assassinated in 2005, so downtown is preparing by setting up an area of stages, chairs, and speakers. There is also an increased military and police presence throughout Beirut, but even more downtown.

It is becoming a habit now, each time I get on a bus I am immediately reminded of how fortunate I am to be here and how much I love this amazing country. There are hardships and life here isn't terribly cheap or easy, but it is fulfilling. As the time gets closer to return to the US for a couple months break this summer I am a bit nervous. There has been an increase in the amount of saber-rattling between Lebanon, Syria, and Israel. Syria stated that it would stand behind Lebanon in the case of any Israeli aggression and many in the Lebanese government have indicated that there would be unity (among the various factions and political groups) should another conflict break out. Of course I don't want another war, this country has seen far too much bloodshed and violence, but I am afraid of being abroad if another one breaks out. At least if I am here in Lebanon I have the option of leaving or staying, but if I am traveling I don't have the luxury of choice.  I am intentionally shying away from politics at the moment, but I am quite concerned about the boldness of the Israelis in violating Lebanese airspace and sovereignty. Over the past week we've had Israeli jets and unmanned drones make surveillance flights, even carrying out mock attacks over the south. I fear that we're not going to avoid a war for much longer. While some people are indeed working towards peace and stability the impact of those sowing chaos and conflict seems to be greater. The saddest part of the whole situation is that those who are disrupted and hurt the most are the ones that really don't have a voice in what is going on. On all sides of the political and international fence...Syrian, Lebanese, Israeli, and Palestinian the displaced, poor, and weak will suffer first and will suffer the most; they will suffer death and destruction more than the privileged. I probably know the answer to this, but I am going to pose the question anyway. Why can't the governments, all governments, work towards empowering their people and  stop trying to make everything into a political gain or loss?

My prayer, and I hope that you would take it as your own too, is that wisdom and compassion would take the place of anger and selfishness. I pray that each international government that has a role in affecting the affairs of Lebanon would take a deep look at their reasons and consider what the consequences of their actions may be. Especially for the children and families I work with on a daily basis, I pray that they would remain safe and protected, no matter what happens.

In all things, the good and the bad, I realize how powerless I really am and just how fragile life is.

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The computer work continues...

Well, I am knee deep into another page layout project. As if the first one I did wasn't difficult enough (Arabic translation of a therapy handout for parents) this one is quite the challenge. When working on an assessment device for the children here at the orphanage I came across a brochure that I thought would be a great handout for parents, house mothers, and others here in Lebanon. There weren't a lot of resources available online with this particular information so it was great that I stumbled across a program in the UK that was making their booklets free to download. We contacted them to see if we could translate and use their safety brochure on helping children feel safe, we were given a thumbs up and the only request was that we give them a copy of the finished product to use.

So, here I am, still wading through the project. While my spoken Arabic isn't the best I can at least type and sort out the page design in Arabic and RTL text. There is much work left but I've completed the first draft of the brochure that contains about 98% of the Arabic text.  Still remaining is a brutal proofread, I know there are some typos that need to be corrected, and a major review of the color and final graphics for the layout. We are also trying to decide upon a cover image to use as well.

The project has been a blast and I look forward to posting and sharing the final design. For a taste of the work done so far here is a screen capture of two pages from the brochure.

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and so I continued to think...

that I probably would leave things the way they are for now :)

It's a cold but sunny February morning in Mansourieh and the kids are outside playing. It is great to be here in Lebanon.

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...I was thinking.

That I'd start a new blog at some point to share other bits of life and interests here in Lebanon and keep this one devoted more to ministry and work related subjects. I am not sure what I will do yet, but I am leaning in that direction at this point. If I do I will likely move *most* (not all) non-related links over to the new site. The soonest this will happen will be next weekend, when the kids go home again and I don't have so much work related stuff to do. If I do move in that direction I'll post a link here and unveil the site when ready.

In other news, it have been cold and rainy here the past several days. Currently it's around 6 or 7 degrees Centigrade here and we've had mixed rain and snow showers (brief, but still...) yesterday and today. The trip to the mountains and snow should be great on Tuesday.

That's it for now, have to get laundry out of the washer and complete my notes and paperwork that I've left aside for most of the day.

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Several Photos to Share....

I just uploaded several photos from the past couple months onto my Picassa page, check them out if you want to see what I've been seeing and experiencing since December (the bottom 14 photos are the newest images).

Just got a new phone on Tuesday, here's hoping that it lasts longer than my last two. I've had great luck with the sturdiness and reliability of Motorola phones in the past, plus this one has a rather nice camera built into it for when I don't have my normal camera with me (which is more often than not).

The weather is cold now, after several days of warm, sunshine-filled days. Sounds like snow is coming to the lower elevations, though we're not likely to see any here in Mansourieh. Hopefully we'll be taking the boys on a snow trip next week (Feb. 9th is a holiday here).

Stay warm wherever you are and catch up with you soon.

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