Saturday, September 20, 2008

Oh Brother

I finally got someone to show me what I was doing wrong with the Brother sewing machine I bought several months ago for the purpose of making simple little things for my massage business, e.g. cases for eye pillows, and reusable cloth pads for Goods4Girls. Thank you, Aunt Jayne! Aunt Jayne is the best nurse on the east coast, can build a deck and finish a basement, and operate a 40-year-old Singer like she was born to it (apparently, sewing lessons by her mother were mandatory in her house - lucky for me!). I knew I was just making stupid little mistakes that a pro like her could easily set me straight on - I was right. Hm, is it a good thing to be right in thinking that you're stupid? Anyway, now I'm amped to give it a shot tonight. I'll start with a couple of little pillowcases, and if they go well, I'll attempt a pad on Sunday. With any luck, it'll end up looking a little like this...

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Weekly Thai Total

I just finished my second "Thai for Thai Freedom House" session 20 minutes ago, so that's another $50 for the underserved Hill Tribes of northern Thailand. I'll see if I get any nibbles for this weekend, and then send a check for the total on Monday. As it stands, they're getting $120...not too shabby for a charity that needs $1000/month to fund its programs.

My original plan to do this once a month is kind of out the window - I'm enjoying this more than I'd anticipated. It's not taxing my body or energy levels to the detriment of my income, and I'm getting to meet some unusual people. I can easily do this weekly if I can generate enough interest in my off-peak offer.

So I just might google my fool head off this afternoon to seek out another tiny Thai (or at least Southeast Asian) charity to support with my service-by-donation dollars.

Monday, September 15, 2008

The Opposite of a Jinx

Yesterday, I did my first Thai massage-for-charity session, and I might be doing a second one tomorrow morning. The minimum donation is $50 (about half my regular fee), and Alessandro gave me $60...I match anything over the minimum, so this means at least $70 for Thai Freedom House this month, maybe even twice that if Participant #2, Jack, comes through this week.

Now here's an odd little twist...I first started advertising this on Craigslist last Saturday, Sept 6, and I was swamped with business that Sunday - regular business, not charity stuff. In fact, I didn't get a single enquiry for the half-price Thai session for the first 5 days I advertised it. Now, Sunday is usually a very quiet work day for me, maybe 1-2 clients if any, and would normally be an ideal day for a "donated" session. Last Sunday I did 7 back-breaking hours, and yesterday I did 6, one of which was the charity session. In my 5 years as a massage therapist, this is unprecedented. It's like I put the opposite of a jinx on myself with this idea. Sweeeeeet.

Friday, September 12, 2008

More Hush Money

Just before I left for vacation in late August, I had more work-related awkwardness. Actually, that's a really mild way of describing the situation... let's just say I must have been wearing my Cloak of Irresistibility that day. So last night, I got in touch with the girl behind Feed Villages to see if she was still actively fundraising for her super-smart communal gardening project in Kenya. She is, so that's where this little "apology tip" is going.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Rainy Saturday Updates

It's a gloomy, gray, wet Saturday, and no one - myself included - has much inclination to set foot outside. That means zero business and lots of time for introspection and initiative. And naps.

Thai Freedom House
Today I posted an ad on Craigslist offering one half-price Thai massage this weekend, with all of the proceeds going to Thai Freedom House. I should have advertised it earlier this week, but I thought I was going to have some minor surgery on my leg this morning, which requires two days off from work. No nibbles yet...I blame the weather. There's always next weekend if this one doesn't pan out.

I need a lesson on how to use a sewing machine and what the little "insider" tricks are for getting things to line up right. Next Saturday I won't have any water at all from 4am to 8pm, so I'm heading to NJ to visit my mother, who said she'd see if her very-skilled best friend would be willing to spend an hour with me over a sewing machine.

I made my second loan to an African entrepreneur - well, a group of entrepreneurs. I have trouble finding ones I like because either (a) the microlending institution has a religious backer, or (b) the loans are to Nigerians, who've just run too many scams for me to feel charitable towards, or (c) they're polygamous, which just makes me feel weird.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Krazy for Kiva Kredits

A few days ago, my favorite microfinance charity, Kiva, rolled out a new procedure: instead of giving you back your $25 when the loan is fully repaid, you get your little piece of the repaid installment as soon as they do. They used to hold onto it until the very end, using the interest to fund their expenses. I thought this was a terrific plan.

I'm not sure what they're doing to meet those expenses now, but I can see what inspired this change. The past few months has seen an explosion of loan requests - from a daily average of 60 to an average of 600 - and there were frequent issues with time running out before a loan got fully funded. This new system will alleviate that, at least initially, and it doesn't just benefit the borrowers. As a lender with 10 x $25 increments in the microfinance pipeline, this means I can make a new loan more frequently and regularly. Now that may not sound exciting to a lot of folks, but most of us find it "fun" to sift through borrowers for someone whose story or business strikes a chord. It also benefits Kiva - existing lenders will be visiting the site more often, giving more thought to microlending, and very likely talking about it more with the people in their lives.

E.g. this morning I got in on a loan to a 63-year-old coffee grower in Peru who wants to expand the size of her orchard (I guess that's what you call it when it's too small to be classified as a plantation). Why did I pick that loan? For odd reasons, that make total sense when I describe them to the people who know me...

- I've been to Peru and have seen first-hand how prevalent the poverty is amongst the descendants of the Incas.
- I'm writing this from a B&B in Argentina, so there's this feeling of being "in the neighborhood"
- I discovered that I like coffee just 20 months ago - after 25 years of being a committed tea-only drinker
- 14 years ago, I worked for a fair trade coffee co-op (CafeDirect) in the UK, and know how tempting it is for people this poor to grow coca for the drug cartels
- She's 63. Instead of retiring, she's expanding. I want that motivation when I'm her age!

The point of mentioning all this is that I'll probably mention it to my mother or sister or a client purely for its conversational value. However, you never know when an amusing story will be filed in the back of someone's mind and retrieved later.