Thursday, March 7, 2013

Moringa supporters respond to dormitory fund drive !

Click Here if you haven't yet read our 2012 Newsletter
In our all out -full throttle- fund raising push in 2012, we could not be more proud of our private American stake holders for responding so generously to The Moringa Community School of Trades (MCST) dormitory challenge. Yes we did it! We raised enough money to build the dormitory plus a reasonable cushion.  For newcomers to the site, a click on the image at left will open a PDF of our 2012 Newsletter appeal that helped make the drive so successful. If you did not see it before, I'm sure you will find it interesting.

HOWEVER, to our supporters, the Newsletter is yesterday’s news and you’re likely very anxious to see just how far Abu and his staff and volunteers have come on the actual dormitory construction that your donated funds have enabled. Trust I’ll take our loyal donors to where all such things will be revealed within the next two paragraphs.

Click here to see our construction progress!
Before we go to the dormitory constructoin progress update, be aware there are many new entries to this BLOG as of 2013 found below. I am hopeful all will come back to this page and scroll through the new BLOG entries below that chronicle many details of Abu’s fall 2012 USA Tour.

All the above said,,, and without further ado, I am honored to bring you Abu’s proof of life of the Moringa Youth Hostel construction. Thank you all so very much and enjoy what your funds have wrought by clicking here for the March 2012 Dormitory progress photo update.

Enjoy the fruits of your support and please be very proud of what all of you have enabled!
Thank you.
Jeff Lohr

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Abu's October - November 2012 American Tour

 Abu Arives in Philadelphia  
After an enormously frustrating eight month US State Department delay, we finally won renewal of our African project director Abu’s visa in the fall of 2012 and immediately booked a flight for his return. Although arriving three months past our planned block of time set aside for his visit and unfortunately missing three key scheduled events, (one being a meeting with the Ghana ambassador to the US), surprisingly we managed to put together a respectable itinerary for his visit that helped move the project forward significantly.

Abu was here in Pennsylvania with us once again, this time for just two months rather than the three months in 2008 when the Moringa Community project was born. There were too many activities engaged in during Abu’s 60 days with us but referenced below are a few high lights .

 Hearne Hardwoods Saws Spectacular Walnut Log as Fundraiser for Moringa Community

Within the first week of Abu’s arrival, the Lohr Woodworking Team traveled with Abu to Oxford PA for the Hearne Hardwoods Fall Open House where owner Rick Hearne hosted a remarkable two day event including exhibitions, vendors, music, and the exhibition sawing of several enormous highly figured walnut logs Rick donated and then auctioned at the event with all proceeds being split between MoringaCommunity.Org and the George Nakashima Foundation for Peace.

The Hearne Hardwoods monster band mill (an enormous machine who’s massive castings and wheels were salvaged as a relic of World War II from the Naval Ship Yard in Philadelphia) is a real crowd pleaser to watch in action. This was the mill on which the Moringa designated black walnut crotch log was milled at the event and then palleted for auction in its entirety for auction to the highest bidder on the last day of the event.

Appearing with the little girl in the photo at left, Abu demonstrates African style work bench clamping employed by many Ghanaian
carpenters. These methods have since been replaced by the Lohr School of Woodworking wedge style of clamping at the Moringa Community School of Trades (MCST) with the new system proving to be a real boon to accuracy, speed and quality of production.

Abu with Mira & Kevin Nakashima at Hearne Hardwoods event
At left, Abu shows Mira Nakashima-Yarnall and Kevin Nakashima, daughter and son of George Nakashima, how our Moringa Made Fabric arts are made at MCST. All proceeds from the October 5th and 6th 2012 Hearne Hardwoods Open House weekend were divided between MCST and The George Nakashima Foundation for Peace.

The huge crotch walnut logs donated by Rick Hearne and sawn for the exhibition on Saturday were auctioned off on Sunday Oct 6th. Not being able to resist both the stunning figure and the historic nature of the ceremonially cutting of the Moringa designated walnut crotch log, Jeff Lohr outbid all others to claim the prize. Suzanne Kahn, an associate at the Lohr School of Woodworking is pictured below with two of these remarkable flitches to give the viewer a sense of scale of their size. As these live edge slabs are over 2” thick and heavily figured, they will need to season very slowly before kilning. This consecutive book-matched set will be ready to be rendered into another stunning piece of J.D.Lohr Live Edge Furniture by the September 2014.

As many of our Moringa project supporters are Alumni of the J.D.Lohr School of Woodworking, I can’t resist showing off a little “wood bling” at left with a close up of the terrific crotch figure in the Moringa log flitch set donated for auction by Rick Hearne and purchased by me, (Jeff) as the high bidder at the event. I am thrilled to have this log set.

 Abu’s 2012 American Tour - Speaking Engagements

Unfortunately as a result of our fiasco with the US State Department in securing Abu’s Visa, we missed having him speaking at a regional multi club Rotary International meeting that was being planned for August 2012. I mention this here as we are proud to have had the support of Rotary International for our work in Ghana and would like to thank the Montgomery and Chester County PA clubs that have actively supported MoringaCommunity.Org

As most know, MoringaCommunity.Org is a non-religious / non denominationally associated charity. However, despite that we help those of all faiths and do not in anyway proselytize to the minions, our mission does parallel the ethos of Christian charity in helping the poor and less fortunate. As a result the Moringa project, not surprisingly, has a number of American Church groups and congregations that have actively supported the project since our inception in 2008.

 Although we wish we would have been able to schedule a presentation at all the church groups that have supported this project, we were most grateful that Abu had the opportunity to speak before members of both The Lancaster Church of The Brethren and The Saint James United Church of Christ in Limerick PA. Both of these churches have members that have organized others in their respective congregations to lend particularly dynamic and key support to the project at the most critical times we needed it over the past four years.

Abu's 2012 American Tour - Part Two

Events that show the way forward
It is often remarkable how many seemingly unrelated conversations, happenings, and chain of events can lead to yet another wholly new possibility to greatly improve life in the African community Moringa Community Ghana serves.
Cases in point

American Farm Corn Maze.
Our trip to a local Corn Maze here in PA sparks evening conversations with Abu about the lack of anything to do after dark in Ghana. This leads to an idea for creating Movie & Game Night at Moringa to draw the community together and also to generate some modest income for MCST.

Halloween PumpkinsBeing here in Pennsylvania at Halloween and seeing Jack-o’-lanterns, Abu comments that some of the seed packets sent by American project supporters that grows particularly well in Ghana are pumpkins. While African’s are familiar with certain types of squash, they had no idea what to do with pumpkins. Linda then works with Abu on pumpkin processing and recipes, one of which is dried and baked pumpkin seeds that are an instant hit with Abu. Suddenly a new market potential is born.

Saw Making
Earlier in 2012, fellow woodworker and friend, David Diaman  started investigating the potential of saw making for the Moringa Community School of Trades. Although the Moringa woodworking program is built off of Mr. Jeffry’s Third World Machine Shop, the reality is that even though the machine is relatively inexpensive to make, not all African carpenters can afford even a basic machine. They can however afford handsaws and employ them all the time.
In his travels, David came across a contact that enabled him to secure an old Foley Manual Retoothing machine that will enable our students to make their own saws as well as recondition and rework old worn out saws to like new condition. David bought the machine for the project.

At left Abu is working the machine under Jeff’s instruction. This machine is now in Ghana and being put to use as a welcome addition to the many facets of our program.

Planning for Moringa Community School of Trades (MCST) to become fully self sustaining


Abu’s fall 2012 visit to America was focused on bringing the Moringa project full circle and our quest to make the NGO in Ghana one of the first organizations to achieve full self sustainability. The need to construct a student dormitory was clear as early as 2011 but despite the need many other infrastructure elements had to built and completed first before such an ambitious endeavor would be attempted. During Abu’s tour, plans were solidified on how we would bring the dream of what Abu calls our Youth Hostel life.

What also unfolded throughout the course of what we like to refer to as “Abu’s 2012 American Tour” was a better grasp on Abu’s part of how each program within the trade school’s umbrella had to take more responsibility for sustaining that individual department’s viability. Profit sharing and personnel motivational strategies were arrived at that will be implemented for the overall good of the Ghana NGO.