Category Archives: Mentoring & Other Business

TechWomen Sierra Leone Project

TechWomen Sierra Leone team, 2 Nov 2020

Following up on my 8 October 2020 post: Despite the challenges of working at home during a pandemic, the inspiring TechWomen team from Sierra Leone is making good progress developing a project to benefit their country. We have worked for months to identify and refine our focus on the challenge of malnutrition in children, and on a statement on the social impact of this difficult problem. The current version of our action plan statement is below. Next week, we begin to make our pitch video.

TechWomen is a competitive and prestigious exchange program of the U.S. State Department – Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Executive Vice President of Knightscope Software Engineering Mercedes Soria, Country Coach Salwa Campbell, and I are mentoring the five Emerging Leaders from Sierra Leone, Dr. Fatmata Munu, Glenna Wilson, Isha Kamara, Joan Koroma, and Josephine Turay (all from Freetown).

Team Sierra Leone Impact Statement

We don’t want to watch our children die. Team Sierra Leone will start with 50 mothers as our pilot. Our campaign will reach the target audience in Freetown and western area by radio, and advertising vans distributing brochures with pictures. We will provide educational materials on best food and good nutritional practices. In addition to mothers, we will contact community leaders, chiefs and community health workers.

Our mission is to reduce the level of malnutrition in Sierra Leone. We will achieve this by educating mothers on how to use local foods to make balanced diets. According to the government of Sierra Leone, 31.3% of children have the chronic form of malnutrition. This is because according to UNICEF, 70% of infants and young children are underfed, surviving on diets consisting mainly of starchy staples. We believe we are the best people to work on the malnutrition project because our skills and background are a perfect match, comprising but not limited to a medical doctor, pharmacist, public health graduate and a data scientist.

This text and photo was published with permission of Team Sierra Leone.

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2016 Zimbabwe

TechWomen Harare Zimbabwe 2016 by Anar Simpson

Thanks to fellow TechWomen Mentor, Anar Simpson, for sending this picture just now of some of us in the 2016 delegation to Zimbabwe, at the Meikles Hotel in Harare. What an inspiring trip that was!

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TechWomen Team Sierra Leone

Fourah Bay College (University of Sierra Leone) in Freetown, 2017

I am honored to be one of the 2020 TechWomen Impact Coaches for Sierra Leone, working again with fellow Mentor, Mercedes Soria. We mentors just finished our second online training meeting with IIE. I have visited Sierra Leone twice, once in 2017 with Families Without Borders and then again in 2019 as part of the TechWomen Delegation, for which I gave the Networking Keynote address. I am happy to be working with Salwa Campbell as our Sierra Leone Peer Advisor for the five Emerging Leaders from Salone.

I was the Process Architect for TechWomen 2010-2011 and have been a TechWomen mentor and part of eleven international delegations since 2011. TechWomen is an exchange program of the US Department of State – Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. This life changing program is very dear to me and I am looking forward to helping the 2020 Team Sierra Leone develop a project that will help their community.

Tools I mentioned on today’s training call, for teams working at a distance: Google Groups – email distribution and archive, WhatsApp – quick messages and meeting reminders, Facebook – personal updates and contacts, LinkedIn – professional updates and contacts, Skype or Zoom – to communicate verbally, Google Drive – to share and communicate in writing. Send a WhatsApp message to the whole team 2 hours in advance of a team meeting so they don’t have to remember US time zones, Daylight Savings, etc. Mentors have to keep up with country events by reading BBC News, Al Jazeera, New York Times

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Help with Zoom

EfM Education for Ministry at St Andrews Episcopal Church, Sep 2020
EfM at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, Saratoga, California

Education for Ministry is holding an online training this week for its mentors, trainers, and other seminar leaders, many of whom are starting their annual terms this month. We have over 165 already signed up!

Cynthia C. Hargis, Diocesan Relations and EfM Online Coordinator, University of the South – School of Theology – Education for Ministry, asked Cheri Winter (EfM Coordinator and Mentor, Diocese of Colorado), and me (EfM Coordinator and Mentor, Diocese of El Camino Real) to give this session on how to use Zoom for EfM seminars. Our training materials are linked here, both for those who will attend the session and for others who may find them helpful:

We welcome any additional suggestions you may offer. Here are questions and answers from the live chat during the event – the start to an FAQ: Questions from Zoom Practices for EfM, 18 Sep 2020

The recording of the event is on Zoom Practices for EfM 9-18-20. All of the material from the event is also linked to EfM – Resources for Mentors – Webinar: Zoom Practices for EfM Mentors.

To learn more about EfM, watch this two minute video:

We opened with this prayer, by the Rev. Aaron Klinefelter of St. Jude’s Episcopal Church (Cupertino, California):

If you want to receive Katysblog posts by email, please sign up using the Sign Me Up! button (upper right on Katysblog home). Images Copyright 2019-2020 by Katy Dickinson.

Updated 24 Sep 2020

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Poems by Mohja Kahf

I recommend to you the poems of Dr. Mohja Kahf, whom you may know as the author of “My Grandmother Washes Her Feet in the Sink of the Bathroom at Sears.” Poet and scholar Mohja Kahf was born in Damascus, Syria. Her family moved to the United States in 1971, and Kahf grew up in the Midwest. She earned a PhD in comparative literature from Rutgers University. Her remarkable poetry books are:

We read Kahf’s poem “My Grandmother Washes Her Feet…” every term in the weekly classes I lead in Santa Clara County jail. It is one of the most popular selections in our Transforming Literature of the Bible course at Elmwood Jail. We read the poem to complement the story of Joseph in Egypt, as part of a discussion on being a bridge between cultures (Genesis 37-50). Volunteer jail chaplains are locked out now because of the Covid-19 quarantine but I look forward to returning. I miss my students!

In Hagar Poems, I found this one which seems very appropriate for the conversations our country is having now:

“Most Wanted”
by Mohja Kahf

Warning: God has slipped the noose.
We must confirm the worst
of our righteous fears –
God has escaped the mosque,
the synagogue, the church
where we’ve locked up God for years.

God is on the loose.

Henceforth beware:
You may find God in heathen beauty.
You may stumble upon God unaware.
Take appropriate measures:
You may have to behave
as if each human being
could reflect God’s face.

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Image Copyright 2020 by Katy Dickinson.


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Congratulations on EfM Graduation, Joel Martinez!

EfM Education for Ministry seminar online 30 March2020EfM Class Meeting Online, April 2020

Since we could not honor Joel Martinez in-person while under COVID-19 quarantine, we celebrated online. Congratulations to Joel Martinez for his graduation after four years of study from Education for Ministry – so proud of him! In addition to taking the regular EfM program, Joel was my Co-Mentor for three years at Elmwood Jail. To do this work, he became an accredited EfM Mentor and volunteer for the Correctional Institutions Chaplaincy. Joel took Year-1 at our home church (with me and my Co-Mentor, Karen LeBlanc), Year-2 and Year-3 in jail while serving as a volunteer chaplain with me as his Mentor, and Year-4 back at our home church (with Karen and me as Mentors).

2017 Bishop Mary, Peggy Bryan, Joel Martinez, Katy Dickinson at Elmwood Jail 2017 Elmwood Jail: Bishop Mary Gray-Reeves, Rev. Peggy Bryan, Joel and Katy

As his EfM Administrative Mentor, I would usually make this presentation in front of the whole congregation of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church but thanks to technology and my geek husband, John Plocher, we were able to celebrate together in a video segment during the regular weekly service. John even created this stand-alone video.

Contact me if you want to learn more about the EfM class that starts in September. More about EfM in the Episcopal Diocese of El Camino Real. Our 2019-2020 EfM class held its closing session last night but we are taking signups for the seminar that starts in September 2020. We will meet in person or online as appropriate. More about EfM:

Education for Ministry (EfM) is a program of the University of the South – School of Theology, a unique four-year distance learning certificate program in theological education based upon small-group study and practice. Since its founding in 1975, this international program has assisted more than 100,000 participants in discovering and nurturing their call to Christian service. EfM helps the faithful encounter the breadth and depth of the Christian tradition and bring it into conversation with their experiences of the world as they study, worship, and engage in theological reflection together.

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Images Copyright 2017 – 2020 by Katy Dickinson.

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Shakespeare Sonnets – Virtual

2020 Shakespeare Sonnet Reading, 18 April during pandemic lockdown
Since 2012, Shakespeare reading group has been meeting every two months to read a play and enjoy a potluck meal. At Christmas, we usually have a special reading of the entire Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens. There are 61 in the group; our youngest regular reader is 10 years old and our oldest is 96. We take turns hosting the event in various cities in the Silicon Valley.

Last month, because of the corona virus lockdown, we had our first virtual meeting, to read Shakespeare’s Sonnets. We spent a lovely two hours on 18 April reading sonnets 2, 5, 8, 14, 15, 17, 18, 19, 23, 25, 27, 28, 29, 30, 33, 34, 43, 47, 51, 59, 65, 67, 73, 116, 121, 124, 130, 135, 138, 143, and 144. Fourteen of us  each picked and read two poems. It was delightful to see everyone, even if only online!

My husband John sweetly dedicated his reading of Sonnet #25 to me, and then made this video of his reading – followed by my reading of Shakespeare’s Chicken Sonnet (#143).

I am the group mentor and assign parts, Melita Thorpe manages this as a ministry of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, and the Rev. Stephenie Cooper analyzes the roles in advance – to be sure we don’t speak over each other. John Plocher hosted our first online meeting to be sure the technology worked.

2012 Katy's Shakespeare books
2013 Dickens reading, Christmas Carol
2016 Shakespeare reading and 90th birthday party
2019 Dickens Christmas Carol reading

Shakespeare's 456th Birthday, April 2020

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Images Copyright 2012-2020 by Katy Dickinson.

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