Blue Sky Ideas



                                                               BLUE SKY IDEAS


The other day I had a bad scare.  On National Public Radio I heard the owner of a spa for adolescents talk abut how important her work is.  She’s teaching youngsters the importance of caring for themselves:  to pay attention to stress and detoxify their lives.  That indeed is an admirable value.  She then waxed eloquent about the virtues of a $60 chocolate facial.


Have you ever known a 13-year old who needs a facial?  That value, in that context, frightens me. Come on, we can do better than this!   Helping another is the best stress-buster I know.  How are our kids learning to think about those less fortunate than themselves?                         


Here are some novel and fun suggestions for teens, and for adults.  They are projects I know will work--good projects, necessary, and they will have a serious long-term impact on lives in Africa and lives in the U.S.  I can find material resources.  Can you provide the power to make them happen?  WARNING:  these ideas may be dangerous to your family’s mental health;  children and spouses  may accuse you of having “too much funand challenge your waning interest in your pet’s wardrobe and runs to Chuckee Cheese.


If you need a bit of encouragement, give me a call. Or watch “The Wizard of Oz” again and be reminded of your own power.  If you tell your kids they should help starving children in Africa and they ask you to name two, call me;  I can name about six hundred I know personally.  



            Wherever I go in Africa I’m approached by good people, usually associated with a church, trying to find ways to support the flood of HIV orphans in their community.  African cultures are family oriented, and when a child is orphaned, he or she is typically absorbed into the family of a close relative.  Now, many of the close relatives are dead…or supporting four or five other orphans.  In sub-Saharan Africa currently there are 13 million children who have lost one or both parents to AIDS.  Africa can’t solve this problem and neither can HARAMBEE.  But some of us can do something small that is quite wonderful, adding another drop to the bucket.


In Zambia I asked the head of a church orphan project if she could find me a child who was born on February 13, 1995.  That’s the birth date of my grandson.  She found one and brought him to meet me.  He’s a very sweet boy named Vincent Tembo.  I said to him “You don’t know it, but you have a twin in the U.S. born on the very same day as you.”  We talked awhile and I showed him my grandson’s photo and then took his picture and gave him a few small gifts.  I left a donation with the project for his care—not huge, but $40 or $50goes a long way in Africa. On my grandson’s birthday, I gave him a card with Vincent’s photo and said “You don’t know it Lincoln, but you have a twin in Africa, born on the very same day as you.”  And then I told him about Vincent and all the things he doesn’t have (starting with parents, shoes, a home), and told him of the donation I’d made.  Maybe some kids would think this weird, but Lincoln didn’t   He was pretty impressed, and he outdid me in spades:  He asked all of his friends not to bring a birthday present to his party, but to donate money to HARAMBEE. Result:  $150 more in that bucket!  His parents are so thrilled they don’t know whether to spit or whistle. 


I know there are people out there who would do this for children they know and love, and can you think of a better way of globalizing compassion, making friends, and teaching good values?  I guarantee I can find an orphan for any day of the year, including February 29.   Donations might be a one-time thing, or could lead to more—whatever people are comfortable with.


If you are really touched, you might like to adopt management of this orphans project.  It  requires some planning, record keeping, promotion, emailing the coordinator in Africa. 


Does this idea pluck at your heartstrings enough to pick up the phone and call me?  708 983 4159.  Any old time is fine.  After you call me you can call Oprah….



      This one is too sad to be gob-stopping fun, but I promise it’s rewarding. Maybe 15% of those infected with HIV in Africa receive antiretroviral medication. Of those who do, 30% will still die within the next three years.  Most who succumb are very poor and will leave their family with nothing but a memory.  We want to help them leave a tangible vehicle for memories: photos, recorded stories, and a scrapbook for the children to keep.  Maybe there will be a miracle and the parent will live another forty years.  We pray so, but it’s not likely. 


Who wants this one?  You can commit to a little or a lot:  write a page of ideas about what should be in the book.  Gather supplies for one book, or a dozen.  Come with me to Africa to make a book, or find someone who will.  A single family may bless you for your effort.  More, you will go to heaven with your shoes on.    



This one is a no-brainer, but it takes guts and business skills.  The HARAMBEE microeconomics projects are successful, but they could be vastly more so, especially regarding sustainability.  Most of our women have a high school education and are quite bright, but they do not come from a culture where knowledge of business is common.  I need someone to grab a passport and malaria pills and spend two or three weeks in Africa teaching groups very basic business skills:  record keeping, labeling, organizing, accounting.  I would do this myself, but I am a money moron and can’t balance my own checkbook.   This project is guaranteed fun.  You will be taken into their lives and hearts in a way you can’t imagine.  And you will be doing a service that will reap rewards for generations. (I wonder who the patron saint of business people is?  There’s got to be one—Catholics have a saint for everything.)




      Okay, here’s one for a thoroughly modern woman:  Again and again I heard that adolescent girls miss a week of school every month when they have their period.  The outcome is predictable:  they fall behind and leave school in a year or two.  You may have seen the Always commercials about this;   I witnessed it firsthand.  We could buy them pads, but I think we can do better than that and here’s why:  if we buy pads, they are dependent on us and that’s a bad idea.  Secondly, trash disposal is something we take for granted.  In Africa you cannot, and so we must provide education about proper disposal.  This should get you thinking.  All projects in Africa require lots of thought about things we rarely have to consider.                    .


HARAMBEE could finance the beginning of a nice small business for the school, making and selling disposable or re-usable pads (  Think of the impact this will have on girls in Africa.  You will change their lives.   You will change the world.        


5.      PROJECT ROOM TO READ                       


you read Leaving Microsoft to Change the World by John Wood? --great book, a quick and exciting read.  He has a nonprofit organization building libraries in developing countries.  He notes they don’t have many projects in Africa, prompting me to think “We’ve got to contact this guy!”   See the above photo?  This is a crying need, but my days just can’t be stretched any further.  I need someone to take on this project!  Is it you?  Just write a letter….  I will help all you need;  I just can’t take this one on by myself.



Are you an educator?  A nurse?  Full of creative ideas?  How about designing a project that we can use to connect people in two countries via live web-cam?  We now are live in Chipata, Zambia, via satellite webcam and want to have a series of talks,  lessons, or other useful communications with schoolchildren (Maybe “A Day in the Life of….”) to open doors between our communities.  HARAMBEE will pay for materials and a webcam for you.




Do you have a hidden ham?  Does your inner child crave attention? Do you have an inquiring mind and a pushy personality?  Let it all run loose for HARAMBEE!  Help us get our name and work in the papers, on the radio, help us find speaking engagements, manage a HARAMBEE booth in a craft fair.   Pretend you are Brenda Starr….for Africa.  Maybe the guy with the black orchid will show up on your doorstep.  Life is full of surprises.  



There are many more simple solutions to problems that are small for us, very big for Africa, and in this day of globalization, if you aren’t part of the solution then you are part of the problem.  So  stop thinking.  Start acting.  Do it.  HARAMBEE can help you.  You have no idea how powerful you are to change the world.

    “There is one thing stronger than all the armies in the world;

       that is an idea whose time has come.”                                 Nation   April 15, 1943


Other ways you can help


Consider scheduling an informational--and inspirational--talk and slideshow for your church, civic, school, or social group with Dr. Harrison.  Phone (708) 983 4159

Introduce your child’s school and classroom to global sharing & caring, social justice, & community development by suggesting a slideshow talk or Kenyan craft sale.

Donate frequent flyer miles for a student volunteer to get to Africa—this usually takes 75,000.  Even if your plan doesn’t allow donation of miles, we can get the ticket with your help.

Suggest that your organization have a holiday “alternative giving fair” with nonprofit organizations.  Beautiful handicrafts from around the world make exotic gifts and bring profit to deserving people with no cut to corporate middlemen. 

Give a goat or chicken.  Don’t family members have enough sweaters, ties, afghans, knickknacks to last through the next millennium?   For birthdays, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Valentine’s Day, give an animal…or a beehive.  You’ll receive a lovely gift card, and get an even lovelier response both in your heart and from your family (guaranteed).  And…you will go down in history.  Who ever gave a goat as an anniversary present?!  See our fliers and cards.  TEACHERS LOVE THESE GIFTS!  They represent the values they hope to transmit to their pupils.  Does hand lotion do that?

Sponsor a child.  $700 will literally save a girl’s life by providing boarding school education, food, clothing, and medical care for a year.  You will receive letters and photos…and a special place in heaven.  or

Help us market breast cancer pink ribbon pins.  They are hand-made by Kenyan women in the Maasai style.  Here are two groups of women across an ocean… both fighting for their lives.  Support both!  (See bookmark with attached pin, $5, discounts for large quantities and for breast cancer support organizations.)

Give us two hours a week of your time.  We always desperately need more help!

Donate money:  Easiest, always effective.  Our website has PayPal.


Donate goods:   We have to be judicious about what items we accept because sometimes it’s difficult or not cost effective to carry them with us to Africa.  However, every HARAMBEE volunteer donates suitcase space for donated items, and we love to get over-the-counter pain relievers, vitamins, antibiotics, antifungals, latex gloves, & other first-aid items.  (A woman recently called telling me she had lost her mother and had several prescription and nonprescription medicines that needed to be disposed of.  Although in America we toss these out, in many cases they can be recycled effectively by our Dr. Oyugi.  Please consider this option if you have access to unused drugs, and contact us).  Any good used laptops out there?  Always a need for them in Africa.  Digital camera?  We will be able to have a great photo project for some of the school children .  I have about a hundred other ideas for projects if you want to hear about them…or call me and say you’ll take charge of one


Spread the word:  You never know who is listening.            


And…many thanks!  We are doing a lot, and none of it is possible without your help.





Kathleen Harrison, PhD

POB 1724 North Riverside IL 60546

(708) 983-4159