Monday, March 16, 2015

A Chat About Ebola Orphans with Leslie Moon : How We Can Help

Today, my friends, we have a serious topic to discuss, and the way one poet is trying to help. One of our own, Leslie Moon of Moondustwriter's Blog, is a poet whose love and pain over the plight of the children of the world often shows up in her poetry. And she doesn't just care, she takes action to help. I asked Leslie to tell us about the project she is currently working on, an anthology of poetry, which will raise funds for the children orphaned by Ebola in Liberia. I asked Leslie if she would chat with us about the situation, and let us know how we might help. We will need strong coffee for this, my friends. Pull your chairs up close and let's dive in.







                                                                 
Sherry: Leslie, tell us about your current focus, the plight of children orphaned by Ebola in Liberia.

Leslie: To date 10,000 children have lost one or both parents to Ebola. If you look at the statistics of those nations hardest hit by Ebola, Liberia takes a staggering lead. 

Sherry: Wow, when you break that down, that is one small child, orphaned, desperate, scared, lonely - multiplied ten thousand times. I can see why you felt moved to do whatever you could. When and how did you realize you wanted to help? 

Leslie: This Ebola thing from the start made me angry. As a public health nurse, I knew the severity was being downplayed (one year ago now.) When I heard the orphans had fallen through the cracks, a fire that was dormant started raging. I wanted to get on a plane to Liberia while Ebola was at its worst. Good thing I have reasonable family members (chuckle).

Sherry: Yes, you can do more to help by staying alive, my friend! But I hear you. It is frustrating to watch humans botching these situations, out of fear and/or ignorance. Please tell us about the project you came up with.

Leslie: In November, I started formulating a plan to write and publish a book (hopefully many) where the proceeds would benefit children orphaned by Ebola (specifically in the country of Liberia.) 

Originally I was considering short stories, based on a publisher's suggestion. Then I realized a corporate effort by a community of poets would have a beautiful voice.   

Sherry: That does sound wonderful. How did you decide on who you might like to take part?

Leslie:  I thought about two communities that are "tight knit" and work/write wonderfully - the Carpe Diem Haiku Kai community and the Poets United Community.  In November, I approached a photojournalist who has spent some time in Liberia;  I asked him if we could use some of his work and he has graciously agreed.

Sherry: This truly is a wonderful project, with such a worthy cause. We are so pleased that you thought of Poets United.  How can we help? 



Leslie: I am inviting those who write poetry and haiku to submit their work to this collection of poetry, that will  speak as a voice to the children of Liberia (especially those orphaned by Ebola). Why Liberia, you might ask? Liberia, if you look at the numbers, was the hardest hit with the Ebola outbreak and, as a poor nation, does not have the resources to provide even the basics. 

Poets can submit up to three poems ( 22 lines each) or 5 haiku. Send your submissions to  fillthecracks@gmail.com. Check here for all the information.



I apologize that there will be no remuneration for any of the contributors. This will be a published work, so it gives the poets the pride of having their work in print. Other than a modest amount that will be taken out for set up charges (and the amount that Amazon or Smashwords takes), 100% of the funds will all be allocated to at least one orphanage. 

I am excited that the book will be published by Visionary Press, who have published a number of books where the funds raised benefits a group or individual.




Sherry: This is such a worthy cause, Leslie. I am sure people will be happy to have the opportunity to take part. You will be doing all the work! Visionary Press looks like a fantastic group of people. And I love their name!

Would you like to tell us a bit about the orphanage you have in mind? Can you give us a sense of what it is like for people over there in the field, trying to care for so many orphans? I know it is desperate beyond our comprehension.

Leslie: I have been looking for an orphanage, and the one I have in mind is in Monrovia, Liberia at the heart of the Ebola disaster. One of the best things, without actually going there to deliver the money personally, is knowing that every cent we raise goes to the orphanage. 

I will have links and information about the orphanage on the site. The more I read, the more dire I realize the circumstances are. Children are being placed with one mattress, a bag of rice, and a bottle of oil, with families (who may or may not keep them when the food runs out.)  



Art work of Leslie Moon

This is an artsy photograph of my cousin's little boy Zeek. His bio mom abandoned him (at birth) at a hospital in South Africa, where my cousin and her family live.

Sherry: Look at his beautiful face! These children, who have endured so much, have such a light, and how it shines!!!!

Leslie: One story I read was told by a boy whose father, a local pastor, was asked to read the last rites for a woman. The family had assured him she had not died from Ebola. This father died several days later and the infected mother died several weeks later, leaving four children. Sadly those four children were left in isolation for 45 days without food. A pastor heard about their situation and saw to it that they had food and, once the isolation was removed, brought them to a facility established by his church. Not only did the children lose their parents but all the family belongings would have been destroyed to prevent any possible spread of disease.

Sherry: Oh, my goodness, Leslie. It is the personal stories that bring this crisis home to the up close and personal. The newscasts paint with a broad brush. These stories bring the urgency and the desperation home.


Leslie: This situation is not unusual as people are so afraid of Ebola, so the children are being kicked out of their neighborhoods or stigmatized. There is no short term solution and the needs of these orphans will exist long after people are captivated by another world crisis.

Sherry: Leslie, I have seen in your writing that you have traveled widely and have great compassion for the suffering of the world, especially children. Tell us about this. Also tell us a bit about the events you perform for children around the world. How did you get started doing this?

Leslie: Oh my, isn’t that a story! I will try to tell the microfiction version. As a young girl of 8, I got it into my head that I wanted to go to Africa as a pilot/physician.

When the physician thing slipped from my grasp (after years of study, internships, etc.), I tried to volunteer in western Africa as a trained airplane mechanic (one of the many hats I have worn.) Every organization required that I be married. In frustration, I finally shelved Africa.

I went on many short trips with my church to orphanages in Mexico. I always wanted to be left behind. In the U.S., I have worked as a nurse with the homeless, the poor, pregnant teens, and special needs children.  I led co-ed teams to Crimea, where we worked with local churches running summer camps for children, and teaching ESL to Ukrainian youth.  In these camps, we ran into orphans who wanted to join our group. Sadly it was against the orphanage program rules.

Sherry: I am very impressed, Leslie. So many of us talk and write about these things. You have done feet on the ground work in some tough places. I can see how the plight of children must break your heart. At the same time, helping must fulfill your human need to Do Something about it. Way to be!

Leslie:  My good friend, (an English writer), and I have written books used by ministries and missionaries all over the world.  We have written children’s stories that have been broadcast internationally, including into Africa.  

The closest (so far) that I have gotten to Africa was a trip I scheduled to meet with an African broadcaster to do multi-national children’s programs. Both my daughters were hospitalized prior to the trip, so I had to cancel the trip. I do have family and close friends working in Africa, so I have kept up on the needs for children.


Sherry: I know you will get there one of these days, Leslie. 

In your writing, I have noted that you  have a special connection to the Ukraine. Would you like to tell us a bit about this? I love the poem “You Belong in Wonder full” and would love to include it. Would you like to tell us a little about the girl in the poem?

You Belong In Wonder Full

Born to a life
so wrought with pain
none of your doing
Daddy took his life
unable to face another rain

***

Mommy was floating
on the top of her drink
sorrow pulled her down
like her olive
nothing left but to sink

***

Natalia you swam
against the tide
so smart
full of hope
striving to be more alive

***

What they could never attain
dear girl from another land
you took on bravely
soared like an eagle
now come take my hand

***

I will show you places
feel the universe pull
play with the stars
you belong
in Wonder full


Leslie: Ukraine is probably one of the last places on earth I would ever have gone. However, when the opportunity came to teach children, my girls and I jumped at the opportunity. I, like many others, had a misconception that Ukraine is Russia. It is not.

Here is a poignant tale of a child who represents too many Ukrainian children:

There is a girl in Crimea named Ineza who is about 16 now. When I met her, she was 6. Ineza was like my little shadow. All my lessons were in English and translated to the children in Ukrainian. She had never been taught English and yet she could recite back to me my lessons in English.  When I learned about her world, of a father in prison and an alcoholic mother (who dragged her kid and often forgot her sleeping form in a bar), I wept.

This precious little 6 year old girl, after her mother killed herself, was taken in by a neighbor lady who became her mother. This woman, (who was 65 at the time), sought my advice for raising this precocious child. Ineza was, and I believe still is, a bright star. She shone with intelligence and an inner light that could transform a stone. (If a tear forms in your eye, you are not alone!)

Sherry: Oh my God, Leslie, it just rips my heart out. That light, flickering against such odds.

Leslie: Had Ineza not been adopted by this woman, she would have ended up in an orphanage or on the streets. Based on what the street kids I have worked with have conveyed – both are awful and short term forms of life.

You may understand why in some of my writings I am passionate about the situation in Crimea. Though I cannot change events, I can cry out in verse for a girl, (now young woman), who has already endured so much. I have an adopted grandson in that area who is 10 now and a young man whom I consider as dear as a son.

Sherry: Your heart is very large, my friend. Is there another poem you might like to include here? And tell us about it?

We were pen pals when we were just girls
We lived in Monrovia, Liberia and Monrovia, California
I had a dream of working as a doctor in her country
she had a dream of acting in mine
we talked about switching places
our giggles translated on wrinkled page
Life as it always does moved on
 we walked switchback paths
I had a trip to Africa to see her
the first was when I was 13
 the last-minute we cancelled our trip
she and I cried
then I was meeting with radio people
we were finally going to meet
I had a gift to match her smile
my little girl was very sick
she almost died
my Africa  trip paid for her care
another dream drifted out to sea
Last week I got a letter from a friend:
It was tearfully penned
“Our Shelela died of Ebola
her family is all gone
all except one small grandson
he escaped the jaws of the disease
but he has no one”
Now I know one orphan in Monrovia
 and all I can do is write this on a blog.
I wrote this poem to an imaginary friend as I was first formulating ideas to publish a book for the orphans. Sadly, I believe I would have met this woman if all those times I was supposed to go to her country had worked out. She is Liberia, and her children and grandchildren should not be forgotten.

Sherry: The pain is devastating. The poem so effective. You have opened my eyes - all of our eyes -  to this issue, Leslie. Thank you.

I am excited about a whole book of poems like this, and that writing one will directly help one of these precious children. How words do have an impact in this world. This is an inspiring project, Leslie. My heart kindles at the thought of this book and how far its touch will reach.

Would you like to close with a few final words to Poets United?  This is such a worthwhile project and we are so touched that you thought of our community to take part.....the floor is yours, my friend.

Leslie: Sherry, The Poets United team graciously has allowed me to share my concern, and I invite any and all of you to share your poetry for this project, which is titled “Fill The Cracks".

Ebola has left a fissure in the lives of the children orphaned by this disease. But even the smallest amount that we can give can be a huge encouragement.

Recently I was reading that the needs for the orphans are as basic as toothbrushes, rubbing alcohol, bandaids (and of course food.) Who wouldn’t send a toothbrush to an orphan in Liberia if they could? 

Sherry: I want to send a whole box of toothbrushes! I see on your site, there is a Write Toothbrush Challenge, to raise funds through small donations for such basic needs. 

This collection of poems offers, from the start,  a huge dose of  hope to children who have seen so much loss, and suddenly. 

Leslie: At the Fill in the Cracks blog  you can read the submissiondetails and what we are looking for thematically. 

I hope that we can sing a song through poetry that lifts the spirits of these dear children, and that the community at large will be encouraged to not forget (too soon)  those who have been left to deal with life without a mother or a father. Thank you again for your open heart in sharing this project.

Sherry: I will be submitting a poem for sure, to this worthy project, and I hope many of our members will too. Thank you so much, Leslie, for this chat, for telling us about your book project, and for caring so much about the children of the world.

Isn't Leslie amazing, kids? We have some incredible members in this community, trying to make this world a better place. Come back and see who we talk to next. Who knows? It might be you!



53 comments:

  1. What a worthy case... I will definitely see what I can add to this project Leslie...

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    1. awesome thanks Bjorn you have such a big (talented) heart!

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  2. Leslie, I admire your involvement and generosity. I will definitely look at the links you provide. You mention two very different countries where people, children especially, suffer.
    I hope the poetry book is a success.

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    1. please check it out. Would love to have your voice as part of the chorus :)

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  3. Leslie, what a wonderful project. You have a good heart & a great idea! I enjoyed reading about your life as well as about the project...what dedication. Thanks for telling us about your project, and I wish it every success. Sherry, thanks for this feature!

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    1. Mary many thanks. I am so grateful for all you do!

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  4. Sherry and Poet's United thank you so much for the opportunity to share. I just read that Ebola keeps battering Liberia like a hurricane.
    I do want to share that Visionary Press Collaborative and I will take care of any of the layout/ design fees; aside from about 30% that Amazon takes, the rest of the money we raise will go to the orphans.

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    1. I do want to add that one of the reasons I thought of Poet's United (and Carpe Diem) is because there is a fine line ( I think of it as a golden thread) that runs through each group. The voices are different and yet I always seem to hear a chorus in the background of each set of poems. It is why I considered the poetry book for its ability to make a chorus.
      If you have ever tried to collaborate, that(harmonic chorus) doesn't always happen - it is a gift!!!

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    2. We are honored you thought of us, Leslie. Yes, we have a group of great-hearted people here, and it is a harmonious community. I do hope you get a lot of support and involvement for this project and that it does very well and gets those children some toothbrushes! LOL. (I still want to send a box over myself!)

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  5. Leslie, it is wonderful to meet you and to learn about your dedication and devotion to your meaningful project. It takes strength and a generosity of spirit to follow through with one's good intentions, especially when dealing with such difficult situations. Ineza was a lucky little girl to have had been taken in by that sweet woman, and I'm so relieved to hear that she has prospered.

    Hopefully, your artistic venture will bring more awareness and effective results to all those 'Inezas' in the world, along with the thousands of children who are suffering from Ebola. I will look into the links you have mentioned here today to become more informed. Thank you Leslie and Sherry for a most interesting interview.

    Poppy

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    1. Poppy so nice to meet you as well. These children are our hope for the future arent they? We need to invest in them with our love. I hope you join us in this chorus ;)

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  6. What an amazing, heartfelt mission to help children living in a sea of death and pain. I will pen something for the book. Sherry, thanks for this interview and Leslie my thanks for your dedication and heart to reach out to those in need.

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    1. Isnt Leslie amazing, Susie? One of the ones who takes action. I will definitely take part as well. It is such a small thing to do, with the aim of bringing good to children who desperately need the world's help. So happy to know you will take part too, Susie.

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    2. Susie I hope you know how blessed I am to know such lovely people as you. I have seen a wee bit of your heart and what it can do!!

      Please join us as we try to light a fire of hope.

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  7. I'll be right over to see what you want--a poem for children or for adults .... Thanks for the opportunity!

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    1. Yippee, we are rallying the troops!

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    2. Thanks Susan and thanks for your input and encouragement from the start of this "crazy" undertaking.

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  8. If I can write a word or two to effect a small change, then let me write some more and perhaps more for my brothers in the world. God bless your benevolent self, Leslie!

    - ksm

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    1. Ha! This is so great! I am smiling! Thanks, Kelvin. We have a group of such good-hearted people in this community.

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    2. Kelvin!

      I almost did not recognize you…Great to see you here…:-)

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    3. Kelvin - I believe a word has sparked a flame before. Let us ignite one of hope. Thanks so very much - can't wait for the chorus.

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  9. A wonderful interview an absolutely worthy cause. Sparkling spirits shining from the screen. I will absolutely contribute and hope that I may be part of this extraordinary project.

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    1. Great - it takes many lovely voices to make a choir. Excited to hear the song!!!

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  10. Dearest Sherry and Leslie,
    I have known both of you for many poet years through OneStop and at Poets United. I will firstly put word out on this very worthy project, hoping to bring awareness to this part of the world. And I will dig deep inside of me to come up with a worthy poem.

    Leslie, it does not surprise me at all that you are doing this, and Sherry for bringing it to our attention.

    God bless…

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    1. you bring a tear to my eye. It is these friendships forged through a shared love of poetry that I believe have and can make a difference in dark places.

      You are loved and appreciated!!!!

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  11. You have touched my heart and bless your spirit for doing more! Thank you, Leslie for the awareness- and all you have done-wow! Thank you, Sherry for sharing Leslie and her gift of helping children-I believe this cause can aid many! I admire your willingness to make a change~ Yes, bless you!

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    1. A heart felt embrace for you. We are just getting underway but I do feel there is the voice of a lion in the community of dear poets. Let us roar on behalf of these children :)

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  12. May your endeavor for this great project kindle the hope of light in every child's heart in the affected area Leslie and thank you for giving us the opportunity to take part in this worthy cause.....I wish the book is a success...Thanks Sherry for this amazing interview....

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    1. Sumana - yours is a voice that always sings with a strong beauty!

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  13. Leslie and Sherry thank you for this enlightening interview...
    All the best for this worthy cause. I hope I can be a part of it.

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    1. Please we need each voice to make this a powerful choir!!

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  14. I have the feeling this book is going to be huge because the poets here have such a big heart. Leslie you are an inspiration to me. I will surely write something. Thank you so much for all the good you do and for inviting us to help.

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    1. Myrna - I think we poets fuel each other with that creative love. A mighty fuel when set ablaze.

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  15. Don't know why my comment published as anonymous. It's me - Myrna.

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  16. Dear Leslie and Sherry
    Thank you for this enlightening interview. Its a great cause. Wishing you good luck on your future endeavors.

    I too am a recent blogger. Hope to keep in touch and look forward to hearing from you,

    www.adashofsunny.com

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    1. So nice to meet you as well. Your blog is beautiful!

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    2. Thank you Leslie, highly appreciated!

      xoxo

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  17. Thanks to each of you for your bright and encouraging words.
    Last night, I was inspired to write to the Ministry of Health in Liberia after reading an article posted yesterday that was a plea from 100 orphans for help.
    Let's see what we and our pens can do to assist them!!!!

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  18. This is a tragic situation which is very close to my heart. Thank you to Leslie for this amazing project and to Sherry for conducting the interview.

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    1. Kerry I know you too ache for the children. Please join our chorus...

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  19. What a big heart you have, Leslie. Thank you Sherry for this interview and helping Leslie to get the word out about this project. I will be reading over the links and hope to submit some writings.

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    1. Torie - you are so kind. I just believe in speaking out for those who are rarely listened to.

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  20. Leslie... your passion is contagious.So good to know more of the story behind the poet. May God touch the hearts of poets to make your out-reach a success.

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  21. Patricia - without each of you it would be out of reach endeavor. And thanks :)

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  22. Thanks so much for this touching and lovely post Sherry and Leslie ~ I will be checking out the links ~

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  23. This is such a noble initiative. I would love to be a part of it.

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  24. Leslie and Sherry thank you for bringing this wonderful project to us...I will be looking to hopefully submit something and raise awareness about the project.

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  25. Your work is wonderful Leslie - in so many spheres

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  26. A worthy cause. You can take any poem you like from my blog and submit it.

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  27. Wonderful project and as the host of Carpe Diem Haiku Kai (CDHK) I am glad to be part in this project ... I have submitted my haiku to your "fillthecracks" email address and I have forwarded the emails our Carpe Diem Haiku Kai Family members already posted at the special emailaddress at CDHK. I hope this project will become a great success.

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  28. Thanks to each of you and to Kristjaan and Sherry for their encouragement.
    Each day I open the email and tears flow to my eyes as I read concern, hope, love in your poems - keep them coming!!!

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  29. Thanks to each of you and to Kristjaan and Sherry for their encouragement.
    Each day I open the email and tears flow to my eyes as I read concern, hope, love in your poems - keep them coming!!!

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