Looking Up

August 28, 2010
Monrovia, Liberia
Annie Foley, LitWorld

What is the power of a smile? To smile at someone conveys that you recognize their individuality, that you appreciate their essence, you are happy to share their company. To smile at someone sends the message that you have a peaceful heart and are open to connection. Contrarily, a stern face is a shield, a measure of protection in the face of uncertainty and fear. Withholding a smile sends a message of defense and impasse.

Yesterday LitWorld promoted the smile. Upon arrival the young women from the YAI Liberian Center for Women and the professional women from Liberian politics were very serious. Both groups of women had come to the Ministry of Gender to initiate an important mentoring relationship. Everyone in the room sensed the grave nature of our work. No one dared make light of the dire situation for women in Liberia: merely 5% have completed primary school, 7% have completed secondary school, literacy rates are as low as 26% and over 70% of all girls under the age of 15 have experienced sexual violence, rape being called “common habit”.

Faces in the room reflected caution and sobriety. The professional women told their stories of struggle and triumph. Once girls with lice and jiggers, selling goods in the market for school fees, walking miles to get educated, these women had risen from the dust to succeed and become decision-makers. The young women were riveted and nodded with tears of empathy in their eyes.

Then we sang.

And we smiled.

And together our voices filled the room with happy, hopeful noise. Our song propelled us to joyfully join together to reminisce of our past, consider our present and dream of ways to uplift our common future.

Sing Me a Song That the World Can Sing Along

August 26, 2010
Monrovia, Liberia
Annie Foley, LitWorld

It is truly amazing how the harmony of voices can fill a room with joy. Through song, stoic faces transform into bright eyes and beaming smiles. Today LitWorld was welcomed into a room of glorious Liberian voices singing in chorus a tune we have come to know as universal. The more we get together the happier we will be. Your friend is my friend, and my friend is your friend. Teachers all over the world use this song to create and sustain community in their classrooms. Ironically this was the song greeting LitWorld this morning.

The 150 participants in our workshop today are all early childhood educators. Like LitWorld they believe that children in their early life are precious jewels of the future. When asked to describe a successful strategy used in their classrooms their most common responses were tenderness, empathy, activity and song. If older learners were also continually privy to such methods, imagine the effect.

LitWorld’s partner in Liberia is the promising Kimmie Weeks. He is supporting the development of early childhood educators throughout the nation with transformative teacher training programs such as LitWorld and Mother Goose. Hope for a better future resides within this youngest generation of learners, those who have witnessed only peace and the determined resilience of the Liberian people.

The More We Get Together

August 25, 2010
Monrovia, Liberia
Annie Foley, LitWorld

The lush Liberian countryside takes my breath away. Squinting you can just see the small village huts enveloped in shades of emerald and jade. Today we voyaged through the trees to visit our friends at the Project School in Monrovia and Becky Primary School in Firestone. We traversed major traffic jams and deep country potholes, all the while immersed in personal and national histories.

Here school begins on September 1st. Despite the 6 remaining days of their precious summer vacation, teachers enthusiastically poured into our trainings in both schools. Some of the teachers were already LitWorld aficionados, having been to our trainings in 2008 and 2009. What an inspiration to have these old friends remember songs and strategies we had taught them in prior visits! Perpetually bearing in mind the immense class size and dearth of resources that burden Liberian schools, our workshops centered around building community with songs and learning from each other’s stories.

Despite the evident hopefulness of development here in Liberia, the educational system is desperately vulnerable. The ratio of 75 students per 1 teacher impedes differentiation severely. Absence of books, paper and writing utensils hinder academic practice. Space and furniture enough for every student is non-existent. Teachers are worried about increasing rates of bribery and plummeting test scores. In a country with a woman president, women and girls continue to fight for safety and success in schools. Teachers require professional development that empowers them to plan and collaborate effectively and to see themselves not as vessels of all knowledge but mediators of information for their students.

It is imperative to support democracy and positive change in Liberia in this precious time. Just as September is the foundation for the entire school year, the habits realized now will determine Liberia’s future. As one classroom is to one school, Liberia is to our global community.

The Past, the Present and the Future

August 24, 2010
Monrovia, Liberia
Annie Foley, LitWorld

The Past, the Present and the Future

Every visit should begin with a parade. LitWorld was greeted in Liberia with a patriotic celebration of the nation’s flag. “Little America” waved red, white and blue while the school children, scouts and police officers walked together through an eager crowd. As we stood among the Liberian people in the warm sun we marveled at the change that has occurred since our visit last summer. Buildings and spirits are rising, and a national pride hovers in the air. In each of the 3 years LitWorld has been visiting Liberia we have been privy to witness the ever-growing resilience as an amazingly strong people face their past by rebuilding for the future.

After a quick change of clothes LitWorld partnered with Youth Action International and Kimmie Weeks for a press conference with several reporters from Liberian newspaper, TV and radio. Most impressive were the two women reporters from Renaissance Communications Incorporated whom Kimmie announced were the first women reporters ever to attend a YAI press conference. How fitting an event to precede the LitWorld/YAI Women and Girls Mentoring Initiative launch. On Friday young women from the YAI women’s center are paired with women from professional Liberian culture, including several women senators, to develop lasting, impactful and supportive relationships.

As always, we are deeply humbled by the stories gifted to us by our friends here. Through these stories personal narrative educates and meditates, soothes and incites. Today’s most striking stories include that of a young woman running with her children at her feet and on her back through the trees for four months toward the boat that would take her to safety, only to arrive at the last possible moment. Throughout the crisis a young man faced the constant personal dilemma of whether or not to join the fighting. His family strength was his only discouragement, which in the end saved his life.

Kibera's heart contains unlimited potential for joy

My plane is scheduled to leave in 12 hours and I am very sad.

Not because of the poverty, the suffering, the crazy "I actually cannot deal the fact that this is happening to someone" misery.

I am sad because I love this place. I love the people, I love the landscape, I love the crazy drivers, I love the friendship and openness of almost every single person I have met. And if the world took an IQ test I am certain that Kenya would finish in first place, way above everybody else.

The past two weeks I have never laughed more in my life. Received more genuine handshakes, gratitude, kindnesses, hospitality, graciousness, patience, affection, generosity, and human connectedness than ever before. All this from people who had nothing to give me, yet gave me more than I have ever received.

My last trip here left me hugely confused -- how can this place contain so much kindness and love when there is so much suffering?

And I think I have figured it out (at least for now, anyway). There is an unlimited reservoir of happiness burbling below the surface of humanity. It is unstoppable, everpresent, and a force to be reckoned with. Poverty, and illiteracy, and hunger, and violence all seek to keep it below the surface. But love and joy are relentless in their push to be present in the world.

LitWorld gives people the tools to tap into that wonderful power that is always ready, asking simply for the chance to appear on earth. And here in Kenya we have opened up a torrent of joy that is cascading into the world, freed at last from its confines.

The statistics about Kibera are all true. And the nightmare of what goes on there requires some sort of compartmentalizing in the brain that is almost beyond my capacity. But let me end with what I will swear to the ends of the earth is true: Kibera's heart contains unlimited potential for joy. And the trickle of happiness that LitWorld added with its first visit then grew into a nice burbling fountain which has now become a screaming geyser.

There is plenty of joy in Kibera -- it just needs to emerge. Storytelling, writing about one's experiences, reading to a child, talking with others about the story that is one's life . .. these are what LitWorld shows people how to do. For these are the catalysts to unlock the joy crying out to see the light of day.

My Swahili is so bad and non-improving that they call me "bongo lala", which I think basically means "brain dead." But there are still enough synapses firing for me to know that I have heard the words "you're welcome" more than "thank you", and that is as it should be. For the joy of Kenya burbled up, and showered down, and that is the real story here.


The Red Rose Blues

The work at Red Rose finished for the week in dramatic fashion. Starting with a great lesson led by the Red Rose teachers with back-up by the LitWorld team integrating the teachings of the week. They all stepped up and did it right and did it well. Annie’s planning and leadership this week were brilliant, and Jen and Lucas carried the days with superb modeling and coaching. This work will stick.

Followed by a meeting of the Girls’ Club, where they talked about how they now have a place they can talk about things with Teacher Rose that they cannot discuss about anywhere else. A place they can communicate with other girls about these things, to create a support network at school and in their community. A place that is their sanctuary.

Followed by the finest End of National Exams celebration I have ever attended in my life, with singing, dancing, drumming, storytelling, and the most fabulous rendition imaginable of one story the LitWorld team worked with them on during the week. We reciprocated their gift of music with our own, showcasing the heart and soul of American music with an original number we wrote for them: The Red Rose Blues. Lucas then formally presented his guitar to the school as a gift and the place went wild.

We exchanged other gifts and mutual thanks, gathered our belongings, and walked through the open door of the metal gate, hitting our head one more time on the low overhang.


The End is The Beginning

Time has a way of creeping up and zooming by. Hard to imagine that already our LitWeek is over, another trip come and gone. Today we celebrated all we accomplished this week. The 6th Class performed a STELLAR performance of Abiyoyo for the entire school. I was completely amazed at how well-planned and creative it was.  ZZZOOOOOOPPPPPP!!!

In the morning I was blessed with a visit to the Hope Children's Centre, the one-room school house started with the help of my friend Benta.  I walked in an was blown away by the absence of resources, the meek room that held safe the 20 or so students.  The teacher in the room, Sheila, looked at me skeptically.  I asked for Benta, and while one of the students went to retrieve her I distributed the pile of books that I had brought to share to the children.  In that moment I was the most humbled I have ever been in my life.  The joy that filled the room was almost tangible.  It was clear that these students were not used to receiving anything, had never held books of their own and were uplifted by an act as simple as handing out books.  I am holding that feeling in my heart.  I wish I could share with you all how amazing it was to see the light that filled the room.  I asked Benta what sorts of things I could bring to her school on my next visit.  "Stationary, colors, pencils, perhaps food."  Children should not have to live in this much need...

Although the week is over, and I am soon to return to my easy life in the US, the lessons I learn here from my Kenyan family imprint on me a deep appreciation for food, gifts, relationships and the resilience of the human spirit.  I humbly and wholly thank my hosts for allowing me to come and spend the past week learning with them, laughing with them and playing with literacy.  The experience has been an inexplicable gift.  There are not words to describe my feelings.


Teaching should be joyful. Learning should be joyful.

The work with the teachers and students again went well today. Following their cues, we delved deeper into using music, singing, and song lyrics to teach reading, vocabulary, spelling, and story structure. The teachers were deeply impressed with this teaching technique as it addressed their concern of how to teach the required curriculum which is heavy on rote mandates regarding the conventions of literacy with their desire to engage the children in real storytelling and understanding of text in an environment that is simply more fun for everyone.

The LitWorld team reviewed the techniques involved in teaching reading through song. A preview of new vocabulary words, word work through identifying all the words starting with a certain letter, then shared reading of the words line by line through learning the song. Then assigning motions or movements to certain parts of the song – all volunteered by the students and every step of the process reinforcing the ones before it.  Then the teacher led the song one time through, with the kids delightedly beginning to sing along and energetically doing the physical motions. Second time around was a rousing rendition led by the kids, reading by singing, and acting out the story of the song.

As is the LitWorld method, the teachers co-taught the lessons and did a great job leading the singing and creatively teaching the new vocabulary and spelling words to the kids.

At the end-of-the-day meeting the teachers were extremely enthusiastic about this technique, as the kids genuinely integrated more meaning, vocabulary and word study in 25 minutes of enjoyment than they had received in a week’s worth of desk work with index cards.  This approach also requires only a chalk board, chalk, and human voices – maximum outcomes with minimal materials.

We broke for lunch and used the time not only to have a delicious meal of rice and beef stew (devoured by the teachers – LitWorld is providing these meals as we feed both their bodies and their minds), but to simply celebrate the beauty of music. Not only as a teaching tool, but as one of the most fun things on earth.

The LW interns had loaded my iPod with music for the kids to dance to. Adding our own noise to the cacophony of Kibera, we cranked up the handheld speaker and had a brief but amazing dance party right in the small courtyard of the school. MoTown, the Kinks, some Beatles and other great songs had the kids raucously doing the funky chicken (they call it the kookoo dance), conga-lining it, and generally bopping around with a moshpit-like exuberance that was phenomenal.  I guess that was the gym class for the day, and it was a good one.

Jeff Okoth, who runs the school, told us this morning that the best thing that LitWorld brings to his teachers (on top of all the practical advice on how to teach reading and writing in hugely effective ways) is the idea that there should be joy in classrooms. Teaching should be joyful. Learning should be joyful. He said that is the profound change that LitWorld has brought to Red Rose.

Joy is sometimes in short supply here. And perhaps it is hard to measure joy, but it is one of those things that you know it when you see it, and we saw a lot of it today.

And as for measuring things . . .

LitWorld will proudly hold its programs and results to any data metric out there, in terms of student achievement, student progress, teacher satisfaction, teacher competency levels, direct replicability of programming, turn-key establishment of local on-site leaders capable of leveraging the work and effectively integrating it into the essence of the community, and use of technology and innovative thinking to create real impact on-site with the most prudent use of its resources.

We will accept that challenge thrown down by a non-profit environment that is increasingly and relentlessly data driven, replicability obessed, cost/benefit analyzing, corporatizing, show me the algorithm proving that my money is realizing the most data-provable “return” on its investment. And we will thrive in that environment without overstating, or inflating, or exaggerating the effectiveness of everything we do. For there are many pluses that come from a sharp-penciled analysis of what is actually being achieved by a non-profit, and LitWorld will pass any such test with flying colors.

Maybe, though, we all should start thinking about how that the equation and analysis ought to include some factors that are all too often ignored, perhaps because they are harder to measure. Factors like joy, and happiness, and hope, and experiencing kindness in the world.

People strive for what is being measured. Let’s put a number on love.


Day 3: Beverly Hills

Today was action packed with much adventure, excitement and learning for all.  Due to the time and my exhaustion, I am going to limit this post to 3 major events, not in any particular order...

First I want to share that my wonderful friend Benta has had another baby!!  You may remember her as the HIV positive mother of 2 year old Craig David.  She has also opened a school for HIV positive mothers and their children called the Hope School which we will be visiting tomorrow, our last day of LitWeek.  Benta is a role model for overcoming all odds and letting the miracles in life guide you.  Congratulations to Benta, Craig David and Baby Beverly Hills!!  Welcome to the world!!

Second I want to say that I am incredibly humbled by the work we have been doing.  Our reflection question today was:  tell us one thing that you are still thinking of that can inform our work for next time.  The answers were thorough and thoughtful, and they will guide our planning for many sessions to come.  I am looking forward to planning our future with the teachers of Kibera!

Lastly I want to leave my readers with a recess dance party at Red Rose School.  Please enjoy!!


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The Nuts and Bolts

I hope this first report gives you some idea of the essence of the work and community as well as a glimpse into the nuts and bolts day-to-day work. It is powerful and effective and transformative. I believe it is also laying the groundwork for much broader impacts in the area of literacy training, resilience and healing in the face of harsh, harsh living conditions and experiences, and giving children their childhoods and real hope for the future.

There is ceaseless noise in Kibera. The weird buzz of sparking grinders on the metal of security fences being constructed in a metal shop in the middle of the road. The sizzling zap from the hot white arcs of the welds securing the security fences. The clanging of huge metal security gates squealing open as someone enters. The smash of those gates against the metal barrier wall. The noise of the craving for security and safety.

There is ceaseless noise in Kibera. The thwack thwack thwack of hammers from the construction of the addition to the schoolhouse, pounding into the room while the students take the national exams. The bizarre, unidentifiable squealing of some sort of transportation device passing by unseen outside the gates. The bang bang bang of big stones being pounded into smaller stones in the streets. The noise of creation and building.

There is ceaseless noise in Kibera. The beautiful singing of the teachers singing together as a group. "How are YOU?!" smilingly asked by virtually every child in the streets. The lilt in the students' voices when then raise their hand in class, pleading to be called on, calling out "Teachah, teachah!!". The unstoppable, indefatigable, fabulously beautiful sound of people laughing and laughing throughout the day. The noise of learning and love.

There is also endless silence in Kibera. The things that go on in the places that remain silent are the scariest. The vicious stepmother. The women with AIDS who gather in the streets, watching, hoping. The "home" to "rehabilitate" "runaway" boys which makes hell sound wonderful in comparison. The stepfather who makes clear what will happen if you tell anyone. The silence of hopelessness, massive stress, inhuman physical living conditions.

The entry into this world for an outsider is immediate, intense, emotional, exhilarating and horrifying. It is an extremely complicated place, vastly more intricate in its social dealings than the US because issues of status and power are issues of real life and death. These are not people on a deserted island waiting for a food drop. They are people living in a complex, loving, corrupted, and deeply violent place -- both emotionally and physically -- trying to interact with the world in the best way they can.

With that backdrop always in mind, the team from LitWorld set out to do its work at the Red Rose School. My brief impressions so far:

Annie Foley is leading the team. She has established an excellent rapport with the students and teachers from prior trips here. The trust level is clearly established. She oversaw and planned the work. Jennifer Goodwin, volunteering with the team, explained the theory underlying effective reading instruction and explained how to do it -- the discrete element chosen as the teaching and implementation vehicle was tableaux. This in a nutshell consists of breaking a story down into five or so important scenes, breaking the kids into the five groups, and having the students discuss them and "freeze" in a scene they imagine from their storypoint. Her husband, Lucas Rotman, another LW team leader volunteer, led a session on using music to teach reading, along with using music as a storytelling vehicle. Teachers asked many questions based on their efforts and experiences in implementing teaching techniques from prior visits. Annie guided the discussions, always focusing on responding to the teachers queries with an eye to making sure they will be able to do it in their own classrooms, and they will see the enormous value of doing it.

These teachers at Red Rose are receiving the best BEST staff development that is occurring anywhere in the WORLD right now, and I meant it. The teachers are REALLY into it. Their appreciation is especially pronounced because we are providing so many tips on how to do this work in the face of the day to day realities they face -- mandated government curriculum that is very lecture oriented, a desperate lack of materials, and never having experienced this kind of teaching instruction in their own learning lives. The teachers are very brave and open. Annie, Jen and Lucas did a really wonderful job of supporting the teachers as they spent the afternoon trying out the new lessons with the students in front of and with their colleagues. From a morning spent learning a new and powerful teaching technique, to jumping right into trying it themselves in the afternoon, to achieving success due to the gentle support provided during their trying it with the kids -- I have never seen teachers move so rapidly and genuinely through the process of learning to implementation.

Today we also interviewed Teacher Rose at length. Rose leads the Girls' Club and the club is so amazing -- it is very energizing for the girls. Some are now attending from schools other than Red Rose because the girls told their friends about it. Visitors from Nairobi said the girls are much more engaged and assertive than most of the girls seen in Nairobi, and especially more so than the girls from the countryside. The girls have asked if the program can take place every single day. I will have more details when we attend the next meeting on Friday afternoon. This is personally my favorite project of LitWorld's. So much springs from this Club, all of it good and powerful and worldchanging and lifelong.

The Lit! project with the solar powered lanterns has been prescient in seeing the potential of these amazing devices. Demand is spreading in Kibera and throughout Nairobi as people seek to break the cartel of the kerosene providers hypercharging the poor for light. This is a worldchanging device in its own right, and we will be distributing more of them while we are here.

Finally, we believe we have figured out a successful solution to the internet accessibility issue that we will be trying out over the next two days. It should provide reliable and reasonably fast internet connectivity at a very reasonable fee for Red Rose. The ability to continue the conversations with the teachers on a regular and easy basis between actual visits to the school would be profoundly powerful.

I hope this gives you some idea of the nuts and bolts day-to-day work. It is powerful and effective and transformative. I believe it is also laying the groundwork for much broader impacts in the area of literacy training, resilience and healing in the face of harsh, harsh living conditions and experiences, and giving children their childhoods and real hope for the future.


Sing Me a Song

I gave Brian, a 6th grade student, the camera today.  He left me for a minute and returned with the camera in hand.  It wasn't until I began writing this post that I realized what he had photographed.  This is lunch.  It breaks my heart to see the tattered clothing and the hungry faces of these bright, gorgeous children.  No child in the world should have to live with this much need.

Despite the conditions, Kibera is improving.  There is a new mobilization among the people, a new hopefulness.  Perhaps it is the upcoming referendum vote to take place on August 4th. The people will be voting on the drafted constitution.  Kenyans have been living under no constitution since their independence from the British in 1963.  In 2007 over 1000 people were injured or killed in a similar vote to the one to take place in 2 weeks.  There is definite tension and excitement in the air.

I did not intend to write any of that.  The Kenyan breeze must be getting to me...

According to some followers, we are delivering the "most intense and cutting edge professional development in the world."

Today Lucas gave an amazing presentation on using song in the classroom to practice and teach reading and writing strategies.  The teachers here all use song in the classroom, so it was incredible to see the light bulbs go off in their eyes as they realized how much can be done with the songs they already know.  We all learned a wonderful song from Brooklyn called The Tree Song.  We danced and sang and learned our initial sounds.

After lunch Jennifer and Lucas coached a model lesson in the 5th and 6th Classes using the Abiyoyo storytelling method we had practiced with the teachers yesterday.  The kids had such fun, and the teachers were fully capable of making the lesson a success.  The day ended with everyone eager to try out new ideas in their classrooms.

Each day that I am here I am desensitized a little more to my surroundings.  The dust and burning trash cease to bother my lungs, my eyes become accustomed to the sight of barefoot babies and torn uniforms.  Then suddenly the smallest thing will remind me of where I am.  Today that thing was this:


Day One: Playing with Reading

Day one of the summer 2010 Red Rose seminars was a hit, if I do say so myself...  Any day that begins with an assembly of children singing and dancing is marked as spectacular in my book.

We unpacked and took Jennifer and Lucas on a tour of the school.  Our good friend Teacher Sophia was our initial guide, showing us the room arrangements that for PreUnit, Class One and Nursery.  She is now teaching Class One, a change from PreUnit since we were last here.

The principal, Mr. Buluma, took us through the back of the school, to the Class 2, 3, 4 and Baby Class.  We then took a walk across Kibera to visit the new middle school building.  The Children of Kibera Potomac High School students had been there last week and helped with construction of 4 new classrooms.  Each have 2 skylights which brighten the room considerably, making them cheery and filled with hope.

After tea the teachers all gathered eagerly for our workshop.  Every teacher attended!  It was truly fantastic to have the entire staff in the one room learning together with us.  Jennifer presented a terrific synopsis of the reading process, true "cutting edge" stuff.  (Thanks Jim!!)

After lunch we practiced differentiation techniques to expand student comprehension.  Lucas told the story of Abiyoyo (a teacher favorite!) with gusto, and we took turns acting out parts of the story.  This activity really got the teachers loosened up, laughing and playing with literacy.

We finished the day with song, journal reflections and one word that summarized our work for the day.  Words like visualize, laughter, dramatize, learning, oral, access, inspire, perfect...


20 hours, 3 cities, a world of friends

I always forget the great satisfaction that washes over when first sitting down on a plane, especially for long flights.  This time I was so exhausted the relief of having nothing to do, with 18 hours to do it sparked a glee I hadn't seen in a long time.  Of course I was not too exhausted to meet amazing world travelers.

The flight from Boston to Amsterdam was what I call a "chaser" flight.  Literally the plane is chasing the sun, and eventually the two catch up.  Luckily it was at just this point that I opened my eyes, just in time to see the bronze hue pour over the hovering clouds below.  And even farther down the Atlantic Ocean, vast blue expanse passing beneath us.

In the Amsterdam airport I met Wesley.  Wesley is from rural Kenya and now lives in the US.  He came to Louisville to study premed, but felt limited by his degree, wanting to be able to effect more people in his country than he believed medicine would allow for.  Currently he is a Nike sponsored professional runner, and he uses his winnings to create better spaces for kids in Kenya.  His dream is to open libraries and early childhood centers for exploratory learning so that children in Kenya will have the core knowledge and experiential learning they need to think creatively and explore their personal interests.  I am hoping to meet with him again as I feel he could be an integral piece of this puzzle.

It was so wonderful to find friends waiting for me off the plane.  Eddie greeted me with a smile and a hug, and I was humbly reminded how much Kenya feels like home, our friends here more like family...

I am SO looking forward to tomorrow!  I can't wait to see my friends at Red Rose.  Jennifer and Lucas are rested and ready to go!  I better get resting too; the howling dogs outside my window are reminding me that the nighttime hours are sneaking by...


Call for Crayons

With 10 days until lift off to Kenya, the LitWorld team is busy gathering materials and planning our agenda.  We have spoken with Jeff, our amazing coordinator at the Red Rose School, and want to bring the students lasting materials that will help them share their voice.

Generous donators can send a new box of 24 Crayola crayons to our Massachusetts LW office:

LitWorld, c/o Annie Foley

49 Garfield Avenue

Easthampton, MA  01027

Thank you in advance for your support!  We look forward to sharing our experience with you, words changing worlds...