Wednesday, July 6, 2011

an Ode to Peace Corps...

The little one and I are spending a sunny afternoon in the house today trying to escape the heat.  I'm also trying (quite successfully I must say) to avoid an ugly pile of paperwork that has called my desk home for weeks now.

We've been a bit slow at getting our blog up and running since we started it a few months ago.  I blame Amana, the 9-month old who rules every waking second of the Smiling Tree household.  (I don't know what my go-to excuse will be years from now when the little ones are all grown up and out of the house!)

Our blog will still focus on our family's journey toward a simple, sustainable life on the Minnesota prairie, natural parenting, and keep you updated on the goings-on of Smiling Tree Toys.  But it's also going to be a great way for us to give a shout-out to the people, places, and ideas that inspire us and yes, as cliche as it may sound, "make the world a better place."

So on that note, let me tell you why I'm avoiding paperwork and strolling down memory lane this afternoon.  It all started with an email yesterday from fellow Etsy shop owners KerryandLogan.  This adventurous couple just joined Peace Corps and is moving to Ukraine this fall.  In an effort to raise funds to pay for their college loans while they're serving abroad, Kerry and Logan are selling some gorgeous artwork and poem collections.  Here are two of my favorites:

FUNDRAISER, Landscaping Print

Home Grown, a Collection of Illustrated Poems

Kerry and Logan will spend the next two years of their life immersed in a new community, new culture, new climate, new language, new clothes, new food, and new work environment.  That's a lot of "newness"...  Kudos to them for giving the next two years of their lives to do their small part to positively change the world!

So just what does this have to do Smiling Tree? 

Where do we begin...

 As many of you might already know, we served with the Peace Corps in Niger, West Africa from 2008-2010.  It was life-changing to say the least.  In fact, our daughter Amana (pronounced "ah-MAH-nah") was named for the Hausa (Niger's primary language) word meaning "trust and friendship".  We also make a donation to Peace Corps youth projects for every toy we sell.  Niger is in our blood. 

We made life-long friends, family really, who are now living a world away from us.  But we know they're never more than a few (well, FOUR actually!) plane rides away.  We look forward to the day when we can return to our 'home away from home' and reunite with our Nigerian community.  Until then, though, the magic of cell phones lets us call them regularly to check in and see how our goats, school garden, and tree nursery are doing.

In a future post, we'll share a few of our most powerful experiences and lessons learned during our time in Niger.  We've got pictures that'll bring a tear to your eye (or at least to mine).

In the mean time, here are a few Etsy finds that pay a small tribute to Peace Corps and the passionate, creative people who have helped make it a reality:

Upcycled Peace Corps Vinage Stamp Magnet

Robert F. Kennedy, WITH CHILDREN, Clyde Keller RFK Photo

Sargent Shriver silk screened t-Shirt

Tanzania Map Journal

And our two Smiling Tree "ode to Peace Corps" favorites:
organic peace dove TEETHING TOY - safe all natural wooden bird fun for eco babies toddlers

organic Africa TEETHING TOY - natural wooden grasping teether eco friendly babies infants kids 

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can

change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.

-Margaret Mead


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