Mary Walker: To b(log) or not to b(log)

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Mary Walker

Editor's note: Routt County resident Mary Walker volunteers at the Tasaru Girls Rescue Centre in Narok, Kenya. The center provides a safehouse for Maasai girls who have escaped or been rescued from female genital mutilation and forced childhood marriage. Walker's updates from Kenya appear periodically in the Steamboat Today.

I have a new work motto now that I have started a blog to disseminate information about my efforts to assist Maasai girls in Kenya that have been rescued from female genital mutilation and forced childhood marriage: You can make some of the people happy all of the time (they are my favorite!), you can make some of the people happy some of the time and hopefully the rest of the people are happy at some point during the rest of the time.

Two years ago, when I first traveled to the Tasaru Girls Rescue Centre in Narok, Kenya, I sent a short letter to my family and closest friends telling them that I was going there to volunteer for a month. This letter generated a decent amount of interest, and even some donations to help the rescue center. When I returned home, I dutifully sent a letter to everyone again describing my experiences, I think with a photo or two included. At 40-cents-plus a pop, this got pretty expensive!

On subsequent trips to Kenya, I decided to use e-mail technology to make my communications more efficient and a whole lot cheaper. I still need to send snail mail letters to those whom I did not have an e-mail address for. But as a "woman of a certain age" (i.e. just old enough to have avoided getting my computer training in school), I have to admit that I began to find e-mail really great. And because there is Internet access at the rescue center when I am in Kenya, I could easily send out e-mails from there - wow! For a woman of a certain age, what a nifty piece of technology!

As my involvement in the rescue center has grown, specifically now that I administer a nonprofit fund to assist girls from Tasaru when they complete secondary school and must leave the center, so have my communication needs skyrocketed. Due in large part to the interest generated by articles of my experiences published in the Steamboat Pilot & Today, I routinely get communications from complete strangers. And instead of letters every few months to friends, family and a handful of financial donors, I now have more than 150 regular and repeat donors to the nonprofit fund, sponsors of specific girls from Tasaru, a growing number of friends, and my family to keep up to speed with how their donations are being used to support girls from the rescue center. And for every friend, donor or family member who wants to know how things are going for the girls in Kenya, there are usually a handful more, through word of mouth, who want in on the effort to improve these wonderful girls' lives. Communication is now a daily priority.

But mention the word "blog" as a personal means of communication to a woman of a certain age (unless it's Arianna Huffington or Tina Brown) or lots of other people, and you will probably get a lukewarm response.

But blog I must. In my defense, I must be able to refer the growing number of strangers who contact me wanting information about the rescue center or how to make a donation to the nonprofit fund to something quick and easy to access. Let's face it; most people lose phone numbers written on sticky notes, and e-mail addresses, with their goofy makes-no-sense string of letters and numbers, don't fare much better. It is wonderful to be stopped in the grocery store by someone I don't know, and many I do, who want information about Tasaru, the girls there or how they can help. Wonderful! And I'm learning just how important it is to never let these opportunities pass because each such encounter could mean that one more girl from Tasaru has a fighting chance.

I made a point of sending out an e-mail telling people about my Web site/blog. Reactions have ranged from "awesome" (one of those people who you can please all the time) to "I'm not really a blog person" (one of those whom I will need to please at another time). I know the pitfalls: People think I will expect them to dutifully check my blog for information about the weather in Kenya, what I had for supper (the same thing I had for supper last night: ugali and cabbage) and how many girls have malaria. People will think I've just unloaded a major responsibility - that of composing personable, interesting e-mails and letters - in exchange for long-winded impersonal blog entries.

But in my defense, I must strive forward with my blog because it will mean incredibly more efficient communication that will benefit the girls at Tasaru so much more. I ask only that people give it a chance, take the time to look at all of the information about female genital mutilation and the statistics about girls and education, check out all of the photos that I am able to include, and then pass it along to a friend or share it with a book club or church group. Oh, that's www.marywalkerkenya.blogspot.com.

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