Thursday, March 14, 2013

Drying for Freedom in China

As most of my readers know, in 1995, when I was an undergraduate at Middlebury College, the speaker at a peace sympoisum that I had organized, Dr. Helen Caldicott, gave a speech. In the company of my high school mentors, Bud and Barbara James, I had heard her speak in Newburyport, MA, in 1993. Both experiences were significant for me and eye-opening. In Newburyport, she plucked an infant from the arms of a young mother and asked if the child would be a down-winder. It was in Middlebury, though, that she made a statement which truly changed the course of my life: "If we all hung out our clothes, we could shut down the nuclear industry."

For the seventeen or eighteen intervening years, a great deal of my free time and even a couple year of poorly remunerated employment have been devoured by Project Laundry List. Still, I left--and not on Sabbatical, either--in 2010 and came to China in February of 2011 to teach English. My departure came as a result of several frustrations, which I won't cover in this post, and, because, after 15 years (nine of them in Concord), I was ready for a new adventure.

In the year following my departure, the board moved slowly to hire a new executive director and finally, just over a year later, they hired somebody. Unfortunately, poor health led to his resignation about a month ago and I have stepped, perhaps too boldly, back into the breach.

The board had essentially dwindled to one or one and a half semi-active members and so the first step I took to breathe some life back into the group was to approach some wonderful old volunteers to join the board of directors. We now have a board of six and hope to double that in the coming months. Volunteers, like the woman who said she was willing to publish our newsletter, who had heard from nobody in two years, have been approached and are getting actively engaged again. I set up a Skype number and have been re-connecting with dozens of volunteers and supporters. It has been rewarding and fun, but I do not intend to continue at the current pace.

Our Facebook presence has continued unabated, thanks to a wacky volunteer from Seattle, whose creative attempts to bolster "likes" and meaningful engagement, as well provide moments of joy, have succeeded. Somebody else has created a Pinterest page and we are talking about how to leverage YouTube and other social media.

Serendipitously, the filmmakers who tailed me half way across the nation for the 2009 Clotheslines Across America Tour have scheduled a grassroots festival of Drying for Freedom screenings to begin on National Hanging Out Day (April 19th). This has given us something to rally around and focus on as we seek to get North Americans re-focused on the tremendous amounts of energy wasted on bad laundry practices. I will participate in screenings in Changchun, Jilin, CHINA; Wolfeboro, NH; Concord, NH; and, hopefully, in Exeter, NH, and Boston, MA. Local supporters are helping with all of these venues and dozens more.

We will be having a board meeting on Tuesday, March 19 at 9AM Eastern Standard Time. I hope that if you are interested in joining the board, doing a screening, or contributing to the cause in dollars or hours, you will be in touch. Thanks!