Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Experiment 2

A silly song I stumbled across on the web. Yes, I am a Doctor Who fan. And, just as these people did, how could I not enjoy the episode with Kylie Minogue?

Fast Ood Rockers present:"SONG 4 KYLIE: ...I'M IN LOVE (WITH A GIRL IN A TIME MACHINE)" from ladypat on Vimeo.


This is an experiment to see if I can embed media in my blog.

I am a fan of Thao Nguyen and her band, Get Down, Stay Down. I really love their song "Swimming pool." Curiously, for those of us who are trying to make sense of what's going on with media distribution and the music and publishing industry, their newest album is being released in two formats. One is the standard CD but the second is a vinyl LP which comes with a free download of all songs straight to your computer.

Thao with the Get Down Stay Down in the studio from Kill Rock Stars on Vimeo.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Getting furniture back FROM the refugees!?

It's been a while since I've added to this blog. Then again, there's a lot here. Some good, some bad, but if you don't see what you are looking for please browse around. I like to think that mixed in with everything else, there really is a lot of good stuff here on the topic of how to get furniture and give it to refugees who need it. But some of it's tucked away and buried, so look please.

Which brings us to an idea I've been toying with for a while. People give a lot of furniture to refugees but no one really focuses on getting it back when they don't want it anymore. And if this were done, then it would provide a lot of people with a lot of things that they could use.

Yes, it sounds funny, and like most such things it's much easier to speak about but due in practice.

Here's the situation. The State Department mandates that refugee placement agencies must give all refugees a certain amount of furniture of certain kinds. In addition to this refugees also receive extra furniture and such of whatever kind happens to be sitting in the donation storage room that someone thinks they might be able to use and no one wishes to store anymore (i.e. I've given several coffee makers to refugees. Do refugees need coffee makers? No, but people donate them and then the best thing to do is to give them to the refugees. It's that sort of thing.)

However, some items on the list are not really needed by the refugees. For instance, the State Department mandates that each refugee be given a bed and this bed should consist of a mattress, box spring and a bed frame. In practice, however, a surprising number of refugees see no need for the bed frame and instead just place the box spring on the floor and put the mattress on top of it. It's just the way they like to do things. Therefore, a large quantity of these cheap metal bed frames wind up tossed in hallways and backyards where they get wasted. If the refugee center were to find a way to collect these things, then they could be redistributed and perhaps even given to someone who might actually use them.

Secondly, refugees often live unstable lives. They move a lot, particularly during their first year in the USA and this is also the year during which they have the most contact with the refugee placement agency. When they move they often leave things behind, particularly large bulky items like couches. If the refugee center were to find a way to keep an eye out for these moves or encourage the refugees to think of redonating the items they do not need then it could prove to be a valuable source of donations for the center.

They also occasionally get rid of old furniture when they, through one means or another, get better furniture. Since few refugees have a van or a pick up truck, the old stuff often gets tossed out instead of redistributed.

Getting furniture back from the refugees when they don't want it? It's an idea worth exploring.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Refugee furniture tip

It's been a while since I've actually written anything about how to manage a furniture program at a refugee center or other not-for-profit. This is a shame as I frequently become sidetracked with whining about the mismanagement of these places.

To provide some mature balance, here's a quote I received from a friend the other day urging me to retain perspective.:

"Clearly you did not spend your 30s hanging out with do-gooders in their twenties. This is completely what I would expect from an organization like the refugee center. The only problem for me is when someone evil insinuates themselves into the chaos and robs and thieves while no one is looking."

Yup. Alas, perhaps the entire thing is just a sense of unrealistic expectations on my part. Then again, I do think there's something wrong when an NGO whose CEO makes approximately $200,000 a year puts someone in charge of a programming affecting the lives of hundreds of people and continues to do so long after it becomes obvious that problems are developing due to mismanagement. Then again, I'm often known for being unrealistic, which perhaps explains why I was working there in the first place.

But back to the furniture, here's a very important tip.

When accepting furniture for donation make sure you have the supplies you need to keep the parts together. This means masking tape and zip lock bags. When you get, for instance, a bed that is put together with bolts and fasterners and has a disassembleable frame, then take it apart, put all the small pieces in zip lock bags and masking tape the bags to the larger pieces. Then take the large pieces and wrap them around a few times with the masking tape several times. Make sure that it's strong enough to last.

The difference between usable furniture and clutter-junk is that with the first one all the pieces are in a place where you can find them.

When I started at the refugee center, our bed collection looked like a pile of tinker toys scattered all over a corner of the floor. Not only was it difficult to figure out which pieces of beds went with one another, but even after you did, you often found yourself unable to find the nuts, bolts, wheels and other fasteners that held them together. In many cases they did not even exist, having been lost long ago, and thus you had to make frequent runs to the hardware store often while trying to guess what sort of bolts one actually needed.

Avoid this problem. When you get a piece of furniture, handle it once. Handle it right. Put all the pieces, big and small, together into one unit with masking tape and zip-lock bags.