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Friday, November 23, 2001

Making a Difference, in Another Nation


Walnut Creek Journal, Walnut Creek, CA

Rossmoor resident Anita Kahn is happy to make a difference in a nation or another continent.   In approximately three months, she's helped raise more than $3,000, which will pay a one-year salary for a school teacher in the African country of Kenya.  Anita Kahn's daughter Judith Kahn and the members of Anita Kahn's Rossmoor walking group are happy, as well.  Kenya suffers from extreme poverty and hyperinflation, said Anita Kahn's daughter:

Judith Kahn saw the problems first-hand during a trip to Africa last summer.  SHe was looking for a way to help people living there when she saw a Web site that sold crafts made by African people.

She bought some of the crafts from Global Crafts and sold them, as well, a move encouraged by the nonprofit company.  Half the money goes back to the artist and half goes to the city it tires to help, according to the Web site.

Before long the whole thing "snowballed," said Judith Kahn, and she soon was selling hundreds of dollars worth of items.  She asked her mother to help, and Anita Kahn was more than willling. "Originally, I'd just sell a couple hundred dollars worth of stuff, and then it just kind of snowballed from there," said Judith Kahn.  "Then my mom started helping me.  So I'm still selling the crafts, but my mom is selling the crafts in Contra Costa."

"I started to take it over, and I was so excited about the whole thing because education was involved, and I could do something besides play bridge," said Anita Kahn, "and then the whole (walking) group got excited." She began selling the artwork at Rossmoor craft fairs, to Rossmoor clubs and out of her car.  People have made donations of more than $100 and members of her walking group also bought the art and helped to sell it.

Eventually, more than $3000 was raised to hire the teacher in Kenya.  It's going so well that Judith Kahn has the option to hire the teacher for an extra year or set up a scholarship.

"I think it's so fantastic that she's doing it.   I'm so tickled," said Judith Kahn.  Personally, for me this is one of the most fun things we've done together.  It's so meaningful, it makes us feel so good that we're able to make a difference somewhere in the world."

The artwork includes wire models of cars and bikes, handcarved soapstone statues and boxes, earrings, pins, bracelets, handcrafted cloth dolls, and shawls and scarves.

The mother-daughter team and the Rossmoor walking group are all thrilled by how much has been sold and by how easy it was to make a difference, said Judith Kahn.

"It started slowly and it all built up," said Anita Kahn, a former social worker.  "The more money we made, the more excited we got because we were near our goal."

I thnk it's marvelous, I think it's wonderful," added Marion Newman, a founding member of the walking group.  "People are helping children who otherwise wouldn't get help."

Added Molly Lieberman, "As mothers and grandmothers, we're particularly moved by this program that it will give an education."

The Rossmoor walking group was started by Anita Kahn and Newman 21 years ago.  More than a dozen members of the group gathered recently to discuss the Kenya project, and it seemed to have brought the members closer together.

"About 21 years ago, Marion and I started walking and we gradually picked people off the street," said Anita Kahn with a laugh.   "We're a wonderful support group, we walk everyday.  And we talk, that's the interesting part."

"We're good, concerned friends, and we can depend on one another," added Lieberman.

That support is in part what made the Kenya project such a success.

"We hope to make this a yearly thing now, and we're all excited about it," said Anita Kahn.  "Education is the only way you're going to change the world."

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