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Op-ed, blogs and columns

A firsthand look at helping the people of Africa

“All a Barbie Doll does is confuse them”



Talking Rock resident Cherie New while a Peace Corps volunteer in Zambia.



By Cherie New

RPCV/Zambia, 2009-2011

            I am a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer who spent over two years in Zambia, Africa.

            Since arriving back home almost a year ago, I am constantly asked by people how they can help the poor people of Africa. I’m still amazed, and truly touched, at how many people want to help, but don’t know how to go about it.

            What do they need in Africa? Should I just send shoeboxes full of candy and toys? How do they celebrate Christmas? How long does it take mail to arrive to Zambia? Would the Christmas toys make it in time if I send it by this date?  

            I’m sorry to say, you’re only putting a band aid on a huge gaping wound - or even making that wound deeper. Most rural Zambians (as well as most sub-Saharan African countries) celebrate Christmas by killing a chicken or a goat—and that’s if they have it—and go to church. They don’t spend Christmas like most of us in Americaland; to them it’s just another day. The kids build toys out of discarded drink boxes (that at one point probably contained liquor), wire and elephant grass—very creative if you ask me.

            They do have candy in Africa (“sweeties” as they call them). Many times when I would give my local kids “sweeties” for helping me carry my water jugs, their parents would yell at me for it (yes, like American kids, little African kids also get sugar highs. They can also get a little annoying constantly pestering their parents for candy). Overall, hand outs of any kind don't help, it just makes them become more reliant on them.  

            If you’re interested in helping Zambians, or any other African country, I will tell you the best way to go about it. But first, don’t send shoeboxes full of candy, junk food and toys that don’t stimulate their minds. There are really smart kids in Africa, just begging to learn more—and all a Barbie doll does is confuse them and make them think all American women must look like that. You’re sending the wrong message. I assisted with Camp GLOW (Girls Leading Our World), a one week camp devoted to teaching the young girls about confidence and feeling empowered by being a woman. Trust me, Barbie doesn’t fit into any of those teachings.

            Malaria is a huge killer in sub-Saharan Africa and many families do not have mosquito nets. There are organizations that you can donate to (I’ll post them below) that help with mosquito net distribution. Thousands of lives can be saved just by hanging a net over their beds at night.  

            Many Peace Corps Volunteers are currently trying to raise money for their projects. I was able to get funding by generous donors (this could be you!) for a poultry house project for an orphans and widows group. I assisted with the building, ordering the chickens and teaching them how to make a business out of it. As well as bringing in income for their group, it also provided a source of protein for the orphaned kids—most orphaned because of HIV/AIDS. Many volunteers have projects like this and could really use your help. Much better than sending a shoebox full of candy, right?

            The best advice I can give is to assist someone who is already serving there. There are countless projects to choose from! I know of so many volunteers who are trying to start a local library (I was one of them), and really need books - educational books, trade books, math books, science books...the list is endless. I also know of someone trying to get a carpentry workshop started and really needs carpentry books, tools and funds to help with their training.

            If we teach them how to provide for themselves, teach them a skill that they’ll have AFTER we leave, that is the greatest gift we can give them. PLEASE donate or get in contact with these people.They know what’s needed and are there to make sure your money and generosity are used correctly.

            Here are a few websites you can visit that would greatly appreciate any help you can give them: this organization also worked in Zambia.

            After reading a certain letter to the editor, this rang true: Matthew 6 : 2-4.

            [New is a resident of Talking Rock. She can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .]

An affront to the Constitution in our own backyard


By Jeff Anderson

            The need for an emergency management plan during and following a disaster is not only necessary, it’s basically mandated, since the state requires the county to have a plan in place in order to receive monies for disaster relief assistance.

            That’s a good thing; a plan should be in place in order to give an organizational template to those in charge of dealing with or preventing impending chaos. The current version of Pickens County’s plan was passed in 1997, and it is quite frankly an affront to the Constitution of the United States of America.

            Recently Coweta County proposed a new Emergency Management Ordinance. The new EMO gave the county the ability to regulate firearms. Since it is illegal under the Georgia pre-emption law for a county to regulate firearms, the ordinance was revised thanks to a friendly letter from GeorgiaCarry.Org. A few weeks later Fannin County proposed its own new EMO, identical to Coweta’s, absent the firearm language.

            This suggests a new GEMA EMO model is being spread about, probably in the same way Pickens got its 1997 ordinance, since several counties have the same EMO as ours.

            Take a look at this portion of the EMO currently on the books in Pickens County, which does not differ much from the new EMO model currently being shopped around by GEMA through the Association County Commissioners of Georgia (ACCG):

            Pickens County’s 1997 EMO specifically Sec. 22-34. - Powers during an emergency or disaster.


Seizing or taking for temporary use, any private property for the protection of the public;


Selling, lending, giving, or distributing all or any such property or supplies among the inhabitants of the county and maintaining a strict accounting of property or supplies distributed and for funds received for such property or supplies;

            Can you believe that language has been on the books here for 15 years? This gives the Pickens County Emergency Management Agency {consisting of the Pickens County Commissioner and the mayors of cities} the ability to seize then sell, lend, give, or distribute private property.

            Think about that for a moment. Your stuff - your canned goods, Solo cups, water, ammo, gold, or whatever - can be seized and sold, lent, given, or distributed “among the inhabitants of the county” under the guise of “protection of the public.” Are you getting all this?

            What good is selling my “stuff” going to accomplish for the county in a disaster? It’s a silly question. The true question is why the county was allowed to seize my private property in the first place. What can we do, you ask?

            There is some good news out of all this. Fannin County’s Commission has scrapped the latest GEMA template and has drafted an all new one. They are also having a group of citizens look it over and make recommendations to make it better. I have seen the working version, and it appears to be something I would like Pickens County to examine and consider adopting once complete.

            Now I’m not saying that if we don’t correct this that the county will come take all your stuff during a disaster. I don’t think it will, but the very idea, the very thought that this is even on the books in my county, or in Georgia, or anywhere in America is wrong and needs to be rectified.             What would our founding fathers think of an ordinance that “legalizes” illegal seizure? They would easily recognize this as the tyranny they fought to escape.

            Why has it taken us 15 years to notice this injustice in our own backyard?

            [Jeff Anderson, a carpenter by trade, has called Pickens County home for over two decades.

            He is also the Central Mountain Representative for GeorgiaCarry.Org and is available to speak on Gun Rights.]

Local Life Coach:Productive fighting with spouses, children or friends? It can be done.

By Vicki Roberts,Jasper Life Coach
Do you find yourself fighting with your spouse, children or other people and not getting a good result?   First, let me say that if you find yourself fighting on a routine basis with anyone, a life coach can almost certainly help. If you are thinking about getting married, it's a great idea to see a life coach to learn how to fight from the beginning. But, if you just need a few quick tips, these may help.
• Don't yell. People will automatically become defensive if you are yelling at them. Speak in a normal tone of voice and even if you are upset, don't yell or scream.
• Try not to start a sentence with "You." For instance, rather than "You are such a jerk, you always take my car and leave it on empty. try, "I feel" (find a descriptive word for what you are feeling such as frustrated or stressed out ) when I get in my car to go to work and see that I have to stop and get gas." 
• Remember, you can't UNSAY anything. Think of the old adage, "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me?”  It’s actually wrong; Words can hurt. If you are about to say something hurtful, think about how the person you say things to will likely remember them long after they are said and you can never take them back. This is even more important when speaking to a child.  
• Fight in private. If you are having an argument with a spouse or partner, don't do it in front of the kids or friends.  Keep it between just the two of you. If you are in public or with other people, wait until you are alone before having a discussion that is not meant for little or any other ears. Likewise, if it's your child you are angry with, don't embarrass them in front of their friends or other family members.  
• Put yourself in the other person's shoes. Before you respond to the person you are arguing with, try and see things from their perspective. All of us are selfish at times. or just plain clueless as to how our actions or behavior affects others. Try not to automatically defend yourself.  Give yourself some time to imagine how you would feel in the other person's shoes.
• Brainstorm together for a solution. People are normally must more invested in solving a problem if they are involved in coming up with a solution.
The most important thing is to REALLY listen. Have an open mind. Don't interrupt and hear them out. If when you are responding they interrupt you, you can remind them that you listened until they were finished and you would appreciate the same courtesy.

Roberts  is a Certified Life Coach and would love to hear from you.  Whether you want to make an appointment or would like her to address a specific issue in the Pickens Progress, you can email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call her at 678-982-5304.  Her web site is

Pondering the trials of summer gardening

At right, the author on her plot at the community gardens.



By Lynn Turner

Progress contributor

July in Georgia and again here in the garden it’s hotter than a Waffle House griddle, and again, I’m on my knees in a WWW Wrestling match with crabgrass and spawn of Godzilla thistles that are clinging to bedrock between rows of tomatoes and peppers. Surely all the salty perspiration pouring off my face and into my eyes is good for my complexion and, hopefully, my ratty straw hat is keeping most of the poisonous UV rays from causing too many more sunspots. Why is this fun?


Gardening masochism is apparently one of my great summer joys. It’s hard to understand and even harder to explain the pure happiness that dirt, bug bites and aching muscles bring with summer in the garden. There is something about suffering that makes the corn sweeter - those few ears we beat the raccoons to - and the basil is more pungent and tastier than even the organic kind from the farmers’ market.  Purchased produce just can’t hold a, well, hoe to home grown, battled-for veggies that have been nurtured by just the right combination of compost, loving care and cow poop.


The site of my anticipated cornucopia is two rented plots at the community garden near the old mine in Jasper. Just getting into the garden is similar to accessing a safe deposit box in the bank. First, there is the payment of the yearly fee and the awarding of the coveted key that ensures entry into this Eden.  Then there are reminders to always lock the exterior gate and to turn off the electric fence before touching it. My husband assures me that forgetting this last step allows one to experience the fence working as a defibrillator and hair curler. He has first-hand knowledge of both. The first year he and I joined the elite group of gardeners, we felt like fraternity pledges that had escaped the humiliation of a blackballing ceremony. Lucky us!  We were astounded that anyone (like some people we know) would give up their coveted plot when getting one was such a plum. We now know that the folks in charge of recruiting for the garden could make a fortune selling Amway.


We have met a diverse group of fellow gardeners. Folks, like us, who have simply given up trying to grow anything at home in poor soil and too much shade while ravenous deer impatiently tap their feet waiting for the first sprouts to appear. There is one woman who douses her plants with so much Sevin dust that she moves around the garden in a perpetual white cloud, and there is a latter day hippy who gardens organically and simply laughs as he flicks the bugs off his plants. He doesn’t seem to mind in the least that his leafy vegetables are about 75 percent holes.


And there are the groundhogs. The hillside near the garden is riddled with their condos.  They can be seen leaning on their elbows and sunbathing as they await their opportunity for a raid which inevitably comes after some exhausted gardener forgets to turn the electric fence back on.


Of course, there is the expense of gardening. I have still not read it, but I no longer scoff at the title The 64 Dollar Tomato, a chronicle of one man’s gardening experience.  While it may contain some humor, the cost for the satisfaction of gardening is no laughing matter.  Next time you happen to think that organically grown or farmers’ market vegetables are outrageously expensive, you might want to reconsider.  On so many levels, they are a bargain.  Nevertheless, vegetables grown in your own garden are still the best.



Lynn and her husband Gary Corn and cat Tulip live in Bent Tree. She is a volunteer with Pickens Animal Rescue with the Rescued Furniture Store where she was inspired to write about Bob, Rescued Furniture Store’s kitty greeter. She is also involved with the Pickens County Library Board, the Bent Tree Library, the Senior Citizens Center library and the Sassafras Literary Exchange when she is not battling weeds in her garden.  Her e-mail is marwood710@


Curse of the Grand Dogs


Libby’s favorite activity is to watch the 'outside' cats before plunging like Hannibal Lector at the glass door.


By David R. Altman

One of the great joys of life is having grandchildren. They give you a chance to truly enjoy small children - something many of us missed along the way while we were raising ours. No nightly battles, no having to say 'no' and not being saddled with attending nightly baseball games, tennis matches or swim meets.

But along with those good times with the grandkids comes another distraction. It's as if the good Lord knows that grandparents can't be given a full free pass when it comes to babysitting. In fact, you knew in your heart that it couldn't be as simple as just watching the kids. With the blessing of the grandkids also comes a curse - and it comes in the form of the "grand dogs".                         

We have two grand kids and three grand dogs (seems like there is something wrong with that equation). The dogs, whom we will call Lucy, Libby and Hazel (since those are their real names, forget about protecting their identity). These dogs, like their sibling humans, are always excited to arrive at the house. It is new territory for each of them-- somewhere new to play, new foods to eat, new floors to sniff and, well, you get the picture.

All three grand dogs were rescue dogs, and, except for Libby, the border collie, they are generally unidentifiable as a breed.                        


Lucy suffers from multiple anxiety disorders, including separation anxiety. It's not the grandkids who cry when our daughter drops them off - it's the dog!  Lucy, a small, constantly shedding yellow lab knockoff, is always wanting to jump-up on any guest. She is incredibly needy (almost like a canine Woody Allen) - a dog with zero confidence. We always pray for good weather when Lucy visits, as her storm anxiety is extraordinary. She heads for the darkest spot of the house (a windowless downstairs bathroom) and curls up in the corner, shivering and cowling (much like I do after she leaves). Even xanax won't help (don't ask how we know).


Her 'instincts' of other animals are incredibly sharp. If she's on our cabin deck and senses a bear or turkey on Sassafras Mountain (even a mile away on Burnt Mountain), her hair stands up like a lion's mane. She is a dog who is constantly on the move and leaving her wiry white fur scattered over every room she enters. But she is wonderful around her 'brother and sister' (a.k.a. our grand children) and they can jump on her like she's My Friend Flicka and she won't utter a sound.


She is joined in the mix by Libby, the aforementioned border collie. Libby, who is exceptionally beautiful, is an extraordinary sweet dog around people. However, around other dogs she becomes a cross between Cujo and Lizzie Borden. Let's just say she has had several biting episodes that make us all worry that the next one might be one of us (although she seems to love most all two-legged creatures). Libby has soft, flowing hair and sometimes snarls and barks at the air - as though she is practicing for her next canine encounter. She is so bad that she has to be kept in an isolation cell  when she is being boarded.


At our house, her favorite activity is to watch the 'outside' cats through a glass storm door. Like all herders, she sits quietly, almost rigid, for up to 15 minutes at a time before she can no longer help herself, suddenly lunging like Hannibal Lector at the glass door and then harmlessly bouncing off. The cats love this, staying just far enough back from the door to haunt poor Libby.


The third grand dog, who belongs to our youngest daughter, is the smallest and perhaps strangest of the three is Hazel.

Slightly overweight with reddish long hair, she seems to be a mix of Welsh Corgi and Chow, appearing almost Fox-like, especially when she runs with her tail flying straight out in back.


Hazel, who is literally afraid of her own shadow, has solidly build short legs that allow her to dig massive holes near my wife's hostas in less than thirty seconds. Our backyard is full of little bunker holes, appearing like a moonscape from our upstairs window.

Sweet Hazel is afraid of people. When you approach her you must sit down, cross-legged, and hold out your hand. Our aging grandparent joints creak at all the bending. Hazel will surely have my wife and I seeking knee replacements within two years.  She is also a sweet dog, the rescued product of a hoarder household, where there were many other animals that clearly contributed to her psychoses. The only time Hazel is not afraid is when you pick her up at night and put her at the foot of the bed--she is content to lie there on her zebra-patterned blanket, giving her anxiety-ridden soul a rest for the evening.


As cousins, they don't do particularly well. Little Hazel seems to get along well with both Lucy and Libby, but getting the two larger dogs together is an unpleasant (and unsafe) experience. Three Thanksgivings ago, Libby bit a hole in Lucy's ear while fighting over a dog bone.                       


  Yes, all dogs (like all dog owners) have their idiosyncrasies. But these grand dogs are in another class (Caesar Milan, where are you?).

None of these dogs will ever make it to the Westminster. Sometimes, they can't even make it to the yard. Yet, they are cared for (and spoiled rotten) just like the grandkids. And we wouldn't have it any other way.


[Free-lance writer and dog lover Dave Altman is a part-time resident of Jasper. He and his wife Lisa live on Sassafras Mountain and are the 'parents' of two intelligent and low-maintenance cats, Elsie and Blackie.]