Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Events: Village Enterprise Fund, Computer History Museum 2008 Fellows Award, Kafka on the Shore

Christine and I attended a dinner and auction event for the Village Enterprise Fund Sunday evening. Bill & Julie Hooper were nice enough to invite us as their guests. They were Club Sponsors and Julie volunteered to help organize the evening's activities.

It was held at the Sharon Heights Country Club and was well attended with good energy. The Village Enterprise Fund was founded by Brian Lehnen in 1987. Its mission is "to break the cycle of poverty in rural East Africa by providing training, seed capital, and mentoring for sustainable, income-generating small businesses." This is what they do:

Business training empowers groups of five or more people to select, create and operate a small business. It covers:

* Assessing the market for the product or service
* Marketing skills
* Re-investing profits for growth
* Basic recordkeeping
* Group dynamics and decision making
* Confidence building

Seed capital grants of $100 or $150 go to trained groups with approved grant applications. We provide grants in two installments. The first $50 or $100 (depending on the type of business) gets the operation up and running. The balance ($50) follows approval of a progress report that shows several months of revenues and profits. Rural start-up businesses include:

* Agriculture (maize, cassava, tomatoes, peanuts)
* Animal husbandry (goats, chickens, pigs)
* Skilled service and construction (tailoring, carpentry, welding, bicycle repair)
* Retail (vegetable kiosks, restaurants and cafes, household goods)

On-going mentoring provides personalized advice and encouragement for at least one year. This coaching helps new entrepreneurs gain confidence, overcome the typical challenges of a new venture, understand local market opportunities, become self-sufficient and grow their businesses.

Empowerment grants
($300) go to our most successful entrepreneurs. These incremental investments take an existing business to a new level. They facilitate additions of employees, branch office openings, acquisitions of capital equipment and inventory expansion.

It's a great organization that has funded more than 16,000 small businesses in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. More than 75% of these businesses are operating after 4 years which is double the rate in the U.S. Their intern program has inspired many young people, such as Matt and Jessica Flannery who founded Kiva.org, towards the cause. Anyway, check out their site and consider getting involved.

Tuesday evening Christine are attending the Computer History Museum's 2008 Fellows Award. I'll be sitting with a bunch of Googlers. This year's honorees are:

* Jean Bartik was one of the first programmers of the groundbreaking ENIAC computing system in 1945. She later assisted in converting the ENIAC system into one of the first stored-program computers.

* Bob Metcalfe
led the invention, standardization, and commercialization of Ethernet.

* Linus Torvalds created the Linux kernel and oversaw open source development of the widely used Linux operating system.

The event details are here, but the tickets are sold out.

Also if you're in Chicago or visiting there, check out "Kafka on the Shore" which is playing at the Steppenwolf Theatre. It's playing through November 16th, 2008. My good friend, Dave Rhee, has a major role in it. The Chicago Sun-Times has a great review here.

A young boy’s coming of age parallels an old man’s search for destiny in a modern day Japan where the borders between everyday reality, dreams and imagination are constantly crossed. In this world premiere adaptation of the popular novel, encounter talking cats on the streets of Tokyo, World War II soldiers trapped in time, Colonel Sanders and Johnnie Walker. Experience the unexpected in this fantastical tale about waking up to your own life.

Tony Award-winner Frank Galati adapted and directed Haruki Murakami’s after the quake during Steppenwolf’s 2005-2006 Season. This critically-acclaimed production went on to successful runs at Long Wharf Theatre, La Jolla Playhouse and Berkeley Rep. Haruki Murakami, author of The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles and other novels, is an award-winning writer whose work has been translated into 34 languages. Learn more about Haruki Murakami at www.harukimurakami.com.

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