Stories To Fight Prejudice

Earlier this month I told the story of Frog and Snake for the first time. This folktale of the Ekoi people from the Cameroon and Nigeria deals with the concept of taught prejudice, making it as relevant today as when it was first told. In the story, a young frog and snake meet and become friends. They spend an entire day together, teaching one another how to hop and slither. They have so much fun that they decide to meet again the next day.

However, when their mothers find out that they have been “playing with the enemy,” they are soundly reprimanded and told that they are never to play with the other. Mama Frog informs her son that snakes eat frogs, instilling fear in her child. Mama Snake insists that the next time her son sees frog he must eat him, instilling a bully-like instinct in her child. Both frog and snake are confused and saddened by their mother’s words and unsure of how to view the other.

The next day young snake goes out to meet his friend as promised, but when frog never shows, he goes out searching for him. He finds him at home in the swamp where frog explains that his mother has forbidden them to play together.

Snake, of course, has been told the same thing, but the pleads with his friend, saying, “I don’t want to eat you. I just want to play with you. Won’t you please come out and play?”

Well, on this particular day as I was about to give frog’s answer, the young boy who was playing the role of frog spoke up himself and said, “No, I want to stay home today.”

I could see by the look on his face that he was busy thinking about what Mama Frog had said — that Snake was going to eat him. Just like the fictional character in the story, this young boy in role was afraid to go out and play again. He did not need to be told what happened next in the story. Fear had taken root and given him the answer.

And isn’t that how prejudice works? Someone is made to believe the worst about someone else, and even if their own experience doesn’t mesh with it that fear is powerful enough to keep the negative thoughts at the forefront of their mind. I saw how quickly that happened for this child who was participating in the story. How much more so when the “advice” came from a trusted adult, in this case, the mother.

Young children are able to inhabit a world without prejudice, where differences do not lead to fear and do not prevent friendship. We adults have much to learn from them. In an age where racism still runs rampant, we must strive to set the right example for our children. We must teach them to value diversity instead of fearing it. Imagine how different the world would be if our lives embodied that lesson.


Mama Snake and Snake Child engaged in a conversation.


Collect Cans, Help Kids!

Last November I attended a storytelling workshop in Illinois where I happened to meet a young pastor, Chance, who was preparing to move to Africa with his family. As the African continent holds a special allure for me, I was immediately interested; but my ears really perked up when I heard him say that he would be moving to the country of Sierra Leone.

During the time that I lived in Madrid, my husband and I became friends with a man named Abu Bhakar. He was a refugee from Sierra Leone, having fled his homeland in the aftermath of the horrible civil war that wreaked havoc on his country. One day, Abu Bhakar disappeared, and I wondered what happened to him. Months later, after I had moved back to the States, he called my Spanish cell phone to say that he had been transferred to a refugee center in another part of Spain and was doing well. My husband (then my fiance) had held onto the phone. He took the call and relayed the news to me. I was overjoyed. That was the last I ever heard from Abu Bhakar, and although we lost contact, I often think of him and hope that he is still doing well. Someday I hope to visit his country, and if I do, I’m sure I will see his face and hear his voice in the people that I meet. Perhaps that is why I long to go there so badly.

At any rate, Chance shared with me that he was going to be the director of the Children Redemption Orphanage Home (CROH) in Sierra Leone. But while still in the States, he was busy looking for ways to meet the physical needs of the children, particularly providing food. Since rice is a staple in their diet, he came up with the Orphan13 project.

The project is simple. People are recruited to collect aluminum cans. (Aluminum happens to be #13 on the periodic table, hence the Orphan13 name!) They trade in their cans at a local recycling center for cash. The money is sent to Orphan13 and is used to buy rice for the children.

I have always loved recycling as a means of helping to preserve the planet’s natural resources, but I had never before considered cashing in my cans. At first I had my doubts, maybe a lot of cans would be needed to make an impact. We don’t drink a lot of pop in my house, so maybe it wouldn’t be worth it for my family to get involved.

This is how much rice 10 recycled cans can buy!

But then I visited the website and saw that even a small amount of cans can make a difference! And so I’ve been faithfully collecting my cans ever since and my bag is almost full! When it is, I’ll head over to the recycling center, cash it in and forward my earnings to the Orphan13 project.

Perhaps you would like to help too! Perhaps you are already recycling cans. Or perhaps you’d be willing to start! You could collect cans at home, at your child’s school, at your place of work, at your church, anywhere you can think of! Get the whole family involved. Make it fun! This simple, yet sacrificial, act can make a significant difference in the life of a child in Sierra Leone.

If you decide that you’d like to be involved (and I hope you will!), the proceeds from your can collecting can be mailed to:

The Orphan13 Project
513 Bayberry Lane
Athens, IL 62613

If you do get involved, I’d love to hear about it! Feel free to share your comments and ideas below! And please spread the word to your family and friends too. The more people who are involved, the more children we can help. To learn more about the children at CROH and to hear their stories, click here.

The children and staff of Children’s Redemption Orphanage Home along with Pastor Chance. These are the faces of the beautiful children you will be helping through your can collecting!

Remember, together we can make a world of difference!

The Make a Difference Campaign: Your Chance to Earn 50% Off a Program!

As many of you already know, I have a huge passion for world travel and for making a difference in the world. In fact, that’s the reason I named my company World of Difference. I wanted to suggest, on the one hand, the amazing diversity in the world, and on the other hand, my commitment to making a positive difference in the world through the stories I tell.

For a long time I have wondered how I can make an even greater impact with what I am doing, not just locally but globally. A few years ago after a trip to Haiti, I sold t-shirts in conjunction with my summer library tour of Papa Dieux’s Well, raising awareness and funds to build wells for those affected by the global water crisis. More recently I helped coordinate a penny drive with a local school with all proceeds going toward educational opportunities for impoverished children in Haiti.

When I saw how excited the local students and their teacher became about giving children in another part of the world a chance at an education, it inspired me and got me thinking. Why not invite more local schools and students into this opportunity to make a difference in the world? And why not sweeten the deal by offering them something in return?

That’s when I came up with The Make a Difference Campaign.  The campaign is open to ANY local group (schools, scouts, clubs, camps, churches/religious groups, etc.) that’s interested in making a difference in the world and earning a 50% discount on a WOD program at the same time! Pretty cool, huh?

Here’s how it works.

1) Contact me to let me know you are interested in being part of the Make a Difference Campaign and to learn more!

2) Choose an area of the world and/or a cause that your group is passionate about. (It could be building wells, supporting orphans, fighting trafficking/modern-day slavery, or giving educational opportunities to children. The possibilities are endless!)

3) Find a reputable charity that is already making a difference in that area. (Not sure about this step? Don’t worry, I can help you — possibly even pairing you with a charity that will be able to provides photos/video of the impact your group is making.)

4) Set a fundraising goal with your group. Think BIG!

5) Put a canister in your classroom/office and begin to collect change. (There are lots of other ways to raise funds, but this is one of the easiest! Feel free to be creative and try as many others as you like!)

6) Reach your goal and receive your reward — a 50% discount on a World of Difference performance! The performance will be based on a story and/or stories that come from the part of the world for which your group has raised the funds! If I have been to the country, I will happily answer questions about it and even share some photos.

I am excited about this campaign and about inviting others into the awesome privilege of giving! I like to dream big and believe that together we can make a difference! (At the present time, this offer is limited to groups within a 75 mile radius from Canton, Ohio.)

If you are interested in having your group participate or if you would just like more information, please contact me at or by phone at (330) 858-0761.

Kindergartners at a school in Guatemala where I told stories.


Toddlers at an orphanage I visited in South Africa.

New Program for Hispanic Heritage Month!

Americans observe National Hispanic Heritage Month from September 15th to October 15th. The month is set aside as a time to celebrate the histories, cultures and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America. As many of you may know, Hispanic heritage and culture is something near and dear to my heart. I spent a year and a half-living in Spain, am married to a man from Colombia, and have traveled to (even told stories in!) a number of Hispanic countries!

So when the Toledo Libraries contacted me about doing a storytelling program for Hispanic Heritage Month, I jumped at the chance! This new program will be comprised of folktales and legends from various Hispanic countries with the aim of giving audiences a taste of the Spanish-speaking world by introducing them to some of the traditions and symbols that make each culture unique. The program can be performed in English, Spanish or bilingually, and will be available starting in September.

Here I am in my Guatemalan skirt and huipil (brocaded blouse) along with my llama puppet (the llama being a symbol of Peru). Behind me is a woven tapestry from Colombia and a sombrero from Mexico.

Book now to get your preferred date, especially if you are hoping to do it during September or October! The program will be offered year-round, so if Hispanic Heritage Month doesn’t work for you, don’t fear — any time of year is a great time for these wonderful stories.

My own experience in the States has taught me that many people here do not realize just how diverse the Hispanic population is. I have met numerous people who assume that if someone speaks Spanish than they must be from Mexico. While there are certainly a large number of Mexican Americans, there are lots of people from many different parts of the Spanish-speaking world that call the United States home. Where I live in Canton, OH, which is certainly not considered a bastion of cultural diversity, I have friends from Ecuador, Peru, El Salvador, Mexico and Guatemala just to name a few (not to mention that Colombian husband of mine!) Thus, I believe that this program can be a great starting point to help people recognize the diversity in the Spanish-speaking world!

To learn more about National Hispanic Heritage Month, click here.