The Plaster House


October 12, 2016


Join me to kick off my fundraising tour for The Plaster House when I read my story, “Little Man Nuru,” about returning four-year old Nuru to his village after corrective surgery for clubfeet and successful rehab at The Plaster House. I will be joined by four other Bozeman writers chosen by Thunderhead Writers’ Collective.

The reading will be held in the Weaver Room at the Emerson Cultural Center in Bozeman, Montana.


Do you know Gail Weingart? Deb asks me.

You have to call my son, he travels to Tanzania all the time. Janet tells me.

Have you talked to John and Laurie? They have a safari company?

Talk to everyone you know who fundraises. I mean everyone. Sarah, Deborah, Vanessa, Eric, Carl.

Do you know Mary Mathison?  You must connect with her. She has twenty years of experience with international non-profits.

Did you get your 501(c)(3) figured out?

Make your introduction to Jon Fielder.  What’s the time difference between here and Nairobi again?

Call Jim and Steph Taylor.  You should invite them to dinner.  They loved Tanzania when they went last year.

Follow up with Christine Drinan in New York.  She visited The Plaster House over Christmas and painted with the kids. Loved it! Said she’s going to write an article. Maybe you can connect with her when you’re there in April?

Okay, okay, okay.

Check, check, check.

Oh my God!  I’m having tea with Christine in her apartment. What am I going to wear? She she wants to host a fundraiser for us in October in New York!

The ball starts rolling.

I can’t do this without you Sarah.

Alex, Anna, Layla and I travel to Tanzania in June to once again volunteer at The Plaster House.

Sarah, if you’re coming to New York, let’s do a fundraising tour.  Sounds crazy.  Crazy and fun.

Sarah and I sit on the futon sofa in the office at The Plaster House. She’s the founder and director in case you haven’t picked up on that yet. Laptops open.

Let’s connect with every person who said they want to help us and ask them to help us, she says.  We can visit a bunch of cities and meet with people and maybe they’ll donate and we’ll get the buildings built.

Okay, we’ve got Christine in New York. Who else do we have there?  I ask.

There was a guy from Goldman Sachs who came with his wife two years ago. I have their contact information. Maybe they’ll come. My New York friend who makes films was here with his family. He’d come. Oh my God! Here’s the contact for a doc who got in touch with me two years ago.

We find her on Facebook.

She’s the medical correspondent for Fox News in New York?  Message her.  Immediately!

On that futon sofa, in The Plaster House, on Mt. Meru, in Arusha, Tanzania, on the continent of Africa, we tapped away on two lap tops, emailing friends across the United States.

Sarah’s coming to the U.S.!  We’d love for you to host an event for us.

We giggled.  I heard back from Seattle, Sarah says.  Jean wants us to come.

Okay, we’ll start in New York. We have to meet with Watsi and Tencent in San Francisco. Seattle?  My brother-in-law is there, I offer. He’ll host. We have to go to Missoula.  Joey really wants to host and our filmmakers are there, Sarah says. Bozeman? Of course. Denver? The surgeons there do so much for us.  They’ll help us grow.  If anyone understands our need, they do. How about Houston?  How about Boston?  Cincinnati?

And the tour morphed and it grew and it became very real when in July Sarah emailed her Kilimanjaro to JFK  itinerary.

U.S. dates shifted once or twice.  Hunting season in the Rocky Mountains tripped us up.  Our seven-city itinerary planned and paid for.

And the ball kept rolling.

You have to talk to Gail Weingart, John tells me.

Follow up with Jim and Steph Taylor.

Call the Goldman Sachs guy in New York.

Orchestrate five hosts in five cities.

Find the son who works in Tanzania.  Follow up with the guy you chatted up on the subway in New York.

Figure out how you’re going to pay for the tour.  Hit up your friends?

And the ball kept rolling.

Call Gail Weingart. Her name surfacing over and over. She loves Africa. She goes there all the time. Sorry, I don’t have her phone number. You should check the phone book.

Gail’s name becomes my mantra.

Alex chats up golfers at a local fundraiser. Two weeks later, we’re at the home of the couple who were instrumental in the expansion of Bozeman Deaconess Hospital. You are shooting way too low at $500,000, he bellows. You need to shoot higher. I have some folks for you to talk to. I’ll call Matt Ghiorsi in New Jersey for you to connect with and you should meet his partner Deb here in Bozeman. I can’t remember her last name. But, you’ll get it from Matt.

I’m afraid to call Matt. In fact, I’m afraid to call all these people. But I had to, right?

How else could I keep the ball rolling. People who trusted me, invited me into their homes and their offices and their lives to share with me their expertise on how to get the job done. You are passionate about this project, Gail, they’d say. You can, you can, you can.

I was connecting to my community, my friends, my family.

Deb emails me Gail Weingart’s phone number. She’d found a phone book. I called. I bring her a bag of Tanzanian coffee. I sit in her living room, my eyes dance between the African lead wood carvings, baskets and paintings. We share stories about ourselves and our love for East and Southern Africa. She soaks up all I have to say about The Plaster House. If I had been too afraid to call, I wouldn’t be sitting here.

So, the tour is real and it starts this Saturday when I get on a plane to New York where I will meet up with Sarah. Christine will host us and thirty guests on Riverside Boulevard, in New York City!

From there we travel to San Francisco, Seattle, Missoula, Bozeman and Denver.  Our Bozeman fundraiser is co-hosted by my dear friend Christine Hodgson who visited The Plaster House when she travelled to Tanzania in 2015 and Gail Weingart.

For tour dates go to our website, and “Like” us on Facebook. Travel with us at #ThePlasterHouseOnTour. Thanks for following along.

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  • Pam McLendon October 16, 2016 at 8:47 am

    I just love, love, love this!! I love that you moved forward into the unknown because you compelled to support the children and an amazing organization! Unfortunately, I am not in one of your tour cities but in DC. I wish you much luck and strength for the journey as you are about to do a great, amazing, incredible thing! I will be watching on your blog and on facebook as the supporters and funds increase! So exciting!