I checked the website on Monday and found 109 comments to answer. Now that’s a nice problem to have for most bloggers. But I’m not a blogger. I write blog posts to provide information about the work of my nonprofit, Sherbro Foundation Sierra Leone. I wrote about this a couple months ago, so I won’t repeat myself. https://sherbrofoundation.org/2014/01/13/i-confess-im-not-a-blogger/
I couldn’t face answering those 109 comments. I just took three classes this month on running a nonprofit and fundraising, and have a follow up to-do list. I’m working on two public programs for next month. Arranging the venue, writing advertisement, preparing the presentation. I’m on the phone with my Sierra Leone colleagues checking on projects and what the next steps are. Talking with foundations that might be interested in sponsoring a project. (It takes a lot of work to get a grant.) Preparing the quarterly financial statement for Board members and organizing a Board meeting. Writing an update to donors with personal notes to each. Writing a blog post. And I’m a volunteer. This isn’t my job.
(Spoiler alert: you won’t find any pictures or videos on this post, if that’s what you’re looking for.)
Next day I’m on the phone again with Sierra Leone, and worrying about how to come up with the money for the things we want to do this year. All the things we need to do for this struggling rural community. The comments have grown now to 137 and counting. I have to do something about that.
A lot of the comments are people asking questions about blogging. I’ve been writing a blog for less than a year to educate about Sherbro Foundation. Have I already said, I’m not a blogger?
But I appreciate all the comments and try to answer each one – each one that’s not spam that passed the spam filter. I even mostly answer the thinly veiled comments of people who appear to just be trying to get you to read their blog or website. I mean, when the first words of the comment are “Chanel style bags” and then a vague general sentence about how nice your blog is that could be sent to any website. Sorry, Chanel Bags, sometimes you just have to name names. I also answer the comments where all someone did is just copy another comment word for word and post under their name. Why do people do this? I give the benefit of the doubt. Am I being too polite? You experienced bloggers, please tell me.
Now the comment count is 157. Where are all these comments coming from! I know some people are sharing on Facebook. Arlene, do something. OK, I’ll write FAQ’s. I sincerely appreciate all comments and do want to thank people who have taken the time to write in. Sorry if it’s getting a bit impersonal, but supporting the people of Sierra Leone is my first priority.
At this point, you may be saying, alright already! If you’re writing a blog, what exactly are you if not a blogger. I guess what I’m trying to say is my purpose is to educate on Sierra Leone and try to inspire people to either support Sherbro Foundation or the nonprofit of their choice that’s helping educate girls and develop the most underdeveloped countries in the world.
It’s not that I don’t want to give you a few minutes of past time and entertainment. I appreciate being called a good writer and glad you’re finding information that’s otherwise hard to find. But these are not my primary objectives.
OK, it’s now Friday and arrangements for the 2 programs for May are nearly done. Writing FAQ’s took a little time, but it’s supposed to later save time. Now the comment count today is 179. Yikes.
The good part is 179 people read the site in the last ten days and sent comments, I tell myself. The bad part is 179 people wrote in and need to be acknowledged and thanked for their thoughts.
But the sad part is this. Of the 646 comments received this year that I’ve been answering, exactly ONE asked how they can help the people of Sierra Leone. Please think about that the next time you comment.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q1: What is the source of your information? Can you vouch for your information?
A: I can vouch for the source of information in every post. Because the source is me. Everything I write about comes from my own trips to Sierra Leone. I previously served as a Peace Corps Volunteer and travel now each year to Bumpeh Chiefdom. After returning to SL in 2011, I started Sherbro Foundation to support projects there as a nonprofit foundation. You can read more about this in http://www.shebrofoundation.org/about-us. So rest assured, it’s all authentic information. No web search filler.
Q2: How do you understand this subject so well? (Who are you?!)
A: I personally write the posts. Sorry, I should sign them. I’m Arlene Golembiewski, Sherbro Foundation founder and Executive Director. And website Administrator. As a former Peace Corps volunteer in Bumpeh Chiefdom who lived in rural Sierra Leone for 2 years, you get a grassroots perspective the passing-through NGO staff, journalist, or tourist don’t have. When you focus in-depth with one rural community and stay there now for a month at a time, personal relationships develop that result in information the casual visitor doesn’t get.
So, no, I’m not your Sierra Leone cousin, brother, roommate, friend. I’m a woman from the US Midwest. When not in Sierra Leone, I’m usually on the phone weekly talking with them about the projects we’re working on together. We’re friends at this point and share our problems with each other freely. I work hard to bring my experience there back home for others to understand & enjoy.
Q3: Awesome website design. What are you using? I can’t program. Is it hard to start a blog?
A: The website is a WordPress freebie using their standard fill-in-the-blank templates. I was up and running in a couple hours. Very easy to use. The template style is Skylark selected for the simple look and the rotating slide show + stories on the Homepage. Having good pictures makes more of a splash.
I did pay $60 the first year to get our own URL and skip the “.wordpress” in our site’s web address. This includes hosting that WordPress does for you. The next year the renewal for hosting is only $26/year. I have no complaints with WordPress. I’m definitely getting what I pay for – and more.
Q4: The posts are very brief for newbies. Can just you prolong them a little next time?
A: Many people seem to be accessing articles from the Homepage screen (the rotating slides or Current News below the slides). These are meant to give an overview of Sherbro Foundation organization and the work we do. So, they’re short. Also, if you connect with an old link, chances are the Homepage article has been updated. Go directly to http://www.sherbrofoundation.org. There are over 50 posts in the Blog section that go into detail about life in rural Sierra Leone and our projects. Some people complain posts are too long. Hopefully, there are things in the site for everyone.
Q5: Does running a blog like this take a massive amount of work? I was hoping to start my own blog in the near future. Do you have any suggestions or techniques for new blog owners?
A: The mechanics of starting a blog using something like WordPress is a piece of cake, as noted above. The demanding thing is to have something worthwhile to say. Something you have real knowledge of and feel passionate about. I think that comes across and people connect with you, and come back again. I’m not writing in the abstract or from generic research on web. What you read is my personal and current experience in rural Sierra Leone. What is it from your own experience you want to communicate to others?
I spend time in addition keeping current on Sierra Leone news reading daily Google Alerts that send a selection of newspaper articles. I also read several e-newsletters about international development. These usually lead to reports and articles from the World Bank, UN, Int’l Think Tanks, NGO’s, etc. So, the demanding part of writing a good blog is not just the writing; it’s continually building your knowledge of a subject that gives you something credible to say.
With practice and reading other good writing, your own writing style emerges and improves. Read. And I don’t mean informal blogs where writing is getting worse by the day. Fast doesn’t equal good. Read quality media and read good books. Yes, I said read a book. I NEVER dash off an article and immediately post without careful editing. I usually let it sit a day or so, and when I return to edit, I can more objectively read it through someone else’s eyes.
Q6: Please keep writing; will you write more on this subject?
A: I will be sticking with it because I write about the work of Sherbro Foundation Sierra Leone. Over time and based on what’s active that month, I cycle through with updates for each project or subject. Please look at other parts of the website to see the range of projects we’re involved in. You can view a summary under About Us. There’s over 50 posts in the blog. You can search the blog by subject.
Q7: Your blog would be better (“would pop more”) if you used more pictures and videos instead of so much text.
A: I’d love to have more pix and videos available. Everything here is my own material, not from web searches. Traveling to rural Sierra Leone is difficult. I go to do my nonprofit organization work, not to be a journalist. It can be offensive to people you’re living among to keep pulling out the camera. (what if your guest did this to you?) And I go alone, and there’s no one to assist me. When your camera batteries run down and you’re living in a small town or village for a month with no electricity , you have to wait til someone with a generator can re-charge you.
So, please understand, my main objective is advance the mission of this nonprofit organization, not to be a stellar blogger. If you don’t like one post, please try other blog posts and other parts of the website. We have 60 posts and plenty of pictures throughout. But, sorry, no videos at this point. Editing small shaky videos I do have is not my forte. Posting on Youtube is another time stealer. Storing videos on the website uses a lot of storage, another website upgrade. As a struggling new nonprofit, I don’t spend anything that I think should better go towards our projects in Sierra Leone. (Have I complained & unloaded enough?)
Q8: Suppose you were to create a awesome title? I mean XXX is a little boring. You might peek at Yahoo’s front page and see how they create article headlines to get people interested. You might try adding a video or a related picture or two to get readers interested about everything you’ve got to say.
A: You may guess by now my response to this one. The polite answer: “Thank you for commenting and sorry if you find posts boring. As a new blogger, I can always learn from someone else. I try to improve over time. Please also see the answer on Q7 above.” That’s also my honest feeling – after I get over being annoyed.
Q9: How can I be notified of a new post?
A: At the top left hand corner of the screen, you should see a place to click to “Follow.” This will tell the website to forward you a notice of the next new post. Since some of you access Sherbro Foundation through a variety of sources like Stumbleupon, I’m not sure what the site screen looks like in every source. The other way is to go to the Sherbro Foundation Facebook page and Like us. We’ll then appear in the news stream of your FB page when something new is posted. I put a link to any new website post on the FB page, as well as timely news articles about Sierra Leone from other sources you may enjoy.
Q10: Do you mind if I quote a few of your articles as long as I provide credit and sources back to your site? My blog is in the same area of interest as yours and my users would really benefit from a lot of the information you present here.
A: Thanks for wanting to acknowledge Sherbro Foundation and our work in Sierra Leone. The best way to do this is to Reblog. This preserves the original post and credits the author. The top of any WordPress post has 3 actions: Follow, Like, Reblog. Hit Reblog and it should attach the original post in your site (if it’s open), similar to the way a Facebook “Share” works. I’ve used this to pass on a good post to my readers; you can add your own comment to the Reblog, again like a FB share.
If this doesn’t work, copy and paste the web address of a post into yours, and, yes, please acknowledge the source. Help us by also stating we are a nonprofit organization and you support the work we do.
Q11: Can I share a post with my Facebook or Twitter groups
A: By all means, please share the Sherbro Foundation blog and website with these groups if your intent is to help promote the work Sherbro Foundation is doing in rural Sierra Leone. That’s a good way to help get the word out on the work we’re doing. Many thanks to those of you who do this. Help us by also stating we are a nonprofit organization and you support the work we do; please don’t just say we are an interesting blog.
Q12: I found you on Stumbleupon, Pinterest, my friend’s FB page, etc.
A: It’s helpful to know how you found the Sherbro Foundation site. Please let us know so we can ensure we better connect with those sources.
Q13: Could it be just me or do some of the comments look like they are coming from brain dead folks?
A: I’ve gotten this same unkind comment at least 10 times, copied verbatim (“brain dead folks”). I was offended by this on behalf of the commenters referred to as being “brain dead”. Here’s my past response to this: “Be kind!! Many readers are clearly people who do not use English as a first language. I credit them for making comments and appreciate them, regardless of the grammar used. With all due respect, your message was a bit messy itself. Sloppy texting on your mobile? But I appreciate all of you who take time to comment.
Q14: Do you know of plug-in’s to reduce spam, etc.
A: Sorry, I’m a less than one year blogger who’s too busy running a nonprofit organization to research these. I barely know what a plug-in is, let alone use them. If you find something good, LET ME KNOW.
Q15: Do you know of ways to prevent hackers? What do I do when my content appears elsewhere on the web?
A: What do I do to prevent hackers? Frankly, nothing. I’m a new blogger and I need to be educated on these things. Do me the favor of commenting on good techniques you’ve found to manage & protect blogs and websites.
Q16: Some of your text is running off the screen – Explorer is usually mentioned. Check your browser.
I only use Internet Explorer and 99% of people seem to have no complaints. So, I’m at a loss to explain this. Sorry.
Q17: Can you suggest any other blogs/websites/forums that go over the same subjects?
A: There aren’t that many sites about Sierra Leone and I haven’t found another one that goes into depth about daily life in the rural areas. WordPress is a common blogging platform. You can search WordPress (or another platform) for Sierra Leone and see what’s posted.
If you find good websites on rural development in Africa and Sierra Leone, please report back. I’d like to know, as well as other readers, I’m sure. It’s always good to learn from others.