Two degrees of separation from salvation

I'm one of those people who used to get ridiculously moved by those late night Foster Brooks or Sally Struthers commercials, thinking I could make the difference in the life of a child I'll never meet -- and for less than the cost of a cup of coffee a day. Yet the organizational wall that stood between me and the children seemed too big, too suspect. So I selfishly continued to buy the cup of coffee a day instead. I like to know that I'm making a difference to people -- but not to the people who run these organizations.

Now I'm only two degrees separated from feeling like I have the potential to make a real impact on the lives on some children in need. Life is funny. I met my friend Stephannie when she was the secretary for the Knight-Wallace Foundation here in Ann Arbor last year. On the side, she was also a classically trained opera singer and a Tibetan priestess (or some such thing...clearly, I'm not down with how this all works). You know, the usual stuff.

Earlier this year, Stephannie got the opportunity to move to Tibet to work on translating some ancient texts and to work with the community there, perhaps teaching. There are many people in need in Tibet, but often programs focus on serving the needs of boys and men. Enter a young man named Dockpo Tra. Concerned about the welfare of young girls, he has personally rescued 30 Tibetan girls, ages 5-13, from difficult and dangerous living situations and brought them to live in his home.

Tra's goal is to build a school to provide these girls with both a safe home where their basic needs are met and an education. (At present, girls in Tibet make up about 25% or less of the school population.) You can read much more about the details of this amazing project, with which Stephannie is now affiliated, by visiting Dockpo's organization, The Alliance for the Empowerment of Tibetan Women. (You can find out more about Stephannie and her work in Tibet by visiting her blog .)

You can read all the details there and you'll discover they've got big dreams for helping these girls. They need money, of course, but the good news is that money goes a long way in Tibet. The amazing thing to me, at least, is that I feel as though I know these girls. I see photos of them with Steph and they seem so much more real to me than random kids in commercials. I'll know first-hand if and how my efforts affect them. That's pretty amazing. As I said, US money goes a long way in Tibet. I asked Stephannie (below, with the girls) and she said about $50 US will buy one girl two full sets of winter clothing and two pairs of winter boots. (The winters are long and severe in Tibet.) That's a pretty tangible difference, don't you think? I can do that. Chris and I can make sure a couple of girls have what they need for the winter.


And because I'm feeling so Sally Struthers, here's my quest -- to find enough people that all 30 girls are outfitted for the winter. That means $1,500, bit by bit. I won't beg. I know everyone has their pet causes and that this may not move you. But I can let you know, I can keep you posted on these girls and how your donation makes a difference. Or I don't even need to do it at all. I can't stress enough that even $5 or $10 will be really helpful. Just make your checks out to Stephannie Piro and send them to:

Michael Meihn c/o The Dam Tsig Foundation PO Box 8392  Ann Arbor MI 48107

In addition, I decided to try to rally a last-minute knitter's effort to make hats, scarves, mittens, etc. for these girls and send them over. Stephannie says it's hard to find really warm winter gear for them there. Winter's already setting in and it takes a while for things to reach them there, so I'm thinking I'd like to send what I can within a few weeks. If you're a knitter and you think you might be able to whip things up -- remember, the girls are between the ages of 5 and 13 -- that'd be fantastic. As I said, I'm just mulling this over and if you have any thoughts or ideas or think you might want to pledge a hat or two, email me at Thanks!

This concludes our public service announcement.