Volunteer Work Prior to coming to Ukraine


I have done a lot of volunteer work in my life, and especially in the last decade of my marriage. It is one of those biblical, Western civilization influences. The idea that an individual owes something to a society that has been generous, and perhaps a generous God as well. If you have more than you need, share it. If you have time and talent, spread it around.

During the two decades I ran my own consulting company, I served as an officer, sometimes the president, of several users' organizations such as the Mid-Atlantic Oracle Users Group. In St. Patrick's Episcopal Church, Washington DC I served as a reader, chalicist, choir member, visitor to shut ins, provider of meals to the homeless, host to various visitors such as tribal Indians we supported, and Sunday school teacher.

Volunteer activity put me somewhat at odds with my ex-wife. She has a culturally Japanese view of the situation. If it is not contributing directly to the family or bringing in money, why would you do it? She was tolerant but not supportive.

In 1998 I volunteered, along with my son Jack, for a two-week home-building project with Habitat for Humanity in Jinotega, in the mountains of Nicaragua.  It was a profound learning experience, though in very different ways, for the two of us. I went on to spend five summers working with habitat in Nicaragua, Portugal, and Brazil. This adventure was the centerpiece of Jack's college essay.

I spent time off and on in 1998 through 2000 working on two books. One was the second edition of my most recent business book, "The Oracle E-Business Handbook," for which, amazingly enough, I continue to get royalties in 2018. The second was a book on investment opportunities that would come up with the convergence of the global warming movement, increasing price of oil, and the inability of governments to build new roads as fast as people want them. The first book was published, the second was not except on the Internet. It served my purpose: I made a little bit of money as some of my productions came true.


As you can read elsewhere on this website, I have been teaching one thing or another all of my life. I started substitute teaching at Edmund Burke school about the year 2000. Our son Jack had interviewed there in 1995 and I had liked the school, although it was not for him. I enjoy teaching so much that I became a classroom teacher in 2002-2003, not there but at the Field school, it is offshoot and philosophical twin.

Field builds a winter break into their curriculum, three weeks in which students are expected to do something related to work or study. They sponsored a two-week work-study program in Honduras. Students studied Spanish in the morning and did volunteer work in the community in the afternoon. They needed one male and one female teacher to lead the program. I volunteered, and to my delight my female counterpart Louise Millikan was a great travel companion and wonderfully knowledgeable about Latin America, children, and especially birds. Although Costa Rica is supposed to be the place to see birds, I have never encountered as many as we did outside of Tegucigalpa.

Saint Patrick's Episcopal Church has a long-standing relationship with a parish in Haiti.  My youngest daughter Susy and I went for a one-week work camp in 2003, when she was 14. It was an extraordinary adventure. I have written up my observations about the country of Haiti in a separate monograph.

Susy caused a bit of consternation herself by developing a mad summer crush on one of the boys on the trip. He is the adoptive son of a very proper black woman, one of the pillars of our church.  The boy's manner unfortunately owes nothing to his adoptive parents. He is bad. It was amusing to watch the church ladies of both races squirm in discomfort at this relationship that they knew in their bones to be wrong but for reasons of political correctness could not name as such. I was less worried for a couple reasons. I know that although Susy liked to act outrageously, she is a fairly conservative kid, and besides that there was no privacy to be had. We were all cheek by jowl in sleeping bags inside the church, and there were tarantulas all over the place outside. In any case, her infatuation with Ryan died a few weeks after our return.

Susy and I had our last such adventure in Peru in 2006. She needed to perform some community service as a requirement for graduating from high school. Her nature is to do everything with as much flair as possible. She wanted to do it overseas. That was fine with me; my primary condition was that she bring me along. We spent two weeks in Lima working with Catholic organizations that provided the half-day day care. Inundated by refugees driven out of the mountains by the Sendero Luminoso guerrillas, the elementary schools were running two shifts. We had one group of children in the morning and another in the afternoon.

The theory was that we would help them with homework, but most of the time we simply play games with them. For me the work was not nearly as rewarding as habitat work. It was, however, appropriate to teenagers, especially girls. It was not difficult, and it was very well chaperoned. I got chewed out for leading two teenage girls three blocks to a neighborhood market I had found. I thought they might be interested in taking photographs. They were, though the project managers thought that it was far too risky.

True to form, Susy did manage to get into a little bit of excitement. I taught her to negotiate with the taxi drivers... so well that one night when I forgot, she barged right in with her elementary Spanish to ensure that we had an acceptable price even as the taxi was already moving.  Another time she took the taxi down to the biggest shopping center in the city, Larco Mar. No problem getting there, but she realize she did not know how to get home. Again, with only a year of Spanish under her belt but all of the brass of the world, she navigated that taxi 5 miles back to our part of town.

I continue to work as a volunteer, but now it is simply an integral part of my experience living in Kiev, which I document elsewhere on this website.