One Volunteer's Unique use of Braille to Support Students in Africa
By Mary C. Ackerly
While ever cognizant of the personal growth Audio-Reader engenders, I never imagined that my orientation to Braille these many years, would connect me to sight-impaired students 7,700 miles away in Mekelle, the northernmost region of Ethiopia. But, late in 2018, that outreach is precisely what happened.
To quickly unpack an Audio-Reader connection to Africa, some 18 months ago, I picked up the raised Braille alphabet card offered in A-R's foyer, that I've handled as many as ten times before. And as before, I was awed that the sight-impaired routinely rely on Braille proficiency to go about their daily lives. But this time I discovered something new: that the tactile properties of Braille seemed to mirror the raised characteristics of machine embroidery.
Since I also manage a side business, Sewjourner®, that offers custom embroidery --I wondered aloud if I could technically "stitch" the Braille alphabet. Might it personalize and identify the property of
sight-impaired individuals and prevent against its loss?
Doing my best to suppress any thoughts as to the inherent risks and technical difficulties, I offered the idea to Dr. Steve and Pam Zicker, the Lawrence-based founders of "Fields of Promise" an organization that academically and physically supports 50+ sight-impaired students in Ethiopia. Receptive to the idea, personalized Braille backpacks were identified as a need of their students.
Amidst my A-R-fueled admiration for those who rely on Braille fluency day-by-day, I employed A-R's foyer card with Braille to set up and subsequently test stitch the first group of 50 total students, brailed in their first language, Tigrinya and Amharic, paired with the name translated into English.
For the resultant 100 name pairings, the students can touch and read the text of their name and the names of other students, boosting their acumen of their second language, English. Managing each language furthered my Braille acumen of course, but presented great challenge with seven syllables not uncommon and stitched onto narrow, backpack flaps.
I learned long ago that volunteerism is its own reward. So while disappointed that I could not accompany the mission team to deliver the backpacks in person in Ethiopia this Jan. 14 a video diary is promised instead. I expect my incessant smiling may continue!
Be assured, however, that it is only because of my foundational experiences and orientation to the use of Braille gained at Audio Reader --that I could have imagined or persevered in this rewarding service project to the sight impaired. For that, Audio-Reader, I thank you.
Shop at The Merc in February and Benefit Audio-Reader
By Meredith Johanning
We are excited to announce that Audio-Reader has been selected as The Merc's Change Recipient during the month of February. Each month The Merc selects one local non-profit to be a Change Recipient and shoppers have the opportunity to donate their pocket change or "round up" for these various organizations.
So make plans to shop at The Merc throughout February to make a difference for Audio-Reader! Visit
The Merc website
for more information.
There are three ways to contribute to Audio-Reader at The Merc during the month of February:
- Round up: Round the amount of your order up to the next dollar and the difference will be donated to Audio-Reader.
- Change Jars: Drop your spare change into the jars at the cash registers.
- Bag Refunds: Bring your own bag and the 5 cent bag refund will be donated to Audio-Reader.
We are looking for several volunteers who can stand at Audio-Reader's display table at The Merc throughout the month of February. We want to talk with shoppers at The Merc to let them know about Audio-Reader and answer any questions they might have. If you are interested in helping with this please sign up for a shift
Festive Holiday Party
By Kristin Nash
On Thursday December 13, 2018 Audio-Reader hosted a holiday party for all of the volunteers that have helped out at Audio-Reader.
We had different kinds of dishes and fantastic desserts to enjoy from the volunteers. We also had some great live music provided by the River City Reeds.
My favorite part of the party was getting to see all of my co-workers that I helped out during my time at Audio-Reader. I had a fantastic time and it was very fun. I hope Audio-Reader does another holiday party just has fun as the 2018 one.
Save the Date!
By Meredith Johanning
Join us at S&S Artisan Pub & Coffeehouse (2228 Iowa St, Lawrence, KS) on
Saturday, February 9 from 3:00 - 6:00pm and hear from an impressive array of poets and authors. We are very excited to welcome the following guest speakers:
- Tracy Harrison: Published poet and Audio-Reader volunteer
- Beth Schultz: Published poet and author, retired KU professor, friend of Audio-Reader
- Ronda Miller: Published poet and President of the Kansas Authors Club, friend of Audio-Reader
- Harlan Roedel: Published author, retired KU professor, and current Audio-Reader volunteer
- Jennifer Nigro: Published essayist, former Audio-Reader Coordinator of Volunteers and current Audio-Reader volunteer
This event is free and open to the public. We kindly ask that you consider a small donation to Audio-Reader when you attend. We are grateful to have a generous match from a poetry enthusiast - for every dollar Audio-Reader raises at this event, the donor will equally match! Every little bit counts as your donation will have twice the impact.
Check out the event on Facebook HERE
Welcome New Volunteers!
by Alison Beloin Dean, Coordinator of Volunteers
Liz Chan - A retiree, Liz's last position was as a Social Worker in Florida. She also volunteers at Citizens Memorial Hospital. She loves reading, sewing, knitting, jogging, walking, and swimming. She joins us as a Wednesday live reader in Springfield.
Patricia Dahl - Patricia is an associate professor at Washburn University. She facilitates a book club at a local prison. She is an avid reader and book collector. She is awaiting her first assignment at Audio-Reader.
Sara Maypole - Sara currently volunteers at Lawrence Public Library, she is a retired Priest in the Episcopal Church. She is starting as a reader for our Special Requests program.
Lindsey Sanders - Lindsey works at the Toy Store in Lawrence. She enjoys reading, running, playing the clarinet and cooking. Lindsey is starting as a reader for our Special Request program.
Meet A Volunteer: Kathy Blackburn
by Kim Morrow, A-R Listener and Development Committee Member
Wichita native Kathy Blackburn had resided in Lawrence for a year when she decided that volunteering was the best way to combine her work experience with her desire to become active in her new community. "I saw Audio-Reader listed several times in the Volunteers Needed section of the Lawrence Journal-World, but they were looking for 'readers', and reading aloud wasn't my forte although I can certainly do it when I need to."
Then came the budget cuts, and suddenly, Audio-Reader was in desperate need of assistance in the office. And Kathy was ready, with her can-do attitude, warm smile, and her boundless energy and passion for helping others. Two years of volunteering have flown by for Kathy, and already, she has a favorite memory. "The first time I walked into the FYEO (For Your Ears Only) sale. I could hardly believe the massive amounts and variety of everything!"
Even Audio-Reader volunteers have favorite volunteer readers. For Kathy, the volunteers she admires most have served with Audio-Reader for many years. "It's incredible to hear about volunteers like Eleanor Symons, who has read for Audio-Reader since its very beginning." "Harlan (Roedel) and Elinor (Schroeder)'s Wednesday morning broadcasts are the best. Their many years of service probably have a lot to do with that."
Does she have a favorite program? Absolutely! For this Wichita native, it is definitely the reading of the Wichita Eagle. "Jenny O'Driscoll does a fantastic job of it," she says.
Kathy graduated from Kansas State University with a Bachelor of Science in psychology. She worked first with a musical theater company, before getting a job for many years with the Wichita School District. The mother of two daughters (Jennifer and Libby), she divorced after 40 years of marriage. Living in Lawrence, near her daughter, Jennifer, and Jennifer's husband, Mohamed, and her granddaughter, Amina, and volunteering at Audio-Reader has provided her with a life which is richer than she could have ever imagined. "Volunteering at Audio-Reader helps anchor my week with at least one day of consistent routine. Audio-Reader has a very loving, caring volunteer community."
And when listeners and volunteers call on Wednesdays and a cheery voice answers, "Hello, Audio-Reader", we are grateful for one of those loving, caring volunteers who helps make Audio-Reader an amazing place to be. Thank you, Kathy Blackburn, for being one of us.
Audio Description Events
Holmes and Watson
Sunday January 27, 2019, 2:30 pm
For tickets to any of these events contact the theater box office.
If you are involved in theater and want to bring Audio Description to your performance, contact Lori at LRK@ku.edu for information about our audio description services.
Let's Lunch at The Merc in February with Audio-Reader Staff
By Meredith Johanning
Various Audio-Reader staff will be having lunch at The Merc on the first three Tuesdays of February to take part in rounding up for Audio-Reader and we want you to join us!
We will plan to pull several tables together and you are welcome to join us from Noon-1pm on any or all of the days:
- Tuesday, February 5
- Tuesday, February 12
- Tuesday, February 19
This is a "brown bag" lunch so pick out a delicious meal at The Merc (it benefits Audio-Reader!) and come sit with various staff while you eat. Come for a quick lunch over your break or stay and linger the whole time with us!
A Gift of Sight Through Sound
By Jan Shumway, Audio-Reader Volunteer
Audio-Reader volunteers are DOERS! A cadre of people who, possessing a strong sense of empathy, care a lot about others, maintain an unique, beautiful and renewing Sensory Garden, cheerfully answer the telephone, substitute for each other on short notice, bring delicious biscotti and other goodies to appreciative staff, contribute new books, buy subscriptions, supply tissues and lozenges, re-cover tatty common room chairs, encourage and support one another, audio-decribe for theatre productions, find unique ways to raise funds:
For Your Ears Only, and supply manpower for this enterprise, buy commemorative bricks that line fragrant walkways throughout the Sensory Garden, and eagerly extol Audio-Reader's mission to others. So many of our former staff show impressive loyalty when they volunteer at Audio-Reader events long after departure from employment.
Led and supported by an incredibly loyal, efficient and inventive staff (do you know that Audio-Reader currently has all of
THREE full-time staff members?), 450 volunteers refuse to allow this valuable reading service to disappear. Constantly encouraged by heartfelt appreciative comments from many of our 6000 listeners throughout Kansas and western Missouri, all of us unite in support of this extraordinary and vital window to their world. We are industrious, we are resilient, we are determined and dedicated, and we are undeterred!
By Meredith Johanning
This year Audio-Reader is thrilled to be a part of One Day. One KU. This "Day of Giving" (think "Giving Tuesday" but in February and only for KU departments) began last year and is continuing into its second year on
Wednesday, February 20, 2019.
Audio-Reader gets to be a part of this great opportunity where people from all over, can give directly to Audio-Reader. Since this is primarily an online fundraising campaign, we will be very active on social media (Facebook and Twitter) that day to help get the word out so be sure to follow us along on February 20th.
There will be donor matches and challenges that we will be working hard to meet (for example, after the first 10 gifts come through that day, it will unlock a $500 donor match to Audio-Reader and other fun matches similar to that). You can help too that day by emailing your friends and family, posting on Facebook and tweeting about Audio-Reader and letting people know about this one day of giving. Of course gifts can be made any time but on that particular day donations will help unlock donor matches and challenges.
Mark your calendars for Wednesday February 20, 2019 to go online and help us make this a successful fundraising campaign for Audio-Reader!
Stay tuned for Audio-Reader's special website for this online day of giving event. You can always donate to Audio-Reader anytime by clicking
Happy Birthday to the following
volunteers and staff!
Darcy Schild and
Carol Beth Whalen and
Carroll Iorg, Elwyn Davis and
Dean Bevan and
Donna Riehm, Jeri Safarik and
Doug Decker and
Amy Pesek, John Fogarty and
Cindy Koester, Diana Kerle and
Carl Graves, Gary Haworth and
Cherie Tapahonso and
Jonathan Haynes and
Betty Kline, Bob Casino, Jake Waters and
Cara Wallingford and
Harold Riehm, Melissa Warren,and
Bill Vermooten and
Bruce Frey, Christy Allie and Heather Nelson
John Lagesse and
Frank Ybarra and
Martha Kehr, Pam Houston and
David Dunford and
Alison Beloin Dean
Austin Turney and
FOR ALL YOU ARE AND ALL YOU DO,
WE SAY A VERY HEARTFELT THANKS TO YOU!!!
- If your studio has a space heater, PLEASE be sure to turn it OFF when you leave, thanks!
- If you have a recurring studio reservation, please make sure that it is up-to-date. Let Alison (email@example.com) know if you are not going to use your reserved time. It allows other volunteers to get the studio time they need.
- If you are planning a vacation or will be unable to do your regular assignment, please let Alison know at least 2-weeks in advance. Thank you!
- We have had a lot of messy weather lately. Please let us know at 785-864-4600 ASAP, if you are not able to volunteer because of weather. We will be here and broadcasting, but don't want anyone risking life or limb to come and read. On the other hand, if you live close and would like to be added to our "miserable weather" sub list contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org!