An audio and video podcast of my trip hitchhiking around the world by sea.
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Charity Work

African Prison Work (5-15-08)

I’ve been in Africa for one week and have already visited 2 orphanages, a village preschool, and a prison in Malawi, Africa.  I will blog as much as I can about these experiences and each one is special. For now, I want to update you on what your money has been able to do ihe past week. For a quick update, the day before I flew out for Africa I met a girl who had traveled to the same area I was heading. I told her about my website and she told me about a British guy who was working with prisoners. Four days later I was in a prison with that very man checking out everything that was going on. I made a contribution to his work, helped him buy some seeds for the prisoners to cultivate and met some of the women as they studied basic English. Nick Swithinbank, (the British man) sent me an email describing everything he was able to purchase with the money you gave. He also listed ways to stay involved if anyone should feel lead to do so.

Without further ado, here is Nick’s letter:

Hi Derek,

            Good to meet you, and many thanks for the contribution to the prison project, much appreciated.

   This letter is for donors to know that I recieved 20,000 mk from Derek Turner to support the work I’m doing at Chichiri prison, Blantyre, Malawi.

   I have been working here for 13 months and the development in the prison education has been phenomenal and extremely successful. When I first arrived there was good education for the men, but a lack of materials, and no education at all for the women and children. Now the men’s school has grown from 130 students to 250, with 30 inmate teachers, and is recognised by the government as an examination centre.

   The Malawi Prison Service schools now have a higher percentage pass rate than the national average. I have supplied them with many materials, such as exercise books, pens, pencils, chalk, paper, crayons, books,rulers, cd’s, and 3 computers. I also take clothes, shoes, footballs, table tennis sets, and seed for the gardens, as well as supporting various income generating activities to provide some food money.

    I have helped to set up a school for the women and a nursery school for the children, and there are 3 inmate teachers and 21 students who attend. Many of them have never been to school before, and are learning to read and write in Chichewa and English. Some are more advanced and are studying to sit exams. here again I have supplied all the materials and a computer.

   Perhaps the biggest achievement has been to get a 3.5 year old child out of prison and into an orphanage while her mother finishes the last 2 years of her sentence. The boss of the charity which runs the orphanage has agreed that any child over 3 years old can, with parental consent, stay at his orphanage until the mothers are released. This is fantastic because, believe me, this prison is no place for children.

  Overcrowding and malnutrition are the big problems which create illness and diseases.I also help with some medicines and healthcare. For instance, one woman had eye problems, so I had a specialist visit the women’s section. She looked at all 45 women and the kids and found that a staggering 50% of them had eye problems, mainly due to vitamin deficiency.

   My next project here is to get another 10 computers for the schools, and then I intend to start a permaculture project in both sections so the inmates can grow vitamin rich plants and natural medicines to improve their nutrition. It will also help to raise the cd4 counts of HIV+ inmates.

   Prison is a great way to educate people, who, on release, can then go to all parts of Malawi and pass the information on to their families and neighbours.

   The 20,000 mk will be spent on seeds (2,350 mk), 200 pens (5,600 mk), 500 exercise books (8,000 mk), 2 reams of paper(1,600 mk), plus transport, units, and biscuits for the kids.

   I also work with education at Zaleka refugee camp, have started some orphan pre schools which are local community projects, work with teachers who set up community projects including pre schools, and am currently trying to do a water project in a densely populated area just outside Blantyre. I believe that bringing people clean water is the quickest way of causing the most development, as it affects health, young women’s education, as they are the ones who have to fetch it, and poverty.

  I have also recently met with Feed the Children, Malawi, who are expanding their food distribution programme. They are targeting pre schools, and as I know over 100 across Malawi, we are now in the process of getting food to 3000 kids and should do a lot more.

   My main problem now is funding, as I have been supporting virtually all this work myself and cannot continue. I am getting such good results with these projects that I would dearly like to carry on, so if anyone reads this and is interested in the most direct way possible to make a difference, feel free to call me on: +2659254273, or e mail on : If anyone wants to make a donation to this work they can deposit in the Malawian bank account, and I will be happy to send the details.

  Thankyou for your consideration and support.

   Yours faithfully,

  Nick Swithinbank.


The Next Step (as of 4-20-08)

I’ve been antsy to find our next big event and goal, well I think it has finally arrived. I have a lot of details to work out but here’s a tease just to get you excited. Open Arms Orphanage in Malawi (Africa). As I said the details are in the works but I am planning on being in Malawi mid May where I’ll volunteer some time at the orphanage. Not sure what the exact needs we’ll try to meet are but here’s their website if you want to check it out. Also feel free to email if you have any questions.

Dominican Deeds

How do I say thank you enough? If you’ve followed the blogs you know just how successful our stop in the Dominican Republic was. Not only did we reach our goal for the Kids Alive organization (children and school) but with an excess in donation money we were able to generate even more for local needs in the underprivileged Dominican Communities.

Here’s a list of some of the things we were able to make happen due to your donations:

  • Kids Alive- Purchased necessary clothing articles required to attend school. Items included socks, belts, undergarments and more. Also per request of School Director, we purchased a lawn mower to free up multiple hands of labor to do other jobs. (Mowing the lawn where the 250 underprivileged children would play, consisted previously of 3-5 men with machetes hand cutting the lawn… it took hours!)
  • Viejito’s Leg-By far one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever been involved in. The blog gives details on story, but in short we were able to purchase a wonderful man, father and husband a prosthetic leg after having his amputated. I personally traveled with Viejito and Maria his wife to the hospital where Viejito got fitted for his leg and paid the hospital from monies raised in full, for the leg and necessary follow up appointments.
  • Luperon Medical Supplies-After meeting with local physicians at the hospital a top-ten medical supply list was created. We were able to raise enough money to purchase a variety of medical supplies for local people who may need to be treated for ailments but cannot afford the necessary medicines.
  • Campo Orphans and Children with Needs-With the help of savvy locals who knew just where to get the most for our money we purchased hundreds and hundreds of supplies for children in rural and extremely poor campos. The supplies consisted of toothbrushes, pens, pencils, pencil sharpeners, notebooks, clothes, and more.
  • Food for Haitian Workers– Haitian workers are often the most underpaid and impoverished people in Dominican Republic. One organization would supply meals for Haitian workers. We purchased food supplies for the workers.
  • “Luperon Charity Night”-This was an exciting night we organized in which we rounded up many of the local organizations and causes who were already helping the communities and boaters who were anchored in Luperon. The local organizations including Peace Corps, women working with orphans, church groups, a dentist and more, each had the opportunity to share what they were doing in the community and how “we” the people could get involved. This was the event where we used excess donations from to do a “dollar for dollar” fund raiser wherein among other things we raised enough money for Viejito’s leg. A very special night!


Update as of 1-09-08

Great news! We just topped $800 raised for the DR orphanage! Only $200 to go until we reach our $1,000 goal. We should arrive the DR in the next 4-6 days, maybe sooner if the winds keep clockin. Thanks everyone! This is going to make such a difference. As soon as we get there we will let you know just what your money is doing.

Update as of 12-31-07:


Greetings everyone! Here’s an update on what we are currently doing and how much we have raised. Thank you SO much-all of you who have donated. Every dollar even the $5 donations make a big difference. As you know every dollar you donate will go directly to causes along the way (with the only exception of pay pal fees).


Amount Donated:

$500. Our goal was $1,000 by the time we reached the D.R. Halfway there! Again thanks for the donations.



The Dominican Republic–Kids Alive International

We currently stuck in the Bahamas waiting for the winds to change. Soon as they do we will raise the sails and hit the sea. Hopefully, we will be there by the second week of January.



We will take the money donated and purchase supplies needed most by the orphanage. Currently they are building classrooms and bathrooms. We will consult with the organization once we arrive to determine how we can be most effective.




See the World. Change the World. (Blog Post)

Seth, one of my best friends, and I sat down for lunch at our favorite sandwich shop in Flagstaff. It was time for me to make a decision: take a job in Portland/ sail around the world. We tossed the pros and cons back and forth. Sailing around the world would be the adventure of a lifetime, but I’ve always had this burning in the shadows of my soul to do something more, something humanly worthwhile. It’s the voice that asks after a long day of work, while you lie in the quiet of your bed unable to sleep, “What have you done? What really matters…”

I explain this to Seth as one of the cons to sailing. To get involved as we move along. Stop somewhere, build a house, school, whatever. Seth, who understands I know as much of carpentry as I do of sailing, logically responds something to the effect of, “ So stop somewhere and help do something they know much more about than you?” Kind of like me helping Dan sail. The reality is it takes Dan more time to stop and try to teach me what it means to sail, then how to sail, before I can ever be of help. Good point.

Still the decision to sail the world was a decision to follow my dreams. I have two significant dreams: 1. See the world. 2. Change the world. 1, as it turns out, is easier than 2. But hopefully one will lead to the other. So when my friend and I were designing, the idea came to me: What if as people follow along and as we stop to do something worthwhile they can give to the cause? They’ll be able to not only give, but to see exactly what they are giving to. To watch their very dollar work. And I can blog about every step.

That’s why one of the first things you see when you sign onto is a “Donate” button. Before I left, I approached another friend who started a nonprofit company, Lampstand, so he could do that very thing: know where his donations were going. We opened an account specifically for, so every dollar that is donated by people will go not to me, or Dan, or sailing, but to helping people along the way. And not only that, since it goes through Lampstand, Lampstand writes a receipt and it’s tax deductible! Every dollar you give we will use for a cause along the way, and you can write it off. We just have to find the right place to give.

Now the exciting part. As we were letting everyone know of our adventure, we heard from a friend that we both knew from college who lives in the Dominican Republic. At the time, Dan and I didn’t know our route, but when we realized we would be close to the D.R. we asked our friend Jessi, where she lived. Turns out she’s just a few miles from the coast and works with at risk children through an organization known as “Kids Alive International” ( We sent Jessi an email asking what they were doing and if there were things they needed, clothes, dental hygiene things, etc.? Jessi responded as follows:

We are doing loads of construction for new classrooms and bathrooms and furnishing them with desks and supplies, etc. We’re good on dental products but could use hygiene products, especially spray deodorant, soap, etc…but again, with money those things could be bought here. Let me know anything else I can help you with. When are you thinking about being here? Can’t wait!

Dan and I both agree it’s better to not just throw money at a need, so instead we will take money donated and purchase the supplies they need first hand. It’s a vision Dan and I shared from day one, and one we daydream about daily. We just never imagined it would happen so soon! And now the goal: Dan sat across from me composing his “proposal” to all of his contacts. “What should we shoot for?” he asked. “What $500? $1,000? Let’s do a $1,000!” So there it is. We’ll get to the Dominican Republic probably the second week of January, giving us about a month. Ambitious, I know. Especially for the first “go round”. But if you’re gonna change the world, you gotta shoot for the stars.

It’s always strange to ask for money, so I think I’m just going to tell you what we are up to. If you feel inclined, you can give and I’ll blog about everything we do. Meanwhile, Lampstand will send you receipt if you want to claim it on your taxes.

I have no idea how much we will make. Dan thinks people will give more cause it’s Christmas, which sounds good to me. Either way if it’s $10, $100, or $1,000, we will take what we have and buy some supplies for this orphanage in the Dominican Republic. At very least, we’ll get our hands a little dirty. Whatever happens, it’s a step. Even as I write this I have a smile on my face. As one friend put it, “Ripples. You’re making ripples.”

Please feel free to email with any questions you might have about our ideas, Lampstand, Kids Alive International, anything. Drop us a note and we’ll get back with you. If you want to give, just click on the “Donate” button to the right. Anything helps and EVERYTHING will go toward the “cause”. We won’t take a penny for ourselves. That’s a promise. If you want to give specifically to Dan or I (as has been asked), drop us an email and we’ll talk. Frankly though, I think we’d both assume you just donate to the cause. Unless you have a dinghy that doesn’t leak air… we’ll take that for ourselves. :-)

Thanks, and we’ll keep you posted.