Saturday, December 24, 2016

More rapid than eagles his coursers they came

Happy Holidays to all! I hope you had a wonderful 2016. I know what John Oliver had to say about it, but for me 2016 was an all time great. For me, 2016 was filled with amazing experiences in India, Turkey, Rwanda and Central Square, Cambridge. I’ve enjoyed being settled in Cambridge and exploring Boston a bit. Regular readers will note that this, the 13th annual edition of my holiday letter is one of the latest editions ever (Dec. 24!) and that is just one more data point that this whole year really raced ahead of me. All through 2016 work was beyond busy, but I continue to love the colleagues and the content and I’ve never done more interesting work with a more talented team.

This year for Dimagi I continued to work with my Cambridge-based Global Services team who is delivering a wide range of projects in Haiti, Nepal, Seattle, Ghana and many places in between. I also spent a fair bit of time working on my own project, a large comprehensive app to streamline treatment of Tuberculosis patients in India. That project team is huge, committed and inspiring and I’m lucky to be a part of the effort. 2016 had 2 more trips to Delhi (and I finally made it to Mumbai, thanks Anushree!). On a trip in July, I attended a fabulous wedding of a colleague and got Mehndi decorations done on my hand:
Erin's amazing wedding in Delhi
I spent a week working in Cape Town in April and it was great to climb Table Mountain again. I also attended some fascinating conferences this year, one on Innovation held in the main assembly hall in the UN in NYC (yes, used the cool translating headset) and also joined the World Humanitarian Summit in Turkey. Istanbul was a great city and I hope to visit again with a bit more time. Our team had a fun off-site retreat in New Hampshire in September and I’d like to go back there for a longer spell as well. Add it to the list!
Me on the floor in the assembly hall in the UN

...and me in Istanbul at the World Humanitarian Summit

While busy with work, (did I mention work??) I also had a really fun year. Working from a Tiny House for a week in Vermont made a particularly busy time at work more pleasant, and now I know where I want to retire. Thanks to Keri for driving up from Philly to cap off the trip with a birthday celebration!

Now for the time warp: In March, I visited Raleigh to see Kate’s senior dance with the Rainbow Dance Company. It was beautiful and Lindy was great in her dances as well. Kate is loving being a freshman at UNC Greensboro (Deans List!) and Lindy is a freshman at Cary High and the second tallest member of the family! (Fine, a low bar but still... She is the baby!) I also got to see the nieces at the beach in August, over Thanksgiving and I’m writing this right now from my sister Lynn’s house in Raleigh for a few days near Christmas.
Lindy, Mom and Kate at Kate's Senior Rainbow show
This year I went to Yellowstone National Park for the first time. It was so cool and I can’t believe I waited this long. The Grand Tetons, really are grand. Old Faithful really is faithful. It was a beautiful trip. If you haven't been, go. If you have, go again!
Me at the big Yellow Stone

In October, I took an amazing journey back to the Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village to see the young ladies of Eleanor Roosevelt family graduate from High School. It was wonderful to be back in such an amazing place and I’d forgotten how much I love it there. Ornella was the valedictorian and gave a rousing, inspiring speech. I am so proud of her. The sky is just the beginning!
Back in ASYV for Eleanor Roosevelt Family's Graduation!
I also took a quick side trip to nearby DRC to hike up the Virunga volcano. Without being too dramatic, I'm pretty sure it was the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. Thanks to Avi for singing me down the mountain on the hike back down when my fear of heights kicked in. If you can think of an excuse to get there, it’s an amazing view.
Atop the Virunga Volcano in the DRC
Looking ahead to 2017, I’ll be back to Delhi and Cape Town at least and I expect another trip or two will pop-up. If you’re swinging through Boston try to give me some warning and I'll try to be there as well!

Wishing you Peace on Earth and Happy New Year!
Danny and me at Shakespeare in the Park
in Boston Common

Sunday, December 20, 2015

I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter

Happy Holidays all! Personally, I'm shocked that it's already time for my annual holiday letter. 2015 flew by in a crazy, fun, wonderful rush. I can't think of a year where I've had more fun or learned more new things.

This year's missive comes to you from Cambridge, MA where I relocated from Washington, DC in May. I'm a bit trepidatious about the onset of my first Boston winter, but my first New England summer was beautiful. Cambridge is a cool town and I've really enjoyed exploring the area.
Cambridge has this awesome lobster shack

Cambridge is a cool town
Running by the Charles in Cambridge is really nice
2015 started out with a busy period at work for GlobalGiving and some fun trips to NYC. We had a cool work outing to the Truman Bowling Alley below the White House.
Bowling with GlobalGiving in the White House Bowling Alley
Leaving DC was a tough decision. I left some true friends behind there and I miss the whole gang at GlobalGiving. Thanks to those of you who helped with the move and all the fun send-offs. I did get back to DC for a conference in November and at least got to see those shining faces for a minute. Thanks to Ingrid, Sarah and Stacey for all taking a shift hosting me on that visit.

Everyone is welcome to visit me in Cambridge. The new apartment is really close to work (3 minute walk commute!) and near a T stop and has a futon with your name on it. I already enjoyed hosting Dorko and the Stouts (now 3!). Let me know when you are coming to town.

The move to Cambridge was for a new job with Dimagi, a technology based social enterprise. This is the best job I've ever had and I love going to work every day. 

Dimagi does all kinds of innovative and impactful work, but our main product is a platform for the creation of mobile applications that can be used to facilitate development programs. Imagine an app on a phone or tablet that helps a community health worker to do their job better. We're proud to be funded by grant-makers like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and USAID and also by the software subscription fees of our partners like WorldVision, UNICEF and The Harvard School of Public Health. So far, I've worked on projects to help track Ebola contacts and support Ebola recovery as well as a project in 7 countries to help women have better access to family planning. My role on our Global Services team is dead center of the intersection point between my technology and consulting background and my passion for trying to be a part of the solution to the complex problems of our day. From the C-suite to the newest intern, every member of this special group is equal parts zaney, genius, driven, courageous, hilarious, compassionate and empathetic. I've never come across a team this strong and I think there's probably an HBR case to be written on how this start-up created the culture in which we do our work. Do I sound like a zealot? Like I said, it's been a great year.

I had the chance to meet our team in Delhi and visit several of our projects in India in April. It was my first trip to India and I'm really looking forward to going back.
Meeting the amazing Dimagi Delhi team 

Dust. Yep. Delhi was hot.

At a hospital in Delhi for my first site visit with Dimagi
Traffic in Delhi lived up to its reputation
Me at Humayun's Tomb
Another site visit at a clinic in India
In August. I had the chance to travel to Sierra Leone to support our work in Ebola response and recovery.

It was eye-opening to see so many international organizations and so many levels of government pull together to respond to the epidemic. As I type this, there's been no cases for the last 3 weeks and everyone doing this work has their fingers crossed we'll make it to January 14 with no new cases and this long, hard fight can turn to focus fully on recovery and health system strengthening.
Visiting Sierra Leone was my first time in West Africa. Evidence of the outbreak was EVERYWHERE.
Sierra Leone pulled together to fight Ebola at the government, organization and business level. This is a sign in a bathroom in a fancy restaurant.
Do ask me about my trip from Freetown to the airport in Port Loko. Probably get a snack first, and get comfortable.
While I enjoyed and learned so much on my trips to Delhi and Freetown, I spent the bulk of the year in my home office in Cambridge, supporting team members working in Haiti, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Ghana and all over the world. My new family in Cambridge is an absolute riot. There's always someone's birthday or a party or a road race to keep me entertained. For example right now we're currently in the midst of a worldwide Burpee contest for December, and I'm in the top 5 with 1004 done so far.
Dimagi plays as hard as it works. Here's me whiffing on a high five at an office-wide trip to see the Red Sox at Fenway.
Here's the gang from work who ran a half-marathon together in October.
Newburyport was pretty and it was a fun day for a little run. (1:54:54)
As usual, Halloween was Epic. This is me as 'foggy.'  This was at the office Halloween party.
I'm also still in touch with many of my former students from Agahozo-Shalom. Several are studying in the US and Canada now and I visited a few in Montreal in October. I love these guys.
So great to see Serge, Henry and Blameless at McGill in Montreal
It's such an inspiration to see how these students use the life skills they built at ASYV to succeed at University in Canada.
Between adjusting to the new job and the move to a new city, I probably didn't spend quite enough time with my family this year. Mom is recovering from a major back surgery and continues to manage a large menagerie in North Carolina. I did get to spend spring break with Kate and Lindy and their parents in Rincon, Puerto Rico. (Thanks to Lynn & Robbie for taking me on that trip.) I'm looking forward to seeing the fam again in Raleigh over Christmas. Somehow, while I wasn't looking Kate and Lindy grew up. Sweet baby Kate is a high school senior excited to be accepted by UNC Greensboro into their dance program. Lindy (8th grade) is still running the whole family like the mafia don she has always been. Don't let the sweet smile fool you.

I saw my extended family on my mom's side in Louisville over Thanksgiving and, as usual, was treated like royalty. Extra special thanks to my cousin Lucas who gave up his room for the trip and the Gnau's who took me to a UK vs. U of L football game.
I got to see my family in Louisville for Thanksgiving. Here's my mom, Kate, Lindy, Lynn & Robbie at Churchill Downs for #Thanksgambling
Looking forward to 2016, things show no sign of slowing down and I'm excited to keep learning and having new experiences. Best wishes to you and yours for a peaceful and joyous 2016!
66 Pearl St. #1
Cambridge MA 02139

On vacation in March with my sister and her family in Puerto Rico

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Sunday, December 6, 2015

#Thanksgambling 2015

Some of the family at David & Janet's home on Wednesday night
Once again I was welcomed by my extended family to Louisville, Kentucky over Thanksgiving. We had a wonderful traditional dinner on Wednesday evening and went to Churchill Downs for the races and a buffet on Turkey Day. I had a great time with my whole family, especially my Aunt Cathy, Uncle Joe & cousin Lucas who hosted my mom & I for the whole trip. Also thanks to Aunt Joanna, Uncle David, Emily and David who took me to a rainy rivalry NCAA game between the University of Kentucky and the University of Louisville.
Wednesday Night Dinner
The track on Thursday was a sunny nice day.
Kate and some losing tickets at the track
Mom and the Guptons
Oh yeah, and there were some horse races
Picking Winners
Tiny Handicapper Crew

After the track my uncle Joe made a cool bonfire:

I went with the little bits to see a movie:
Hayley, Lindy, Gracie and Lauren
Kate, Claire, Elise and Evan

We also went to see a holiday light show:

Here's me at the game (tailgating) and the mascot up close:

Halloween, Half Marathon & Visits, Visits, Visits

It's true that I haven't been posting much to the blog. That is probably because blogs were a thing back in 2007. Follow me on twitter @CourtneyMFK if you want more current updates. Also, I've been hella busy, but in a great way. I'm really loving Cambridge and the new job. I had a fun work trip to DC in early November and I got to see my friends Sarah, Ingrid, Stacey and a lot of folks at GlobalGiving. Thanks to everyone for welcoming me back!

Sarah's son Nathaniel at 9 months
Me and Nate living it up
Dorko & Stacy on our Chocolate Tour of Old Town Alexandria

I also ran a half marathon in October with some buds from work.
4 Dimagis: Andrea, Danny, Jenny & Me!

And the Stouts visited. Now they are 3:
Jen & Viviana
Brian & Viviana

Cambridge has urban bunny rabbits. They are 1000x better than rats:

I made a pretty rad halloween costume. It's a long story, but I'm supposed to be a kiwi bird.

Needless to say, I won the contest!