Robin Smith with two of her hosts while she was visiting her daughter, Hannah, in Uganda. — Photo courtesy of Robin Smith

Reaching out to your neighbors who might not be surrounded by family and loved ones during the holiday season is something good neighbors always do. One easy way to do that is to make a dish to share with the servicemen on duty over the holiday at USCG Station Menemsha. Tom Ruimerman and Janet Weidner have taken the lead on this task for the last few years. Give them a call at 508-645-7830 if you would like to bake some cookies, wrap scallops in bacon, mash some potatoes and give the gift of holiday cheer.

The Red Stocking Fund is still in search of gifts to distribute to Island families in need. There will be a drop box at the Chilmark School until Tuesday, Dec. 18. Unwrapped new items for boys and girls through the age of 14 is what they need.

Scott McDowell’s CopperWorks is open daily this holiday season. From 12 noon to 5 pm, Monday through Friday, and 11 am to 5 pm on Saturdays and Sundays you should consider stopping in to shop local. Copper fish, wall sconces, decorative items, hand-crafted jewelry, antiques and more can be found nestled in to part of the old Poole’s Fish plant. Check out Everett Poole’s Chilmark Chandlery while you are there. He has more than you would realize tucked into that sweet spot with the lobster pot Christmas tree. Yes, that fantastic giant lobster tops his creation once again.

The lovely library ladies remind us that December is Food for Fines month. They will forgive any outstanding late fees for patrons who bring in a donation of non-perishable, non-expired food for the Island Food Pantry.

Lisa Smiley was a welcomed addition to the K/1 classroom along with the amazing Eleanor Neubert while Robin Smith was away. Where were she and her main man, Jimmy Hickey? Africa. Yes, folks the couple ventured half way around the globe to celebrate Thanksgiving with Robin’s daughter Hannah Kahl. Hannah began her journey last January in northern Uganda with her friend Lila Fischer. She volunteered in the schools and worked at the birthing clinic. There she began a women’s micro-finance group and became affiliated with an organization that works throughout Uganda. Hannah is currently working for Women’s Micro Finance Initiative in the village of Buyobo, Uganda. After spending a little time in Hannah’s village and meeting some of the folks she spends her time with, the trio set off on quite the adventure.

They began their trip at lake Bunyoni at a nonprofit eco-tourism resort. They traveled by boat to Bushara Island and stayed in wooden tree houses overlooking the lake where they managed to see more than half of the 240 indigenous birds the island is known for. From the mountainous lake area they traveled to another eco-lodge with an amazing view of the the Rift Valley. The huts, which were powered by solar and and utilized a rainwater collection system, had canvas sides which lent themselves to a complete open air environment if you so desired.

They went on safari for two days in Queen Elizabeth park where standing up in the safari vehicle spotting animals on the Savannah was a highlight. Elephants, impala, kob, water buffalo, lion, zebras, monkeys, baboons, hippos, warthogs, topi, and various bird were viewed. They ventured down the Kazinga Channel on a leisurely cruise watching all the hippos, water buffalos, elephants, crocodiles, and numerous birds. The trip was completed with a few more days in Hannah’s village and enjoying her day-to-day life surrounded by her new-found friends and co-workers.

Much to her mother’s delight, Hannah will be home for a few weeks around the holidays, but she will return to Africa to continue her work until June. I only wish I could share with you the delight in Robin’s voice as she recounted her trip to me. Welcome home Robin and Jimmy — so glad you could share the trip of a lifetime with all of us.