Ojai fundraiser supports Tibetan villages

Get a taste of Tibet and support a burgeoning village economy while you’re at it by raising funds at an event hosted by Ojai-based TibetanAid Foundation and The Rotary Club of Ojai.

The afternoon of music, food and art will be held at Ojai restaurant Mandala and will feature Tibetan musician and visual artist Tamding Tsetan, a performance by Royal Bhutanese dancers and a talk by a personal friend of the Dalai Lama, Thepo Rimpoche.

Tibetan immigrant husband and wife, Dorjee and Dolkar Tsaewang, who recently opened the Mandala Restaurant, will host the event.

Nathan Kaehler, a Rotary Club of Ojai member involved in the international service committee, says that it won’t take much to fund big change in the remote Tibetan villages from where the Tsaewangs immigrated.

“We’ve been working on a project to enlist village elders to help start small businesses with younger people in the area of masonry, carpentry, weaving and so on,” said Kaehler. “It’s not a huge amount of money to get it done at about $13,000 for three years.”

The event will take place on Saturday, March 12, from 3-5 p.m. at Mandala Restaurant, 11400 N. Ventura Ave. in Ojai, with a suggested donation of $50 a person. For more information, call 640-8700.

Startup Weekend comes to Ventura County

If Ventura County Executive Officer Michael Powers has his way, Silicon Valley will be taking notes on the future of IT from us.

That’s because this week’s Startup Weekend, an event hosted by Ventura County and the Camarillo Chamber of Commerce, will put a spotlight on what local entrepreneurs can do to further technologies in the county’s largest industries, agriculture and healthcare, that have the potential to make an impact on a global level.

The weekend will also be an opportunity for attendees to network and share ideas, as well as to take part in a competition that will award two $10,000 prizes to the best startup concepts.

“Innovation is the future of Ventura County,” said Powers. “We’re looking for people who passionately believe they can make a difference through technology — agriculturists, physicians, health care professionals, engineers and system analysts — people with an idea that just need an opportunity to make it a reality.”

Startup Weekend is itself an international organization that seeks to create high-paying jobs through the support of launching technology-driven businesses. The event will begin on Friday, March 11, and end on Sunday, March 13, at Rancho Campana High School, 4235 Mar Vista Drive in Camarillo and feature a variety of workshops and panels; $99 for the weekend. For more information, visit www.StartupWeekendVenturaCounty.com.

Ventura nonprofit establishes learning centers in Nicaragua

For over 15 years, Ventura-based nonprofit GOCARE has supported educational needs in remote villages in Nicaragua. Now, after receiving $219,000 as part of a Rotary Foundation grant in 2014, the group has reached an agreement with the country’s Ministry of Education and the Ministry of the Exterior to finalize rehabilitation of three learning centers.

The centers, located in the rural cities of Cuajachillo Dos, La Union and Pantanal, are at varying stages of readiness. The first, in Cuajachillo Dos, has already begun interviewing for staff and students, while refurbishing has begun in La Union. Refurbishing of the third center in Pantanal will begin later this year.

“The center in Cuajachillo Dos looks beautiful. The transformation was truly amazing,” says Michelle Cekov, president of GOCARE. “It was hard to believe that I was looking at the same facility that just a few months earlier was a rusted-out shell of a building.”

Though the communities are remote, students will have an opportunity to learn about computers and the English language.

“Our goal is that this will help improve [the students’] studies with up-to-date computers, books, desks, chairs and more,” said Jeanette Stevens, executive and charitable board director. “We are forever grateful to the Rotary for the grant so this was all possible.”

For more information on GOCARE, visit www.gocarekids.org.

Groundbreaking signals the beginnings of Kellogg Park

Ventura’s Westside is about to get much greener with the groundbreaking of Kellogg Park, a community effort to give residents off Ventura Avenue a place to call their own. On this Saturday, March 12, the Westside Community Council will host a block party at the park featuring musical performances, dancers, fitness demonstrations, kids’ activities and more as part of the city’s 150th anniversary.

Kellogg Park is several years in the making, having won two grants totaling $1.58 million, and will feature walking trails, exhibits, a playground, an amphitheater, a community garden and more on 2.5 acres of land at the corner of North Ventura Avenue and Kellogg Street. Construction will begin in late summer and is estimated to be completed by late 2017.

— Chris O’Neal