Sunday, April 25, 2021

Olaf Ribeiro decorated as "Champion of Trees"


Dr Olaf Ribeiro, Champion of Trees


Background and introduction for the proclamation agenda bill


In Recognition of Dr. Olaf Ribeiro: Dedicated Bainbridge Island Volunteer and Consummate Teacher and Storyteller


Dr. Olaf Ribeiro is one of those rare gems of a human being who makes the world a better place.  He certainly deserves to be recognized for his years of service and dedication to Bainbridge Island and its citizens, including the trees.  Among his many services to the community was his time spent saving historic trees, such as the Blakely Japanese Maple, and teaching through his Bainbridge Historical Museum Historic Tree Tours and nature walks.  He guided fungi tours at IslandWood that could lead even the uncertain neophyte to an incredible understanding and appreciation for these amazing life forms.  He would gleefully--yes, gleefully!--step into the woods to measure trees for tour participants and invite them to help and learn how to age trees.  He shared wonderful stories of his misadventures of missteps taken in the woods leading to unfortunate injuries, all while smiling.  He shared inspiring, heartwarming stories of researchers discovering cures for disease among the beloved trees and fungi of the world.  Through every moment on a walk in the woods, Olaf's passion for his work and phenomenal knowledge and expertise would shine through.  During his guided walks, his laugh would ring through the forest like the seemingly endless rings of an old growth tree! 


Bainbridge Island is a more beautiful place for all the trees Olaf planted and fought to protect, for his lifetime of dedication, and for all the children and adults who have been inspired by his enthusiasm.  I am grateful to those of you who have chosen to honor Dr. Olaf Ribeiro for his service to our community.


Thank you,

Christine Perkins

Bainbridge Island


Historic cherry trees moved from Bainbridge High School to Sakai Middle School

From Dr. Olaf Ribeiro’s book, Historic, Champion & Unique Trees of Bainbridge Island, WA, published in 2019:

Cherry Trees (Prunus var. Kwanzan):

These trees are located at Sonoji Sakai Intermediate School - 9343 NE Sportsman Club Road and can be seen on the hillside above the parking lot.  In 1933, they were planted by the Japanese, Issei (first generation) at Bainbridge High School, to honor the first class of graduating Nisei (second generation) from Bainbridge High School. These trees were a majestic sight in spring when their blossoms were much admired. In 2006 the school superintendent let it be known that the trees were in danger of being removed since they were in the way of the proposed new High School Auditorium. The cost of moving them to another location was considered prohibitive. With the help of island historian Gerry Elfendahl and arborist Olaf Ribeiro, a campaign was launched to save the historic cherry trees. With a very generous donation from islander Sue Cooley, saving the trees became a reality. An arborist crew from Seattle was brought over to help move them to the hillside at Sonoji Sakai Intermediate School with the cooperation of the principal Joann Van der Stoep. The arborists worked tirelessly to accomplish the move over a weekend. … Kay Nakao, a daughter of one of the students who originally planted the trees, was present to see the move accomplished. She was present in 1935 when her father was one of those who planted the trees. It was a very emotional moment for her as she recalled the original plantings and the effort that was made to save the trees. To quote Kay Nakao “It is something special that every season when the blossom blooms, we have “hanami” or flower viewing. It is a feeling hard to describe – of peace and an appreciation of beauty”

The trees presented a technical challenge since they were going to be transplanted in May, at flowering time. …. For Olaf Ribeiro, the arborist in charge of the move, the challenge was well worth it since it was important to save the trees to keep Island traditions and history alive.

 The moving of these trees to their present location generated much local interest. A selection of some of the comments is given below:

April 14, 2007: Bainbridge Review: History faces the ax. Activists hope to save cherry trees in the way of BHS expansion. “Ribeiro along with island historian Gerry Elfendahl, members of the nonprofit Kitsap Trees and Shoreline Association and a small group of students are scrambling to save the trees. Lacking time and money, the group is looking for all the help they can get

 May 17, 2007: Kitsap Sun: Volunteers Dig In for a long Day to save historic cherry trees. “Sakai Intermediate School is the proud owner of three historically significant trees, after an all-day effort by a couple of dozen workers and a small army of supporters.

The transfer from Bainbridge High School was an all-day project. Island arborist Olaf Ribeiro called the transfer a big success”

  May 19, 2007: Bainbridge Islander: Island cherry trees to be spared from the ax: “Sue Cooley of Bainbridge Island has made a donation to have three cherry trees at Bainbridge High School moved to nearby Sakai Intermediate School”.

 May 30, 2007: Bainbridge Review: Tree effort brought out best in Island.  A letter to the Review by Clarence Moriwaki expressing gratitude for saving the trees....” a tree weaves a story, a history of time. Look up and listen and together you’ll climb”.

 May 14, 2008: Bainbridge Review: A Celebration of Cherry Trees. Gerald Elfendahl wrote a column on the successful celebration of the First Annual Cherry Blossom Festival. “Students played Japanese folk songs and shared haiku read aloud and artistically written on decorated paper that fluttered among the blossoms. One read, “Pink blossom, softly swaying in the wind, floating in puddles”. No puddles this day – though maybe a few happy tears! Eagles and billowing white clouds like giant blossoms filled a sunny sky ........”


Previous awards and recognition for Olaf include:


·         History Hero Award from the Bainbridge Historical Museum.

·         Hometown Hero Award by the Bainbridge Symphony Orchestra.

·         Environmentalist Award – Assoc. of Bainbridge Communities 2015

·         Education Award   International Society of Arboriculture, PNW Chapter. 2010

·         Wall Street Journal front page article – Oct. 13, 2006. God Can Make Tree, But Olaf Ribeiro Can Save its Life.

·         NBC Today Show- July 17, 2007.  Tree Doc – An American Story. Bob Dotson.

·         Featured on Channel 5 Evening Magazine for saving historic cherry trees. October 2007. 

·         Cherry Blossom Award by the Consul General of Japan for work in saving historic cherry trees. April 18, 2008

·         Featured as one of the Island Stewards in the book, In Praise of Island Stewards by Joel Sackett. 1998. 





In Recognition of Dr. Olaf Ribeiro,

Champion of Trees

City of Bainbridge Island, Washington State

A Proclamation declaring May 17th as Dr. Olaf Ribeiro Day on Bainbridge Island; affirming the community’s appreciation of Dr. Olaf Ribeiro, Champion of Trees, and his work on behalf of Bainbridge Island’s community forests inspired by his profound knowledge of the many ecological, cultural, and economic benefits trees and forests provide to the community, the region, and humans worldwide.

Status: Draft

Date introduced to City Council:

Date to be taken up by the City Council:
City Council Sponsors: Rasham Nassar and Christy Carr


Proclamation _________________

A Proclamation declaring May 17th as Dr. Olaf Ribeiro Day on Bainbridge Island; affirming the community’s appreciation of Dr. Olaf Ribeiro, Champion of Trees, and his work on behalf of Bainbridge Island’s community forests inspired by his profound knowledge of the many ecological, cultural, and economic benefits trees and forests provide to the community, the region, and humans worldwide.

WHEREAS, Olaf was first introduced to plants by his mother in Kenya: he became curious about trees and “how they managed to grow so big and survive so many years”; growing up, he observed the universal appeal of trees for their calming effect on people; over years spent gaining advanced degrees in Plant Pathology, saw that there were few experts who possessed his expert knowledge and dedication to saving trees; and

WHEREAS, while Dr. Olaf Ribeiro’s appreciation for trees is rooted in science, it also has aesthetic, historical, and spiritual dimensions; and


WHEREAS, Olaf was born in Nairobi, Kenya, in a family originally from Goa, India; he attended the Technical High School in Nairobi, went to England to complete a pre-college curriculum, and returned to Egerton Agricultural College in Kenya; sponsored by an Agency for International Development scholarship, he earned Master’s and Doctoral degrees in Plant Pathology at West Virginia University; between 1972 and 1981 he was a Faculty Research Associate at the University of California, Riverside; he became a world authority on the pathogen Phytophthora, which in many different species afflicts both food stocks and forests; and


WHEREAS, in California, focused first on diseases afflicting citrus and avocado crops, Olaf’s interests gradually shifted to forests and the growth, longevity, and morbidity of trees, contributing to a decision to move to Bainbridge Island in 1981; and

WHEREAS, in 1991 Bainbridge Island would be incorporated as a city and embrace the stewardship principles promoted by Olaf and other Islanders; and

WHEREAS, over the years, Olaf’s devotion to the protection of trees on Bainbridge Island would put him at odds with development interests, he would continue to be an irrepressible defender of trees and all that remains of the natural environment; and

WHEREAS, Olaf would work in the late 1990s to successfully advocate for the retention of the large red oak and chestnut trees at Harbor Square, both of which would be designated Heritage Trees by the City in 2000, and in 2002 would rescue a large maple tree when the Martinique was demolished on Eriksen Avenue, moving it to Bainbridge Performing Arts; and

WHEREAS, Olaf would co-found the Murden Cove Preservation Association, dedicated to environmental protection, and was a member of the City’s first Forestry Commission; and

WHEREAS, in 2002 Olaf would be featured in photographer Joel Sackett’s book, In Praise of Island Stewards, where he would say, “The rapid development of previously forested areas around the world is destroying our fragile ecosystems.  Saving trees has become urgent and of paramount importance.  Being a ‘tree steward’ is sometimes difficult, as the recent decision to down the maples on Winslow Way East illustrates.  Trees evoke strong emotions in each one of us.  Nevertheless, I continue to work to inform urban communities along the West Coast, through lectures, writings, and on-site visits, on the need for trees in our lives.”

WHEREAS, on May 17, 2007 Olaf would help move historic cherry trees displaced by construction at Bainbridge High School to Sonoji Sakai Middle School.  The trees were planted in 1933 by the Island’s Japanese American Issei (first generation) to honor the first class of graduating Nisei (second generation) from Bainbridge High School and can now be seen on the hillside above the Sakai middle school parking lot; and

WHEREAS, for several years Olaf would lead heritage tree walks in Winslow to share his knowledge and appreciation of trees with the community; and

WHEREAS, Olaf was an inspiration and contributor to the 2019 City of Bainbridge Island Resolution, Celebrate Trees Earth Month Bainbridge Island, which includes: WHEREAS, the citizens of Bainbridge Island recognize that the forests of Bainbridge Island have existed here for many thousands of years, providing habitat for a diverse community of plants and animals, as well as for the area’s first inhabitants, purifying the air and water; and supporting a rich diversity of life; and

WHEREAS,  In 2019, Olaf worked with the school district and community members to save the Japanese maple at Blakely Elementary School from destruction by raising the funds and coordinating the work to have the tree moved from the path of redevelopment and placed at the entrance to the new school where it is a centerpiece of the new landscaping and a joy to observe in every season; and

WHEREAS, during a speech in recognition of Olaf in February of 2019 at the Bainbridge Historical Museum the following was said: Dr Ribeiro walks his own talk every day as he collaborates with groups and individuals to think about intentional growth, lobbies City Hall for stronger protections for trees, plants saplings in our public parks, and like a mad-scientist, mixes up microbe-mycelial cocktails to save heritage trees in Downtown Winslow by healing their root systems. His generosity is bar-none. He gives from his heart, he's tenacious, and most importantly he loves Bainbridge Island.

… His expertise, generosity of spirit and humor inspire us every day”; and

WHEREAS, for the past three decades Dr. Olaf Ribeiro has been a tireless inspiration to citizens and city officials alike, saving and healing trees, and sharing his love and knowledge of trees, and in so doing contributing to the creation of progressive policies and regulations to protect trees and the natural environment: NOW, THEREFORE,


The City Council of the City of Bainbridge Island declares May 17th to be Dr. Olaf Ribeiro, Champion of Trees, Day on Bainbridge Island.

Adopted by the City Council the ____ day of ____________________, 2021, and signed by me in open session in authentication of its adoption this________ day

of ______________________, 2021.


Mayor ___________of the Bainbridge Island City Council



Friday, April 16, 2021

Ken Pereira


Ken Pereira

A Star Next Door


Ken is the son of Hubert & Audrey Pereira (originally from India, with relationships in Dar & Kampala).  Ken is also the nephew of Uganda star cricketer Charlie DeSouza. (Field Hockey Canada)


Field Hockey Ontario is happy to share the sixth of many posts in our new series of content titled "Where are they now?" This series will highlight alumni from FHO, their playing, coaching, and umpiring careers, and what they are doing now. We are happy to introduce our sixth individual, Ken Pereira. Please enjoy this write-up on Ken's Field Hockey experience and what he does in the present, as written by Ken himself.

Ken was first introduced to hockey through Charlie and Johnny D’Souza, Ken’s uncle and cousin. He was 16 and played for the GOA junior team. He continued playing with the GOA Golds, with his brother Chris, and then played for the GOA Reds. He began playing for Ontario at the U18 level. He broke into Team Canada via the indoor team, playing in the 1993 Glenfiddich International in Scotland. He was then given a shot on the outdoor team in 1994, at age 21, and never looked back.

Ken played in many major competitions, 1995 Pan American Games, 1998 Commonwealth Games, and 1998 World Cup, but the competition that really put him on the map for Canadian hockey fans was the 1999 Pan American Games in Winnipeg. In a quintessential Pan American final, it was a Canada vs. Argentina battle. Ken scored the game’s only goal, late in the first half, making no mistake with a loose ball in the circle. The photo of Ronnie Jagday and Ken celebrating his goal is a Canadian field hockey classic and was the inspiration for the Field Hockey Canada logo.

Ken went on to play in the Sydney Olympic Games, living out his childhood dream. Shortly thereafter, after playing in his second Commonwealth Games, Kenny picked up his indoor stick again, this time to play in the first Indoor Pan American Cup - the qualifier for the 2003 Indoor World Cup. Team Canada didn’t drop a point through the entire competition and sailed into the Indoor World Cup, where they finished 5th - the highest the Canadian Men have placed at a World Cup. Ken again competed in the 2005 Indoor Pan American Cup and, on home court in Kitchener-Waterloo, Canada won the tournament with a 5-3 win over Trinidad and Tobago in the final, securing their spot in the 2007 Indoor World Cup.

It was around this time that Ken moved to Holland to play in the Dutch League. Ken played for 5 years with top club HGC, and in his final year, secured the EHL Championship in 2011 with Canadian teammate Rob Short. Ken also played in the India Hockey League in 2012, captaining the Pune Strykers to the finals.

After a few more years of tours and tournaments, the 2007 Rio Pan Am Games couldn’t come soon enough for Ken and his Canadian compatriots. Canada squeaked out the narrowest of wins against Argentina in the final, with a sudden death penalty stroke victory, earning a spot for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. The Canadian team then went on to qualify for the 2010 World Cup.

It’s hard to find career highlights after five Pan American Games, four Commonwealth Games, one EHL championship, three Indoor World Cups, two World Cups, and two Olympic Games, but Ken managed to add a unique feat: he was the first member of a team sport to be named a Canadian flag bearer at the Commonwealth Games, leading Team Canada into the opening ceremonies of the Delhi Games in 2010.

Soon after in 2011, Ken, along with Rob Short, broke the legendary Bubli Chohan’s record for most international matches for team Canada. He finished his outdoor career with 348 international caps.

He captained the Canadian team at the 2014 Indoor Pan American Cup to victory and played another Indoor World Cup in 2015. Ken, at the ripe age of 47, continues to play indoor with the national team - they are currently waiting on COVID restrictions to lift to play in the next Pan American Cup, the World Cup qualifier.

Nowadays, Ken still plays hockey but has shifted gears with his day-to-day, working as a medical attendant/ patient transfer driver. Ken, along with his partner Leigh Sandison (another Ontario hockey vet), became parents in 2020, and are looking forward to their little boy picking up a stick. Ken has definitely missed his hockey coaching family (John Desouza, Lou Mendonca, Reg Pereira, Cass Mendonca, and Sean Pereira) during the pandemic. Over the last few years, Ken has been heavily involved with coaching all ages in the provincial outdoor program and indoor national program with this crew of coaches. Ken also coaches many schools in the Toronto area and his own club, OKD.

Ken looks forward to COVID restrictions being lifted and continuing to give back to the sport that gave him so much.

Thank you, Ken, for sharing your experience with the FHO Community. Now you know where Ken is now!


Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Death of Ill Talal, a super Tusker


From a friend: A former student of mine who lives in Kenya sent me this sad item on the death of one of Africa's few remaining "Super Tuskers".


Today we have lost a Tsavo Icon. Mourning IL TALAL one of Africa’s last great Super “Tuskers”

It is with great sadness that today we report on the death of IL Talal, one of Tsavo’s most iconic and well-loved super tuskers.  He was well known for his long symmetrical ivory that touched ground. He was a shy elephant and often in the company of 2 or 3 other bulls (his askari’s or bodyguards). He lived close to human settlements on the edge of the Tsavo West National Park. 

We first caught wind that IL Tala had been suffering from a suspected spear wound in late Feb. Our partners MWCT informed us immediately and two treatments have been carried out since with the KWS veterinary unit (supported by DSWT). IL Talal seemed to be making a good recovery. He was monitored daily by MWCT scouts and all seemed ok, but sadly he died last night. The post-mortem diagnosis confirmed that IL Talal died from a twisted colon, which is believed to sometimes occur after heavy rains bringing on an abundance of succulent plants, which has been the case recently.

Tsavo Trust has been enthusiastically monitoring IL Talal for the last 8 years and MWCT has known him for the last 20 years. 

There are positives to be taken from the death of IL Talal: he has lived a full life and died in his twilight years; he has also undoubtedly spread his tusker genes widely; he has brought together conservation partnerships (such as the Tusker monitoring carried out by MWCT & TT - Big Tusker project) and his ivory was recovered (and did not fall into the wrong hands) as a result of this consistent monitoring. 


Check out these tusk statistics!



weight 100.5lbs

Length from lip: 74 inches 

Total length: 95 inches WOW!!!

Lip circumference: 17.5 inches 


The harm in writing we don't think twice about

 Before you write your next phrase that you take for granted, ready this:

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Kuldip Raj Sondhi: Death of a legend in Mombasa


Kuldip Raj Sondhi was born in Lahore Punjab in what was then India in 1924.

He was the Little Theatre Club board of Trustees Chairman, hotelier and play writer. Among his 10 plays written when he was already in his 70s all were produced to great acclaim at the little theatre club in Mombasa. His themes were brave takes on multicultural mixed African Indian European love stories that were often Taboo subjects not always comfortable for the audience at the time.

After taking a break from being a handsome beach bum and writer when he started his family he began one of his many enterprises that were to become his legacy as a hotelier.

He was brought to Mombasa Kenya as a young boy with his grandmother and they moved into a house near the railway station. Kuldip’s mischievous behaviour worried his mother enough that she decided to send him and his brother Jagdish to India to boarding school.

In what was not uncommon in those days they did not return to Kenya for 8 years or see their parents all that time. In 1942 at the height of the second world war Kuldip was admitted to university in New York. He crossed the Atlantic with a convoy of 70 ships to New York. Only after arriving did they find out some of the ships in the convoy never made it having been sunk by German submarines.

He graduated with a aeronautical engineering degree in 1946 and went to England and joined the prestigious firm of Bristol aerospace working on turbines. It was in London that he met his future wife my mother Aase Jorid Haugberg. She was a post war nanny from Norway working in London .

Kuldip soon regretted the decision to migrate to England finding its colonial attitude to people of Indian descent uncomfortable and demeaning so he decided to return to Kenya. A few years later and many letters delivered by ship helped to convince my mother to follow her Indian Prince to Africa and she took the steamers across the Mediterranean down the Suez Canal and into the port of Mombasa. By then Kuldip’s brother and sister were all settled as well in Kenya. .

Soon after their reunion in Kenya they moved in together and tied the knot. Kuldip veered away from his engineering education and discovered his passion for writing and went on to write many short stories and was awarded several BBC prizes for his radio plays.

In 1972, he opened the Reef hotel in Mombasa and continued to build and manage several hotels over 50 years.


He passed away in Mombasa inside the Reef Hotel facing the gardens he loved so much with the Indian Ocean breezes over his body. His legacy is a testament to the multiple influences of the Western and Eastern, Western and African.

Dr. Peter Odote past Chairman Little theatre club says this about Kuldip Sondhi: Very sad day indeed. Kuldip was a pillar of strength in play writing having started with award winning radio plays. When I adopted his award-winning play on BBC " Beach Access" in 1997 for the stage at Little theatre club there his appetite for writing stage plays grew and he wrote about 10 plays for the theatre. With a background in aeronautical engineering, it is amazing how he juggled his life through the hospitality industry and the Arts. As a trustee of Little theatre club, he lived the part. May his soul rest in eternal peace.

(Little Theatre Club)


Saturday, April 10, 2021

Princeton Award for Dr Toni De Mello

 In recognition of the many contributions of the late Edward P. “Buddy” Bullard, III. Awarded annually to Princeton's School of Public and International Affairs alumnus who works professionally with communities of colour and who serves as a mentor to current students of colour at Princeton SPIA. 

Bullard Award Recipient 2021

Toni de Mello (MPA '08)Dr Tanya (Toni) De Mello (MPA-URP '08)

(Toni's family were originally from Dar es Salaam)

With a background that includes finance, management consulting, public policy, urban and regional planning and law, Dr Tanya (who we call "Toni") De Mello has spent much of her career researching and addressing equity, diversity and inclusion with a focus on bias in the workplace. She is a human rights lawyer who has worked on issues of discrimination, harassment and sexual violence for the last decade. Through her extensive research, work and advocacy, Toni has become a leading expert in equity and inclusion in Canada.

Toni holds two Bachelors Degrees of Economics and Political Science from the University of Waterloo; a joint master’s degree in Public Affairs and Urban and Regional Planning (MPA-URP) from Princeton University; and a dual law degree from McGill University. She holds a Master of Education in Counselling and Psychotherapy from the University of Toronto. In July 2020, Toni completed her Phd in Social Justice Education at the University of Toronto, where she researched bias in the hiring of racialized people with a focus on Black candidates. 

Currently, Toni  is the Assistant Dean of Students at Canada’s newest law school, the  Lincoln Alexander School of Law at Ryerson University. The Lincoln Alexander School of Law is built on four pillars – a commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion; increasing access to justice; stimulating innovation and entrepreneurship; and providing sound academics with innovation pedagogy.  In Toni’s role as Assistant Dean of Students, she is responsible for Admissions, Careers and Student Experience and is leading the law school’s charge to create lawyers that work for the public interest and are committed to increasing access to justice. 

Toni’s focus on equity, diversity and inclusion is tangibly evident in the school's admission offer and acceptance data. Law schools in Canada and the United States are notorious for being elite and exclusive institutions with few racialized students relative to the talent pool available. Compared to other law schools in Canada, Ryerson’s Faculty of Law has among the highest number of racialized students, Black students and Indigenous students per capita in the first-year class and also boasts a high number of students that identify as woman, LGBTQ2SI+, people with disabilities and mature students, among others. 

Toni has also set up a scholarship at Ryerson for Black and Indigenous students to have greater access to studying law and has currently raised close to $100,000 for it. In her leadership position, she has hired and manages a team of 20 people, 80% of which are racialized, Black or Indigenous.

In addition to her work in the law school, Toni also teaches a course about global issues that focuses on inequality, poverty and climate change at Ryerson University.

Prior to Toni’s current position, she served as the Director of Human Rights at Ryerson University and she has also worked in human rights at the University of Toronto. In 2019, she was awarded Ryerson University's President's Blue and Gold Award, which is the highest honour for employees, for her work in human rights.  

As a consultant, Toni  works with major multinational corporations, government branches and non-profit organizations to improve hiring and retention practices of equity deserving groups, with a focus on increasing the representation of racialized people. In addition, she is an executive coach and works one-on-one with senior leaders ranging from vice-presidents to directors to deans to increase inclusive leadership in all sectors. She has worked with over 1500 organizations and businesses in the last 20 years. She is also the President of the Canadian Association for the Prevention of Discrimination and Harassment in Higher Education. 
Toni is deeply committed to working for access to justice and in human rights. In 2018, she was nominated by a national organization for the MAX Gala (Muslim Award for Excellence) as a Friend of the Community. This nomination was made by the Muslim-Canadian community to recognize the work of non-Muslims who are devoted to being allies and advancing the rights and representation of Muslim people in Canada. Although she did not win, the nomination, coming from the Muslim-Canadian community, meant more to her than the award.

In 2015, Toni ran for federal office in Canada in the area in which she grew up. She ran on a platform that fought for universal day care, affordable pharmacare, raising minimum wages and supporting public education and the universal health system. She lost (badly!) but it remains the hardest and most important thing she has done in Canada. She never even thought about running for office before then Dean Anne Marie Slaughter brought Toni into her office in the fall of 2005 and told her she had to run for Prime Minister in Canada or for a position in the United States. Toni thought it was outlandish at the time but now knows that was the first seed planted. 
Toni became interested in public service through grassroots volunteering. She grew up working in shelters and emergency relief. She has worked with the United Way, Habitat for Humanity and started a volunteer arm while at Princeton to engage graduate students to work in community service in neighbouring Trenton while at Princeton. In addition to founding two NGOs, Toni has served in the United Nations High Commission for Refugees and the World Food Programme in Geneva (Switzerland), Senegal (West Africa) and Columbia (South America). Today, she focusses her energies outside of work on local projects; as a trained psychotherapist, Toni volunteers at a programme that offers low-cost therapy for community members. 

At Princeton, Toni led two major service trips. The first engaged members of her first year class to travel to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 to work in emergency relief with local community organizations. The second engaged members of her class  to go to Pakistan after the earthquake in 2005 to work in Kashmir, the area hardest hit. For both of these initiatives, and other work, she was awarded Princeton's International Service Award in 2006.
In addition to these major service trips, during her second year at Princeton, Toni initiated and led a trip where 25 undergraduate students campaigned for the various US primary election campaigns in 2008. Students worked in New Hampshire for a month on various campaigns and she worked for Barack Obama’s campaign. After completing this initiative, Toni continued her work for Barack Obama through several state-level primaries for the remainder of 2008 while finishing her degrees at Princeton.
Toni has been an avid supporter of SAOC and of racialized students on our campus. She has only missed two SAOC reunions since 2005 - one because she was working for the UN in Senegal and another because she was running for office in Canada. She has been active in speaking and helping with the organization of SAOC, mentoring current students and alums and working with Princeton to create sessions, conferences and panels that speak to issues of injustice, racism and other forms of systemic and institutional violence.

Thursday, April 8, 2021

Bertha de Souza: a rare human being


Dr Bertha de Souza

A rare human being


By Cyprian Fernandes

ONCE IN A lifetime, sometimes more than once, we are privileged to meet an extraordinary personality. More often than not, when we do, we celebrate them from afar and when we are in their company, we can sense the air is filled with a kind of magic. The English poet Thomas Ford once wrote:

“There is a lady sweet and kind,

 Was never a face so pleased my mind;

 I did but see her passing by. And yet I'll love her till I die. Her gesture, motion, and her smiles,

 Her wit, her voice my heart beguiles …”

I won’t go that far. Yet, I always felt that the person I have in mind was special. Her smile could light up a darkened evening, her kindness, generosity, elegance and personality were the stuff of superstars. She always wore a sari and epitomized all that is great in Goan womanhood. I always admired her. Yesterday (April 6, 2011), a packed church, five priests, and several attendants bade farewell to a very special friend: Dr Bertha de Souza. It was one of the longest church services, nearly four hours before the hearse left the church. Her patients are legion and most of them were at the church in Cronulla.

We often say of one’s passing that the world is lesser for it. In Bertha’s case, it is absolutely true. She also very blessed and en route to join her husband, Dr Pat de Souza, she had what one of her sons described as a “happy exit” after a brief illness.  I spoke to her a couple of weeks ago and had arranged to meet “this week or next week”.

The thought that I will never see her again breaks my heart. She was a rare human being, pure.

Bertha was born in the village of Aldona in 1932, at her grandparents’ house. Her renowned father Dr Benedito de Souza delivered the baby. Her family lived in the village of Ucassaiam. She went to the local Portuguese school because Goa was still a Portuguese colony. Later she moved to Holy Cross Convent in Bardez, an English school in a nearby village where she learned to speak English.

She changed schools yet again and went to the St Thomas School in Aldona which offered science as a subject,

In 1949, she went to St Xavier’s college in Bombay to do her inter-science levels, years 9 and 10. She then qualified for entry for a medical degree but the colleges did not approve her admission because she was a Portuguese citizen of Goa and not an Indian National. Instead, she began her dentistry degree.

In 1952, after completing a year in Dentistry things changed, and Bertha was admitted to Grant Medical College to study medicine.  She once wrote: “I enjoyed the challenge of learning about what wonderful machine the human body is. The creator of this body is a genius without comparison.”

In 1958, after finishing her internship, she was forced to go to Aden to join her brother there and practising as a doctor but not before she had learned to speak Arabic. Here she met Pat de Souza (also from Aldona) among her brother’s friends. Pat and Bertha married a year later. She was given away by her mother because her father was unable to attend.

A clause in her contract stipulated that her position would be terminated if she got pregnant. They had three children, 15 months apart and a fourth a year later.

In Aden in 1960, the country was beset with political violence. They deiced to move to Australia but made a three-year stopover in Bangalore where a fifth child was born.

In 1969, they moved to the beachside suburb of Cronulla. They had been sponsored by a childhood friend of Pat’s, Mark Wade, the only person they knew when they arrived.

They soon bought a house in Cronulla, coincidentally named “Dela-Goa”. They made this a treasured home. Bertha lived there for 50 years. Pat de Souza died in 2012.

They were very popularly doctors in Cronulla.

They were one of the most popular couples with people of all colour and religions and generous supporters of community causes. They were godparents of the Goan Overseas Association of the NSW from its infancy. Pat and Bertha attended every event they could and Pat asked his daughter Susan to promise him she would attend every anniversary dance.

She keeps this promise diligently (COVID permitting of course).

The late Bertha and Pat de Souza

The de Souza dynasty:  

Children: Mark, Susan, Dunstan, Melanie and Nigel. In-laws Amanda, Glenn, Peter and Raelene. Grandchildren: Emily, Sophie, Thomas, Harry, Justin, Liam, Christophe, Andrea, Claudia, Lucy and Isabelle. Great-grandchildren: Florence, Harriet, Beatrix, Lottie and Josephine.

Monday, April 5, 2021


Sultan Somjee: One who dares

to dream is a prophet

Saturday, April 03, 2021


One who dreams is called a prophet

Published by Amazon

616 pages



Author Sultan Somjee who now lives in Burnaby, Canada, accepting a peace staff and leaves of a peace tree from a Pokot Elder

A forever thinking Sultan Somjee. 




This book is not for peace sceptics or peace unbelievers. Academic Evelin G. Lindner sums it up quite nicely and others have given comments on Sultan Somjee’s work in similar voice, especially, the venerable author and academic Prof Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, who spoke in a glowing voice at the virtual launch of the book in November 2020.

Dr Lindner, the founder of Human Dignity and Humiliation Studies, writes: The book “is indispensable reading for every citizen of this world who wishes to work for a worthwhile future for our children. Somjee presents his profound insight into the peace building traditions of Africa (my words: particularly Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, South Sudan) in a deeply touching narrative of dignity and humiliation. Reading this book is a life-changing experience.”

Even as child, a schoolboy at St Teresa’s Boys’ School in Eastleigh, Nairobi, Somjee was always a thinker. He was a quiet classmate and someone everyone called a friend. He was a dedicated student, too. However, he was not much into sports or the social hijinks some of his other friends got up to each day. He was special, but we did not know exactly just how special he was. He has Kenya’s red soil running through his veins, even though he now lives in Vancouver, Canada.

One Who Dreams is Called a Prophet is a work of fiction but anyone who knows that the protagonist, old man Alama, is Somjee or a representative of everyone who has walked the path of seekers of peace during conflicts, especially his assistants. Central to the Kenyan peace experience are the peace museums which are home to traditional cultural artefacts of peace such as the Pokot woman’s waist belt called leketyo, going back a long time. All these are described in the book.


Peace exists

Every page has a charm of its own. Here’s a little sample. “Alama was so excited that he forgot about the woman with the calabash. He would put his questions with caution lest he offended the wise one of the Council of the Sovereign Tree of Peace. When he was little his mother used to tell him. “If it is wisdom you seek from the elder, then ask as if you are eating hot ugali. If you plunge your hand in the middle of the steaming cake, you will get burned. You break hot ugali from the side, a little at a time.” Little by little I will draw wisdom from the Mukwe man, thought Alama.

 “I beg you my age mate, please give me the knowledge of where peace exists.

“Let us walk west together. I must reach the Council of the Sovereign Tree of Peace before dusk,” said the Mukwe elder as he picked up his staff ready to walk. Alama’s finger tapped to count the four-notched bulges along the banded waist cloth that had the bills. Then he felt the sharp edge of his plastic identity card at his navel alongside the mother knife and horn container, all tucked into the folded cloth band. He was ready to walk now but he did not see Koko Kigongo at the spot by the fire that belonged to the woman with the calabash.

Alama looked around the bush, and around the fire again and again. He even went to the rock where had prayed just in case he had carried Koko Kigongo with him to the Dawn prayers …

Every page is filled with poetic wonder. It is another world that we did know existed. There is majesty in the simplicity in Alama’s mighty long search for peace. The good news is that Alama/Somjee found it and you can find the answers in 617 pages of a pure kind of magic.

For four decades, Sultan Somjee has worked on material culture. He introduced learning about indigenous knowledge through material culture in the Kenyan school curriculum (1985-1990). While he was the Head of Ethnography at the National Museums of Kenya, Somjee started village peace museums.

The museums highlight indigenous languages, material culture and the arts used over generations for reconciliation and social cohesion. Today, the peace museums have spread from Kenya to Uganda and South Sudan as a people-to-people civil society movement.

 In 2001, the United Nations named Somjee one among the only twelve ‘Unsung Heroes of Dialogue Among Civilizations’ worldwide in recognition of his work. In 2002, Somjee was appointed on the Global Advisory Board of Human Dignity and Humiliation Studies.


One Who Dreams is Called a Prophet is inspired by the author-ethnographer’s journey into the world of material culture, storytelling, indigenous African knowledge and nature that describe Utu, Swahili for ‘being mtu’ or simply ‘being human’. All over traditional Africa, the principle of Utu or Ubantu is used in reconciliation and sustaining peace.

Somjee wrote a few years ago: “I started working on Kenya’s material culture in early 1970s at the Institute of African Studies, University of Nairobi. My work centred on collecting, exhibiting and teaching that did not involve the communities whose artefacts I was gathering and using. They were the subjects of research, not the participants.

“Then 20 years later in 1994, having collected thousands of objects, made over 20 exhibitions ranging from ten to 60 items, and having worked among many ethnic groups, and having taught and introduced the teaching of material culture in the school curriculum, I began working on a Kenyan Material Culture Project with a different goal. The difference was on the focus that changed to the role of material culture in inter-ethnic face-to-face meetings. The project covered eight pastoralist groups.

“It was at the National Museums of Kenya where I was the Head of Ethnography that we began exploring knowledge of peace building that inhabit cultural memories... This material became the nucleus to develop the new Kenyan Material Project that was initiated in 1994...We then documented this information, organised, and presented it back to the communities to foster conversations both within and across ethnicities.”

 Many stories about reconciliation were told. In real life, the little boy from Eastleigh has walked many thousands of miles in search of peace heritage among the indigenous people, may he continue to do so many more thousands of miles to sustain his dream.

Somjee, In the beginning: In the mid-1970s while working with workers and peasants who were the backbone of the rural theatre at Kamirithu (Ngugi wa Thiong’o described this as bringing the theatre to the people as opposed to people coming to the theatre), I was confronted, as it were, by community-based knowledge, creativity and power of the collective intellect vis-a-vis the Western academy I was trained in. I came to understand how ‘grassroots work”, so often idealized in academic tests and workshops, was done. I became immersed in the embodied arts of the worker-peasant drama group speaking to itself and to the authorities at the same time.

Their bodies and voices expressed historical memories in their mother tongue questioning the misinterpretation of their culture, history and the legitimacy of the kinship rulers who kept them divided and poor. In that, it was a civil society formed around the arts. Jomo Kenyatta’s paramilitary razed the theatre, but they could not erase Kamirithu from our memory.

While setting up museums of peace during the conflicted times of the 1990s. I used the Kamirithu methodology. I remember Ngugi wa Thiong’o and Ngugi wa Miri, the writers of the banned play Ngahika Ndeenda. I remember Kimani Gecau, it is director and acknowledge the Kamirithu community with gratitude for setting me on a life-long journey where the community is the school.

It was not always an easy ride. Ngugi was Thiong’o spoke at length about Somjee’s heroism in the face of persecution by successive governments. Somjee may have even saved a few lives by helping frontline colleagues escape to nearby African countries. He writes: “Along the way we faced obstacles like sometimes the repressive government would not allow us to plant peace trees to manifest and commemorate a site of massacre.”

Secret police would monitor workshops and Somjee and the members of his team would often be followed by these secret policemen. However, many of his students and assistants continue the walk today despite enormous difficulties.

“The continue to dream and expand the project with occasional funding from NGOs ad through people-to-people efforts across cultures and borders. They are the proud curators and initiators of their own community museums of peace in Kenya, Uganda, and South Sudan,” Somjee writes.

Their journeys gather, save and pass on community narratives about wide-ranging found in material culture, storytelling, songs, dances, parables and riddles. For generations these varied indigenous arts and language traditions have informed villages how to live as communities with other communities, according to Somjee.

“This book is about my journey with my field assistants and student curators. It is told in one voice as one continuous journey that merges many voices and many journeys over a period of 30 years.”

According to Somjee: “The curators (of peace museums and other peace projects) are the true prophets because they dare to dream amid inequality and injustices, misrule and corruption that has gripped Kenya for decades and does not seem to go away.

The writer is a former ‘Nation’ journalist and Sultan Somjee’s classmate at St Teresa’s Boys' School, Eastleigh.




  This invaluable collection of photos was sent to me by David Mungai. He says it is “for the acknowledgement of Kenyan History, the celebra...