I have been interested in astronomy since high school. I really didn't get into it until after college. I enjoy being outdoors and taking pictures, so it is a perfect fit. I started out taking pictures of the moon and soon moved to planets. I didn't start photographing the sun until later since you need special filters. Taking the pictures is less than half the process. Once you take them, it requires many more hours of post-processing to get the most out of them. This is an art itself and takes a long time to learn. I still consider myself a novice at this since there is so much to learn. It is fun to learn and in the process you get to enjoy the outdoors and meet new people.
I also spend a lot of time doing missions work. My wife and I are involved with several organizations that take trips to Nicaragua, Haiti and Nigeria. I have made about 15 trips down to Nicaragua to do various construction projects, medical work, and school and church building.
The organization we helped found is called NACE (Nicaragua Advances in Christian Education). Our goal is to provide the region around Nueva Guinea, Nicaragua, with a solid Christian education emphasizing math and science. The school is called Colegio Manto de Gracia and is currently K-5th grade. One of the school buildings is pictured at the top of this page. The plan is to add a grade every year until 12th grade. Nueva Guinea is in the rural southern area of Nicaragua. It is a main hub of commerce of several thousand people where local farmers bring their goods to sell. We are working with Bob and Barb Kelly who are living in Nicaragua getting the school going. Click on the logo for a link to Bob and Barb's blog. Here is a link to the NACE webpage. All the pictures shown here are of the school and classrooms.
During one of the previous trips down there, we had several astronomy outreach events. In this area of the country, there is very little opportunity to further your education, so we are hoping to inspire the kids. We also have to encourage the parents to let their kids go after their dreams and show them that it will be worth while. I was able take a small reflecting telescope to leave down there. Here are some pictures from those nights. I was able to talk to about 75-100 people and let them look through the telescope. We were able to see Saturn, Venus, the crescent moon, and visibile Milky Way over the town. I was also able to show them a scale model of the solar system. It is always fun to see people's reactions to a scale model and the imense size of it. I used the basketball/soccer court for this and took up the entire court.
There are several very cool programs we have going at the school. There is a milk and bread program that provides all the students with a piece of bread and a glass of milk at the beginning of the school day. A lot of the kids were coming to school without having breakfast. They were not able to concentrate and this gives them a good breakfast. There is also a vitamin program that provides all the students with a one-a-day vitamin. The school is trying to educate the children to make wise nutrition decisions (where possible) to improve their health. There is still a great need for food and basic necessities.
If you would like to dontate, go the NACE webpage.
We also work with another non-profit organiztion called Zoya Ministries they are doing some great work in other courties like Haiti, Nigeria and Nicaragua. Click on their logo to see their information or click here to go directly to their donation page. Select "Nicaragua" from the pull down menu. I would appreciate it if you put "4th Day" in the Memo section to indicate that you were directed from this page.
You can also purchase a print of any astronomy picture on this site. The proceeds go directly to help building the science curriculum of Colegio Manto de Gracia. I have already left them with a telescope for school use and community outreach. They usually do not have any access to this type of equipment. It is a great tool to help inspire the students to learn and grow beyond their current circumstances. Please contact me at email@example.com if you are interested in helping out.