Promoting Literacy in School Libraries in Sierra Leone

INTRODUCTION

The heart of information literacy is contained within definitions used to describe it. Traditionally librarians have given ‘library induction’ or ‘library skills training’ in a limited role. Library users need to know where the catalogue is, what the services are, and most importantly where the inquiry desk is. This is not to reduce the value of traditional library induction, but libraries and information are also changing. The provision of information through a library in a traditional form has gone through radical alterations. Already in most library and information organizations staffs are adjusting their services with the provision of new media and access to information provision within these organizations. Thus librarians are talking about social inclusion, opportunity, life-long learning, information society and self development.

A plethora of definitions for information literacy abound in books, journal papers and the web. Some of these definitions center on the activities of information literacy i.e. identifying the skills needed for successful literate functioning. Other definitions are based on the perspective of an information literate person i.e. trying to outline the concept of information literacy. Deriving therefore a single definition is a complex process of collecting together a set of ideas as to what might be, should be, or may be considered a part of information literacy. For example Weber and Johnson (2002) defined information literacy as the adoption of appropriate information behavior to obtain, through whatever channel or medium, information well fitted to information needs, together with critical awareness of the importance of wise and ethical use of information in society. The American Library Association (2003) defined information literacy as a set of skills needed to find, retrieve, analyze, and use information. While CLIP (2004) defined information literacy as knowing when and why one needs information, where to find it, and how to evaluate, use and communicate it in an ethical manner. Succinctly these definitions imply that information literacy requires not only knowledge but also skills in:

• recognizing when information is needed;
• resources available
• locating information;
• evaluating information;
• using information;
• ethics and responsibility of use of information;
• how to communicate or share information;
• how to manage information

Given therefore the variety of definitions and implied explanation information literacy is a cluster of abilities that an individual can employ to cope with, and to take advantage of the unprecedented amount of information which surrounds us in our daily life and work.

STRUCTURE OF THE EDUCATION SYSTEM

Sierra Leone’s current educational system is composed of six years of formal primary education, three years of Junior Secondary School (JSS), three years Senior Secondary School (SSS) and four years of tertiary education-6-3-3-4. (The Professor Gbamanja Commission’s Report of 2010 recommended an additional year for SSS to become 6-3-4-4). The official age for primary school pupils is between six and eleven years. All pupils at the end of class six are required to take and pass the National Primary School Examinations designed by the West African Examinations Council (WAEC) to enable them proceed to the secondary school divided into Junior Secondary School(JSS) and Senior Secondary School (SSS). Each part has a final examination: the Basic Education Certificate Examinations (BECE) for the JSS, and the West African Senior Secondary School Certificate Examinations (WASSCE) for SSS, both conducted by WAEC. Successful candidates of WASSCE are admitted to tertiary institutions based on a number of subjects passed (GoSL,1995)

The curriculum of primary schools emphasizes communication competence and the ability to understand and manipulate numbers. At the JSS level, the curriculum is general and comprehensive, encompassing the whole range of knowledge, attitudes and skills in cognitive, affect, and psychomotor domains. The core subjects of English, Mathematics, Science and Social studies are compulsory for all pupils. At the SSS level, the curriculum is determined by its nature (general or specialist), or its particular objectives. Pupils are offered a set of core (compulsory) subjects with optional subjects based on their specialization. Teaching is guided by the teaching syllabuses and influenced by the external examinations that pupils are required to take at the 3/ 4-year course. English is the language of instruction (GoSL,1995).

The countries two universities, three polytechnics, and two teacher training colleges are responsible for the training of teachers in Sierra Leone. The Universities Act of 2004 provides for private universities so that these institutions too could help in the training of teachers. Programs range from the Teacher Certificate offered by the teacher training colleges to the Masters in Education offered by universities. Pre-service certification of teachers is the responsibility of the National Council for Technical, Vocational and Other Academic Awards (NCTVA). There is also an In-service Teacher Training program (Distance Education Program) conducted for teachers in part to reduce the number of untrained and unqualified teachers especially in the rural areas.

LITERACY IN SIERRA LEONE

In Sierra Leone as it is in most parts of the developing world literacy involves one’s ability to read, write and numeracy. It is the ability to function effectively in life contexts. A literate person is associated with the possession of skills and knowledge and how these could be applied within his local environment. For instance a literate person is believed to be able to apply chemical fertilizer to his crops, fill in a loans form, determine proper dosage of medicine, calculate cash cropping cost and profits, glean information from a newspaper, make out a bank deposit slip and understanding instructions and basic human rights.

Literacy is at the heart of the country’s development goals and human rights (World Bank, 2007). Wherever practiced literacy activities are part of national and international strategies for improved education, human development and well-being. According to the 2013 United Nations Human Development Index Sierra Leone has a literacy rate of 34 %. Implicitly Sierra Leone is an oral society. And oral societies rely heavily on memory to transmit their values, laws, history, music, and culture whereas the written word allows infinite possibilities for transmission and therefore of active participation in communication. These possibilities are what make the goal of literacy crucial in society.

In academic parlance literacy hinges on the printed word. Most pupils are formally introduced to print when they encounter schoolbook. School teachers in Sierra Leone continue to use textbooks in their teaching activities to convey content area information to pupils. It is no gainsaying that pupils neither maximise their learning potential nor read at levels necessary for understanding the type of materials teachers would like them to use. Thus the performance of pupils at internal and public examinations is disappointing. Further pupils’ continued queries in the library demonstrate that they do not only lack basic awareness of resources available in their different school libraries but also do not understand basic rudiments of how to source information and materials from these institutions. What is more worrisome is that pupils do not use appropriate reading skills and study strategies in learning. There is a dearth of reading culture in schools and this situation cuts across the fabric of society. In view of the current support the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (MEST) to establish literacy standards in school this situation has proved frustrating as teachers do not know how to better help pupils to achieve this goal. Thus they look up to the school librarians to play a more proactive role.

LITERACY DEMANDS ON SECONDARY SCHOOL PUPILS

In everyday situations school pupils are expected to be able to identify and seek information they need. Providing a variety of reading and writing experiences using varied materials in the school library can help develop pupils’ literacy ability (Roe, Stoodt-Hill and Burns, 2004). The mode of assessment in schools in Sierra Leone includes class exercises, tests, written and practical assignments, as well as written examinations to see pupils through to their next levels. These pupils, for example, need to read content books and supplementary materials in school for homework. Pupils have even more literacy needs in their activities outside school. They need to read signs found in their communities, job applications, road maps and signs, labels on food and medicine, newspapers, public notices, bank statements, bills and many other functional materials. Failure to read and understand these materials can result in their committing traffic violations, having unpleasant reactions to food or medicine, becoming lost, losing employment opportunities and missing desirable programs. Equally so pupils need to write to their relatives and loved ones, instructions to people who are doing things for them, notes to themselves about tasks to be completed, phone messages for colleagues and many other items. Mistakes in these activities can have negative effects on them. Good literacy skills are especially important to pupils who plan to pursue higher education studies. The job market in the country calls for pupils to be literate. For instance most jobs advertised these days require people who have completed their JSS. The fact is that workers need to be able to understand graphic aids, categorized information and skim and scan to locate information. Also the nature of reading in the workplace generally involves locating information for immediate use and inferring information for problem solving. The reading and writing of a variety of documents like memos, manuals, letters, reports and instructions are necessary literacy skills in the workplace.

SCHOOL LIBRARIES IN SIERRA LEONE

School libraries in Sierra Leone are perceived as integral aspect of the county’s educational system. These institutions bring together four major components of the school community: the materials, pupils, teacher and library staff. The main purpose for the establishment of these institutions in schools is to complement the teaching/learning process, if not to support the curriculum. This purpose is achieved in two ways: by providing pupils with the means of finding whatever information they need; and by developing in pupils the habit of using books both for information and for pleasure. Pupils need information to help them with the subjects they learn in school. The textbooks they use and the notes they take in class can be an excellent foundation. They may also be sufficient for revision purposes. But these could not be enough to enable pupils to write good essays of their own or to carry out group projects. School libraries then are expected to complement this effort and therefore are perceived as learning centers.

Pupils need information on subjects not taught in school. School libraries are looked upon as places pupils find information to help them in their school studies and personal development. Through these institutions pupils’ habit of using libraries for life-long education is not only developed but also school libraries could be used to improve pupils’ reading skills. In the school community both pupils and teachers use school libraries for leisure and recreational purpose and for career advancement. The culture of society is also transmitted through use of school libraries. Because of the important role school libraries play in the country’s educational system they are organized in such way that pupils as well as teachers can rely upon them for support in the teaching/learning process. Most of these institutions are managed by either a full-time staff often supervised by a senior teacher. Staffs use varied methods to promote their use including user education.

JUSTIFYING THE LIBRARIAN’S INVOLVEMENT IN PROMOTING LITERACY IN SCHOOL

A pre-requisite for the development of autonomous pupils through flexible resource-based learning approaches is that pupils master a set of skills which gradually enable them to take control of their own learning. Current emphasis in teaching in schools in Sierra Leone has shifted from “teacher-centred” to “pupil-centred” approach thereby making pupils to “learn how to learn” for themselves so that the integration of process skills into the design of the school curriculum becomes crucial (GoSL,1995). It is in this area of “learning” or “information literacy” skills that one can most clearly see the inter-relationship between the school curriculum and the school library. For pupils to become independent users of information and for this to occur it is vital that they are given the skills to learn how to find information, how to select what is relevant, and how to use it in the best way possible for their own particular needs and take responsibility for their own learning. As information literate, pupils will be able to manage information skillfully and efficiently in a variety of contexts. They will be capable of weighing information carefully and wisely to determine its quality (Marcum2002). Pupils do recognize that having good information is central to meeting the opportunity and challenges of day-to-day living. They are also aware of the importance of how researching across a variety of sources and formats to locate the best information to meet particular needs.

Literacy activities in schools in Sierra Leone are the responsibility of content area teachers, reading consultants and school librarians. Of these the role of the school librarian is paramount. As specialist the school librarian is expected to provide assistance to pupils and teachers alike by locating materials in different subjects, and at different reading levels by making available materials that can be used for motivation and background reading. The school librarian is also expected to provide pupils with instructions in locating strategies related to the library such as doing online searches and skimming through printed reference materials. The librarian is expected to display printed materials within his purview, write specialised bibliographies and lists of addresses on specific subjects at the request of teachers. He should be able to provide pupils with direct assistance in finding and using appropriate materials; recreational reading can be fostered by the librarian’s book talks or attractive book displays on high-interest topics like HIV/AIDS, child abuse, child rights, human rights and poverty alleviation. In view of this the fundamental qualities expected of the good school librarian include knowledge of his collection and how to access it; ability to understand the needs of his users more so those of pupils; ability to communicate with pupils and adult users; and knowledge of information skills and how to use information.

ROLE OF THE SCHOOL LIBRARIAN

Pupils’ success in school depends to a large extent upon their ability to access, evaluate and use information. Providing access to information and resources is a long-standing responsibility of the school librarian. The school librarian should provide the leadership and expertise necessary to ensure that the library becomes integral in the instructional program of the school. In school the librarian is the information specialist, teacher and instructional consultant. He is the interface responsible for guiding pupils and teachers through the complex information resources housed in his library (Lenox and Walker, 1993). He is looked up to assist and guide numerous users in seeking to use and understand the resources and services of the library. In this respect the school librarian should inculcate in these users such skills as manual and online searching of information; use of equipment; developing critical skills for the organization, evaluation and use of information and ideas as integral part of the curriculum (Lonsdale, 2003). The school librarian should be aware of the range of available information retrieval systems, identify that most suitable to the needs of pupils and provide expertise in helping them become knowledgeable, if not comfortable, in their use. Since no library is self-sufficient the school librarian can network with information agencies, lending/renting materials and/or using electronic devises to transmit information (Tilke, 1998; 2002).

As information specialist the school librarian should be able to share his expertise with those who may wish to know what information sources and/or learning materials are available to support a program of work. Such consultation should be offered to the whole school through the curriculum development committee or to individual subject teachers. The school librarian should take the lead in developing pupils’ information literacy skills by being involved with the school curriculum planning and providing a base of resources to meet its needs. He should be aware of key educational initiatives and their impact in teaching and learning; he should be familiar with teaching methods and learning styles in school; over all he should maintain an overview of information literacy program within the school (Herring, 1996; Kuhlthau, 2004).

Kuhlthau (2004) opined that information seeking is a primary activity of life and that pupils seek information to deepen and broaden their understanding of the world around them. When therefore, information in school libraries is placed in a larger context of learning, pupils’ perspective becomes an essential component in information provision. The school librarian should ensure that skills, knowledge and attitude concerning information access, use and communication, are integral part of the school curriculum. Information skills are crucial in the life-long learning process of pupils. As short term objective the school librarian should provide a means of achieving learning objectives within the curriculum; as long term information skills have a direct impact on individual pupils’ ability to deal effectively with a changing environment. Therefore the school librarian should work in concert with teachers and administrators to define the scope and sequence of the information relevant to the school curriculum and ensure its integration throughout the instructional programs (Tilke, 2002; Birks and Hunt, 2003). Pupils should be encouraged to realize their potential as informed citizens who critically think and solve problems. In view of the relationship between the curriculum and school library, the librarian should serve on the curriculum committee ensuring that information access skills are incorporated into subject areas. The school librarian’s involvement in the curriculum development will permit him to provide advice on the use of a variety of instructional strategies such as learning centers and problem-solving software, effective in communicating content to pupils (Herring, 1996; Birks and Hunt, 2003).

Literacy could be actively developed as pupils need access to specific resources, demonstrate understanding of their functionality and effective searching skills. In this regard pupils should be given basic instruction to the library, its facilities and services and subsequent use. Interactive teaching methods aimed at information literacy education should be conducted for the benefit of pupils. Teaching methods could include an outline of a variety of aides like quizzes and worksheets of differing complexity level to actively engage pupils in learning library skills and improving their information literacy. Classes should be divided into small groups so that pupils could have hands-on-experience using library resources. Where Internet services are available in the library online tutorials should be provided. Post session follow-up action will ensure that pupils receive hands-on-experience using library resources. Teaching methods should be constantly evaluated to identify flaws and improve on them.

Further the school librarian should demonstrate willingness to support and value pupils in their use of the library through: provision of readers’ guides; brochures; book marks; library handbooks/guides; computerization of collection; helpful guiding throughout the library; and regular holding of book exhibitions and book fairs. Since there are community radio stations in the country the school librarian could buy air time to report library activities, resources and services. He can also communicate to pupils through update newspapers. Pupils could be encouraged to contribute articles on library development, book reviews and information about opening times and services. The school librarian could help pupils to form book and reading clubs, organize book weeks and book talks using visiting speakers and renowned writers to address pupils. Classes could also be allowed to visit the library to facilitate use. More importantly the school librarian should provide assistance to pupils in the use of technology to access information outside the library. He should offer pupils opportunities related to new technology, use and production of varied media formats, and laws and polices regarding information. In order to build a relevant resource base for the school community the librarian should constantly carry out needs assessment, comparing changing demands to available resources.

The Internet is a vital source for promoting literacy in the school library. The school librarian should ensure that the library has a website that will serve as guide to relevant and authoritative sources and as a tool for learning whereby pupils and teachers are given opportunity to share ideas and solutions (Herring, 2003). Through the Internet pupils can browse the library website to learn how to search and develop information literacy skills. In order for pupils to tap up-to-date sources from the Net the school librarian should constantly update the home page, say on a daily basis, if necessary. Simultaneously the school librarian should avail to pupils and teachers sheets/guides to assist them in carrying out their own independent researches. He should give hands-on-experience training to users to share ideas with others through the formation of “lunch time” or “after school support groups”. Such activities could help pupils to develop ideas and searching information for a class topic and assignment.

Even the location of the library has an impact in promoting literacy in school. The library should be centrally located, close to the maximum number of teaching areas. It should be able to seat at least ten per cent of school pupils at any given time, having a wide range of resources vital for teaching and learning programs offered in school. The library should be characterized by good signage for the benefit of pupil and teacher users with up-to-date displays to enhance the literacy skills of pupils and stimulating their intellectual curiosity.

CONCLUSION

Indeed the promotion of literacy should be integral in the school curriculum and that the librarian should be able to play a leading role to ensure that the skills, knowledge and attitudes related to information access are inculcated in pupils and teachers alike as paramount users of the school library. But the attainment of this goal is dependent on a supportive school administration, always willing and ready to assist the library and its programs financially. To make the librarian more effective he should be given capacity building to meeting the challenges of changing times.

REFERENCES

American Library Association (2003). ‘Introduction to information literacy.’
Birks, J. & Hunt, F. (2003). Hands-on information literacy activities. London: Neal-Schumann.
CLIP (2004).’Information Literacy: definition.’
GoSL (2010). Report of the Professor Gbamanja Commission of Inquiry into the Poor Performance of Pupils in the 2008 BECE and WASSCE Examinations (Unpublished).
___________(1995). New Education policy for Sierra Leone. Freetown: Department of Education.
Herring, James E. (1996). Teaching information skills in schools. London: Library Association Publishing.
__________________ (2003).The Internet and information skills: a guide for teachers and librarians. London: Facet Publishing.
Kahlthau, C. C. (2004). Seeking meaning: a process approach to library and information services. 2nd. ed. London: Libraries Unlimited.
Lenox, M. F. & Walker, M. L.(1993). ‘Information Literacy in the education process.’ The Educational Forum, 52 (2): 312-324.
Lonsdale, Michael (2003). Impact of school libraries on student achievement: a review of research. Camberwell: Australian Council of Educational Research.
Marcum, J. W. (2002). ‘ Rethinking Information Literacy,’ Library Quarterly, 72:1-26.
Roe, Betty D., Stoodt-Hill & Burns, Paul C. (2004).Secondary School Literacy instruction: the content areas. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company.
Tilke, A. (1998). On-the-job sourcebook for school librarians. London: Library Association.
_________ (2002). Managing your school library and information service: a practical handbook. London: Facet Publishing.
Weber, S. & Johnston, B. ( 2002). ‘Assessment in the Information Literate University.’ Conference: Workshop 1st International Conference on IT and Information Literacy, 20th- 22nd. \March 2002, Glasgow, Scotland. Parallel Session 3, Thursday 21st March,2002.
World Bank (2007). Education in Sierra Leone; present challenges, future opportunities. Washington,DC: World Bank.

Magnussen Furniture Review: A Review of Magnussen Home Furniture

This Magnussen furniture review looks at the tables this wonderful company has crafted. Magnussen home furniture was founded during the Great Depression by Ingwer Magnussen in 1931 in Kitchener Ontario. He became in great demand by Canadian upholstered furniture manufacturers for his skills in carving beautiful exposed framework, such as the backs, legs and arms of the furniture.

It should come as no surprise, therefore, to discover that the company’s main products are crafted from solid wood, with beautifully carved and turned lags and pedestals. If you have a wish for your home furnishings to include this type of work, then Magnussen Home Furniture offers beautiful occasional pieces such as coffee and cocktail tables, end and sofa tables and also collections of beautiful bedroom furniture.

Here are some of the wonderful items of occasional tables included in the Magnussen range:

Magnussen Aidan Cocktail and Occasional Tables

The craftsmanship involved in creating Magnussen cocktail and occasional tables is exemplified by the Home Living Room Aiden Round End Table, standing 24″ high and with a 24″ diameter round tabletop. Crafted from solid hardwood, this occasional table is finished with a cherry veneer, topped with a beautiful reverse diamond veneer pattern, held by four beautifully carved concave legs.

A larger version is available in the form of the Aidan cocktail cabinet, matched with the end table but at 36″ diameter and 19″ high. Add to that the demilune side table, 48″ wide, 19″ deep and 28″ high, and you have a beautiful set of occasional tables in a beautiful cinnamon cherry veneer finish. This will look fabulous in any living room.

Magnussen Ferndale Tables

If you prefer a darker finish to your occasional tables, the Magnussen Ferndale range is finished in a water-marked tobacco shade. This range comes with raised edges and castors, providing an older fashioned look to your room. The cocktail table is 38 inches in diameter and if you are looking for a beautiful accent table to go with it, then that is finished to match in a 24″ triangular shape and standing 25″ high.

Densbury Occasional Tables

Magnussen’s Densbury Range is designed around a table top resting on turned architectural columns that are resting on a wooden base the same width as the top. Coming with a dark-stained finish, the rectangular cocktail table is substantial at 54″ wide and 34″ deep, and this beautiful collection would suit any living room, decorated in a modern or a retro style.

The Densbury collection also offers a sofa table that stands a useful 29″ high, and again 34″ long. If you prefer something smaller all round, then the Densbury collection also provides a rectangular end table at 26″ x 22″ and standing just 25″ high. This is generally high enough for accessing drinks, books and so on from the average sofa, although some might prefer the higher version offered by the sofa table.

If you prefer a smaller type of end table, then the same collection enables you to purchase a single pedestal end table at 20″ diameter and 24″ high. Each of these alternative occasional table designs are crafted using the same wood finish, and the same turned design of leg so that you can mix them without creating any mismatch in design or finish.

Magnussen Tables in General

Each of these collections has been designed to offer a timeless selection of occasional and accent table styles. Between them, they will fit perfectly into most living room decorative styles and you also have a range of different types of table to meet your specific needs. The pedestals and table legs ae beautifully turned and offers a distinctive style to this furniture. The wood finishes are chosen to look in place with most modern and retro decorative styles.

There are no doubts that Magnussen furniture is constructed to last, and the occasional tables described above represent only a small part of the company’s range of home furniture.

You Have Been Declined for Health Insurance in California, Now What?

If you are reading this then you probably have been declined for health insurance in the recent past. When you get declined for health insurance it probably has something to do with your medical history. Since California is one of the underwritten states health care companies have the right to declined people for health insurance. Who health insurance company might decline and who it might not all depends on risk assessment using actuarial tables. Anytime when you fill out individual application for health coverage and answer yes on one of the medical questions your application might be manually reviews by one of the underwriters. It is a person who is responsible to reviewing application using actuarial tables. Actuarial tables are statistics done by the insurance companies, hospitals, doctors, researchers that predict the cost of insuring some one with a specific medical history.

Some states like New York, New Jersey and Washington require insurance companies to insure everyone. Those three states do not have medical underwriting and everyone is automatically approved for health coverage. In order to insure everyone with medical history insurance companies increase rates to the point where it becomes not affordable to most people. What keeps the average monthly premiums low is low utilization of health care. If there are more people with high medical insurance utilization with a specific health insurance company they have to raise the rates for everyone in order to keep up with paying medical claims. That also drives people who do not use health insurance that often to drop health insurance all together and yet driving rates even higher. This leaves no choice for insurance carriers but to drive rates even higher. New York, New Jersey and Washington have highest premiums for medical coverage and a lot of families find health care out of reach.

In California if you have been declined for health coverage you have options. If you out of job or currently on low income you can qualify for Medical and if you have kids they can qualify for a program called Healthy Families. Most states including California have high risk pools that are designed for people who have been declined for individual health insurance. In California this program is called MRMIP. Just the quick search on the Internet will guide to a government website. MRMIP is a program that is managed by the state and your big name medical insurance providers participate in it. Chances are you will be able to keep the same health insurance company if you are already use to them. MRMIP program has limits and it might have a waiting period.

One of the best options might be when it comes to getting the most coverage for your money is through a group plan. In the state of California all group plans by law are required to be a guaranteed issue. That means that there is no medical underwriting. This options requires more work from you. Insurance companies are not just going to let you set up a group plan if you have been declined for individual health insurance. Since insurance companies are required to insurance everyone who is part of the group state requires insurance companies to have rules when it comes to setting up a group plan. Some of the basic requirements change from the insurance company to the insurance company.

The best way to find out is talk to insurance broker. The basics that insurance companies are going to be looking for are that you have to have a reason for starting a group plan other then getting medical insurance. It is illegal to start a group plan just to get health insurance. That means that you have to have a business and that could be anything. To have a group plan you obviously have to have more then just yourself It takes at least two people to start a group plan. All the people that are going to be on the group plan are either have to be the owners of the business or have to be on the payroll. Some insurance companies require either a DE-6 form or six weeks of payroll records. If every one if the owner then you will be required to provide proof of the ownership listing everyone that is going to be on a group plan as the owner. This might not be simple but is is certainly doable and it is definitely worth it if you do not have any coverage and cannot get it on your own.

It is always easier to just blame the insurance company that they have declined you for health coverage. If you have been declined and are looking for health insurance you just have to be more proactive in getting your coverage. Once you work with a broker on getting on the requirements on setting up a group plan then it is forever yours and no one can take that coverage away from you unless you stop paying for it.

Group Travel Planning and Traveling Tips

Thinking about traveling with a group? Group travel can be one of the most rewarding ways to see the world and visit popular destination sites; not only is the vacation care free, but you can make lifelong friends on the way! If you are planning on experiencing group travel for the first time soon, here are some traveling tips to help you have the best group vacation experience.

Have Group Will Travel

Did you know that many group travel companies love it when you already have an established group to travel with? If your church society, school class, hobby club, social group, or extended family and friends want to take a vacation to an exciting destination together, tour operators are happy to handle all the details so your group can travel simultaneously without the hassle of planning the vacation, gathering payments or handling travel documents. This is one of the best ways to travel with a group since you already know the members of the organization, share a common interest and nobody in the group has to handle the tedious details!

Finding the Best Group Travel Services for You

The best group vacation company is the one that meets your needs and provides you with the vacation experience you were looking for! There are all types of tour operators such as adventure travel services, group travel for singles, and senior group travel companies. First, pick a travel company that is specialized in the type of travel you want (unless you already have a group of people to travel with). Then make sure the tour operator is respected and well established in providing escorted vacations. Just because a company claims they have led groups before does not mean they are an established tour operator! Just think, you are leaving all the details and traveling plans up to someone else; that is a lot of responsibility and your happiness is on the line! Make sure you pick a respected, established travel company that is specialized in the type of travel you are looking for and has built relationships with its travel partners from years of doing business together.

International Traveling Tips

If it is your first time traveling overseas then learning about the country you are going to visit is important even when traveling in a group! Simple things like charging your phone might be challenging if you are traveling overseas. Escorted travel companies will try and alert you about native customs and give you international traveling tips, but you might also want to learn the basic “hello” and “goodbye” greetings as well as how to say “yes,” “no” and “thank you” in the native language of the countries you will visit. Don’t forget to pack your passport and any additional documentation you might need for medical purposes; it is good to bring the phone numbers of your home physician in case your medical history needs to be accessed while on vacation.

Unfortunately, going on vacation is a treat that most people only get to do once a year! Group travel can be very rewarding and allow you the comfort of experiencing a foreign land without the feeling of being alone. Tour operators also make sure you have the best travel experience possible so that your escorted vacation becomes your dream vacation.

Obesity and Fast Foods

Before we discuss obesity and fast foods, let us have some definitions first.

o Obesity: A person is termed obese when his or her Body Mass Index exceeds 30
o Body Mass Index (BMI): A unit of measurement used to define the state of a person’s body weight. It is derived by dividing a person’s weight in kilograms by the square of his or her height in meters.

Underweight BMI = less than 20
Normal BMI = 20 to 24.9
Overweight BMI = 25 to 30
Obese BMI = greater than 30

o Fast food: there is no standard definition for it, but generally taken to mean foods that are prepared in very large quantities using standard kitchen utensils, following standardized recipes and repetitive preparation procedures and served rapidly in standard designed restaurants known as fast food restaurants. They usually advertise their services through electronic and print media and generally target children and young people. The rapid spread of such restaurants is usually made possible through the franchising system.

The key to good health through eating nutritious foods needs no explanation. As the saying “we are what we eat” goes, our physical well being is largely dependent on the type of foods we take. Cases of diet related diseases are well documented. They include the likes of diabetes, overweight, obesity, hypertension, heart diseases and certain types of cancer.

The link between obesity and fast foods has been well documented. It has been recognized that excessive consumption of fast foods is a leading cause of obesity due to the high content of fat, sugar and salt in fast foods. They are typically low in complex carbohydrates.

Another area of concern is that advertisements of fast foods are generally targeted towards children. Children, particularly the younger ones, are generally unable to discern through food and nutrition information. It is no coincidence that there are increasing incidences of the rise in obesity in the younger people.

Countries around the world are getting more and more alarmed at the rate of increase in obesity particularly in the younger people; they are well aware of the link between obesity and fast foods.

However, it is unfair to put the entire blame squarely on fast foods. Kids nowadays spent more time on computer games and television than their parents’ generation; they are less likely to part take in robust physical games.

Seeing the need to address the danger of the link between obesity and fast food, many countries around the world are taking action to enforce tighter control on television and print media advertisements, because the younger people are usually the targets of fast food companies.

Of particular concern is television advertising, an extremely influential and effect medium of advertisement for children. Among some of the restrictions adopted are:

o Prohibition of TV advertisements of fast foods during the airing of children’s programs
o Prohibition of TV sponsorship by fast food companies for children’s programs
o Prevention of misleading food information which may confuse consumers
o Fast food companies are prohibited from any form of advertisements that encourages excessive consumption
o Fast food companies are prohibited from promoting fast foods as healthy substitutes for a complete or balanced meal

The link between fast foods and obesity has prompted many governments to take affirmative action to prevent excessive consumption particularly by the younger people. It is a step in the right direction to reduce the overall burden of health care costs provided by governments around the world.

Why the Timing is Right – Become a Travel Agent

Why the sudden surge in interest for the travel industry? Here are a few facts to consider when looking at a travel career as a career option.

Here are the facts:

  1. Travel is a $7 Trillion dollar industry expected to double to $14 Trillion within the next decade.
  2. This lucrative industry is currently growing 23% faster than the global economy.
  3. A key factor in this growth phenomenon is the stream of baby boomers that are retiring, or getting ready to retire.
  4. Baby boomers are retiring at a rate of 1 every 8 seconds.
  5. Travel was rated the number one thing these baby boomers intend to do when they do retire.

When considering a career in the travel industry, there are several options available for those looking to work from home.

There is an increased demand for qualified travel agents, due to the explosive growth of the industry as a whole. To become a certified travel agent, your options are not limited to the traditional brick and mortar setting. Many reputable travel agencies now offer options for the individual looking for a legitimate home based business.

While doing your due diligence in researching whether this industry is a fit for you, consider that there are excellent income opportunities available to work from home.

If your goal is to work as an independent travel agent from the comfort of your own home, consider working as an online travel agent.

Here are some companies that you can research, that offer excellent training. Some of the companies will hire you as an employee, while others offer the freedom of being your own boss, and setting your own hours.

Do your due diligence!

  1. Research each company carefully, and make it a priority to understand the compensation plan.
  2. Know what training is available, and whether the company will offer you the opportunity to become certified.
  3. Does the company have IATA, IATAN, ARC and CLIA affiliations?
  4. What is the initial investment? Are there additional costs associated for licensing, or becoming certified?
  5. If you are considering a work at home position, what kind of support is offered?

Are you a right fit for the travel industry?

Lets break down the qualifications that will determine whether you are suited for this challenging, but rewarding career.

Travel agents should have a minimum of a high school diploma.

Travel agents should have a love for travel. Enthusiasm and a love for working with people are crucial elements for success in this industry.

Travel agents should possess excellent multi-tasking and organization skills.

Great communication skills, as well as computer skills are essential.

Travel agents should possess a professional, courteous demeanor when working with suppliers, and the general public.

Attention to detail and accuracy are very important. Some sales ability is very helpful as well.

Now, the benefits of becoming a travel agent

The benefits of becoming a travel agent are many. I have listed the top three.

Travel agents save up to 80% on travel to many of the worlds exclusive resorts and destinations. These discounts include, but are not limited to:

Complimentary upgrades Hotel room upgrades and discounts

Car rental discounts and upgrades

Cruises

Theme park discounts

Vacation Packages

FAM trips, also known as familiarization trips. Suppliers want travel agents to have first hand knowledge of their facilities, so that the travel agent can make a recommendation based on personal knowledge and first hand experience.

The supplier will offer discounts and other perks, and roll out the red carpet to ensure the travel professional has an outstanding time.

Tax Benefits for individuals who chose to do this profession as an independent travel agent. Consult your CPA or tax professional for more information regarding this benefit.

Summary: How Do I become a travel agent?

In summary, becoming a travel agent can be a lucrative and rewarding career. Should you decide that you possess the skills and abilities needed for success, you can look forward to a promising career.

Get Started: Do a search online using the keywords: become a travel agent, how do I become a travel agent, or online travel agents.

How to Prevent Ice Dams and the Roof Leaks They Cause

Here we are in the midst of another cold Massachusetts winter and like every winter here in New England many property owners will have major issues with ice dams causing roof leaks and shingle damage.

Although it may seem as though ice dams are an unstoppable force of nature, they are actually quite preventable. Attics and cathedral or vaulted ceiling areas that have been correctly incorporated into the overall building envelope don’t have problems with ice dams and icicles in the cold seasons. Through the use of proper insulation and ventilation techniques ice dams can be stopped cold (pun intended).

Here a typical scenario for the formation of ice dams:

  1. A house has a build up of snow on the roof.
  2. The temperature outside is below freezing.
  3. The temperature inside the attic is above freezing, thus raising the temperature of the roof itself to above freezing.
  4. Because of the warm roof, the snow on top of it begins to melt from the bottom up.
  5. This melted snow water tries to run down and off the roof.
  6. As soon as the water reaches the edge of the roof it gets exposed to the freezing air.
  7. The water refreezes as ice instead of snow in the gutters, if present, and along the edges of the roof.
  8. As more and more melted snow water continues to run down the roof it just keeps freezing behind and on top of the previously frozen run off, forming a bigger and bigger ice dam.

So How Do Ice Dams Cause Roof Leaks? 

The melted snow water doesn’t immediately freeze anymore after the ice dam has begun to take shape. Once the ice dam has built up a bit it literally creates a dam that traps the rest of the water trying to run off the roof behind it. While this trapped water will eventually freeze, it may take a while and during that time a portion of the shingles on this roof, behind the ice dam, are basically submerged in water.

Now of course your roof shingles are obviously suppose to protect your home from the weather i.e. rain and snow. However, most roofing materials are not meant to have a pond or river on top of them.

So What Can You Do To Prevent Ice Dams?

First and foremost you must recognize that proper insulation and ventilation is the key(see image on right). If we are talk about an attic area then typically this means that the insulation needs to run up the walls of your house then over the attic floor joists forming an ideal insulation envelope. In the attic scenario only the floor of the attic should be insulated, not the underside of the roof!

Proper ventilation is also required. Outside air needs to be able to enter the attic so that the attic temperature is the same as the temperature outside. You achieve this ventilation through the use of gable vents, soffit vents and a roof ridge vent.

In roof systems with attic areas below them it is fairly straight forward to have a contractor that knows what they are doing to correct any problems as far as proper insulation and ventilation. However, roof systems with a cathedral ceiling below them that have these issues are much more of a project to correct, but they can be corrected.

In order to have a properly ventilated and insulated cathedral ceiling the contractor must install baffles within each rafter bay before installing the insulation. These baffles allow air to flow between the soffit vents and the ridge vent which keeps the underside of the roof the same temperature as outside. If these baffles ore not installed in your cathedral ceiling then the contractor will need to remove the existing sheetrock and insulation from your ceiling in order to properly ventilate the area. This type of project will be more expensive than an attic project.

In addition to the ice dam issue, if your attic is warmer than the outside temperature you are also wasting lots of money heating that space. So basically you are paying extra money on your heating bill for the privilege of growing nice big ice dams and icicles that cause roof leaks and destroy your roof. Kind of makes it even worse when you think of it that way doesn’t it?

What Can You Do About Existing Ice Dams?

If it’s the middle of the winter and you have ice dams or through past experience you think they will be forming soon there are some measures you can take. First of all, if you don’t have experience climbing on a roof in the winter, especially with snow on it, don’t do it! Call a pro. What you can do is go to your local hardware store and buy a snow rake that has an extendable handle designed to pull snow off of the first few feet of the roof and attempt to pull some of that snow off, from the ground, before it has a chance to melt and refreeze along the roof edges. You can also do this once the ice dam has formed and keep it from getting any bigger and give it a chance to melt, hopefully.

Also, many roofing contractors, us included, work through the winter and often provide roof snow removal services in addition to their typical roofing services. This is a service we are happy to provide for our customers here in Massachusetts, for example. Again, please don’t try and do this yourself. Between icy ladders and slippery roof surfaces it is a recipe for disaster for the inexperienced.

There are also some products on the market that can assist in preventing ice dams before they form and melting them if they have already formed. You should be able to find a home improvement store in your area that sells a product that is basically a coated, heated wire that you fasten along the edges of the roof and then plug in when the conditions are right for the ice dams to form (see picture on right). These actually work pretty good, however, they aren’t solving the real problem which, of course, is ventilation and insulation issues. They may be right for some homes in some circumstances though.

Most home improvement and hardware stores also sell pellets or tablets that are designed to be thrown up onto the roof from the ground. These tablets then supposedly will melt the ice from the roof as they dissolve into the water that is running down the roof into the ice dam. I have no experience with these products so I can’t say for certain if they work as designed or not. However, some people say they have worked for their ice dam problems. A couple of things I would be worried about as a roofing contractor is potential damage to the shingles from the chemicals these tablets are made of (salt is no good for asphalt shingles), as well as possibly staining the roof with those same chemicals. And even in a base case situation this product is still just a band-aid for a greater problem.

Proper Roofing Techniques For Cold Climates

In addition to making sure that the roof has proper ventilation and attic insulation there is an additional level of security against ice dam issues and roof leaks that all responsible and ethical roofing contractors should be taking in cold weather climates with regards to pitched, asphalt shingled roofs. When a new roof is installed, these days, an extra layer of protection called ice and water membrane should be installed from the edge to at least 3 feet up the roof.

This added layer of protection will help prevent leaks if ice dams do develop along the roof edges. Ice and water membrane will not prevent ice dams it simply is added security to help protect the plywood sheathing beneath the asphalt shingles and prevent leaks should an ice dam form.

Building the Professional Library Infrastructure in Sierra Leone

Introduction

Developing countries are characterized in one way by shrinking economies. Sierra Leone is one such country that despite government and donor support, education has been a major challenge. The situation has been worsened, due to the fact that libraries have been neglected. According to the African Development Bank (ADB) Sierra Leone Country Office (2011), the total funds provided for education by the ADB/ADF finances up to 2010, was about US$ 22 million. The project supported the construction of Ninety Eight (98) primary schools, Fifty Four (54) Junior Secondary Schools (JSS), Eight (8) Vocational Skills Training Centres and Twelve (12) duplex housing blocks for teachers. The project also provided training for Four Thousand and Fifty (4,050) teachers. Teacher manuals were also made available. However, nothing was ever made available for library development. This neglect of libraries, means that libraries in Sierra Leone with limited resources, have to work together in order to meet the information needs of their users. One library may not be able to effectively and suitably meet the information needs of all its users. Library cooperation is therefore, urgently needed.

Library Scene in Sierra Leone

The country has all the different types of libraries; they range from public, academic, special to school libraries. In addition to these are information and resource or documentation centres that provide library and information services. Furthermore, there are museums, such as the National and the Peace Museums, and the National Archive which also provide information services.

However, the Sierra Leone Library Board (SLLB) which was established by an Act of Parliament in 1959 serves as the domain of the provision of library and information services in the country. It functions as both the National and a Public library. To date it has a Central library and headquarters located in Freetown, Regional branches in Provincial headquarter towns, and branches in all District towns, totaling twenty one (21) libraries [One (1) central and headquarter library, three (3) regional libraries, sixteen (16) branch libraries, and two (2) sub-branches].

Libraries in Sierra Leone are therefore, institutions for the storage and dissemination of information; are for users; they provide users with guides and other finding lists; they provide adequate access to the documents or records users may wish to consult; they have subject arrangement; and they are cost-effective.

Library Cooperation

The term cooperation describes the joint action of two or more parties for mutual benefit. Library cooperation means exchanging cataloguing records, building complementary collections, exchanging library materials by inter-library loan and document delivery service, joint purchasing of library materials or automated system, providing services to each others’ users. Library cooperation is also described as an agreement, combination, or group of libraries formed to undertake an enterprise beyond the resources of any one member.

There are different types of cooperative activities and some of the most popular activities are reciprocal borrowing, union catalogues or lists, photocopying services, cooperative reference service, delivery services, cooperative acquisition arrangements, subject specialization in collection development, centralized cataloguing and card production, as well as central storage of materials.

Burgett, Harr and Phillips (2004) asserted that there is evidence that cooperation among libraries to share resources goes back to a long way, at least to the first half of the 13th century, when monasteries developed what we would today recognize as union catalogs of manuscripts to aid in their scholarly activities. Musana (1991) indicated that information resource sharing has been in existence as long as libraries and other types of information services. The existence of a library is itself a form of cooperation. Many libraries came into existence because a group of individuals with a common desire and aspiration wanted to put a collection of materials together for use by the group members. Historically, the driving force behind the evolution of resource sharing concept was the desire to satisfy the felt needs of the user population. Earlier, each library was an entity, serving or trying to serve the needs of its own users and purchasing materials to meet their primary needs.

Beenham and Harrison (1990) however noted that a combination of circumstances made it increasingly difficult for an individual library to be self-sufficient. These circumstances include:

a tremendous increase in knowledge and a corresponding growth in publishing;

the spread of education from primary to university level which lead to greater and more diverse demands on the public library services by a much more literate public;

the advance of technology with its effect on industry and commerce and the necessity for employers and employees to develop new skills and techniques; and

increased opportunities for travel and international economic cooperation, which demand up-to-date information about foreign countries.

Existing Library Cooperation in Sierra Leone

There has been increased pressure for libraries in Sierra Leone to cooperate, including plans to create networks thereby making way for resources to be available to users. As such what has obtained is as follows:

Lending of materials – libraries lend materials to each other officially and unofficially to help their users;

Donations – large libraries donate to smaller libraries materials mostly books for their users;

Photocopying – these are available in most libraries. The lending library will copy the needed material and send a copy to the requesting library without having to send the original;

Exchange of cataloguing data – cataloguing data is given to other libraries. The Sierra Leone Library Board (SLLB) provides its data to school libraries that cannot do this technical work properly.

There have been some benefits with these kinds of cooperation existing in the country:

Availability and access to information – there has been significant reach to information by users, since other libraries’ resources can be tapped from;

Lower cost – funds are saved due mainly to the fact that some expensive materials are not purchased as long as they are accessed in another library;

Experience sharing – the exchanging of staff and information provides a platform for learning from each other, especially with cataloguing data; and

Collection development – each library tends to build its collection to the maximum point, narrowing the focus, and at the end building a strong collection.

Notwithstanding, the real benefits that such cooperation should bring about have not been fully realized. Thus, there are certain steps that libraries should take to make this workable.

Building the Infrastructure of Cooperation

The following are essential steps to be taken into account for an efficient cooperation between libraries in Sierra Leone if significant achievements are to be made.

Ensure common understanding and trust. There must be an established better working relationship among and between libraries where common understanding and trust are built up. A continued interaction and exposure of one another resources must be maintained. This can be done by sharing of expertise and experience, signing of Memoranda of Understanding, dialogue to allay fears, and to respect what each party can offer. Exchange of staff if necessary must be done.

Learn from advanced libraries. Furthermore, lessons can be learn from how other national and international cooperation is being conducted. Cooperation is not a day event but something that must be encouraged and built upon. There must be room for trial and error as well as correction of past mistakes.

Management must provide the leadership. Each library management must take upon itself to lead the process successfully. There must be the political will and the willingness to share resources, as well as prioritizing the move towards cooperation. Management must be willing to make positive compromises to reach the desired goal.

Networking and collaboration. The move towards cooperation should not be a one man show. Cooperation can consist of voluntary agreement among libraries, or it can be imposed on libraries by Library Laws or by responsible ministries that fund libraries. It is essential that the participant libraries be willing to work together towards common goals.

Provision of funds. One of the benefits of cooperation is to save cost. However, every library must provide funds for the processes involved. This is particularly so for processing and technical services functions. These must be taken care by individual libraries. As such funding should be provided.

State intervention. In the context of the developing countries state intervention would be called for to enable coordination of a nation’s total library and information resources and ensure adequate funding. This is particularly important given that on the whole libraries in Sierra Leone do not have large enough capital base of their own to invest in such equipment as computer hardware and software, and telecommunications. However, state control must not be allowed to exceed co-ordination as this may to some extent have an effect on the zeal, initiative and the goodwill of participating libraries, institutions and the individual professionals.

The Challenges in Building the Infrastructure of Cooperation

In spite of the benefits accrued in cooperation, there are real and perceived challenges, which, unless properly dealt with, could minimize the chances of even the best conceived scheme taking off. In Sierra Leone, these are:

Overcoming the culture of hoarding – the culture of greed and selfishness that has eaten up the very fabric of society. This has affected even library practice. Libraries are to amass information for the general good of the society.

Limited collections – where participating libraries have not built up their collection to a minimum standard to allow for exchange, they are to grow their collections to some measurable status to ensure fair participation.

ICTs infrastructure – the marked lack of sufficient Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) is a worrisome issue for cooperation in this 21st century.
Purchasing and installation of ICTs is very crucial, as well as the education and training of staffs for use.

Staffing – some of the participating libraries have untrained and unqualified staff as a major obstacle. Also, most staff are concerned about their status, efficiency, job security, salaries, and autonomy or independence, and this has affected the synergy. If the fears of staff are to be dispelled through proper sensitization and education, capacity building also must be undertaken.

Management – management must take decisive steps towards cooperation.

In conclusion, information to libraries is as money to banks; it is an indispensable input in the development process of the nation. However, to be effective it has to be optimally available and accessible from every corner if possible. Library cooperation if properly planned and executed offers a solution to a lot of problems faced by libraries, librarians and other information professionals in developing countries as Sierra Leone. Valls (1983) has provided the last words, “cooperation between information centres and the co-ordination of efforts needed to efficiently share resources implies the existence of an infrastructure linking the centres to one another.” This library infrastructure must be built up as it would assist in fostering self-help, exchange information, change society, improve productivity and work life, and share resources.

How to Find a Unique Black Wedding Dress

A Black wedding dress can be so stunning. Imagine a hand beaded full bodice black wedding gown with a corset styled back. This bridal gown would have lots of Swarovki crystals all over the black skirt.

This is what I call a very memorable moment of exotic beauty. Many women, perhaps have never given any consideration about the beauty of a black wedding dress.

Now if you’re looking for some gowns there are some awesome bridal gown stores in the United Kingdom that carry black wedding dresses.   You can do a search for these by using the word gothic wedding dresses.

A lot of the shops in the United Kingdom can also ship to other countries so make sure that you call and ask about shipping. Now if after all the searching you still don’t see what you are looking for you can always have someone make you a unique black wedding dress.

When you hire someone to make you a wedding gown, your gown will now become unique and you can have it designed your way.

Make sure you are planning ahead if this is your decision to design your gown. You will want to shop around for the fabric to make sure you are finding what you are looking for in black fabric.

There are some designers like the Alfred Angelo dress gallery who can order a dress from his gallery in black. Imagine if you decided to go with an awesome black wedding dress. The colors that go with the color black, often seem to look more beautiful and vivid in contrast to the color black. For instance, if your wedding is going to be around Christmas time, you can have a black and gold wedding.

Everyone in your wedding party would be wearing black with gold accents. This is a wonderful holiday look. Now if you decide to get married around Valentine’s Day your colors could be black and red. The colors black and red together are very bold and rich looking.

Take a minute and imagine yourself carrying some beautiful red roses as you walk down the aisle in that beautiful black wedding dress. Always remember this is the day that you express your ideas with your love ones.

Healthcare – When You Lose Your Healthcare

If health care is important to you, you may feel devastated when you lose your healthcare. With the downward spiral that the economy has been experiencing, companies are trying to do everything to stay in business. For some corporations, this can mean lay-offs and a reduction in work force. For others, this means cutting costs in other areas, including healthcare. It can seem like a scary thing to be without benefits for you and your family, but you have options.

#1 – Purchase your own individual and family healthcare. There are important things to consider when purchasing individual and family health care plans. Do you want to choose your own doctor, or are you okay choosing from a pre-screened network? Do you have any pre-existing conditions that may prevent you from getting insurance? Circumstances like these may affect your decisions and monthly premiums. You will also want to look at whether there is a deductible – a fee that is paid before your coverage starts. If you choose a plan with a high deductible, your monthly premiums may be much lower. Just be aware that should you need medical attention, your deductible amount must come out of your pocket before your insurance benefits kick in. Choose a plan that has a deductible you can handle as well as monthly that are premiums within your budget.

#2 – Purchase a discount health plan. This is a health care option that is not technically “health insurance” but with this type of plan, you are offered discount prices on medical procedures, office visits, emergency room visits, etc. The administrators in a discount program bargain with your physician and come up with a reduced fee for their services. Then, you only pay the discounted fee instead of the full priced fee that is charged to the general public. Most times these discount plans offer a 20-40% savings. Even though this is not traditional insurance, it is a way to save money with reduced costs so that you do not have to come up with the full payment when you need medical services.

#3 – Visit a participating pharmacy. Some pharmacies offer physical exams, vaccinations, and treatment for a number of medical conditions for an affordable price. They may also offer diagnostic testing for common ailments as well. If you are uninsured, be sure to check with pharmacies in your area to see if they offer any of these services. Try to be proactive and check for these services before they are needed so you will know the offerings and prices before you purchase a health care plan.

So the bottom line is, should you lose your insurance, do not feel like there is nothing you can do. Although it may be devastating when you lose your healthcare, there are other avenues you can take and options that are available so that you are covered. Take charge of your situation and start shopping around now for the best option for you and your family.