“We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.” Winston Churchill

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

artist statement



It’s dark and gritty. It can also be dazzling and clear. The soil there is red, and it gets in between your teeth and your toes, and it stays on you even after a good, long shower. The hills are lush, the roads rutted and pitted. Sounds drift down from the villages, voices lifted in song now and then. In Uganda, there is something sorrowful and achingly sad in the air, in the eyes of the orphaned children, in the dirty water they drink, in the torn clothing they wear, in the doomed future many of them face. There is also something completely beautiful and uplifting in the air, in the quiet way the sun rises up and gently lays back down, in the elegant and graceful stance of the women, in the impromptu games of the children, in the throbbing of the drums, in the gladness of a tender greeting from a perfect stranger.

There is a war there, and there is AIDS, both marching forward with full force, both devastating entire families with broad, sweeping strokes. Often children are left to fend for themselves. Sometimes they are taken in by aunts, often by grandmothers and in many cases by an orphanage or boarding school. There is comfort in that, and there is anguish, too.

Sometimes the faces of the children cloud over with something I have no way of recognizing. At other times, as a mother and fellow citizen of the world, the mixture of pain and joy is all too familiar. That combination, that contradiction, that fact of life is what I have tried to address with these pictures.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

change the truth





Today I signed the agreement papers with the Jewish Community Foundation to establish the Change the Truth Fund. For those of you who wish to make a donation before year's end, you can now do so. Make your check payable to: Change the Truth Fund of the JCF and mail to The Jewish Community Foundation, 5801 W. 115th Street, Overland Park, Kansas, 66211.

Four others have kindly agreed to become the "committee" which will help address operational and/or marketing issues that will arise. They are my brother, Ben, my husband, Eddie, and two good friends, Lynne and Clare. All have vast experience with not-for-profits and have expressed unwavering support for this project from the very beginning.

I have made the decision to take January, February and March off from shooting portraits and will devote my time to other projects. I will spend some time with my father, hopefully go to New Orleans with a disaster relief agency to help out with the rebuilding efforts, work on a major photo project for Kansas City's own Operation Breakthrough, print the work from Uganda AND, last but not least, put together the promotional materials for Change the Truth. This will include a website, brochures and a power point slide show. Susan, a filmmaker who is going to Uganda with the Workshops in February and who has been a faithful blog follower, has graciously offered to do some filming at the orphanage while she's in the area. This will be an invaluable addition to the power point presentation.

About one quarter of the children at the orphanage found their way there after losing their parents to the civil war in Northern Uganda. Their stories are tragic and far beyond anything you or I could ever imagine. Some witnessed the murders of their family members and were left to fend for themselves on the streets. Others were forced by the rebel army to become child soldiers. For those of you who would like to learn more about this war and the "invisible children" as they have been called, watch the Discovery channel Tuesday night at 8 PM central. An abbreviated version of a documentary that has garnered a lot of praise at film festivals around the world will be shown.

I continue to be amazed by the positive response I have gotten from so many. I hope that future readers of this blog will also find themselves wanting to help "change the truth" for these Ugandan children. If you have not already done so, be sure to send me your e-mail and snail mail address if you would like to get updates and information about Change the Truth, exhibitions and publications of the work I made in Uganda, what's happening at the orphanage, etc. I will have no other way of knowing that you are interested in being kept in the loop, and I would like to have you there! I have names and addresses for pen pals, I have CDs of the children singing, I will have signed, limited edition prints available, etc. There MAY even be an opportunity to bring some of the kids to the US for some concerts and I KNOW you wouldn't want to miss out on that!

This morning Eddie asked me: Gloria, are you changing the truth or is the truth changing you?

Definitely something to think about...

Saturday, November 25, 2006

two very different realities


















mealtime at the orphanage














a ball made from plastic bags


As I stuffed myself with an amazing assortment of colorful, rich and delicious foods on Thursday, and as I sat in the stands later that evening with 80,000 others watching our beloved Kansas City Chiefs throw the football up and down the field, my mind couldn't help but drift back to Africa. In fact, the name of my blog is still fairly appropriate...Gloria in Africa.

My reality is worlds apart from the one I dipped into just a few short weeks ago.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

good things are happening



Yesterday I learned that the highly regarded literary magazine, New Letters (published at the University of Missouri, Kansas City) is going to publish 14 of the images from Uganda, one of them being the cover image, in their next issue. Not only that, but they are going to run a small ad that will offer a CD with two of the songs sung by the children from St. Mary Kevin's to those who make a tax deductible contribution of $50 or more to the "Change the Truth Fund." It is amazing how supportive and enthusiastic Bob, the editor, has been about the project. I am thrilled! I spoke with Michael at the orphanage early this morning, and he, too, is very excited.

Michael has also sent me list with several names of kids who would like to have pen pals, so if you'd like to have a name and address, just e-mail me (gbfeinstein@aol.com).

On a completely different subject, many of you know I've been waiting to hear from Random House about the possibility of using one of my shredded images on a book cover. I received that good news yesterday, as well. The image, "Badlands" will be the cover for a book by Rupert Thomson, due out in August. I have always wanted a book cover, so it's wonderful news!

Yesterday was indeed a good day. I hope everyone has a warm, safe, wonderful Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

english lessons



It seemed that all the children at St. Mary Kevin's could recite this poem. It is so simple and so sweet and just listening to a chorus of earnest young voices saying the words in unison, clutching their chests dramatically during the "ahems" was really entertaining.

Monday, November 20, 2006

pix o' fun





I thought it might be nice to share some of the lighter sides of the trip. First up... our fearless leader, Thatcher.



This is a sign I saw which I still haven't quite figured out, but thought it might be fun to take to Temple sometime to show my rabbi.







Here are a few of us roughing it at breakfast at the Mosa Courts.





Remember my story about the chicken in the trunk? Here is Moses offering it it's final few squawks before being "cooked" in the trunk and then again for Moses' Sunday dinner.





Want grit in between your teeth, covering every inch of your clothes, and still be able to see muted red earth tones on your towel even after taking a shower? Just travel the roads in Uganda.



We did spend a day at a game park. John had seen a few too many of these guys by this point, I guess.



Joe, on the other hand, started up a pretty groovy relationship with this cute warthog.





Anna and Katie loaded for hippo.





Thatcher kept our game drive lively by offering to buy a beer for the first one of us to site a zebra, a dik-dik, a baboon, etc. It was pretty crazy on the bus. Looking back on it and seeing this picture of Thatch, I think he was just being the good father on the proverbial family road trip.





John, Fred and me. John and Fred are both orphaned young men, both in their mid twenties. They are like brothers, having had to rely on each other in so many ways since their parents died. John is raising several younger brothers and sisters. Together they started an NGO in Kyotera which gives boys opportunities to learn and play soccer. They are amazing young men, both of whom we all came to admire. John and Fred are the ones acting as my liason with Margaret and her family in the village.





Dan.
Asleep.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

margaret






Thanks to Western Union, the internet and the loving efforts of John and Fred, my local friends in the nearby city of Kyotera, the money for Margaret's son has been sent to the little village of Buyingi. How cool is it that with a stroke of a few computer keys and a minor financial sacrifice on our part, Eddie and I just made happen what will perhaps be a life changing event for Margaret's son Ronald, who longs to attend secondary school. He will now be able to.

The e-mail I receievd from John regarding Margaret's initial response to the fact that the funds were on their way was: she felt like flying in the air to us to express her thanks.

Here is Margaret digging up some sweet potatoes for dinner while her grandchildren look on. Gloria and Dora, my two especially good little buddies, are on the left.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Thursday, November 16, 2006

just the way things can go in kampala

Sometimes time seemed to stretch out forever when I was in Kampala. Like when I was waiting for a meal at a restaurant or waiting for the internet to kick in or waiting for the power to come back on or waiting for (at the very least) some lukewarm water to dribble out of the showerhead. Other times things happened quick as lightening, like when I needed a ride somewhere and out of nowhere appeared a fantastically friendly boda-boda driver or when I decided I wanted a massage, and I was at the place getting it within one hour or when my shoes were muddy the wonderfully kind housekeeper, Bertha, cleaned them and lined them up for me by my bed (without me even asking her to do so) so that I could wear them first thing in the morning.

Sometimes I felt extremely safe, like when I put my well being into the hands of a perfect stranger, Moses, as we set out for that crazy day in Jinja or when I walked down the street at night to get something to eat. Other times I was nervous, as when Moses suggested I not have my camera sitting in my lap in the car with the window rolled down (a passerby could just snatch it right out of the car) or when I realized once I was walking back the wrong way to the hotel and it was nighttime and for a few seconds I wasn’t sure if I was going to remember which way to go.

Things can happen in a mixed up kind of way in Kampala, I suppose. At least, mixed up compared to what I am used to. Eventually, though, things just seem to sort of come together and happen the way you guessed or hoped they would.

I heard some fantastic stories from some of the people I met in Uganda – fantastic because I could never have imagined them happening to me or anyone I know. Eventually, I started to get used to them, figuring life (and the hardships associated with it) in this exotic place couldn’t even come close to mine by comparison.

Denis, the local Ugandan who assisted us during the workshop and who became a friend to each of us, made arrangements for me to go on a chimp trek. I had given him a substantial amount of money to make a deposit for the trip. I changed my mind when those mysterious calls from Charles, the computer nabber, started coming in, for I felt I needed to be in Kampala in case he was going to arrange for a place to meet (can’t you just see me with a black briefcase full of unmarked bills meeting him on a dark corner at the appointed hour?) Anyhow, Denis got all of the money back except $100.00, which he promised to deliver to me the evening he was supposed to drive me to the airport for my departure from Africa.

Denis never showed up that night. I had to scramble at the very last minute to secure a ride to the airport and I figured I was out the money he owed me. I trusted Denis and was actually pretty worried that I hadn’t heard from him.

This e-mail just arrived from him via Thatcher. I am sharing it with you because I think it sort of sums up the way things can go in Kampala…

NOT EVERYTHING HAS BEEN FINE FOR ME SINCE THAT MONDAY YOU LEFT. I HAVE BEEN BED RIDDEN WITH A HURTING FINGER ( A DEEP WOUND) WHICH WAS INFLICTED BY A GROUP OF THUGS ON ME.THAT MONDAY MORNING I LEFT FOR THE TOUR COMPANY TO GET GLORIA'S REFUND OF$100. UNFORTUNATELY THE ACCOUNTANT HAD LOST A CHILD. THEN I WAS RESHEDULED TO PICK THE MONEY AT 6:30 PM WHICH I DID PICK. ON MY WAY BACK TO MEET GLORIA, I THOUGHT I SHOULD PICK FIRST MY UNCLES CAR FROM THE GARAGE FOR IT WAS TAKEN FOR SERVICE THEN DASH TO GLORIA AND GIVE HER THE $100.I WENT TO THE GARAGE PICKED THE CAR AND A FEW YARDS FROM THE GARAGE I STOPPED TO PEE. THREE YOUNG MEN APPROACH ME AND ASK ME FOR SOME LITTLE MONEY TO KAMPALA. I TELL THEM I DIDN'T HAVE ANY MONEY ON ME AND I WAS RUSHING TO MEET A GUEST WHO WAS FLYING OUT SOON.THEY SEEM TO LET ME GO AND I DIDN'T SUSPECT ANYTHING.AS I OPEN THE CAR DOOR TO DRIVE AWAY, ONE GRABS ME BY MY COLLAR AND A STRUGGLE ENSURES. BUT I WAS ALONE. ONE PULLS OUT SOMETHING LIKE A PISTOL AND TEASES ME THAT HE IS GOING TO SHOOT ME IF I DIDN'T SURRENDER EVERYTHING I HAD. IN THE PROCESS THEY HIT MY FINGER HARD WITH THE CAR DOOR AND REMOVED EVERYTHING ON ME INCLUDING MY PHONE. I HAD $150 ON ME GLORIA'S MONEY INCLUSIVE. NOW I TYPE THIS EMAIL TO YOU WITH ALOT OF PAIN IN MY FINGER BUT I THOUGHT I SHOULD LET YOU KNOW ABOUT THIS UNFOLDING. AM SINCERELY VERY SORRY TO GLORIA.I WILL TRY TO PULL RESOURCES AROUND AND TRY TO PAY HER THAT $100.WHAT I CHERISH MOST IS A CLEAN RECORD WHICH I CAN'T ALLOW IT BE TURNISHED BECAUSE OF $100. SINCERELY IF THAT UNFORTUNATE UNFOLDING HAD NOT HAPPENED, GLORIA WOULD HAVE RECEIVED HER MONEY IN FULL AND I WOULD HAVE DROPPED HER TO THE AIRPORT.

kindness is contagious

I have been so touched by the response I've received from friends and family. It seems that just about everyone wants to do something to help the children I met at the orphanage in Uganda, and I am so grateful for that. It's really exciting to hear all the different ideas people have about how they might help. What's most moving is the response I have gotten from kids themselves. Here is an e-mail I received from my friend Jennifer about her son. I just love it:

"Lee has a mason jar above the TV in the dining room, the hub of our family life, with a sign on it asking for contributions for Uganda orphans. All three kids here are contributing. I see some paper money in there even. Just want you to know that your vision is contagious. And we haven't even seen the photos yet!!"

Another mom wrote that her daughter wants to organize a clothing drive at her synagogue. Even my talented and dedicated young printer, Jesse, has committed to give back a percentage of what I spend with him each year to donate to the children.

It all kind of takes my breath away.

I am waiting for confirmation on the legal ins and outs of getting the fund off the ground, as well as the list of children who would like to have pen pals. If you have not e-mailed me with your interest in getting on my mailing list for the "Change the Truth" fund, please do so soon, as this blog will probably come to an end in the near future, and I will need another way to communicate with you. If you want to get in touch, just e-mail me at gbfeinstein@aol.com

Also, if you know of any organizations that might like to hear/see the presentation I will eventually assemble, please pass that info along, as well.

Thanks!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

more photos
























I can't seem to do much of anything these days except look through the pictures I made and listen to the CD of the children singing. Hope you don't mind looking at more images. I'm going to try to figure out how to upload the music at some point, so you can hear that, as well. Several of you have asked about starting a "pen pal" relationship with one of the children, and I asked Michael to put together a list of kids who would like to do that. More on that later...

Monday, November 13, 2006

orphanage photos

Getting to the orphanage is a bit of a challenge. The paved highway that goes on toward Entebbe is fine - it's when you turn off onto the dirt road that leads up to the school that it gets interesting. It's a colorful and amazing scene, with people walking about, vendors selling fruits and vegetables. children playing, people on their bicycles, women sweeping their dirt front stops with reed brooms, etc. Just when you think there can be no more curves or ruts or gulleys or bumps you finally reach the grounds of St. Mary Kevin Motherhood.

Rosemary is the founder/director of the place. She's a lovely, gracious woman who has raised four of her own very competent and successful children. (Two live in the US, her daughter is one and is a doctor.) She does God's work here and is blissfully happy with the challenges and rewards presented to her on a minute by minute basis.

Peter runs a number of programs. He was my tour guide, side kick, and quickly became my friend. He is, more than anything, the pied piper of the place. The children go crazy when he approaches, and he is cleary loved by all of them. He's recently completed his studies at the University.

Unfortunately, I do not have a picture of Michael, the Director of the Orphanage. It was in the first batch that was lost with my laptop. He is a dear man and very dedicated to the needs and efforts of the school. He is extremely efficient and smart. (He also has a really adorable baby boy and a lovely wife, both of whom I had the privilege of meeting when he took me to his home.)

Sonja was one of my constant companions while I roamed around taking pictures. As I mentioned in an earlier post, she is funny and bright, sweet and a bit mischievious. She and I made a really special connection.

To those of you who gave me money to take to the school so that they could buy books: they made the purchases the very next day, had the books piled up on a desk for me to see when I arrived, and had inscribed each one of them with thanks to "Gloria and friends." They could not have been more gratfeul. How cool is that?





















































The last two pictures were actually made at the orphanage in Jinja.

I have gotten an overwhelming and positive response to my request for interest in possibly establishing "Change the Truth." I appreciate the comments from those who have reminded me that it will take a lot of hard work to put together and run. I hope you'll stay with me as I look further into the possibilities. Thank you for being so supportive up to this point.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

can't sleep

WE CANNOT CHANGE THE TRUTH
WE CAN ONLY SAY WELCOME

This is the chorus of one of the songs the children at St. Mary Kevin Motherhood Orphanage greeted me with on that first day we met. I am still singing it in my head all these days later, especially at odd hours like this when I just can't seem to sleep. Maybe THEY can't change the truth, but it just occurred to me that I can try...with the help of my friends.

I have never been one who enjoys sitting in meetings discussing fund raising and then making those awkward phone calls. I prefer to roll up my sleeves and get dirty just doing the work that needs to be done. Well, I've started the work, that is I've made the connection with the folks at the orphanage and I have made photographs and recordings to document what is happening there. Now I need to take the next step. Here is what I'm considering.

I've set up a meeting with our friend David, who also happens to be an attorney, to see about establishing a 501(c3) foundation, one that will allow me to raise and collect money for the orphanage. I would call it the "Change the Truth Foundation." I would make a commitment to give presentations to whoever will listen and I will do what I can to spread the word about the dire situation in which these children are living. There are 150 students at the school, 100 of whom are orphans. If they survive the disease and poverty that is the backdrop of their world, they need to move on and get an education in secondary school so that they can then attend University and ultimately survive in both emotional and economic terms. As I sit here in Kansas City watching my son fill out his college applications, with no concern that he won't eventually get into one and have the money to pay for one, it seems that my family, at the very least, should grant the same opportunity to that same 17 year old who just happens to have been born into a very different situation on another side of the world.

Yes, I know, we need to help out in our own backyard first. I do that, too, and I know most of you do, as well. I think there can be a balance. Help here AND help there. The world is getting smaller and smaller, what with internet, global economy, satellite communications, quick and easy travel, etc. Those backyards that used to seem so very distant really aren't that far away anymore.

The purpose of this middle of the night missive is to find out from you, my blog readers, if you would be willing to become the first rung in the ladder as I climb toward establishing and carrying out "Change the Truth." While I still have a "captive" audience (?) here, I'd like to ask that you send me an e-mail with your thoughts about the possibility of participating in what has to be a collaborative effort. As I mention the idea to various people during the day, they all want to know where to sign up. So, here's your chance. Just write me (gbfeinstein@aol.com) and tell me if I can put your name (and address) on a list that will become the foundation for this foundation!

It won't take a lot. As I mentioned in an earlier posting, secondary school fees can be about $100 per year, depending on the location of the school. That's what, about 20 lattes a year at your favorite coffee haunt and it could absolutely change the life of a kid like Sonja or Nicholas or Salaam. It seems like a no-brainer to me.

What do you think?

Saturday, November 11, 2006

boxing gym photos

I don't know how Thatcher found this place, but it is marked only by a bright blue door and several broken windows in a seedy part of Kampala. He thought it would be a good place for me to stretch myself photographically. It's not often that I take pictures of people moving about quickly in a dimly lit room. The one recommendation Thatcher gave me was to go late in the afternoon, when the sun was low in the sky and streaming in through the windows of the gym in a lovely kind of way.

The boxers were dark and fit and glistening with sweat. The light, as it moved across their faces and bodies was magical. I was in heaven.


















I will tell you that re-entry is hard.

Tomorrow I'll share some pictures from the orphanage, the sights and sounds of which will not leave me alone.