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

Thursday, October 30, 2008

kindness

Did you have a Ouija board back when you were a kid? I did. My girlfriends and I would often pull it out in the middle of the night during a slumber party and ask it questions of huge magnitude like, “does Jimmy like Kathy?” or “who is going to ask me to dance at the next Cotillion?” or once we started to feel braver and kind of scared, “how will Toby die?” or “will my parents get a divorce?” or "when will the world end?"

I sort of feel like we are skipping across the top of a Ouija board these days. There is so much uncertainty in the air.

And there seem to be so many people who have the power to nudge the “Ouija” in this direction or that, spelling out lots of different possibilities for the future.

One thing I am learning, though, is this: no matter what, people basically have kindness swelling in their chests.

Think back to what Anne Franke wrote in her diary:

“I keep my ideals, because in spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart.”

Ever since I issued a wish list for items to take to the orphans at St. Mary Kevin’s in Uganda, my email in-box has been jammed, my front porch has been stacked with boxes and my phone rings a lot more often. It’s been incredible, really.

Forget skin color, sexual orientation, political views, religion or socio-economic status… everyone wants to help. Nothing divides people when it comes to simply being kind.

If I were thirteen and had just asked “Ouija” if people would really step up to the plate again and again to help one hundred and fifty motherless/fatherless children in a small town 7,000 miles away from where I live, I wouldn’t have to persuade it very much to spell out an emphatic Y-E-S.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

change the truth trip: meet lynne


For many years, I worked as an artist and textile designer for large corporations (Target, Crate and Barrel, etc). I had the pleasure of traveling to many developing countries, and loved getting to know the people with whom I worked. They welcomed me into their villages and into their homes. I was far more interested in the people, and their stories, than in the design work I was doing.

Eventually, I realized that I needed more from my work. And I knew that somehow, I could do more WITH my work.

Having always been interested in the art of documentary filmmaking, I decided to finally take a workshop. In July, 2007, I traveled to Cambodia, and focused my work on the issues of “street children”. What started out as an isolated experiment quickly turned into so much more. I took workshop after workshop, eager to learn as much as possible about this powerful and creative medium.

By this time, Gloria had already returned from her first trip to Uganda, and had established her foundation, Change the Truth. Her photographs and stories about the children whom she met at Saint Mary Kevin Orphanage were beyond moving. Her love and dedication to them was contagious.

As Gloria began planning her first mission trip to Uganda, I was filled with excitement for her, and for the unknown possibilities that lay ahead. I so wanted to join her and the team of artists and social workers who would be traveling to Saint Mary Kevin Orphanage to help the children heal emotionally, through art and play therapy. Yet I wondered: how could I help, what role could I possibly play in this mission?

Although I only had six months of documentary workshops under my belt, I nevertheless had a lofty dream. And Gloria, who has always supported my artistic development, welcomed my proposal with open arms. Without delay, I had the honor and privilege of accompanying this team as “the documentary filmmaker”.

Once there, I quickly fell in love with the children, and was more committed than ever, to telling their stories.

Once there, I witnessed the artists and social workers as they passionately, and compassionately, worked with these children who have survived unspeakable traumas.

I soon discovered that “the human spirit is stronger then anything that can happen to it”. Chinese Proverb.

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Since my return, I haven’t stopped thinking about the children whom I met: the pain in their eyes, yet also the smiles on their faces; their ability to love, despite everything.

I only hope that the film I ultimately made, did them justice.

It is now October, and I am preparing for my next trip to the orphanage. I will once again, have the honor and privilege of accompanying this team as “the documentary filmmaker”.

This time, I want to focus my efforts on the themes of giving, and of “kids helping kids”. But it’s not just about us, the Change the Truth team, giving. It is equally about the many ways in which the children at the orphanage give back to us. It’s a circle, really. A very full circle.

I only hope that the film I ultimately make, will do them justice.

Monday, October 27, 2008

change the truth trip: meet max


It has been a great pleasure for me to experience Africa through my mom over the last two years (since her first visit in October of 2006, roughly 500 blog posts ago). I have been privileged enough to see pictures roll off the press, hear stories fresh from excited travelers' mouths, and live part-time at the CTT headquarters in Kansas City. The collection of tales and images that I have witnessed throughout the last couple years makes me feel almost as if I have been to SMK already.

Since I joined the USC Marching Band, the Spirit of Troy-- "the greatest marching band in the history of the universe," I have found endless excitement in drumming with other people. Throughout the course of the Africa trip, I hope to join in drum circles and learn about traditional African drumming. In addition, I'm planning on helping purchase instruments for the SMK marching band (perhaps to become the greatest marching band in the history of Africa?). More than anything, I'm most excited about drumming with the kids at the orphanage as a way to forge a connection through music :)

It seems as though the orphanage has some sort of mysterious magnet that draws visitors back, both physically and emotionally, after their first trip. I have witnessed my mom's experiences in Africa latch themselves to her emotions. I hope that I'll leave Africa with the same enthusiasm that my mom has to come back and do good.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

change the truth trip: meet bobbi


I feel blessed to be going to Uganda to visit these beautiful children. I'm certain it will be more life changing for me than for them. I have been a therapist for 23 yrs, and worked with children for 10 of them. I was with Catholic Charities during that time, so I visited areas of South Florida, where I live, that were depressed and with families so needing of outside support.

Since that time, I've been working with relationships...teaching about the power of deepening connection, through listening and validating another's experience. Teaching parents is my gift to children....and imagining children without parents is so hard...

I've been on a journey of creating a life filled with good friends, rich adventures, and spiritual evolution. This journey to Uganda will be, I'm certain, one of the richest.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

new lobby photos for operation breakthrough

One of my greatest joys as a photographer is making pictures of children. At Operation Breakthrough, I need look no further than the end of my lens to be presented with a visual feast of them. A smorgasbord!

My goal at OB is to present the children in an honest way. If a little one is experiencing sadness or fear, or is simply being thoughtful, I will not avoid that child or ask him/her to smile for me. And if there is glee involved, which is usually the case, then I happily capture that, as well.

These photos are among a new suite of pictures that will soon greet people when they walk in to the lobby at 31st and Troost in KCMO.


















The center was founded in 1971 by these two women, Sister Berta and Sister Corita, in response to requests from parents in the central city for quality child care for children of the working poor. The nuns, all these years later, still run the place and can still be found on the floor playing with these adorable children.



Thursday, October 23, 2008

my website

My new and improved website is officially up and running! If you have a few minutes, please check it out. New portfolios include the Sea Series and the Streetcar Project. There are additions to the Uganda and Toy Camera portfolios. The home page is one that I will update regularly with events, new projects, publications and exhibitions.

www.gloriabakerfeinstein.com

Feedback is appreciated...

Thanks, all!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

signs of the times

Our Obama sign was stolen.

Also our really nice poster with the word "Hope." (To steal that, the thief had to come right up to our house, open the storm door and quietly do his/her stealing thing.)

Now, signs in our neighborhood are being left where they are; they are simply being defaced.





Monday, October 20, 2008

change the truth trip: meet carol


A little over a year ago, Gloria told me she was planning her first “mission” to St. Mary Kevin. She was bringing with her a group of talented, interested people: artists and psychologists ready, willing and able to spend their time and energy helping children in need. I decided to tag along, and while my background and training as a lawyer didn’t prepare me, my desire to help people and seek an experience outside my comfort zone was my preparation.

I packed my bags in December, 2007 and traveled to a continent, a country and a village about which I knew very little and had an experience I could never have imagined. It literally changed my life. My time at St. Mary Kevin brought me both sadness and joy, but mostly awareness. The needs of the children are overwhelming, but so are the smiles on their faces. And the warmth in their hearts touched me.

I returned to NYC and spent more time thinking about my own life and what I wanted. I decided to make changes. I left the law firm I had founded over 20 years ago and decided to devote more time to endeavors outside of practicing law. Among other things, I joined the board of Change the Truth so that I could take a more active role in assisting St. Mary Kevin Orphanage. I started training and decided to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro this past summer. And of course, going back to that part of the world for such a trek brought me back to the orphanage. My second visit was just as terrific as my first - seeing the children eight months later, smiling, growing and learning. And hearing progress reports from the teachers and from Rosemary and Joseph about the orphanage, the children and the projects for which Change the Truth could provide assistance. It simply warmed my heart.

I hosted, together with Gloria and Lynne, a fundraiser in NYC and spend time talking to my friends and others about our hopes and dreams to help the children. And now I find myself preparing for the next mission only a short two months away. Different from last year, I now know better what to expect, and it is no longer outside my comfort zone. St. Mary Kevin and the children there feel like home. I can’t wait to see their smiling faces once again.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

obama rally

Yesterday Barack Obama came to Missouri. First, he was cheered by a crowd of 100,000 in St. Louis. Later in the afternoon, 75,000 gathered at the Liberty Memorial in Kansas City to hear him speak. Eddie and I arrived around 3:30, in preparation for the gates opening at 4:00.

The Fred Phelps element greeted us as we were ushered to the back of a line that stretched for a good mile and a half.






We found friendlier and more like minded folks as we made our way.
















The crowd during the speech.




Abbie and Sam worked as volunteers at the rally.


Abbie was close enough to get this shot of Obama speaking.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

wish list

As the Change the Truth teams prepare to leave for Uganda, we would like to issue this request for the following items:

Playing cards
Soccer balls/ pumps
Footballs
Basketballs
Board games (Checkers, Chutes and Ladders, Chess, Monopoly, Scrabble)
Puzzles
Markers, crayons, colored pencils, pads of drawing paper and canvas, paints and brushes
Disposable cameras
Calculators
Journals
Small stuffed animals
Socks for 3 – 6 year olds
Caps and T-Shirts for 6 – 18 year olds

These are things we can pack in our extra luggage. If you have access to any of these items and would like to donate them, please let me know as soon as possible. (Gently used would be fine.)

Please join us as we help the children at St. Mary Kevin Orphanage Motherhood. You may not be able to physically be in Kajjansi with us, but sending things over for us to deliver to the kids will put you “right there!”

Email me at gbfeinstein@aol.com. I will be happy to pick up your donations if you live in the KC area.

WEBALE! (That’s “thanks” in Lugandan.)

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

hope

Hope is the thing with feathers
by Emily Dickinson

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all,

And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.

I've heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.


It is hard these days to muster up the feeling.

In honor of my son-in-law, whose favorite poet is Ms. Dickinson, in honor of the youthful, hopeful feelings he and our daughter bring to our home, in honor of the big Obama poster that says HOPE that I just hung on our front door, in honor of new (old) images that I "rediscover" every now and then, and in consideration of a lovely book of photographs and essays entitled "Hope Photographs" I recently received as a gift, I make today's post.

Monday, October 13, 2008

a trojan weekend


A lot of sun, a lot of football, a lot of partying, a lot of Trojan marching band, a walk on the beach, a lot of new friends, a lot of wrapping our arms around our son – what else but Parent’s Weekend in southern California? Eddie and I soaked up every minute of it and had such a good time.


Last year I was struck by how militaristic the whole band scene seemed. This year, I was struck by how much fun the kids have, how dedicated they are… and how absolutely inspiring the seventy-something band director is.


(Dr. Bartner has more stamina and energy than just about every forty and fifty-something I know and can rock out with the best of them)

Max has worked hard to get to this point in his drum-playing career, and his parents are very proud of him. Mostly, though, it’s unbelievably fulfilling for us to be able to watch our child move through such an intensely demanding experience with a grin that just doesn’t seem to disappear. Practically sideburn to sideburn. Pretty much all the time.


And now Abbie and her husband, Sam, will step back into our everyday lives for a while! They have cut their road trip short to come to the swing state of Missouri so that they can work for the Obama campaign.

Eddie and I are indeed happy and fortunate parents!

Thursday, October 09, 2008

key


Americans have lost trillions of dollars over the past few weeks.

We are a people used to having so much. I photographed a poor Missouri family the other day; even they had televisions in every room of their ramshackle home.

This downward spiral in our economy has given me pause to consider: how much of what I have (which is a lot) could I do without? I doubt that my family is the only one that has begun having this discussion.

So many times this past week, as I have watched the stock market crash and the credit market called into question and average families lose their retirement and college savings along with hopes for that 64” plasma television or a new Wii, SUV, iPOD or iPHONE, I have thought about the children in Uganda.

Many of the children at the orphanage wear a key around their neck. The key fits into a colorful metal case that sits at the foot of their bed. Neatly packed in the case is everything that child owns.

Perhaps we Americans will begin to reconsider the excesses with which we have surrounded ourselves. It’s possible now that some of us will have no choice.

Of course, we all hope for a speedy recovery for the economy. Meanwhile, maybe we could use this time to focus on what is really and truly important in our lives... like what would be in our colorful metal case at the foot of the bed, and with whom would we share the key.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

operation breakthrough












The past couple of days have found me doing some work for my favorite Kansas City non-profit. I photographed some of the children in their home environments for an annual fund campaign that will be launched later this year.

Monday, October 06, 2008

douglas

Some of you may recall “meeting” Douglas in Lynne’s film or reading about him here on the blog. Douglas is a twenty-year old who has grown up at St. Mary Kevin Orphanage and who now helps out with the music program and with the orphans. He’s a pretty special young man.

When we were there last December, Douglas told us of his desire to attend nursing school, now that he has successfully completed secondary school. During the course of the past few months, he has visited several nursing schools, found one that pleased him and made application for this fall.

He was accepted! And his commitment to attending and wanting to see this through is very evident. His tuition is being paid for by a very generous donor and supporter of Change the Truth, someone who really understands that this is Douglas’ way out of the cycle of poverty. The donor is also a pretty special person! She and Douglas have been lucky to learn of one another. They will both benefit from this, obviously in different, but still very profound ways. This is a letter I received from Douglas once he found out everything was moving forward and that he would be starting nursing school in November. It's to his sponsor as much, if not more so, than it is to me. It's also to all of you who have shown your support, because all the children feel the same way Douglas does.

“Hello Mama,

What can I say about the love you have towards people?! Actually it's unmeasured! I feel so good about this, really I have never felt loved like now. Truthfully I thought my chances were over in this world for studying, but now I can see myself shining in the future. Thank you so much for everything. God bless you ever so that you can see some of our fruits.

Take care,

Son Douglas”

Saturday, October 04, 2008

change the truth update


All kinds of wonderful things are happening on the Change the Truth front! Allow me to fill you in.

Two short months from now, several dedicated and enthusiastic friends of Change the Truth will board planes headed for Uganda. Once on the ground, they will make their way to St. Mary Kevin Orphanage for a ten-day mission commitment. This year there are actually two separate groups going; I know that amazing work will be done each session. As we get closer to departure time, I will introduce you to the talented and generous souls who have decided to make this journey with me. Please stay tuned to this blog! For now, know that we are all busy getting our visas and shots and figuring out how best to spend our time helping the children once we have arrived.

In the meantime, your contributions continue to flow in. Thank you so much! The funds we have received have allowed us to support even more projects at the orphanage. Each month now, we send enough money to cover food purchases, secondary school fees for nineteen young people and (new just this month) money to cover the employment of a part-time nurse, as well as medications needed by sick children. We have also recently sent enough funds for the purchase of a maize mill. This will enable the orphanage to produce much if its own corn meal, leading to a reduction in the amount of money required each month for food.

Supporters of CTT have been finding creative ways to raise money. In New York City, for example, a softball team chose CTT as its beneficiary in a charity league. When they came in second place, a healthy donation was made to the children. A woman in Port Washington, New York is organizing a grand scale garage sale, the proceeds of which will go to Change the Truth. She’s also passing out brochures to her shoppers so that people will learn about the work we’re doing.

For the second year in a row, we will have a fundraising event at Ten Thousand Villages, a store in Overland Park, Kansas that carries only fair trade products. On the evening of December 2nd, a percentage of all purchases made at the store will be donated to Change the Truth. Last year, we raised more money than any other organization that participated in the program. Let’s hope we do as well this year! You will receive more information about this as the date approaches. It’s a fun event – a great way to buy some unique and beautiful gifts for your friends and family for the holidays and also help out some very grateful orphans in Uganda.

The motorcycle we purchased for St. Mary Kevin’s can be spotted on the red dirt roads in and around Kajjansi now. Used primarily as a taxi, it brings in income for the orphanage, but also provides a means of transportation for staff and children when they need to go to the market, to the medical clinic, etc. I can just imagine the Change the Truth license plate flapping in the wind as the motorcycle winds its way through the Ugandan countryside. What a beautiful sight!

The children at St. Mary Kevin are performing better in school because they are not so hungry all the time. They are happier because they know their chances of attending secondary school are actually pretty good now. They are not struggling as much with their fears and sadness, because they receive much needed counseling and support from the staff. And now the children will have better medical care.

To those of you who have contributed: you are responsible for these things. You can feel really good about the donations you have made to Change the Truth.

Thank you for your ongoing support and for your interest in this amazing and ever blossoming endeavor!

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

windows

My father and I watched “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.” It was my second viewing, and I was again so moved by the gorgeous way the movie is filmed, primarily those scenes meant to represent the main character’s visual points of view. He is completely paralyzed, with the exception of the blinking ability of his one good eye. The scenes from his perspective are limited, in and out of focus and (for me, anyway) full of longing.

In this true story, Jean-Do Bauby, editor-in-chief at Elle Magazine, had a stroke and was left with a rare malady called “locked-in syndrome.” He couldn’t speak and couldn’t move, but learned to express himself by blinking his eye. (He actually dictated a book before he went on to die from pneumonia.)

I’ve been thinking a lot about his situation. There are, of course, endless ways to be “locked-in.”

My dad epitomizes someone who is determined not to be. It's inspiring to me.

These are photographs taken through the windows of our house in Kentucky, inspired by the movie, by the nostalgic feelings I have for the house I grew up in and for the love I feel for my father, who looks out through these windows everyday.