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

Monday, February 28, 2011

the abc’s of school sponsorships


When Change the Truth first started its school sponsorship program, the cost for sponsoring a child in secondary school was $285.00 per year. Several generous donors seized this opportunity to make a donation for a specific child, hoping to be able to support that student all the way through the six years of secondary school.

Over the years, we have made changes to the program – changes that have greatly benefitted the sponsored students.

The children have recently been transitioned to schools that meet higher standards and attract better teachers. More students have boarding status now. More textbooks and school supplies are provided. Everything from soap, toilet paper, a broom, a mopping rag and other required items are also now provided. Treats on visitor’s day (Melissa sees each sponsored child on visitation day), transportation expenses, exam fees and uniforms are all now completely covered. The students are simply in a better position to succeed.

Change the Truth has also tightened its expectations of sponsored kids. Good grades, regular attendance and a high degree of effort are required. Active and enthusiastic engagement with CTT volunteer teams is expected. So is the timely presentation of report cards and regularly written correspondence.

Of course, better schools, more textbooks, room and board… all these come at a greater cost. Also, the price of food has increased dramatically over the years in Uganda. So have other basic necessities, like clothing and shoes.

So, the amount required for the sponsorship of a secondary school student for the year 2011 is $850.00 (slightly less if there is a guardian in the picture… someone who can pitch in to buy hygiene items for the child).

Providing educational opportunities to the children at St. Mary Kevin Orphanage has always been the primary goal of Change the Truth. As we take more and more children into the sponsorship program, though, (and more of them graduate and move on to University) we have had to make the entry requirements tougher and make ongoing expectations greater. I am happy to report that two students (Billy and Isabella) are currently waiting to hear about acceptance into University. CTT has known and sponsored these two since 2007. We are so proud of their determination to succeed and of the relationship we have developed with them; we have promised to see them through the next chapter of their education.


Billy, 2007

Billy, 2010


A CTT scholarship is no longer a given. Kids have to perform well in order to get one and have to work hard to maintain it. And they don’t have any Tiger Moms (or any moms) reminding them of this. It’s pretty much all up to them.

Some of the kids just aren’t cut out for academics; CTT is now offering those students a chance to attend vocational school instead. For the first time ever, Change the Truth will have two students (Henry and Saka) attending trade school this year.

Henry and Saka

If you would like to make a donation toward the school sponsorship program, simply earmark your contribution as such. CTT would greatly appreciate your support. If you prefer that a specific student be the recipient of your generous support, I can make that happen. You can begin an ongoing relationship by writing letters, sending pictures and small gifts from time to time and receiving, in return, letters, pictures and grade cards from your sponsored student.

Getting an education - and this is particularly true for young women in developing nations – is the only clear way out of the devastating cycle of oppression, loss and poverty. The success of these kids will make all of us better people… and together we'll live in a better world.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

scovia and abasi

Meet two of the students sponsored by Change the Truth!



Aloyo Scovia is fifteen years old. She arrived at St. Mary Kevin Orphanage when she was eight. Her father had been killed by rebel soldiers in Northern Uganda four years earlier, and her mother could not adequately care for Scovia and her two sisters. Having heard from a friend that she could get a job as a matron at SMK, Scovia's mother relocated the family to Kajjansi. She has been a matron (a woman who is in charge of one of the children's dormitories) ever since. Scovia likes school and does very well. She enjoys reading. Scovia is thankful for SMK, because it has enabled her family to stay together. When she grows up, Scovia wants to be a doctor.




Aryatwogera Abasi has been at SMK since 2005. His mother died in a car accident, and his father died of AIDS. Abasi likes biology; he also wants to be a doctor. "It is amazing and interesting how living things are created and how our bodies work." He enjoys reading. "I read to be inspired. Reading makes me look as what I want to do to reach my dreams."

Saturday, February 26, 2011

isabella



The nice folks at Strecker-Nelson Gallery in Manhattan, Kansas invited me to make a doll for inclusion in an upcoming show. They had seen the doll I made last year for the Change the Truth Fundraiser and wanted a similar one.

So... doll number two was born.

It was fun to make another one; I hope she finds a good home. When I turned her over to the gallery, I was asked what her name (title) was. I said Doll Number Two? No, something better than that. OK, how about "Isabella"?

Isabella is one of the girls at the orphanage who makes a lot of the banana fiber dolls. If I make one for the June fundraiser, I think I'll call her "Rosette," another of the girls who works hard to make the many dolls we bring back from Uganda. Rosette taught me how to make the dolls; I used one of my own in the construction of this small sculpture.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

vote now !!

My sweet and talented sister Bobbie has entered a contest. It's a contest sponsored by a credit union in her home state of Washington. It's a contest that lets people publicly cheer for their favorite cause. It's a contest that requires said people to cram all the information about that cause (plus a cartwheel) into a one minute video. It's a contest that calls upon the public to vote on the videos.

It's a contest that gives away $5,000.00 to the first place vote-getter, $2,000.00 to the second and $1,000.00 to the third.

It's a contest that brings me to my knees in front of each of you as I call out (looking up at your perfectly beautiful face): VOTE NOW!

Bobbie did a magnificent job on this video. Thank you, sis.

Oh, did I mention that the cause she chose is Change the Truth?



See it for yourself here or by going to the Verity Credit Union website.

On their website you can view all 37 one-minute videos and vote for your favorite (all are excellent causes). OR, to save time, you can just scroll down to #18 and watch the video made by Bobbie Baker and then vote, or if you're really pressed for time (heh heh) simply click on #18, then vote!

This is important. The prize is huge; it's one that could go a verrrrrry long way toward helping the kids at St. Mary Kevin Orphanage.

So, please vote (you can only vote once). And then please ask your entire family to also vote. And your office mates. And your school mates. Oh, and all your Facebook friends. And then be sure to ask them to ask their entire family, and so on. I think you know how these things work. Voting ends on March 2nd.

Cartwheel for a Cause is the name of the contest. I think our video might be the only one with a cartwheel all the way from Uganda! (Thanks, Melissa.)

Ok, enough from me. Now get off this blog, head over to the Verity blog and VOTE!

Please.

Monday, February 21, 2011

petra: speaking of dolls... well, bears


Those handmade bears Team 4 took to the children this past December seem to have become quite well loved. Melissa posted this report and these photos on her blog the other day:

"Children in Uganda have very few (if any) store bought toys, especially in the villages. Most children, including the orphans at SMK, make their own toys. Banana fibers are used to make dolls, balls, jump ropes. Old bottle caps are used to make game pieces for checkers. Recycled wire and found bits of rubber are used to make cars.

This past December, Suzanne (one of the members of CTT’s Team 4) was able to secure a donation of stuffed teddy bears to be included in the younger children’s Christmas gift from CTT. These handmade bears were lovingly and individually made by Mother Bear Project. Volunteers were provided with the basic template, but the clothing, yarn color combinations and other embellishments made each bear unique.

About 180 bears made their way to Uganda, and each has been thoroughly loved!! Each bear was tagged with a small card sharing who lovingly made the bear. Petra named her bear baby after the person who sewed it, Sharon. Petra has carried Sharon everywhere on her back, like other mamas do in Uganda. Over the holidays, Petra and some of her friends spent literally hours giving their bears hair extensions. Now Petra lovingly brushes and decorates Sharon’s long hair.



Sharon stays with me at night, cause Petra fears that she will be lost otherwise. Other children have their bears displayed on their beds in the dormitory or tucked away in their cases. They have been an incredible source of enjoyment and security to so many orphans at SMK."


You can read my posts about the Mother Bear Project here and here.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

dolls: kids helping kids


It's that time of year again when I begin working on the CTT Annual Friendraiser/Fundraiser. I'm happy to report that we are going to bring back the Doll Project this year!

Before I get too carried away with the exciting news about the second round of dolls and the Kansas City artist collaborators, I'd like to tell you about one man who was so inspired by the project last year that he found a way to create his own doll project fundraiser to benefit Change the Truth.

I received the following email back in September from Adam Finkleston, a really cool guy who teaches photo at a local high school (the same school attended by Team 4 member Emily):

"I teach photography and sponsor the National Art Honor Society at Shawnee Mission East High School. I would like NAHS to help Change The Truth. I have an idea for a project that would take place in February or March. I was inspired by your doll show last June. My plan is to have my students do service projects with our feeder elementary and middle schools to make a variety of dolls. High school students would also make the dolls- possibly we'd even get some parent/artists to make some?- and then sell them at a gallery show to raise some money for your organization."

Adam is a man of his word. Just the other day I received the following press release from him:

"Shawnee Mission East National Art Honor Society Presents:

Youth for Truth
A benefit for Change the Truth and St. Mary Kevin Orphanage Motherhood in Kajjansi, Uganda
VALA Studio and Gallery, 5815 Johnson Drive, Mission, KS
Sunday, May 8th from noon to 5 PM
Student-made dolls and artwork for sale

Since January, elementary, middle and high school students in the Shawnee Mission East High School area have been collaborating on doll-making workshops to benefit Change the Truth. CTT is a not- for- profit organization run by local artist, Gloria Baker Feinstein. Students, inspired by dolls and figures created by the St. Mary Kevin Orphanage residents, have created a variety of dolls and figures for sale at VALA Studio and Gallery at 5815 Johnson Drive in Mission, KS. Shawnee Mission East students are also providing live music for the event."


Adam sent along these pictures, as well.

Isn't it so cool when one idea inspires another? When helping others becomes contagious? When we put on our collective thinking caps on and figure out ways to get more and more people involved in the cause? When a person just simply decides to do something to help and then follows through in a big way?

Isn' it just the best when kids help kids?






Thank you, Adam. Kansas City is lucky to have a teacher like you!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

sparrow

Take a few minutes to watch this, especially if you have a young child/grandchild or an elderly parent. And most especially if you have both. Thanks, Mare.

Friday, February 18, 2011

new sponsored students

Congratulations are in order! There are five new students who have been given Change the Truth school scholarships. These five graduated from Primary 7 in November and have now been given the school fees required to begin Senior 1. Three have individual sponsors. The generous donors providing these scholarships are to be congratulated for providing a life-changing opportunity to a child who wants nothing more than to be able to go to school.


Here are the happy new secondary school students (from left to right): Ivan, Brian, Caleb, Anthony and Sanday. Congratulations to each of these hard working children.

This brings our total number of sponsored students to 27! And three recent sponsored secondary school grads (Isabella, Nelson and Billy) are waiting to hear about acceptance into University.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

cake-eating women


Kate over at "Eat The Damn Cake" has written a post about eating cake and is featuring the 21 photos I made recently. I love what she wrote (no surprise) and I think the photos and quotes look great. Thanks, Kate, for letting me collaborate with you. And thanks to all the fun-loving, cake-eating girls and women who let me photograph them. Check it out here.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

play


The kids at SMK are back in school now. Their holiday (equivalent to summer vacation in America) ended a week ago. The order of the day now revolves around teachers, lessons, books, exercise journals, homework and classroom discipline. The children all wear uniforms; the color depends on the school attended. AT SMK, the uniforms are green.

Change the Truth currently sponsors 25 orphaned secondary students. (Through primary school, the fees for the orphans are underwritten by the fees paid by the non-orphans.) Secondary is the equivalent of American high school. CTT also sponsors one student who has moved on to University and one student who is in Nursing School.



Change the Truth has granted five new sponsorships for secondary school this school year. You will meet those children in an upcoming post. For now, here are a couple new photographs simply celebrating “play” – something the kids are quite good at during their “summer holiday” in December.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

ctt opportunities


People are always asking me how they can help CTT. Of course, we would never turn away cash or checks! But there are other ways to help, as well. Here are a few on the table right now:

Join the planning committee for the 4th Annual Change the Truth Friendraiser/Fundraiser. The event will be held in June in Kansas City. You could help organize in advance and/or work at the event itself.

Donate items for the event's silent auction (weekend get-aways, wines, tickets to a Royals Game, spa treatments, store gift certificates, etc.)

If you have graphic/web design skills or know someone who does, please consider taking on the task of redesigning the CTT website and brochure, as well as the event invitation. I would like to do this as a trade: my photographs for your work.

Arrange for a CTT presentation at your church, synagogue, workplace, school, etc. The power point and video talk runs about an hour (including questions and answers). There is no charge; a small donation from the group or sponsor is appreciated, however. This is a great way to share your enthusiasm about CTT with your friends and colleagues. (And I usually bring door prizes!)

Host a fundraiser at your school or in your neighborhood. Be creative! A group of young girls in Colorado just had a cookie and hot chocolate sale.

Join Team 5! It’s not too early to start thinking about joining me next December as part of our annual volunteer trip. This year we will stay in inexpensive housing within walking distance of the orphanage, and we’ll be on the ground for 10 days – 2 weeks. If you have not already contacted me and are interested in getting more info, now’s a good time to do so.

Volunteer at the orphanage on your own schedule and for an extended period of time. We are just beginning this program and have already had quite a bit of interest. This would be perfect during the summer for a college student or anytime during the year for a gap year student.

Please leave a comment or contact me directly if you’d like to talk about any of the above. You know I’d love to hear from you.

Friday, February 11, 2011

haircut


The first time I visited orphanages in Uganda, I had a really hard time telling the boys from the girls. That's because all the kids have shaved heads! A shaved head is easier and less costly to maintain than a full head of hair. And anyone who has had kids and knows about cleanliness and head lice can imagine that simply getting rid of hair would be the easiest option.

A young man with an electric razor shows up at St. Mary Kevin's every month or so. The kids line up and patiently wait their turn. One by one they don a checkered smock and then sit very still as the shaver plows stripes onto their small heads. A few short minutes later, with a smooth top, they hop up and hand the smock to the next kid in line.

The lack of hair really accentuates the beautiful features of these kids. And lucky for me the girls usually wear dresses and the boys shorts!

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

baby photos

I have photographed children for a long time. Photographing my own children as they grew up was a real treat. Now I get to photograph my grandchild. How cool is that?!

Henry met his great grandfather yesterday. For the first time. Eighty-nine year old Harold and five month old Henry. It was a very sweet connection.






This boy has stolen my heart, by the way.






I'm pretty sure he stole my father's, too.

Monday, February 07, 2011

maya!


Change the Truth is thrilled to announce that beginning March 1st we will have a college intern living and working at St. Mary Kevin Orphanage.

Maya Knight, who is currently in Tanzania, will be heading by bus to join Melissa and all the children shortly after the Ugandan national elections takes place. Maya will be teaching computer and English and plans to create a women/girl's empowerment group for the older girls and female staff members.

I asked Maya to provide some information about herself. I recently received this email:

"Last night I was sitting with my friend on the rooftop bar that overlooks all of Moshi, Tanzania, the place that has become my beloved home away from home. We started talking about where we would be if people didn’t help us get to the point we are at now. I thought about my grandparents, two holocaust survivors who were given an opportunity to start fresh and make something of their lives. Now, because of them, I have the opportunity to get a fine education. I am who Iam because of these two people. My passion for Africa springs from their generous nature.

I first decided to travel to Africa in my sophomore year of college when I was feeling a little bit aimless. That summer, I went to Tanzania and the country stole my heart; the children chasing the van everyday as I was commuting to work, the huge smiles I passed by everyday from complete strangers, and the incredible optimism these people have despite all of their struggles. I went home to face a harsh reality of my own life, and knew from that moment that my life’s purpose was to be in Africa.

A little about me: I was born and raised in Fort Collins, Colorado. I feel so privileged to have grown up in such a beautiful place. It is a culture all in its own. People are relaxed, happy and healthy. Beautiful landscapes are right in my backyard. I couldn’t imagine growing up in a better place. I take it for granted and at times I am itching to escape, but I really do adore it. I am
blessed with an absolutely incredible family. They have given me awareness, nurtured me, and supported every spontaneous move I have made without judgment. My father had a similar experience when he was young. As a soil scientist, he was deeply attracted to Belize, a land rich in agriculture, but like me, he unexpectedly fell in love with the country. I have seen his passion blossom over the years, and seen how happy he is there, and I have always envied him, hoping one day I would find the place that makes me feel that way. So far, out of everywhere I have been Tanzania is still that place for me, but I am convinced it is not just Tanzania, but East Africa.

I am a student of the world. In school, you can label what I am doing community development, but my goals reach much farther than any degree. I studied abroad in Bolivia and Argentina this past September and October. This trip reconfirmed my love for Africa, and gave me new ideas. My dream is to be a midwife, and to establish a midwifery training center for women of rural Africa. My goal is to learn everything I can about African cultures and about how to best use my skills in the communities I’m working in.

It has been two years since my first trip to Africa, and I am back again for the third time. I have combined all of my passions and skills, and have learned an abundance from teachers, social workers, doctors and business men and women during my travels in Africa that I never would have learned in any classroom in America. My education entirely depends on experiences in the world, and I love it that way.

I know Gloria through my aunt and uncle. I was first exposed to her work when a collection of her images was featured in a book about the many holocaust survivors of Kansas City including my grandparents, great aunt and great uncle. We have shared brief conversations during a wedding reception or a family reunion, but I never imagined I would be working with her and Change the Truth. I learned about Change the Truth and St. Mary Kevin orphanage when my aunt and uncle gave me the gift of Gloria’s stunning book as a gift when I returned home from my first trip. I was amazed by how well she captured the essence of Africa.

I am very intrigued with Uganda. I am so thrilled to get to spend three months at SMK and to be a part of this project for many years to come. I am sure I will learn as much from them as they learn from me. The work that Change the Truth is doing is presenting these people with an opportunity to succeed. I don’t know where I would be without the people who got me to this point, so I have to try my hardest to return the favor to my brothers and sisters." - Maya

Saturday, February 05, 2011

leku


This is a post about a very talented young man named Leku Ivan.

Leku lives at St. Mary Kevin Orphanage, and if he had his way he would spend every waking minute of every day with a paintbrush, charcoal pencil or oil crayon in his hand.

The first time I watched Leku go into a room where artwork was hanging on the walls, I knew I in the presence of someone pretty extraordinary. He said nothing. He approached each piece slowly, one at a time. He didn’t just look at the drawing, painting or photograph. Leku ran his long, delicate fingers along the dips and swirls of each brush stroke and along each hard edge. He did this almost as if he had slipped into some kind a trance. While his fingers traced the movement of the lines, Leku seemed to absorb each bit of visual information, memorizing it for possible use later.

Leku is quiet. He’s fifteen years old. He seems solemn and wise. But I have seen the young man dance, and he can have fun and shake his body like there is no tomorrow. And he can grin, too. One of those broad, genuine smiles that pretty much stretches from one ear to the other.




I like Leku a lot. So does everyone who meets him. He’s got a sweet, sincere, gentle demeanor. He’s extremely kind, humble and polite. He’s just good.

He is fortunate to have recently been taken in under the wing of a Ugandan artist from Jinja, a young painter who has welcomed Leku into his studio during school holidays to give him private lessons and to introduce him to the life of being a professional artist.




When our team was at the orphanage in December, Leku had just returned from Jinja and could be found in the SMK art room from sun up to sun down (and sometimes even later). That’s because our team arrived bearing bags full of canvas, paint, drawing paper, brushes and pencils. While making art, Leku always wore the same t-shirt and shorts, both of which bore testament to his choice of colors.



This young artist has been in a comfort zone of making familiar East African imagery: bold, colorful landscapes, women carrying things on their head, animals in the wild, babies with their mothers, men hunting in the village. I showed Leku some art books - work I thought might help him stretch out of that zone. He and I talked about finding our own voice in our work.




He was mesmerized by the Gaugins, Chagalls and Van Goghs in the books I brought. He drank in each new idea. We talked, he looked, he thought, he painted. He painted and painted.

I brought home many Leku Ivan originals, and they will be for sale at the CTT Annual Friendraiser/Fundraiser this June. You can see for yourself how Leku’s work has matured after lots of looking, thinking, talking and painting. This young man doesn’t have access to many art supplies during the school year. He knows, though, that when the CTT teams shows up each December, he’s going to be in art heaven.

Leku made his first sale while our team was there. The reservations manager at our hotel is the happy new owner of this great piece.




Here is a sampling of some of work YOU could own if you attend the fundraiser in June! Much more information about that will follow.






Thursday, February 03, 2011

new work

I've had time recently to work on some of my new images from the December trip to Uganda.





Wednesday, February 02, 2011

snow days in kc

Having lived in Wisconsin for eight years and having watched icicles form on Eddie’s moustache as we tromped to class, I usually don't get too excited about the wintry weather here in Kansas City.

The TV weather forecasters were simply beside themselves yesterday as the region experienced – and they were thrilled to utter the word – a blizzard. (Phrases like “Blizzard of Oz” and “Snowpocalypse” made their jobs even more fun.) It really did turn out to be quite a storm. Fourteen inches of the white stuff found their way to my backyard. And today it’s just downright cold.

Schools, businesses and many government offices are closed. Trash collection has been suspended. The airport and major highways were shut down for a while.

Here are some pictures taken by Kansas City Star photographers.














It really has been quite a winter. Just two weeks ago we were hit with several inches. On that snowy day I ventured out into the elements with my Flip video camera to make a movie for the kids in Uganda. They were able to watch it thanks to Melissa, our CTT/SMK liaison.





Melissa described the kids' reactions in an email:

“THEY LOVED IT!! I sat outside the P7 classroom on the ledge and played the video over and over again on my laptop. Some kids literally watched it a half dozen times or more. One of the highlights for the kids was definitely the sledding... the boys especially were fascinated by the speed of the sleds in the snow. There was lots of marvel in their eyes at such an experience. Another highlight was the huge icicles that had formed on the building. The huge chunks of ice were mesmerizing to the kids. And then my personal favorite was the finale of you falling forward in the snow. There never failed to be peals of laughter (from myself included and I have watched it at least 2 dozen times).

Personal side-story… of course we have watched the video at my house. And between Francis’ and Issy's incredible thirst for information, I have literally exhausted all of my facts about snow and precipitation. We went to the beach a couple of weekends ago right after receiving your video. The snow angel really interested Issy, so she attempted to make her own sand angel. Who knew... snow angels in Kansas City, sand angels in Kajjansi!!”

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

henry fix


I've got a list a mile long of blog posts I want/need to do, but for today I am simply posting up a brand spankin' new henry photo, one that traveled to my in-box this morning and has continued to make me grin all day long.

My grandson is 21 weeks old now. His parents, Sam and Abbie, used to send weekly prego pics; now we get weekly installments of the baby's growth on the outside. While I absolutely loved (and pleaded for) that previous set of pics, I must say this set of "growing" pictures has got my heart thumping in a whole new way! (And it's made my relationship with Frontier Airlines much more profound.)