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

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

adventure

Tonight I am thinking about the photographs I hope to/intend to make in Uganda. This will be my sixth trip. There are challenges inherent in that. An Arbus quote I just found has inspired me to try and see the place and the people there in a brand new way, as if I've not been there before.

“I tend to think of the act of photographing, generally speaking, as an adventure. My favorite thing is to go where I’ve never been.”

melissa


Melissa Mosher has been living and working at St. Mary Kevin orphanage for 15 months now. The work she's doing with the children and for Change the Truth is nothing short of miraculous. I thank her (daily in my thoughts and once a month on the phone) over and over again. Truly, she has made the work we are doing more meaningful, relevant and effective.

Pictured above is Melissa, Issy, Melissa's mom, Pam, (who recently visited Uganda for seven weeks) and Rosette. A day at the beach. Can't wait to have my own day the beach with the kids soon!

The following is a piece Melissa recently posted on her blog. It's about how thankful she is for the opportunity to work with these special children. Melissa, please know how thankful WE ARE for you!

"I am ever thankful for St. Mary Kevin Orphanage Motherhood. (Hold on cause there are a lot of thanksgivings to follow!) First of all, I am thankful to the orphans that call SMK their home. Despite personal tragedies that have brought them to SMK, they are sincerely the most loving, friendly, inspiring, talented, spirited children I have the pleasure of knowing and loving with all of my heart. From the youngest orphans in pre-Primary to the older orphans in Secondary school, I have such fondness for each age level in different ways. (But yeah, nothing could compare to my love of the Big Boys!) I am thankful for the vision and tireless dedication of SMK’s Administration. There are very few people that I admire and respect more than Rosemary and Joseph Kavulu (and their daughter, Joan Faith) for their years of unconditional love and support for these children. Without their direct interventions in the lives of the orphans at SMK, it is frightening to think of where some of them would be today. I am thankful to a staff of teachers, matrons, cooks, and coaches who work together as a tight-knit community to raise these orphans. Finally, I am thankful for the unique atmosphere of SMK that is truly blessed. From my first visit at SMK, I could feel something special in the air in and around SMK. The more time I have spent here, I honestly believe it is LOVE. SMK is truly one of the most special, contagious, gracious, friendly, loving places in the entire world!!"

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

team 5: meet bobbi


"This is my 4th year spending the holidays with the kids, and I feel more connected to the children - and to Uganda - each year. Two years ago, I taught yoga for the first time and was overjoyed to see the kids take on the practice during the year. Joseph, one of the older boys who became one of the teachers, said to me 'after doing yoga, you can't be angry anymore.' The kids taught me more that I did them. I am inspired by their desire to learn, contribute, and become the best that they can be. It's always hard saying goodbye at the end of our journey, and know that they so look forward to this time of year...as do all of us. So this year I'll be teaching yoga again, and I look forward to connecting or reconnecting with the members of Team 5." - Bobbi

Bobbi wins the award for having been a CTT Team member the most often! It's hard to believe this will be her fourth trip. Bobbi has a huge fan club at the orphanage. These children will be very excited to see her again. Watching Bobbi teach yoga to the kids is inspiring. She is able to connect with them in a special way on a physical, as well as spiritual, level. The respect, admiration and love that goes back and forth between the kids and her is a powerful thing to witness. I am grateful to her for offering this opportunity to the children at SMK yet again.

Monday, November 28, 2011

team 5: meet avis


Avis Smith is a licensed clinical social worker with over 25 years experience in child/adolescent mental health. She is Director of Prevention and School-Based Programs for Crittenton Children’s Center and an instructor at of The University of Kansas School of Social Welfare. CTT is extremely fortunate that she chose to be a team member not only last year, but this year as well! Avis will be returning in two short weeks to the children at SMK - the children with whom she fell head over heels in love.

Avis made a particular point last year of seeking out the quieter children at the orphanage - those who were on the shy side, those who had very painful pasts. She was able to get them to open up to her and recount their sad stories. Often I would see Avis sitting on the dirt ground with a little hand in hers, listening intently and respectfully to the child seated next to her. She encouraged and supported so many hurting children last year. She knew she had to return so that her work could continue. Those children will be so happy to see Avis. They will be comforted knowing that the safe place she provided will be available once again.

I have gotten to know this smart, caring, hard working and well respected woman pretty well over the past couple years. I am grateful for that. And happily, this past year, Avis accepted my invitation to join the Board of Directors of CTT.

I'm so looking forward to traveling with her as a team member again this year and to learning from her astute insights and perspectives. Avis is a gem.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

josh


Since this is the time of year to give thanks for our friends and family, I’d like to use this forum to mention how grateful I am for the wonderful family that I have. My husband and children, my dad, siblings, nieces and nephews are all really, really good people.

They’ve been supportive of my work in all its various incarnations over the years. Especially Change the Truth.

In honor of Thanksgiving, I’d like to share my CTT story of Josh.

Josh is my nephew. He lives in California. He’s a super nice guy who has a super nice identical twin named Andrew. I’ve loved these boys since the moment I first laid eyes on them 32 years ago. They’re sweet, funny, personable, smart, kind, family-oriented - and cute to boot! They’re also huge sports fans.

Every year the boys participate in a giant sized March Madness pool. So colossal that it attracts people from all across the country. Believe me when I say that Josh and Andrew (and their older brother Sam) know sports. They started reading the sports page when they were about two or something. Well, at least drooling on it. I’ve been with them when they’ve made their selections for the much more low key family March Madness pool we sometimes put together. Even then, their picks are extremely well studied and carefully made.

But back to the giant sized March Madness brackets.

Josh actually won it this year!

It was amazing! Kansas had to lose in order for him to win, and I wasn’t too happy about that, but he won! It was so exciting!

The organizer of the pool had stipulated that the winner must donate a certain percentage of the winnings to charity.

Guess who called Josh right away once she heard that little piece of information?

Josh was the good guy I’ve always known him to be, and he said “yes” to me right away. We talked about what he might want to fund at the orphanage; it didn’t take us long to come up with the idea of something sports related.

Football (soccer) is where it’s at with kids in Uganda. They can’t get enough of it. I’ve watched them play in their bare feet (navigating their way around sharp stones and mud). I’ve watched them kick around a ball that has little air, many scrapes and tears and is nearly the color of the rust-orange soil. Last year I noticed that Francis played goalie by putting flip-flops on his hands. Melissa, CTT Social Worker, wrote that “Children in Uganda play football on a recreational level in any dirt laid area large enough to kick a football around and in an organized level through school teams. For the past several years, St. Mary Kevin Orphanage Motherhood has had a school football team competing against other local Primary schools in the surrounding villages during the academic year. Once these exceptional athletes advance to Secondary School, they are often recruited to join their school’s football team. One of the largest challenges has always been adequate football equipment for these players. Most of the orphans at SMK have learned to play football in their bare feet and with substandard equipment.” Here is a picture Melissa sent of one of the SMK kids playing with no shoes during a school match. She wrote that of the ten players on the 2010 school team, only four had football shoes.



Thanks to my kind and sports savvy nephew, the kids now have: ten pair of football shoes, 14 uniforms (shirt and shorts), a goalie uniform, 15 pairs of football socks, an air pump, three footballs, and two basketballs. And, there was enough money left over to help pay the school fees of one of our sponsored secondary school students.

How cool is that?






Thank you, Joshua, from the kids at SMK and me. You’ve made Tony, Francis, Kato, Moses and many, many others a very happy crew.

You’re a mensch. And please tell my brother I said so.

Monday, November 21, 2011

felt squares threaded with love: guest post by suzanne garr

Team 5 member Suzanne writes:

"Almost every time I share the story of the kids at SMK, the person who's listening asks: 'How can I help?' That was Julie Armour’s immediate reaction. Julie's been an elementary school teacher for the past 30 years and has a background in art. Even though she retired from teaching a few years ago, she continues to be involved in children’s lives through her at-home tutoring programs.


Julie has always loved art, particularly making crafts from felt. She was trying to think of something that the girls at the orphanage would like, but would be easy for me to carry to Uganda. As we were sitting around the dinner table one night, Julie ran upstairs to get her book of felt craft, and as we were flipping through the book we came across these felt necklaces. They seemed easy to make, small enough to stuff into a suitcase and, most of all, they looked fun. I asked Julie how she makes them, 'First I choose the colors. Then I cut the felt into small squares. I take the thread and needle and string the felt squares and small beads together.' Pictured here are just a handful of the fun color combinations that Julie has made so far. I will pack the finished necklaces into my extra duffel bag,and they will be part of the Christmas gifts we'll bestow upon the children at St. Mary Kevin Orphanage Motherhood.



Thank you Julie for being a part of the SMK family and giving of your art, time and heart."

- Suzanne

Sunday, November 20, 2011

new ctt t-shirt


I bet you didn't know that a new CTT t-shirt has come into the world! The shirt this year features a beautiful painting of a mother and two children. The original artwork was done by 16-year-old Leku Ivan, one of the brightest and most talented of all the art super stars at SMK.

The shirt is now available in adult sizes S,M, L and XL. It's $15, and you can order one at the CTT website store.

My model, for the second year running, is lovely 12-year-old Leah. She's been a huge fan and supporter of CTT for several years. She has chosen to make CTT the beneficiary of her Bat Mitzvah community service project this February, and she really and truly hopes to make the trip to Uganda with me one of these days. (I hope so, too!)

Saturday, November 19, 2011

bernadette

One thing I've learned since establishing Change the Truth is that there are so many people who have huge hearts and who want to help. I have been blown away many, many times... by a high school student who approaches me after a presentation to say she wants to go to Uganda with me, by a Bar Mitzvah boy who wants his community service project to benefit the kids at the orphanage, by a teacher who wants to showcase CTT at her school's "Africa Day", by an old friend who brings over 200 beanie babies for me to take to the children, by a complete stranger who makes an anonymous donation, by an eight-year old boy who wants to send his Ugandan pen-pal a new soccer ball. The list goes on and on, and as these positive ripples spread out over more and more people, more and more good things continue to happen. I feel ever so lucky to be part of such an outpouring of love.



Bernadette is one of those people who stepped up after a presentation and offered to help. Here is her story:

"I first heard about ‘Little Dresses for Africa’ from a high school friend. After checking out their website and getting a dress template I decided to sew a few just for fun.

Soon after my sewing adventure began, I attended a presentation by Gloria Baker Feinstein about CTT one evening at St. Andrew Christian Church in Olathe. After talking with Gloria and discussing the dresses I had brought along to share with the same group, I dreamed of creating as many dresses as I could for St. Mary Kevin Orphanage. But with that dream I knew I had to ask for help, and boy did I get help!

I soon spread the word about St. Mary Kevin Orphanage to anyone who would listen, along with my dream of creating dresses and shorts. To my wonderful surprise I have received donations of cash, fabric, trims, and sewn dresses and shorts from a great variety of people including members of Curves, former co-workers, friends from Minnesota and Kansas, and of course, many women from St. Andrew’s. Because of their generosity, a total of 117 dresses and 43 pairs of shorts will be on their way to St. Mary Kevin Orphanage in December!

This experience has been the perfect match for me….my love for sewing and my love for children."

- Bernadette Kautio

Thank you, Bernadette and friends. People like you inspire me to keep going.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

team 5: meet monique


(this is Monique and her newly made houseboat when it arrived in Amsterdam)

I am looking forward to meeting Monique. She and I have only communicated via email. She spent a month at the orphanage this summer; that was a huge gift for CTT, the children and me. When I got the news that she had chosen to be a member of Team 5 and make her second trip to Uganda, I felt extra lucky! I know her music students at SMK will be so excited to see her again in four short weeks.

Not only has Monique gone to the orphanage and taught music, she is the person who was responsible for the donation of a set of hearing aids for young Moses. She also wrangled a gently used tuba for the marching band, wrapped it in clothes, included some sheet music and shipped it from the Netherlands to Uganda. And yes, after a couple months, it finally arrived! (More on that later.)

It was a good day when Monique discovered Change the Truth on the internet. It was even a better day when she chose to contact me. And it will be the best day when the children see her climb out of the van soon after her arrival at the Entebbe airport in December!

In her own words:

"Less more than one year ago, I discovered Gloria’s blog on the internet. After some e-mailing with Gloria, SMK was where I wanted to go in my summer holidays of 2011.

As a music teacher with a passion for traveling I like to teach around the globe. More so, I like to work with talented kids who don’t have the privileges of wealth, supportive parents etc. Reading Gloria’s blog made me realize SMK surely was a place to go.

I stayed at SMK in July-August this year and it was so great that I simply have to go back to continue what I’ve started. I was blessed with the most devoted saxophone pupils I’ve ever had, a lovely group of young recorder players, a talented guitarist, very interested marching band members and so on.

During my stay, the children embraced the music and the instruments to a point that you could hear music coming from every corner. After four weeks, the children were firmly settled in my heart and it was soon after returning home that I booked my second ticket to Uganda.

As an ‘outsider’ from the Netherlands, I’m looking forward to be a member of Team 5 and to share the joy and power of creativity with these wonderful children."

review of suzanne's exhibition

Suzanne Garr's exhibition/fundraiser in Milwaukee has met with great success. She has done a fabulous job of raising awareness and funds for Change the Truth. I thank her from the bottom of my heart.

Read the review of her show here.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

musings on a tuesday morning


What exactly are our responsibilities as grandparents to young Henry and his future siblings and cousins?

Our first job was to figure out what we wanted to be called by the little whippersnappers. Eddie didn’t skip a beat when he announced he’d be “Zayde” (Yiddish for grandfather) and it made sense that I continue being called G-Lo, a twist of my nickname Glo (and a nod to J-Lo says my son-in-law Sam, who has a sly sense of humor and who had already bestowed the name upon me a couple years ago.)

Now our job is mainly to have all sorts of fun and laughter. We teach new words and animal sounds, wonder out loud which color streetcar will come down the track next or where “Spot” is hiding in his cute little board book. We entertain with abandon (and without talent) by singing and dancing; we sneak in tiny bites of ginger cookie next to the peas and prunes at lunchtime and we buy too many toys.

We don’t have to change diapers or get up in the middle of the night for any reason. Unless we really want to.



Our job as grandparents is a good one. Easy and immensely enjoyable.

But this morning I've been thinking about the enormous responsibility we have when it comes to teaching or sharing things that really matter…. lessons and information we wise and life-worn grandparents truly owe our precious new little family members.

Like stuff about all the curious and baffling matters of the heart.

And how easily a heart can break.

The importance of knowing about the family members who came before, who paved the way, who carried us to this point… whose shoulders are the ones on which we now stand.

That it’s necessary to help a stranger in need, and it’s really important that you do so without expecting anything in return.

Like how being fully present for a friend, sister, brother, mother or father in times of pain, loss, sadness, confusion and especially in their joy is what will make you a good, fulfilled and well-loved human being.

That being honest with yourself is the key to being honest with others. Honesty is a very good thing. There will be countless lessons on this topic as you grow up.

It’d be cool if you could give others the benefit of the doubt. Everyone’s just trying to do his or her best.

Be quiet sometimes so that you can listen

carefully

to your own voice and to the voices of those around you.

Know that your parents and grandparents can and will screw up from time to time. This does not mean that they/we do not love you. It’s just that we are probably trying to love you so much that we inadvertently make a mess of things.

I think it makes a lot of sense to give yourself a break. Often.

It makes sense to make plans. But be aware that situations can and do change, and often they're just out of our control.

I have found that if you're having a bad hair day, it's best to just put on a hat and keep moving forward.

And I do think it'd probably be a good thing if you could forgive me for putting up any pictures of you or information about you on my blog that may later embarrass you.

I've only been a grandmother for 14 months now. I know there's a lot for me to learn. Figuring out my responsibilities is only part of the journey, but one I happen to be devoting some thought to on this particular foggy, Portland morning.

Monday, November 14, 2011

occupy portland

I took these pictures yesterday afternoon. The Portland police had just completed the process of forcing the Occupy Portland participants out of a park encampment. The two groups were at a standoff in the street.


























Sunday, November 13, 2011

shelby lee adams


Adams' fourth book "Salt and Truth" is featured is today's NYT Sunday Review.

Some of Adams' work has been an inspiration to me. Some of his work has also always made me feel uneasy. As a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin in 1978-79, I traveled back to my home state of Kentucky several times to work on a photo project about Appalachian musicians. The work of Shelby Lee Adams has since hovered in my head and challenged me. While some of it appears honest and heartfelt, often I am struck by how contrived, posed and somewhat slick it can be. The uneasiness i frequently feel has to do with the perpetuation of stereotypes. Beautiful and striking (Adams expertly and admiringly employs a large format camera and lighting), I feel that the portrayals of the poorest, most primitive, unclean and possibly inbred sector of Appalachian society outweighs those of the larger majority of people living in eastern Kentucky.

This bio is from the Catherine Edelman Gallery website:

Shelby Lee Adams was born in Hazard, a small town in eastern Kentucky. Although he grew up in the back seat of his father's car, moving from place to place, he always returned to Hot Spot, living with his grandparents while he attended high school. Living between the worlds of country and town kids, Adams didn’t always feel he fit in, immersing him self in art and photography books and most things affiliated within the visual the arts.

This was the mid 1960s and the Peace Corps and other government agencies had a great interest in the poverty sweeping the people of Appalachia. When the media visited his home town, Adams naturally wanted to help, taking them to meet his grandparents and his uncle so the media could be introduced to the area. When the media described locals as malnourished and poor, his friends and family felt betrayed. This devastated Adams, who felt he had misled the people he so dearly loved -- an experience that had a profound impact on him, leading him to later photograph the people of Appalachia.

It wasn't until he left Kentucky and attended the Cleveland Institute of Art that he understood the lessons he learned from the country people. Finally surrounded by artists, he experienced a complete culture shock, embarrassed by his Appalachian upbringing, telling people he was from Cincinnati. As an art school student for a short time he stayed away from Hazard and his family, searching for a new identity. By his second year in art school, Adams was exposed to the FSA photographers who were sent to the South to document people who were living in hardship. Although initially defensive about the FSA work, Adams submerged himself in documentary books, showing them to his family on a summer visit. His uncle, a county doctor, took him on house calls to meet people similar to the ones in the books. More than thirty five years later, Shelby Lee Adams is still visiting these people, returning year after year, visiting, studying and documenting their lives.

In his new works, Adams introduces us to families who have moved out of the remote mountain hollers into trailers, where satellite dishes dominate the landscape. Whether photographing a father and child surrounded by their cows, a family gathering on a porch during Halloween or an older couple posing with their dog in front of a new satellite dish, Adams's images are compelling, we want to both turn away and stare. That Adams returns to the mountains year after year is a testament to his dedication to work within their challenging environment while expressing their vulnerability, yet maintaining and expressing their dignity. Although he now lives in Massachusetts, Shelby Lee Adams's heart is forever in Appalachia.


He has worked in color, but I prefer the work Adams does in black and white. Here are a just a few of the many, many images he has made in the hollers of eastern Kentucky.