"The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera." - Dorothea Lange

Monday, December 30, 2013

looking back: the ctt teams

It's that time of year when we get bombarded with the highlight reels of 2013: best books, movies, political moves, news show blunders (have you seen that one?!), albums, fashion statements, etc. Looking at the gorgeous photo of Team 7 has caused me to drift back to all the other team photos that have graced the CTT gallery walls (that would be the hallway at Melissa's house).

So, this isn't a best of 2013; it's the best of CTT team trips…. which includes every single one!

I can't adequately thank these generous, adventuresome and caring people. They have made each trip a resounding success. These folks not only took the trip, trusting me implicitly, they have become lifelong friends to CTT, to me, to the children and, in many cases, to each other. Here are the members of the CTT family who have taken the plunge and ventured to east Africa to meet the remarkable kids at St. Mary Kevin Orphanage Motherhood.

Front row: Lonnie Powell, Jane Voorhees, Gloria, fixer and friend Peter Damba
Back row: Carol Joseph, Lynne Melcher, Ann Thomas, Melissa Mosher

This trip was memorable because it was the very first group I took to Uganda! Our specialties were: art lessons and therapy (and the making of the first of several documentaries by Lynne). Since I had only been to Uganda once before, it was still new territory for me, and this patient group kindly put up with all my missteps. 

Front row: Linda Gerstel, Sarah Joyce, Bobbi Newman, Lynne Melcher, Max Feinstein
Back row: Randy Clark, Tom Maddox, Melissa, Gloria

This team was very fun for me because my son, Max, was on it! Our accomplishments included: starting the SMK marching band, providing medical care and therapy, gardening and drumming.

Joseph Kavulu, Lynne, Fred Grossman, Melissa, Gloria, Rosemary Kavulu (not pictured: Carol)

We were a small, but mighty team that spent time at SMK before the rest of the team (pictured above) arrived. It was a special treat for us muzungus (white people) because we got to dress up in traditional Ugandan finery and attend the wedding of Joseph and Rosemary's son. We also played a lot of basketball and volleyball, painted the dormitories and provided new bedding for all the children.

Front row: Antwain Mosher, Eddie Feinstein, Laura Houston, Christy Radecic
Back row: Sara Hjalmarson, Gloria, Melissa, Kaley Herman (not pictured: Bobbi, Carol)

Yes, that's my hubby, Eddie! Having him there made this trip extra meaningful for me. This was an important journey, as it was the one that solidified in Melissa's mind the fact that she wanted to move to Uganda. Once she saw that her son, Antwain (our youngest team member ever) was comfortable with the place and the people, she knew it would be just a matter of time before they left Kansas City. Luckily for CTT, Melissa has been living and working at SMK now for over three years. The specialties this team offered included: reading groups, art lessons, lots of arts and crafts, computer and sports. This was the first year of the Annual SMK Christmas Day Talent Show!

Front row: Gloria, Avis Smith, Suzanne Garr, Bobbi, Emily Collins
Back row: David Muhammed, Jeff Mildner, Jennifer Smith

This was the first year we moved out of our Kampala digs so we wouldn't have to spend so much time in the van traveling back and forth to SMK. We stayed at a lavish resort on Lake Victoria. While it was awesome to be so close to SMK and to come back at the end of the day to really hot showers, the option of a massage, very comfy beds and a spectacular views, we realized rather quickly that there was too huge of a disconnect between where we were during the day and where we retreated to at the end of each day. (Live and learn.) The teams do return to The Serena Lake Victoria for a special dinner one night now. This team's offerings included: therapy, sewing, yoga, photography and computer.

Front row: Gloria, Bobbi, Avis, J. Leroy and Michelle Beasley
Middle row: Shane Evans, Lynne, Suzanne
Back row: Monique Udo, Dawn Taylor

This year saw our first international team member: Monique from the Netherlands. She started a fantastic music program at SMK, which she has quite admirably continued on her own. This team was a lot about music, yoga, art and therapy. It was a lively and creative group! This was the first year we started staying at the Lodge, which is now officially CTT's home away from home. It is walking distance to SMK, and they treat us like family there.

Team Jeff and Jennifer

Jeff and Jennifer returned to SMK on their own during the summer. Because CTT's social worker/liaison Melissa lives on the grounds of the orphanage, we are now able to send people or groups on their own schedule. Jenn and Jeff were the first to do this. They stayed in the guest house at SMK. School was in session, so they did a lot of teaching.

Team Gloria and Bobbie

That's my sister! She and I went to SMK on our own in August. It was incredibly special for me to finally share all of this with Bobbie. She hit the ground running with yoga and art classes. She and I also snuck away for a few days to do a gorilla trek, which was an experience we'll never forget

Front row: Leah Sosland, Melissa, Suzanne, Natalie Boten, Holly Cobb
Back row: Anna Cobb, Jennifer Schoenwetter, Josh Sosland

This was the first year someone other than me led the trip. Team 6 was in the very capable hands of Suzanne, who has been an integral part of CTT in many different ways since her first trip in 2011. The team's specialties were: medical care, sports, computer, reading and arts and crafts. This was the first year of Spirit Day, a day of fun and competitive games that has now become an annual tradition.

Strings for Uganda
Amaya Camacho, Lindsey Weaver, Nick Jarrett and Hannah Ho

This was the second group that traveled to SMK on their own. They stayed in the guest house and spent 10 days teaching violin to the children. The lessons continue, thanks to the generosity of this awesome group. A teacher from the Kampala School of Music comes to SMK one day a week to give lessons to 20 kids. The budding violinists love having this opportunity!

Team Gloria Natalie and Lynne

I made my annual trip to SMK in the month of August again this year, knowing that the December team would be led by the dynamic duo Jennifer and Jeff. Lynne and Natalie joined me, and we had a magical time! Lynne worked on a new CTT documentary (which will debut at our annual fundraising event in Kansas City this March), I taught photography and Natalie did, among other things, arts and crafts projects and a field trip to Parliament. We may or may not have watched a lot of episodes of "Glee" with many of the older kids in Melissa's living room.

You've no doubt noticed that there is an impressive return rate on these trips. Lynne and Bobbi have been to SMK four times; Carol, Suzanne, Jenn and Jeff have all made three trips; Avis, Natalie, Josh, Leah and Dawn have gone twice. I have no doubt there will be more team members returning in the future. 

The kids pull us back - time after time after time.

Happy New Year to all! Maybe a trip to meet the children at SMK will be in your plans for 2014!


Anonymous said...

Nice! A great recap. Really captures your infectious dedication!

Anonymous said...

What an amazing heritage you began. - Avis

Anonymous said...

Wow....what an amazing past few years for CTT!

Happy New Year!


Anonymous said...

I gotta get back!

Anonymous said...

Fixer in 2007 was also first time to have such big number of people to move with. This great memory for me