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

Saturday, November 29, 2008

kc - kajjansi

It is always difficult explaining to the kids at the orphanage just how far away Kansas City is from Kajjansi. (There are a lucky few who have had the opportunity, thanks to Sister Schools of Seattle, to fly to the US themselves, but most have little idea how far we have traveled when we show up there.)

On Tuesday, I’ll be doing that traveling - about twenty-four hours of it door to door. Others from the team will begin joining me on Sunday night.

Click here to see just where we will be.

There is a lot our team hopes to accomplish on this trip. We will try to post everyday to keep you abreast of our adventures, our feelings, our frustrations and our successes.

Here are the goals we have set for ourselves while at St. Mary Kevin Orphanage:

-Paint the dormitories, purchase and install all new mattresses and bed covers.

-Purchase marching band instruments and get the band up and running.

-Start a small vegetable garden that the children will farm. Install a rainwater collection system so that the garden can be watered efficiently.

-Perform medical checkups on each child and determine treatment for those who need it. Tom Maddox, our good doctor, will work closely with the newly hired part time nurse (thanks to CTT), Nurse Jane, while we are there.

-Provide health and nutrition classes for the children.

-Provide computer lessons. (They have recently acquired three used computers.)

-Continue therapy with the children.

-Conduct art and sports projects.

-Take a look at the ten acres of land some distance from the orphanage that could be purchased and used for farming. Assess the pros and cons of this investment.

-Give the orphans a Christmas they will never forget!

I don’t particularly like flying, and I am definitely not fond of spending twenty-four hours doing so, but the rewards I’ll reap at my destination will more than make up for the all of that.

If you are just joining the blog readership and would like to learn about the volunteers that will make up Change the Truth Team 2, please scroll down and see posts about Lynne, Carol, Tom, Randy, Fred, Bobbi, Melissa, Max, Linda and Sarah.

Friday, November 28, 2008

thanksgiving shots

My friend Aline has asked her photo pals to send in our best shots from Turkey day, all of which she has promised (she's a brave and kind soul) to post on her blog sometime next week. This is my contribution.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

here’s something for which I am thankful

Getting to spend a whole lot of years with this guy.

Then and now. Thirty-six years in between.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

shop + donate = everyone wins

Forget Black Friday. Do your holiday shopping on Tuesday, December 2nd this year! If you've never been to 10,000 Villages, this is a great time to check it out; if you have, you know what a cool shopping experience it is.

Change the Truth is having a "party" at 10,000 Villages in Overland Park, Kansas on the 2nd. It's a shopping party; 15% of all sales that take place between the hours of 5 PM and 8 PM will be donated to our organization, directly benefitting the children at the orphanage.

What is 10,000 Villages?

"We market quality products from diverse cultures around the world made by people that we know and care enough about to do business in a manner that together we consider fair. We strive to operate as a business with a compassionate mission so that we can provide vital, fair income to artisans. Our dream is to one day see that all artisans in developing countries will earn a fair wage, be treated with dignity and respect and be able to live a life of quality."

The store overflows with beautiful, handcrafted merchandise ranging from folk art to ceramics, textiles, baskets, jewelry and musical instruments. We will also be selling some of our own Change the Truth items. Refreshments will be served.

Please join in the fun on Tuesday, December 2nd from 5 - 8. The store is located at 7947 Santa Fe Drive in old Overland Park, Kansas.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

twelve year olds

Though I am not taking new portrait clients, I continue to do work for families whose children I have photographed over the years. These guys, who happen to be twins, are preparing for their Bar Mitzvah and needed headshots for the Jewish Chronicle newspaper. Even though they were dressed up like grown men and looked very sophisticated in their “official” photos, I was lucky to also catch them just being boys.

Friday, November 21, 2008

thank you

I am happy to share with you this missive from Rosemary, director of St. Mary Kevin Orphanage Motherhood:

"Thank You – You have shown us real Love & Commitment
Please Gloria pass on our sincere thanks
To all our friends at Change the Truth
Friends who have stood by our side in the continuing struggle
To make a change to the quality of life of the orphans
We simply have no words to express our gratitude
Kindly tell them all – very loudly
That we thank the CTT team, and all other Donors
And we love them, just as they love us"

Thursday, November 20, 2008

three cups of tea: one man's mission to promote peace... one school at a time

It’s a book many people have told me I should read. I bought it some time ago and started it, but I didn’t get very far.

I asked a few friends if they had read it. I was surprised at how many said, “Well, yeah, I started it…”

Then the Kansas City Star Book Club called a couple of months ago to invite me to be a participant in their next discussion. The book? Three Cups of Tea. So I picked it up again.

This wildly popular New York Times best seller is not particularly well written. The metaphors are tired and uninspired. Events that could have, in someone else’s hands, translated into a gripping and compelling read often collapse into bland, contrived, predictable and self-serving verbiage. Greg Mortenson, the climber turned humanitarian co-wrote the book with journalist David Relin. Mortenson is truly an inspiring man with a fascinating tale to tell and many powerful lessons to pass along. I just kept getting annoyed with and distracted by the writing style (or, should I say, lack thereof.)

But since I had promised to read the book for the Star book club, I forged ahead. I’m glad I did.

I learned a lot about what is possible in the world of global humanitarianism. Though what I am doing is far, FAR smaller in scale and can’t even compare to the magnitude of Mortenson’s contributions, I was able to relate to his joys and frustrations, setbacks and victories. To my surprise, I came away from the read feeling inspired to learn more about international aid and to push myself even further with my own organization, Change the Truth.

One of the most frequently asked (or implied) questions I get concerning the work I am doing in Uganda is this: “Why Africa? Why not your own backyard?” While I politely reply that I am indeed involved with community volunteer work here in the US, I have always struggled to find the words to explain why I feel it is also important to help attend to the needs of people in developing nations. In Three Cups of Tea, Sir Edmund Hillary’s response (in 1964) to a question about his humanitarian efforts in the world’s poorest and most remote places is mentioned, and it really resonated for me:

“Slowly, painfully, we are seeing worldwide acceptance of the fact that the wealthier and more technologically advanced countries have a responsibility to help the underdeveloped ones. Not only through a sense of charity, but also because only in this way can we ever hope to see any permanent peace and security for ourselves.”

Throughout the course of the book, Mortenson succeeds in gently and successfully explaining to his audience the logic behind Hillary’s statement. In doing so, he inspired this particular reader to continue her work and to push ahead with even more determination and vigor.

In his dogged quest to build schools, especially for girls, in Afghanistan and Pakistan, Mortenson has changed tens of thousands of lives for the better. He has endured a kidnapping, a fatwa, death threats, hate mail and an endless array of unbelievable obstacles that would have sent most of us home crying. He’s a rock star among humanitarians.

The book club discussion was a real treat. I was honored to sit with a distinguished panel of people who are truly committed to repairing the world. Our conversation about Three Cups of Tea will be published in this Saturday’s Kansas City Star.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

change the truth trip: meet melissa

When presented with the opportunity to return to St. Mary Kevin Orphanage Motherhood with Change the Truth, I did not hesitate for a moment. My first experience (last year with Team 1) was profoundly rewarding and enriching. The genuine extension of friendship from the children and staff at St. Mary Kevin, as well as the bond formed with my fellow travelers, has continued to touch the very core of my being. I have been fortunate to maintain several of my friendships through letter correspondence during the last year. Each letter received from one of these extraordinary children has been a precious gift that I cherish dearly.

The children at St. Mary Kevin are very endearing, and it took very little time for many of them to etch their ways into my heart. Henry (age 15) is a stoic young man who lost both parents to AIDS and proudly shoulders many responsibilities at the school. Henry showed me around the school and taught me my first words of the Lugandan language. Catherine (age 14) is a poised young lady whose entire family was killed by rebel fighting in Northern Uganda. She enjoys singing in the choir and works very hard in school to make her family’s memory proud. Patiency (age 5) also lost her parents to AIDS. Patiency’s presence is immediately noticeable by a mixture of spunk and shyness. Her smiles, which are rare, radiate her entire face, and she absorbed every ounce of personal attention offered to her. And Doreen (age 5) lives at the school with her mother who is a teacher at St. Mary Kevin. Doreen is so cute and charismatic that she literally captures the attention of those around her. Doreen was my shadow during the trip, and after I left Doreen proclaimed she was changing her name to include mine- Doreen Melissa. It is these children among others that I have thought about every day since I left Uganda last December.

During this trip I will continue the therapeutic work started by Ann Thomas and me last year. In Ann’s absence this year, I will work with Bobbi to create various opportunities in large group, small group, and individual settings to allow children the outlet to share their stories, express their feelings, and make emotional connections. I will also help to organize recreation activities, play games, sing songs, and generally just hang out with the children. In addition to being just plain fun, play can be a cathartic release and way to connect with others. I plan to do a lot of “playing” while I am there, because the memory of those children’s laughter echoing throughout the school grounds has me counting down the days until I return to this most beloved place!!

Monday, November 17, 2008

change the truth trip: meet fred

I am a clinical psychologist living in the Greater Kansas City area. I am 61 years old and have been in practice since 1977. Throughout my career I have focused on working with adults in individual and marriage counseling, working with transgender patients and have consulted with Fortune 500 companies, helping them to create an emotionally intelligent work environment. Currently, I work counseling patients with chronic pain.

I believe that it is important for each of us to remember that the world is larger than ourselves. In that spirit, I have volunteered in Kansas City at a woman’s shelter, an AIDs clinic and have served on the Juvenile Diversion Program. In my tenure as a psychologist I also worked with clergy to help them provide a more effective delivery system to their parishioners. Now, I am looking forward to giving my time to Change The Truth.

In my leisure, I enjoy skiing, hiking, traveling and spending time with my family, which includes Cheryl, my wife and Erica, Dennis and Ian, my children. Cheryl and I have recently purchased a loft in Portland, Oregon to be closer to our children who live there. Incidentally, this is three blocks from our good friends Gloria and Eddie.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

change the truth trip: meet randy

Like Tom, I learned of Change the Truth through Lynne Melcher. Hearing first hand from Lynne about her experience in Uganda with SMK orphanage and then seeing the final product of her involvement with the moving documentary was all it took to make me want to join in this amazing effort.

I am a CPA by profession, but have many other interests I hope can be put to good use in Uganda. In addition to offering guidance on financial matters as needed, I am very interested in augmenting the medical services to be provided by Tom through my interest in sustainable gardening, healthy diet, exercise and spiritual awareness. I believe that in our culture we rely too much on medicine and drugs for our physical healing.

I look forward to the hard physical labor involved in working with the earth, play time and sports with the children, discovering new foods, learning about the nutritious benefits of the Ugandan diet and having time for meditation and reflection about the needs of these children, their helpers and each of us as volunteers.

I hope to spend my preparation time learning what I can about gardening in this part of Uganda and the Ugandan diet.

The attached picture is me doing one of my favorite things – discovering new coffee shops wherever I go - this one was in Belize. For those of you who know me, of course I will bring my own coffee cup and reusable utensils. :) It is important to me that we all do what we can to minimize our impact on the environment.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

collectible at wallspace gallery

This piece,"Cathleen and Colleen" (from my Twins series) was selected for the current exhibition "Collectible" at Wall Space Gallery in Seattle. Read the gallery director's words below about this unique idea for a show and click here to see the other images that are included. Perhaps you'll want to shop, even. We artists each agreed to make a small print and a larger edition than normal for this show. The prices are right!

"55 artists from across the country are in the gallery this month. Discover creative work by new artists, each with a unique vision of photography. We wanted to provide an opportunity for new and established collectors, as well as aficionados of the photographic image to see and purchase new works at a price we can all afford.

Each of these creative images is priced under $200, a reasonable investment for anyone who loves top quality work from local and national artists who we think are creating really inventive, imaginative and uncommon works.

Limited creations – once in a lifetime images. Connect visually, emotionally. So many artists. So many ideas. Surround yourself with something beautiful that touches you. Challenge yourself, question your ideals. Look at it everyday and find something new. Collectible is art that fits. Fits your wall, your budget, your conscience."

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

400 pounds later

Not talking about weight loss.

Talking about the load of paint, journals, crayons, soccer balls and other delights that have made their way into a colorful array of nylon duffel bags since I first sent out the request for gifts to take over to the children at St. Mary Kevin Orphanage.

Thank you Elise, Patricia, Lauren, Irene, Jill, Leslie, Bob, Pam, Dimple, Ellen, Arlene, Jean, Patti, Sandy, Mary Ann, Julie, Steve, Jennifer, Joan, Jerry, Lee and Wynne, Linda and Brad, Jackie, Faye, Steven, Jug and Rachel, Sharon, Jane, Cappy, Carol, Laura, Lisa, Andie, Paula, Marcia and Sophie, Abbie, Clare, Harold, Connie, Karen, Brookside Toy and Science, Operation Breakthrough and Temple B'nai Jehudah Sisterhood. My dining room looks like a UPS collection center.

The children's faces will look like miles of smiles.

Monday, November 10, 2008

change the truth trip: meet linda and sarah

My daughter Sarah and I are looking forward to our trip in December with Change the Truth in honor of her Bat Mitzvah. After watching the video of our neighbor Carol Joseph's trip to Uganda, Sarah was interested in helping the kids at the orphanage.

One way she will help will be experiential - helping with arts and crafts, painting that needs to be done, perhaps assisting in the garden - maybe she can even teach a lesson. I am excited about joining her on the trip. Since I previously took a volunteer travel trip with Save the Children building homes in Honduras with my oldest daughter, Kayla, when she reached the age of a Bat Mitzvah, I have officially made it a custom to have a "mother daughter" bonding trip associated with this coming of age celebration. I hope that I will be privileged to have a similar experience with my son Adin when his time comes.

While I expect the trip to be inspiring and a great learning opportunity for the two of us, Sarah will also have a first hand eye witness view of one of the organizations that she has chosen to benefit with donating a portion of the gifts from her Bat Mitzvah. She has decided to help the orphanage purchase instruments for a marching band. Having the instruments will allow the orphanage to rent the instruments to neighboring schools providing a steady source of revenue. Two years ago, her sister dedicated her Bat Mitzvah funds to a cancer center for kids in Israel.

What makes Sarah's contribution to Change the Truth - both financial and perhaps more importantly, volunteering at the orphanage - particularly meaningful is that it reflects the values that are most important to the Jewish faith - the values of tzedakah (charity) and tikkun olam (repairing the world). Her school curriculum at the Abraham Joshua Heschel School stresses these lessons as much as it does science and math.

One of the great Jewish thinkers, Maimonides, describes various levels of giving charity, and at the top of the ladder is the gift of "self reliance.” We are hoping that by purchasing the musical instruments for the orphanage that it will be able to realize an annual source of revenue and assist in its efforts to realize a measure of self-reliance.

Perhaps, I should also add that after reading Gloria’s blogs on breast cancer that at the time I took my trip with Kayla I was closing in on my first anniversary of being diagnosed. After I return from the trip with Sarah, I will be closing in on a third anniversary. The good news for all the curve balls you get thrown is that you do not put off for one day sharing these types of lessons and experiences with your kids.
My husband Ed and I are pretty proud of her, and if we had to use one tag phrase or song for her it would be "Conviction of the Heart" - she has it in spades!

new streetcar elements

A few wonderful days in Portland... gorgeous fall colors and some new streetcar pieces to go into longer strips. Mostly I photographed at night this time.

Friday, November 07, 2008

i am feeling excited

I just have to share all the good news surrounding the upcoming trip to St. Mary Kevin’s, the response to the wish list I posted, a major gift to the orphans and the excitement I am feeling about spending December in Uganda!

Exactly two years ago today I returned home from my first trip to Uganda. I decided to go back and see what I wrote that day on my blog. Here it is:

“I haven't been able to get one of the songs the children at St. Mary's sang for me out of my mind. It just keeps rolling around in my head, trying to find a place to rest. I don't know for certain how long that process might take... finding a place to put all that I have seen and done in Uganda, the 'pearl of Africa.' One thing I do know, however, is that I'm going to take these experiences with me wherever I go, and I am going to try to use them in a way that might bring about even more change in me - and perhaps change in others, as well. I feel a responsibility to DO something with all of this.”

In the past two weeks, enough calculators, drawing pads, journals, crayons, t-shirts, stuffed animals, soccer balls, toothbrushes and countless other goodies have been left on my front porch to fill SIX fifty pound duffle bags. College students in Nashville, Los Angeles and Burlington, Vermont are encouraging their friends to participate in collection drives, a woman in New Orleans is organizing a raffle at her store, high school kids in Kansas City are having bake sales to raise money, people in New York and Des Moines and Seattle are combing their closets, drawers and basements to find donations for the orphans.

I am blown away. I never, ever dreamt it would/could be like this.

These children who have so little and who ask for so little are going to have a Christmas they will never forget. And I, who have never even celebrated Christmas, will have a Christmas I will never forget either.

After they open their gifts, which will be served up in a donkey-driven wooden cart, they will, beanie baby or box of crayons in hand, go back to their dormitories where they will, thanks to a major gift from a Change the Truth supporter, fall asleep on brand new mattresses with brand new bed covers.

Can you believe it??

Can you imagine the joy on their beautiful faces as they drift off to sleep that night?

We are going to have so many incredible and memorable experiences in December. I wish all of you could be with us. Instead, we’ll write about them here on the blog and hope that you’ll get a good sense of what we are doing and feeling.

Just a couple of examples of what you can expect to read about, other than our work at the orphanage:

Those of us in the first group will be honored guests at a reception for the introduction of Rosemary and Joseph’s son to his fiancé’s extended family. We will be dressed (thanks to Rosemary) in traditional Ugandan garb. This event will take place in Jinja, the city that is known as the source of the Nile.

We will visit the Jewish community of Abayudayah in Mbale and spend Shabbat with the Ugandan Jews who make this their home.

I have said this before on my blog, but I’ll say it again: I am one lucky woman.

Oh, and here’s a news flash just in from my good friend Anna, who is in Uganda now:

You may recall from earlier posts, when white people are in Uganda, there are shouts of “Muzungu!!” (white person) as they drive or walk by clusters of people. This has now been replaced with “Obama!!”

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

i am feeling inspired

Rep. John Lewis of Georgia: "We have witnessed a nonviolent revolution, a revolution of ideas.” (Election eve)

In all the magic and excitement of yesterday, there were three things that really stood out for me.

The energy, enthusiasm, happiness and optimism that shone on the faces of young people was awe-inspiring. There were little kids running around Operation Breakthrough chanting Obama’s name. There were teenagers making last minute phone calls at Obama headquarters. There were legions of twenty and thirty somethings organizing get-out-the-vote centers and working at the polls. Amid the throngs of cheering supporters at Grant’s Park were young people of all ages, shouting and jumping up and down, and when Obama spoke, their faces were turned up toward him, bathed in a light of honest to goodness hope.

The fact that people came together was awe-inspiring. Following Obama’s lead, his supporters worked side by side, relishing their differences of skin color, religion, age, gender, sexual orientation and economic status.

The sense of power, confidence and pride that I saw in the eyes of the mothers and grandmothers who live in poverty and who were escorted to the polls by volunteers at Operation Breakthrough was awe-inspiring. Some 342,000 people in Missouri cast their ballots for the very first time ever yesterday. I know of people who registered and escorted adults who can’t read, who feared they would not understand the wording of the ballot, who were afraid to show their identification to the election officials, who weren’t sure where to go to vote or who were fearful they might be fired if they took time off from work to vote. We all know these people deserve a voice; in this election, they were offered the opportunity to speak.

(I drove one of these 342,000 new voters to the polls. At forty-four, Kim was bursting at the seams to cast her vote for Obama. When I asked her why she had never voted before, she simply said she had been waiting all these years for the right candidate to come along. She held her head high and threw her shoulders back as she marched into the polling place. When she emerged, she flashed a huge grin and pointed to the “I Voted” sticker she had just planted on her chest. When we got back to the car, she reached in and pulled out the t-shirt she had been waiting to put on. I snapped a picture of her showing it off. In the golden light of a glorious Kansas City autumn afternoon, I saw a human being coming into her own – maybe even a slight glimpse of a country beginning to come into its own.)

I woke up this morning feeling like I was greeting not just a new day, but also the start of better things to come. I look forward to receiving my emails from Obama telling me what else I can do to contribute to this revolution of ideas.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

how sweet it is!

change the truth trip: meet tom

I first learned of Change The Truth last year when a dear friend, Lynne Melcher, said she was going to Uganda to work with an orphanage. She said she was going to film a documentary about the people – the children, the staff and other volunteers that would be on the journey. While watching the finished film that told the story of the children at Saint Mary Kevin’s orphanage, I knew I wanted to be a part of such a meaningful project.

I am a Family Physician so will be helping to see what we can do to solidify the foundation of health care for the kids. Learning what facilities and programs are already in place and what is needed will be the first priority. Overwhelming would be an accurate way of describing what I conjure up in my mind the potential work that needs to be done. I truly hope we (I am going to think positively and depend on the help of my co-travelers) can make a difference in the health of the children.

Several years ago I had the opportunity to go on a medical mission in a small village in the rain forest in Nicaragua. That trip changed the way I look at the world. I’m sure the experience with the children and staff at Saint Mary Kevin’s will have a similar impact.

As this is election eve, I must say (without revealing too much of my political persuasion) in preparing for this trip, I look forward to the change in myself and what small part we can do in creating change in the world. After all – that’s part of the name of this group, eh?

Besides helping with the health care at the orphanage, I’m also excited to help with the garden. Since a lot of my medical practice has been in education, teaching the kids and staff about nutrition and tying it to the food they grow themselves will be fun. Of course all other “jobs” sound like a blast as well – music, play & therapies, computers, construction – but I’m looking forward most to meeting the children and getting to know them.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

fired up!

Three weeks ago, my twenty-seven year old daughter and her hubby came to the great, swing state of Missouri to work for the Obama campaign. Buzz-phrases at our house have been: GoBama! Fired up –Ready to Go! Party at the polls! (Said with spirit, various hand movements and a lot of youthful enthusiasm.)

It’s been great watching Sam and Abbie at work – trotting off to campaign headquarters early each morning with their laptops, backpacks, sandwiches, water and snacks, decked out in their Obama t-shirts. Sometimes they work out of our kitchen, making calls, organizing training sessions, assembling spreadsheets, finding housing and jobs for out of state volunteers, breaking every now and then to check the latest polls and political blogs.

They are dead serious about this.

This potentially historic election marks a real turning point in their lives, their very young lives. The remarkable “change” that is poised to take place on their watch is invigorating, inspiring, hopeful, important and, doggone-it… absolutely necessary.

Abbie and Sam are both old souls – smart, personable, quirky, funny, creative and unassuming. They fill up the empty nest Eddie and I have inhabited for the past year with laughter, engaging conversation, music, delicious vegetarian meals and a sense of optimism that, well, just makes a person feel good. We are really lucky that they chose to do their Obama-ing in Missouri rather than Ohio, Florida or Pennsylvania, other states that were calling out to them.

Tuesday will be a long day for them. They will be poll captains. They’ll arrive at their respective polling places at 5:30 AM and stay until the last ballot is cast. They’ll come home exhausted, but are planning to pop the cork of a bottle of champagne they’ve been saving for a very special occasion.

This just might be it. I hope so.

senior pics

It's senior picture time! I was so happy when my client selected this particular image for her yearbook. She is a free spirit, an artist, an adventurer, a lover of life. How cool that she knows herself so well at the tender age of seventeen!