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

Saturday, February 27, 2010

levitt video

My friend Laura turned me onto this video about Helen Levitt.

If you've followed my blog for a while, you know that Levitt's work has always had a huge impact on my own. A few months before her death, I had the good fortune to spend some time with her in her Manhattan walk-up. Click on the Helen Levitt link in the archives to read posts about that visit.

I received this postcard from her afterwards, and I treasure it.

Friday, February 26, 2010

the birth of a band

As I was preparing for the Change the Truth team trip to the orphanage in 2008, I asked the director to send me a "wish list" of things they'd like for us to provide the children. Being the mother of a USC Spirit of Troy drummer, I was quickly drawn to line seven of the list: instruments for a marching band.

With the help of a generous donor, funds were put in place for the first ever St. Mary Kevin Orphanage Marching Band. Before the arrival of Team 2 in December 2008, details were worked out regarding which instruments, how many instruments, etc. Once there, several of us spent a day in Kampala going from music store to music store looking for the best deals on trumpets and trombones. Our long day ended with the eagerly awaited unloading of the van; everyone went nuts as we pulled out a snare drum, then a set of cymbals, then a bass drum and so on. St. Mary Kevin erupted in joy that afternoon as the children were finally able to envision a band of their own.

Fast forward. When Team 3 arrived a year later, we were welcomed by a rousing rendition of "When the Saints Go Marching In" played by none other than the youthful, hopeful and energetic members of the St. Mary Kevin Orphanage Band. There was Tony on trombone, Nahia on side drum, Oscar and his brothers Willy and Brian on trumpet, Lillian on snare drum, Eddie on bass drum and Claire on cymbals (just to name a few of the twenty or so members of the group.) They blew us away with how good they had become in such a short period of time. We learned that they had actually been hired several times to play at celebrations and parades. They even have a business card.

When I conveyed the joyful news about the band with the donor who had helped make it all happen, there was great satisfaction all around. When I showed her pictures of the tuba and trombone toting kids, however, she decided it wasn't a done deal until there were uniforms involved.

So now there are. She and a couple of her friends made that happen.

While there this past December, we helped select the material and patterns for the first ever uniforms for the first ever marching band at St. Mary Kevin. We now have photos of the kids wearing the finished products, thanks to Carol, who recently paid a visit to the orphanage.

Carol with Claire (who wears this special uniform as "leader of the band")

In Uganda, people use the word "smart" instead of stylin'.

You can bet these young musicians are feeling very smart indeed.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

joannie rochette

Many of you know that I am a huge sports fan. Here is one of the reasons why: plain, simple and mind boggling heroism. I'm talking about real heroism, the kind you are only privileged to catch glimpses of here and there in sports (or in life) but that brings you to your knees when you are fortunate enough to witness it. There have been some amazing personal stories in this year's Winter Olympics. Perhaps you already know about Joannie Rochette; even if you do this is a wonderful article to read (and cry through.) Her performance last night was nothing short of magical, inspirational and, yes - heroic.

"In the middle of last football season, Bengals coach Mike Zimmer suffered a horrific blow: His wife Vikki died suddenly at home.

That was on a Thursday. Zimmer coached that weekend, nonetheless.

Seven years ago, quarterback Brett Farve suffered the same blow: His father died on a Sunday. The next night, on Monday Night Football, Favre famously stood up to his grief to create one of the most memorable moments in his storied career. He led the Green Bay Packers to victory in what was called in some circles a transcendent performance.

Those weren't the first times we've witnessed those in athletics soldier on in the face of a most personal tragedy and loss. They won't, of course, be the last.

But what we witnessed a young Canadian figure skater named Joannie Rochette do late Tuesday night in a packed arena at the Vancouver Games was gut-wrenching on another level.

Here was a woman who on Sunday learned that her mother Therese died quite suddenly and extremely unexpectedly. She was just 55. But young Joannie hit the Olympic ice at the Pacific Coliseum nonetheless and proceeded to skate what turned out to be her best short performance of the season. She then melted into tears upon receiving a standing ovation from the crowd.

It must have felt to her like 50,000 hugs, and probably still not enough.

But Rochette, being a figure skater, most remarkably soldiered on by herself. She didn't have 50 some other teammates to lean on. She didn't have an offensive line and running backs and receivers to support her effort. She didn't even have a doubles partner.

All Rochette had for a few minutes was herself. She faced the music alone.

Her selection of music was utterly appropriate. It was the Uruguayan tango La Cumparsita. The lyrics begin: 'The little parade of endless miseries ...'

Rochette stood alone on the brightest and biggest stage she'd ever been on in her life, and with the weight of losing the foundation of her life pressing on her, she skated like she'd never skated before.

'Words cannot describe it,' Rochette said afterward in quotes relayed through Skate Canada's high performance director Mike Slipchuk. 'It's hard to be precise. I have no regrets. It was a very nice, warm welcome. Hard to handle, but I appreciate the support. I will remember this forever.'

Everyone who witnessed it will remember her performance forever too.

It reminded me of seeing singer and Oscar-winning actress Jennifer Hudson make her first performance since her mother, brother and nephew were murdered in Chicago -- at Super Bowl XLIII in Tampa, Fla. Hudson suffered her loss in October, just over three months before she dared to hit the stage again. And when she did, she did so by singing the National Anthem to kick off a typical Super Bowl broadcast to upwards of 230 countries and territories and seen by at least 148 million Americans.

I don't know if doing this sort of thing should be called courageous. All I'm certain of is that it is remarkable. For any of us who've lost a relative so dear, we know what it is like just to get up the next morning or go to sleep that night.

Rochette did all of that and then some. She scored a 71.36, which wound up good enough to put her in the top-three skaters going into Thursday's longer skate.

Her mom had been her rock, her inspiration, her reason to skate and skate so well. She was shown on Canadian TV on Sunday being told the horrible news and, quite understandably, melting into tears.

Rochette wasn't originally supposed to be a medal favorite. The 24-year-old from a small town called Ile-Dupas, in Quebec, didn't even intend to be a figure skater. It was only because of her mother's encouragement, and the obvious talent young Joannie demonstrated and her determination to compete, that made her an Olympian for the first time in Turin four years ago. She finished fifth there. She came to the Vancouver Games with greater hopes, if not unrealistic.

Suddenly, after the toughest two days of her life, she is an Olympic medal contender. It is quite likely she'll have the entire world rooting for her, too.

It is enough to make me feel sorry for the judges who must critique her against others. How can any of them possibly dock her singular perseverance under such gut-wrenching circumstances?

Tuesday night at figure skating wasn't about medals, though. It wasn't about nationalism and jingoism and any other 'isms that can sink a world gathering like the Olympics.

Tuesday night was one night where the Olympics were about what they were envisioned to be about, a celebration of our humanity.

Here was a woman who we all knew was trying to stop from crumbling. Here was a woman who for a few minutes was no longer representing her country and its colors but was representing the world and all of us.

Here was a woman who the crowd tried to lift with its cheering as soon as she finished her routine and the tears of anguish began to pour.

These Olympics started with a horrific loss of its own, the Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili who lost his life training on the mountain. The flags went to half-mast. There were allegations of wrongdoing. It was as ugly a start as any Olympics has had. It made for divided games of the world.

But what unfolded Tuesday night in the women's short program was nothing short of unifying, and hopefully, for a young woman of the world, sustaining when she needed it the most."

- by Kevin Blackistone

Before Rochette took the ice, Bob Costas sat down with former speedskater Dan Jansen, who himself has some practice in performing on the world's biggest stage after the loss of a loved one. (Jansen's sister, Jane, died on the day of his 500m race in the Calgary Games.) Jansen said he sent Rochette an email in which he wrote the following:

"I dont know if you can prepare for the emotions you're going to feel out there, but if you can get through it there are millions of people supporting you. And most of all, skate with your mother in your heart."

Sunday, February 21, 2010


“The Girl Effect: The powerful social and economic change brought about when girls have the opportunity to participate in their society.


Because when adolescent girls in the developing world have a chance, they can be the most powerful force of change for themselves, their families, communities and nations.

But while those 600 million girls are the most likely agents of change, they are invisible to their societies and the world.”

The Girl Effect is an organization that connects girls whose voices need to be heard with those who are wiling to listen and help. I am posting their video (and the message above) because I think it is pretty amazing stuff. I admire the work this organization is doing.

And I believe their message.

At St. Mary Kevin Orphanage in Kajjansi, Uganda, several girls have been given a chance at education - something they likely would not otherwise have - because of the kindness of friends of Change of Truth. They are:


We need to continue to be there for these girls… and for the younger girls coming up. Watch the Girl Effect video and get inspired to help – the girls from St. Mary Kevin or girls from any of the organizations The Girl Effect assists. It just makes so much sense.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

in these arms

The Swell Season is Glen Hansard (from the Irish band The Frames) and Marketa Irglova (classically trained Czech pianist and vocalist.)

You may remember them from the 2007 low-budget indie movie “Once” in which they starred as struggling musicians who strike up a tentative relationship in Dublin. The pair became a couple in real life, and as the film took off, they toured the world to support the movie and its best-selling soundtrack. In 2008 they won an Academy Award for the film’s gorgeous signature song "Falling Slowly."

Hansard and Irglova have split up amicably, but they maintain a heartfelt professional relationship. Last October they released a luscious gem in the album “Strict Joy.” I recently had the great pleasure of seeing them at the Uptown Theatre in Kansas City. It was one of the best concerts I’ve been to in a long time.

The video of one of the songs on album, “In These Arms” just came out. It’s beautiful, as is the song. Enjoy it here.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


Written by Leonard Cohen in 1984, "Hallelujah" is one of my favorite songs of all time. k.d. lang first recorded her version of it in 2004 on the album "Hymns of the 49th Parallel." This video is from her performance at the Canadian Juno Awards of 2005, where her rendition brought the audience to its feet for a two-minute ovation. Lang also sang it at the 2006 Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame on the occasion of Cohen's induction into the Hall of Fame. Of that rendition, Cohen's partner, singer Anjani Thomas, said: "After hearing k.d. lang perform that song at the Canadian Songwriter’s Hall of Fame in 2006 we looked at each other and said: well, I think we can lay that song to rest now! It’s really been done to its ultimate blissful state of perfection." Hopefully you had a chance to hear her sing it at the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics in Vancouver a few nights ago.

Monday, February 15, 2010


I recently paid a visit to my friend Bronia. This led me to reconsider a portrait I made of her in 2003. I always liked it, but the watch she was wearing really dominated the frame. This morning I cropped out that watch, something I would never have done back in the day. Working with images on the computer has definitely loosened me up.

Friday, February 12, 2010

lots o' pictures!

New slideshow and song now on the Change the Truth website!! Check it out and enjoy the beautiful faces of the children we are helping, as well as the members of Teams 1, 2 and 3 who have had the good fortune to get to know (and love) them.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

change the truth update

Sitting here in cold Kansas City and communicating with friends on the east coast who are dealing with mounds and mounds of snow, my thoughts escape to the warm sun and red soil of Uganda.

Carol, board member and member of Teams 1, 2 and 3 is currently making her way back from a visit to the orphanage. Her daily reports have included news of beaming faces, continued meals for the children and smooth adjustments as the next school term begins. One of the highlights of her journey was the opportunity to see the marching band outfitted in their brand spanking new uniforms (thanks to the generosity of some New York donors.) I hope to be able to post her pictures here on the blog soon.

The maize mill motor that was purchased by CTT will be the reason that in-house production of the corn they are now harvesting will resume next month. The by-product (maize bran) is fed to the pigs. Ten of those big pigs will be sold for a profit soon.

Some of the vegetables that we helped plant in December are now being harvested and enjoyed by the children. The mosquito nets are still up and doing their job!

About twenty children still practice yoga on a daily basis. Bobbi, member of Team 3 left the mats behind and also instructed several of the better students how to teach the class themselves. Rosette is one of those who has taken the torch passed by Bobbi and is now leading many of the classes.

On the home front, we will soon begin making arrangements for our annual fundraiser. If you’d like to work on the planning committee, please let me know. We have a great group of people who enthusiastically volunteer for this each year. We’d love for more folks join in on the fun.

Believe it or not, Team 4 is already being assembled. Interest was again very high this year. We should have a full boat by March 1st, when commitments need to be made. If you are still considering this opportunity, there is a chance we may add a trip for a small group this May or June. Again, please contact me.

Though things are going relatively well at SMK, we have been reminded that the price of food in Uganda continues to rise. In order to provide a nutritionally balanced diet for all 150 primary school aged orphans, as well as those secondary school aged kids who board at SMK, we are asking donors to consider making gifts specifically earmarked for food. If you are so moved, you can make your contribution online at www.changethetruth.org.

Make a donation in honor of a friend’s birthday – or better yet, a Valentine’s Day gift for your honey! We’ll notify the recipient so he/she will know of your sweet gift. Just think about how warm that will make you both feel.

Monday, February 08, 2010

who dat?

Did Drew Brees give us all something to feel genuinely good about Sunday or what? This amazing and joyous picture (courtesy of the AP) pretty much sums it all up.

As the camera lingered on Brees holding and kissing his baby son right after the game, commentator Boomer Esiason said what a lot of us were probably thinking: “Don’t you live for that moment right there?”

Good for Drew Brees, good for the Saints, good for New Orleans.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

meet patrick

No, this young man is not one of the students from St. Mary Kevin Orphanage, but his story (and his father's) is truly inspirational. When you have six minutes to spare, watch this! As the mother of a member of a college marching band, it especially warms my heart.

Friday, February 05, 2010

meet sheila

-Age: 14
-Date of Birth: August 23, 1995
-Arrived at SMK: 2007 at the age of 12
-Mother: Juliette Assimwe- died in 2005 of heart disease
-Father: Died of a heart attack in the hospital when 7 years old. (also Billy's father)
-Siblings: Billy Mark (12), Michelle Queen (8), and Elijah Kwagala (3)- all live with aunt
-Family lives in: Mengo
-Tribe: Muganda

My family is very complicated. When I was younger, I lived with my mother. She had always told me that my father had died when I was very young. She said that my father was Billy's [Billy also lives at the orphanage] father’s brother, making Billy’s father my uncle. Growing up, my uncle would always come over to spend time with me and play with me. We had a really good relationship. He died when I was seven years old. Then when I was ten, my mother died from heart disease. Losing my mother was hard for me. I loved my mother. I lived with my mother’s sister (my aunt) for a while after my mother died. We are very close and she is the person I trust most in the world. But after a while it was hard for my aunt to care for all of my siblings and me because we were such a big family. So, I went to live with my cousins (Billy) and their mother. Billy’s mother knew Rosemary, and she arranged for all of us to come live at St. Mary Kevin.

Just recently, my aunt, who I trust very much, told me that Billy’s father was actually my father too, not my uncle. This information was very hurtful because all along I thought that he was my uncle. I think all my relatives knew that he was my father, but they never wanted to tell me, including my mother. Growing up, people always told me that I resembled my uncle, even though I am black and he was Indian. Now it will be very hard to ever know the real truth because my mother is dead. This confusion makes me unhappy.

Had I not come to St. Mary Kevin, my life would have been really different. I now live with my fellow students and they make me happy. We converse with each other and we talk about our stories. I now know that I am not the only one with problems like this. My fellow students and Rosemary make me happy. Rosemary brought me here and takes care of me. She makes me proud. Rosemary treats me like her own daughter and loves me. She is really special to me.

I want to make my brothers proud of me too. I want to work hard so that one day I can provide school fees for them too. I love them very much. One day I hope to help others with heart problems because I wish someone could have helped my mother.

-Talents: Singing, playing piano (learned to play through her church)
-Future goals: doctor (specifically a cardiologist)
-Inspirations: God, making my brothers proud
-Current school: Nakulabye High School (in Kampala)- stays with family during the term – Senior 1

[Shelia is a great student. She ranks at the top of her class.]

Thursday, February 04, 2010

meet henry

-Age: 17
-Date of Birth: June 25, 1992
-Arrived at SMK: in 1999
-Mother: Died of disease when he was young
-Father: Died of disease when he was young
-Siblings: One sister (Age 12), Nakato, she lives near Lugujja with a lady who pays for her schooling.
-Tribe: Muganda

After my parents died, I went to live with my uncle, and my sister went to go live with a nice lady. My uncle brought me to his priest. When I was six, my uncle died. Having nowhere else to go, I had to live on the streets. Life on the streets was very difficult and getting food was a struggle. I would search for food in the garbage. At night, I would sleep on the street. After living on the streets for one year, Rosemary found me and took me in at St. Mary Kevin. I feel good here because I get food, shelter, school fees, and sometimes clothing. I feel at home. They take care of us. I really thank Mama Rosemary and Change the Truth for all that they do for us. Change the Truth has helped us with so much. We have gotten new beds, blankets, and mosquito nets. After the way I have suffered, I feel better when I am here at SMK. When I am here I work hard so that I will have a bright future and to set a good example for the younger kids. I sometimes get to see my sister, but we both work so hard that it is difficult to get together. I have no other living family members. St. Mary Kevin is my home, and the people here are my family.

-Talents: Football and singing
-Future goals: to become an Electro Engineer (I am waiting for my exam results)
-Current school: St. Paul Secondary School- Senior 4

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

the abc's of ctt school sponsorships/ meet rosette

One of the projects undertaken by Team 3 member Sara this past December in Uganda was to interview each of the secondary school students being sponsored by Change the Truth. She did a wonderful job, and I shall post some of those here, starting with Rosette.

What does advanced education look like in Uganda? Those who qualify are promoted from Primary 7 to Senior 1. If they can pay the fees, these students begin four years of Senior O levels followed by two years of Senior A levels. If qualified and financially able, they then enter University.

Change the Truth currently sponsors 26 children from St. Mary Kevin Orphanage. One student, Douglas, is in nursing school. Daniel just graduated Senior 6 and is waiting for his final grades - he'd like to attend University and study accounting. We have 11 kids we're sponsoring at the Senior O level and 7 at the A level. Emanuel Vincent attends a music vocational school.

Five recent grads of P-7 produced impressive final exam scores and have met all the requirements for receiving CTT sponsorship for the Senior levels. They are: Sam, Willy, Nicky, Scovia and Abbas.

The new school term began February 1; these students have been on my mind a lot lately! Providing an education for the children from the orphanage has always been the number one goal for CTT. This provides them the key for productive, successful and fulfilling futures. In the past, it has been possible to sponsor a student for $285 per year. Due to increases in school fees, the cost of food and the fact that the sponsorship now includes the purchase of everything from books to toilet paper, the amount required is $600.00 per year for Senior O and $750 per year for Senior A (one-third due in February, May and September). Please consider making such an annual investment. I can make a match for you, and I will arrange for you to receive letters and grade cards from your student. You will forge a relationship, and that would be rewarding for you AND your student!

Meet Rosette:

-Age: 16
-Date of Birth: September 25, 1993
-Arrived at SMK: 2003
-Mother: Teddy- died of AIDS (in 2006)
-Father: Died in War
-Siblings: I have four brothers (Brian, Moses, Rogers, and Godfrey) and two sisters (Barbra and Brenda) who live in my village.
-Tribe: Lugbara

I lost my mother in 2006. I was at school when I found out that she had died. And my father died in the war when I was much younger. Before coming to St. Mary Kevin, I lived in Kitiko with my grandfather. He is still alive and is my guardian. I came to SMK for music and dancing. I stay here during the holidays and I board at school. I don’t get to see my grandfather that often. I love St. Mary Kevin. It is a place where I can be very happy. I am especially happy when I am with the other orphans. I love Mama Rosemary and the other kids. My family is all of us here at SMK. When I grow up I want to be a lawyer for young children. And I hope to run my own orphanage one day, so I can help kids in need just like Mama Rosemary helped me.

-Talents: Dancing, singing, and netball
-Future goals: a lawyer for young children. And wants to run her own orphanage one day

Monday, February 01, 2010

one more donation for haiti

The outpouring of compassion from the photographic community toward the victims of the earthquake in Haiti has been impressive. Immediately after the quake, gallerists, artists and collectors alike started looking for ways to help. You may recall a few posts ago I wrote about a print I donated to Crista Dix’s Wallspace Gallery (Seattle.) The edition of ten prints sold out in two days and resulted in a $500 donation to Doctors Without Borders. Crista, with the help of others who donated work, has raised over $5,000 at this point. Her goal is twice that, and at the rate people are continuing to donate and purchase work, I believe she’ll get there.

Eric Keller of Soulcatcher Studio (Santa Fe) is offering a similar auction, "PictureHOPE." He has contacted several women photographers and asked them to make limited editions to sell on his website; the proceeds will also go directly to Doctors without Borders. Together, they have already raised $8.000! Click here.

There are some wonderful images in both auctions, and I hope you’ll take a look. It’s a great opportunity to buy a print by an artist whose work you’ve admired – or possibly someone you’ve not heard of yet. The artist gets the satisfaction of knowing the ten prints will go to loving homes and the $50 paid for each print will help the people in Haiti who need medical care. The collector (you!) will get a great image at a bargain price and the satisfaction of knowing you are also helping. It’s a win/win, as they say.

So, take a look at both Wallspace and Soulcatcher and tell your friends about these gallery auctions. Crista, Eric, the participating photographers and you (the shopper) are all to be congratulated.

This picture from my Sea Series is the special limited edition print that just became available at Soulcatcher. It is an 8” x 8” print on 11” x 11” Ultrasmooth Fine Art paper. It is signed, dated and numbered on the back and designated as part of this special project.