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

Monday, November 29, 2010



One of the first children I met at St. Mary Kevin Orphanage in 2006 was a 13-year-old girl called Samarie. Her name is actually pronounced SamaLie because Ugandans often swap R’s and L’s when speaking English.

(For example, Carol is called Calol, Melissa is Merissa, Lonnie is Ronnie. This R and L exchange extends to things other than proper nouns, of course. My favorite one, used in a sentence is: “Oops, your bla strap is showing!”)

At any rate, I’d like to introduce you to Samarie because she is just one of those extra special young people whom I’ve had to pleasure of getting to know over the years, and I think you should know about her, too. She’s one of Change the Truth’s sponsored students and one of our most willing helpers during team trips to the orphanage each December.

Samarie boards at Bethel Secondary School, where she is in Senior 5. She is now 17 years old. She is a talented singer and dancer, and for a while she was a drummer in the SMK marching band.

Some of the children we help support are “half orphans.” Samarie is just that; her father died when she was six, but her mother is alive and works in a market selling food. After the death of her father, it became clear that her mom wouldn’t be able to care for Samarie and her two other children. According to Samarie, “My mom could not afford to pay for food or school fees. She approached Rosemary at St. Mary Kevin and pleaded with her to allow me to live there. Rosemary accepted, and I have been there ever since. My mom helps with my tuition fees along with the help of Change the Truth. I still get to see my mom and siblings during holidays for a week. I miss them and look forward to seeing them. I love St. Mary Kevin because I have learned many things there. I have learned dancing and singing. I love my family there the most because that is where I grew up. And Rosemary is our loving mom.”

On the far left - with fellow students, 2010

Samarie is a lovely young woman, and she works hard to succeed. Had she not come under the care of Rosemary, it is likely that she would have become a young mother and would not have received the education she so desperately desires. With Rosemary’s help, and now with the help of Change the Truth, Samarie has a chance to pursue her dreams. She’d like to become a journalist.

I'm looking forward to seeing her soon!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

mother bear project

The Mother Bear Project, based in Minneapolis, is dedicated to providing comfort and hope to children affected by HIV/AIDS in emerging nations, by giving them a gift of love in the form of a hand-knit or crocheted bear.

Team 4 member Suzanne contacted Mother Bear Project and was able to get a donation of 180 of these beautiful bears for us to take to the children at St. Mary Kevin Orphanage. Suzanne has lovingly stuffed each and every bear into her duffel bags; these bears will become the centerpiece of the little Christmas package we will give to each child.

Mother Bear Knitters come from all over the United States and from around the world. Both men and women, from the beginner knitter to the experienced, and from ages 6-99, knit for Mother Bear Project. 
The free pattern (a World War II-era pattern that was chosen because the bears are lightweight and easy to send) is available for both knitting and crocheting, and knitting help is available at many different expertise levels.

Since its inception six years ago, Mother Bear Project has distributed over 59,000 bears to many countries in Africa, including Rwanda, Malawi, Ghana, Kenya and Namibia. Bears have also been sent to children in Haiti. Isn't that amazing and wonderful?

Amy Berman, founder of the project, said, "These bears give the children who face extreme challenges in their daily lives something to hold onto and cuddle. The bears send the very important message that someone half a world away cares." Each bear wears a tag bearing the knitter's name, as well as a red felt heart to show the children they are made with love. Although the bear pattern is standardized, knitters and crocheters are encouraged to personalize their bears with fun yarns, exciting colors, and original faces.

Soon enough I’ll be posting photos of our own SMK children cuddling these adorable bears. I know they will be a huge hit and will become very well-loved. Thank you Suzanne, and thank you Mother Bear Project!

To read more about Mother Bear Project and the great work they are doing, please visit their website.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

collecting nicky's work

Dawn Taylor is a regular at the Change the Truth Friendraiser/Fundraisers. She has become a collector of Opio Nicky's artwork, which aint too shabby given her knowledge of and appreciation for good art. Dawn is the Executive Director of the Kansas City chapter of the American Institute of Architects and has a 17-year background in fundraising for the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art and the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.

She hand delivered a letter to me the other day and asked that I take it, along with some snapshots, to Nicky next month. I can hardly wait to see the smile that will spread across his face when he reads it.

I have a feeling that smile will be broad and very long-lasting.

Change the Truth and Nicky are lucky to have supporters/cheerleaders like Dawn and her family.

Here is Nicky (he went by Nicholas then) in 2007. I searched through my archives to find this photo. It is fun to remember him so cute and young; now he is a tall, handsome young man!

“Dear Nicky,

My name is Dawn, and I have wanted to write this letter to you for a long time, ever since I bought a painting that you made 3 years ago. As you know, ‘Mama Gloria’ creates a special event each summer here in Kansas City where she tells people about you and all of the children and staff at St. Mary Kevin in Uganda. I attend that event each year and I have bought paintings that you have made for three years in a row. I like being a ‘collector’ of your artwork!

The first painting of yours that I bought was in 2008, and it shows a man in a boat on a lake, and there is a flamingo on the shore. On the other shore, a person is fishing. I chose this particular painting from all of the others because it featured water and a flamingo, and I thought it was very well done. I think it is very colorful and interesting.

The following year, at the 2009 event, I looked for your artwork as soon as I arrived. Gloria and Jane Voorhees told me about you and about your many talents. I was excited to buy your painting that has a mountain and a tree and sunshine.

I went to this past summer’s event knowing that I would try to buy one of your paintings. When I saw your painting of the ship in the distance, with the sunset, I could not wait to bring it home with me! Then, I learned that your younger sister, Isabella, is also a painter. I bought her painting of the elephant. Now I have 3 of your paintings and one of Isabella’s! I hope that next year I will be able to have another painting of yours and perhaps one of Isabella’s.

I am also sending you some photos of my two daughters and me—we wanted to show you how much we enjoy having your paintings in our home! My older daughter is named Sarah and she is 15 years old. My younger daughter is named Emily and she is 13 years old. All three of us like art very much. We wish we had your talent for painting!

Gloria has told me how smart you are and how well you are doing with your studies and your art. I hope you will continue to do your best and be successful and that you will keep hopeful for more opportunities in your future. Please know that many, many miles away from St. Mary Kevin, you have many people here in Kansas City who think of you. I think of you each time I see one of your paintings. I would very much like to meet you someday.

In friendship,


Friday, November 26, 2010

looking for inspiration?

"Former concert pianist Alice Herz-Sommer is living proof of the power of music. The world's oldest Holocaust survivor, who celebrates her 107th birthday today, endured the deprivations of the Prague ghetto, imprisonment in a Nazi concentration camp and the murder of her husband, mother and countless other family members. Only her love of music, she says, sustained her throughout those years of darkness and heartbreak.

While her tale of survival is astonishing, what's perhaps more remarkable is that, despite seeing humanity at its worst, Sommer remains a fierce optimist and a believer in the fundamental goodness of mankind. 'This is the reason I am so old, even now, I am sure. I know about the bad things, but I look only for the good things. The world is wonderful, it's full of beauty and miracles, art and music.'

As for her own long life, Sommer partly puts this down to diet -- she eats chicken stew most days, and doesn't touch coffee, tea or alcohol -- and to her strict piano-playing routine. But there is a more important factor. 'In a word: optimism. I look at the good. When you are relaxed, your body is always relaxed, When you are pessimistic, your body behaves in an unnatural way. It is up to us whether we look at the good or the bad. When you are nice to others, they are nice to you. When you give, you receive.'" - AOL News

"Dancing Under the Gallows" a film about Alice, is soon to be released.

To read more about this remarkable woman, go here.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


Bright, beautiful Rosette is one of the secondary school students sponsored by Change the Truth. She is actually sponsored by an individual donor, someone who specifically chose to assist this amazing young woman.

I noticed Rosette during my first visit to the orphanage in 2006. It simply wasn’t possible NOT to be struck by the energy and talent she exuded as part of the St. Mary Kevin dancing and singing troupe. Her smile was dazzling.

But when I’d see her walking about the grounds of the orphanage, she seemed kind of sad.

Toward the end of my visit in 2007, Rosette slipped me a handwritten note. Her words were simple and direct: would I please find it in my heart to find a way to sponsor her in school?

On my last day at SMK that year, I told her the good news that we’d be able to do just that. Rosette’s face lit up, she flashed her brilliant smile, and then she folded her arms around me.

It’d be safe to say that our trips to SMK wouldn’t be nearly as meaningful without Rosette. She is willing and helpful no matter the task. She is talented beyond belief. She is grateful and humble. She is loving toward everyone.

One of Melissa’s jobs is to visit the schools attended by our sponsored students. She recently sent back this report after touring the boarding school Rosette attends and speaking with her teachers and headmaster on school visitation day:

Rosette is involved in numerous activities at school, including music, dance, and netball. She often performs or competes (mainly on the evenings or weekends). In addition, Rosette is a member of the ‘Straight Talk’ team, which counsels peers about the importance of sexual abstinence/birth control, healthy relationships, and future decision-making. Only the highest praise and positive comments were issued with regards to Rosette. Rosette displays good discipline within campus, classroom and dormitory. She has very good hygiene and appears “smart” (looks nice) around campus. She has identified certain teachers with whom she can share personal issues, and she is often trying to provide assistance to her peers. Rosette is a dependable helper to many faculty members at the school and is often called upon if a special project needs to be completed. Rosette uses proficient English around campus.

Everyone loves spending time with Rosette. And whenever the team members have the opportunity to watch her practicing yoga, playing sports or singing and dancing, they simply shake their heads and smile. There is something about this young woman that is just kind of breathtaking.

I’m really glad we’ve been able to grant her wish and send her to school.

Monday, November 22, 2010

hipstamatic and henry

I'm playing around with the hipstamatic application on my IPhone while visiting grandson Henry. Such fun!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

bits and pieces

Here are some things I want to tell you about, and none of them really has anything to do with the other.

1. There is a young boy, Moses, who lives at the orphanage in Uganda. Last year he fell in love with and attached himself to Team 3 member Kaley. Kaley discovered pretty quickly that Moses had a severe hearing impairment. She spent lots of time playing with him, and she also taught him how to sign the letters of the alphabet. At our CTT talent show, the two of them stood side by side before the audience, and in the sweet silence that engulfed the room, they slowly made the hand signs for each letter. It was truly moving. At the suggestion of Melissa (our on-the-ground social worker who is now living at the orphanage) I sent an email to the members of Team 4 asking if anyone knew any sign language. Melissa understands that learning some could open up the world in many ways for young Moses. About fifteen minutes after I sent the email, I got a response from Avis that simply read, “I am fluent in sign language.” I know now Avis was meant to be going on this trip for more reasons than any of us could have imagined!

2. I have work showing in two places in the Kansas City area right now. If you live in this neck of the woods and are interested, please check out the handsome installation curated by Marcus Cain on view at the Epsten Gallery at Village Shalom in Overland Park. The exhibition is entitled “Familiar: Portraits of Proximity” and includes the work of several artists. (You have got to see the pieces by Miki Baird.) Marcus selected five images from my identical twins series for the show. (Seeing these older gelatin silver prints hanging on the wall made me long for my wet darkroom days.) The show is up through January 9th and definitely deserves a look. The other place my work is on view is Matney Floral in Fairway. Scott Heidmann assembled images from different bodies of work for this intimate installation at the classy and beautiful Chuck Matney flower store. There are a couple pieces from New Orleans (just post-Kartrina) as well as a piece from my “424 Adair” project and several from the “Sea Series.” This installation will be up through the holidays.

3. My friend Lynne recently gave me a book that I’d like to recommend. If you have any grandmothers or grandmothers-to-be on your holiday shopping list, please get them a copy of “Eye of My Heart” edited by Barbara Graham. It is a collection of unsentimental, funny and poignant stories by 27 writers, each revealing the “hidden pleasures and perils of being a grandmother.” I have really enjoyed it, and have even read aloud some of the tales as bedtime stories to the grandfather who sleeps beside me.

4. Our dear friend, Richard E. Loftis, passed away this morning. He was a determined man until the very end. Just as determined as he's always been.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

t-shirts and a happy season

I love the rhythms that accompany each season.

Fall has always been my favorite. As a kid, some of the best things associated with autumn were: new school clothes, new text books that smelled really good, my birthday, raking leaves at my grandparent's house, eating all things pumpkin and playing touch football with the neighbor kids or my two big brothers.

For the past few years, fall has meant: time to make preparations for my trip to Uganda!

There are particular rhythms to those preparations. I get to look forward to the same things each year.

One of those things is the creation of the new Change the truth t-shirt, which I give to team volunteers, as well as to our dear friends in Uganda who assist with the trip. This year I chose to feature the orphanage's marching band and used a drawing by one of the children, Brian. A generous CTT donor has made it possible for us to print extra shirts - one for each member of the band. The young drummers, trumpeters, trombonists, etc. are going to be thrilled! They will wear these shirts with pride.

The shirts are available to you, too! For $15.00 you can proudly show off your support of CTT while you also provide financial support. Here is one of CTT's lovely young friends, Leah, modeling the shirt. You can buy it right here using Paypal or a credit card, and we'll send you the shirt!


Another favorite part of this season is the generous spirit with which CTT friends acknowledge the nearing of my trip. Several times this week, I have discovered on my front porch bags filled with various goodies to stuff inside my luggage: ball caps, cough drops, tylenol, colored pencils, decks of cards, sketch pads, stocking caps, crayons.

Knowing that so many people care and want to help the orphaned children fills me up with such hope and happiness. I know it's almost over, but... Happy Fall!

Friday, November 19, 2010

team 4: meet bobbi

Those of you who have followed along on our past team trips to Uganda will remember Bobbi Newman, a therapist and great friend of CTT who hails from south Florida.

Bobbi was a member of Team 2; she conducted group therapy classes with the older children. As a member of Team 3, Bobbi began a yoga program at the orphanage. She arrived with yoga mats in hand and proceeded to teach yoga and meditation to the children and staff. It would be an understatement to say her classes were a huge hit. Bobbi knocked herself out by holding classes all day long; the children responded in ways Bobbi never could have imagined. They fell in love with the practice of yoga, and they amazed their teacher at the speed with which they picked it up.

Since last December, a group of dedicated children has continued to practice yoga and meditation in classes led by Sam, Joseph and Rosette, three of Bobbi’s star students. This year, Bobbi will take her yoga program to the next level, and she will be assisted by Team 4 member Suzanne. They’ve got a few surprises up their sleeves for the yogis of St. Mary Kevin Orphanage; it should be an amazing experience for everyone involved.

In her own words, Bobbi has “been on a journey of creating a life filled with good friends, rich adventures, and spiritual evolution and looks forward to adding deeper processing to the classes at SMK.”

Bobbi has many beloved friends at the orphanage, and I know they are counting the days until her return! Change the Truth is indeed fortunate to have a friend who is as committed and passionate as Bobbi Newman. She truly loves and cares about our kids.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

team 4: meet jennifer

Jennifer Smith has been a teacher in grades 5 – 8 for the past 16 years. She currently teaches 8th grade American History in the Blue Valley School District in Overland Park, Kansas. Jenn has experience coaching volleyball, softball and track. She worked for three years at AileyCamp teaching a counseling class that included the topics of media literacy, alcohol and drug education and sexual education. She has traveled to Africa and El Salvador with her church. She is passionate about the education of young people. Along with her husband Jeff (also a member of Team 4) Jenn has dedicated her career to furthering the hopes and dreams of her students. In Jenn's words: "Being part of Team 4 will be both humbling and fulfilling, helping Jeff and me to grow as citizens of the world.”

Jenn will conduct classes in alcohol/drug/sex education for the older children at the orphanage. She also plans to teach and play lots of sports. The children at SMK will also get to know Jenn in the art room, where she plans to help with creative projects. Jenn's 8th grade students have been busy writing pen pal letters to the kids; she'll share those and help the SMK kids write letters in response. I know Jenn and the children at SMK are going to have such a wonderful time together!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

baby henry!

3 weeks

4 weeks

5 weeks

8 weeks

9 weeks

10 weeks

Now this blog will head back in the direction of my upcoming (wow, it's getting very close!) trip to Uganda. Several readers have emailed me, however, asking, "How is your grandson Henry doing? We miss seeing him on the blog!

Never one to let anyone down, I will happily oblige. (Forget the fact that I'm a very proud grandmother.)

These wonderful photos are courtesy of Henry's parents, Sam and Abbie. I'm going to sneak in a quick trip to New Orleans next week and will share my own then. Yes, this is a well photographed child!

Oh, and I just noticed this is my 1,001st post. Break out the champagne or something?

Monday, November 15, 2010

richard loftis: part three

I am going to end my series on Richard by sharing a few quotes and images from this past week, as well as some of his own photographs. He has been an incredibly strong man in the face of death. Even today he managed (with some help) to get up out of bed and into a wheelchair so he could go outside to feel the sun on his face.

“Photography has been a joy and a love affair.”

“Lately I have been using the Nikon D3. I was expecting the new 800, which would have been the last camera I would ever want. I would have probably gone nuts on that thing if I hadn’t gotten sick. That camera would have lasted me the rest of my life.”

“I was always interested in airplanes. I always hung out at the local airport and would fly anytime I could. I’d hitch rides with different pilots. I would wash their airplanes. They knew I wanted to learn to fly. When I was 13 or 14 I started flying. You can’t apply for a pilot’s license unless you’re 16. I kept washing and washing airplanes and flying and got enough hours legally to solo, which I did on my 16th birthday. The airplane I was flying got torn up in a bad tornado, and I never got to finish getting my private license.”

"I think my whole family turned out good. I’m proud of my daughters. My grand kids are just that. Grand."

“I am not afraid to die.”

Sunday, November 14, 2010

richard loftis: part two

This past Tuesday, the day after Richard went to hospice, some of us were walking outside with him. I was pushing him in the wheelchair. I reminded him that he used to always respond to my question “How are you today?” with “Oh, about F-8 or so.” (It varied, of course, depending on the weather or his mood.) He said Tuesday was somewhere between F-16 and F-22.

After we’d walked a little while, he asked everyone if he could have some time to speak to me alone. At the end of our conversation, he said he wanted me to document his experience as a cancer victim with my camera. He also asked if I would help him put some thoughts down on paper.

I am honored. This is indeed a privilege. Also a big responsibility. It makes me feel good to know that he trusts me so much.

So… I’ve been making pictures at hospice this week. And until Thursday, when it became difficult for him to talk much, I was taking dictation as he told me about his life.

I discussed the project with his sister and daughters. They felt it was a fitting way for a photographer to wind down his life. Richard was never much of a writer. He never kept a journal. His journal was his photographic work. He needs help with the last chapter, because he can’t hold a camera now.

I am happy to do it.

He was a mentor to me in many ways. I always shared with him my latest work.

I showed him one of the photographs I made this week. He was able to detach himself from it and look at it objectively. His response to the portrait was: “He’s in a lot of pain.”

His family really likes the portrait, as painful and sad as it is. They said I could share it here. I will share others, as well. If you know Richard and have not seen him for a while, you will be surprised to see what a major physical change he has undergone. The cancer has reduced him to less than half of his healthy body weight.

I think this is very brave of him. I agree with his family that it makes a lot of sense. I think, in a way, Richard is giving me one last gift, one that is tough to open but that will teach me so much.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

richard loftis: part one

I first met Richard E. Loftis shortly after I opened the Baker Gallery in my home in 1981. This wasn’t long after Eddie and I had moved to Kansas City and given birth to our daughter, Abbie. The first exhibition I installed in the living and dining rooms of our home was a collection of Edward Weston prints that I managed to borrow from a guy in Colorado. The second show was an impressive selection of Ansel Adams photographs (“Moonrise Over Hernandez” included) that I consigned from the Tom Halsted Gallery in Detroit.

One of the first people to come see these shows was a guy named Richard - a tall, gangly 40 something man with a goofy laugh, a head over heels passion for photography and a portfolio of prints tucked under his arm. He knew more about Weston and Adams than I could ever hope to know. He spoke the zone system like it was his first language. Richard traveled to many of the same spots where those F64 guys photographed, and he would set up his 8” x 10” view camera to try his hand at capturing some of the same Western scenes.

Richard was one of the friendliest people who came through the doors of my newly open photo galley, the first of its kind in Kansas City. He’d been waiting for a place like this for a long time. Here he could hang out with other photographers, who slowly but surely began to learn of the existence of the Baker Gallery. He could look through the flat files and see the work of photographers he admired. He showed up at every Sunday afternoon opening reception, and sometimes during the week by appointment (well, it was supposed to be by appointment, but he just kind of showed up knocking at the door). His excitement was contagious. His laugh bellowed, and his tall frame and white hair commanded a second look. It wasn’t long before he was a fixture at the place.

Richard talked about technique, gear, papers, chemicals, light meters, lenses, films, tripods and enlargers to just about anyone who’d listen. He was an engineer and knew how to build things, how things worked and how to fix just about anything that broke. He could spend the afternoon discussing the properties of infrared film, the pros and cons of selenium toning or the benefits of shooting in the sharp, contrasty bright sunlight. He loved sharing his thoughts, ideas and advice with all my clients. Richard would frequently hop in his van and travel to Bryce Canyon, Taos or the Garden of the Gods to lose himself in photo heaven. Then he’d come back to my gallery with a box full of pristine, perfectly printed, mounted and spotted gelatin silver prints matted in pure white rag boards. He was a master darkroom printer. (There was always a pair of white cotton gloves in the box, mind you.)

Photographing in Death Valley

I took him on as part of the stable of the Baker Gallery. I promoted and showed his work; soon there were collectors of Richard’s work in and around Kansas City. This fed his desire to make more work, to push himself harder and further. He told me I had lit a fire. He read everything he could get his hands on. He was self-taught, after all, and there was always so much more to learn. He had received his first camera for Christmas when he was eleven years old and had to pretty much figure out on his own how the thing worked.

Richard did well. He established quite a name for himself and had some shows outside of Kansas City. His work was purchased by some major collections and impressive individual collectors. He concentrated mainly on landscapes, airplanes and figure work, primarily in black and white. He was envied for his masterful shooting and printing techniques; he was asked to teach at Johnson County Community College. He was an enthusiastic and popular instructor.

Speaking at the opening of his 50 Year Retrospective

When the digital age dawned, Richard was one of the first to jump on board. He quickly discovered that digital capture allowed him to finally get the color he had always wanted (but had never quite achieved) with film. This guy was like a kid in a candy store when it came to all things digital. So many tools! So many controls! Not only did he educate himself, he took the time to impart his knowledge to those of us who were terrified and intimidated about making the jump from film. He was a generous and patient teacher.

He served as mentor to me when I struck out to make my own pictures after closing The Baker Gallery. Richard built my wet darkroom back then, and in more recent years, he built my digital darkroom. We were members together in a seven-person photo salon that met periodically to talk shop, eat barbeque and critique each other’s work. We celebrated our birthdays together. We traded prints. He took my son Max to his first air show.

Needless to say, over these thirty years, he and I have became very dear friends. There wasn’t anything we wouldn’t do for the other.

Last spring Richard was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Our photo salon has rallied around him and tried to help him through this horrible detour in his life. In June, he opted for major surgery, from which he has never fully recovered. The cancer has now spread to his liver.

This past Monday, after months of excruciating pain and the inability to graduate from a feeding tube to the dinner table, Richard was moved to Kansas City Hospice.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

team 4: meet david

The next member of our mighty crew is David Muhammad. David is a middle school teacher in Kansas City where he teaches social sciences. He is certified to teach, among other subjects, geography, history and psychology. He has been doing martial arts for over twenty years and teaches kids from a variety of backgrounds at his father’s martial arts school. David also writes poetry and has performed readings several times.

David used to teach at Shawnee Mission East High School, where he was the advisor to the social service club. While addressing that group last year, I asked if any of the students might ever consider going to Uganda as member of a Change the Truth team. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a hand shoot up immediately. I turned to see that it was the advisor, sitting behind his desk, who was waving his hand and saying, "I'll go!" Lo and behold, this young man turned out to be true to his word.

This will be David's first trip outside the U.S. He is a practicing Muslim and looks forward to meeting and talking with the Muslim children at the orphanage. He plans to teach poetry and reading and possibly some karate. David is going to be a very well-loved member of Team 4, I'm sure of that!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

larger than life

I was not able to be in Washington DC for FotoWeek, but the folks at Flak Photo were kind enough to take a picture for each of the 100 photographers whose work was projected onto the Corcoran Gallery of Art. Here is my portrait "Children in Front of Chalkboard, Magada, Uganda" in a very large format!

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

team 4: meet avis

Avis Smith is from Kansas City, where she has been a clinical social worker for 25 years - working with children who have trauma backgrounds. She has a lengthy history of training both clinical and non-clinical staff who work with children in this area.

Avis traveled to Uganda in 1970 for a two-year assignment in Kampala. This was interrupted because of the increased political tensions that led to the January 1971 coup when Amin overthrew Obote. She is really looking forward to seeing the changes that have taken place in and around Kampala since then. Avis traveled again to Africa in 2008 when she went to Lesotho and South Africa as part of a church trip.

As a member of Team 4, she is interested in “anything that helps children tell their stories and heal so that they can live full, productive and joyful lives (art, music, movement, sand tray therapy, theatre, etc.)” She is excited about sharing this journey with her daughter and son in law, Jennifer and Jeff.

I first met Avis three years ago when I was a guest speaker at her church. We talked for a few minutes after my presentation, and she told me she had been to Uganda almost 40 years ago. She said she’d love to return and really liked what Change the Truth was doing with the orphans at St. Mary Kevin. Avis then came very close to joining our volunteer team last year, but in the end it didn’t work out. I am so pleased it’s going to work out this time around and that she will finally be able to experience Uganda again after so many years. She brings a wealth of information about kids who have experienced trauma; she is highly respected in her field. Again, CTT is fortunate to have such an outstanding team member!

Monday, November 08, 2010

blog followers

See the new widget on the top right? Here you can sign up to follow my blog and let me know that you are a reader. Please join the crowd!

Sunday, November 07, 2010

team 4: meet jeff

Jeff Mildner has taught grades 7 – 12 for nine years in the Kansas City area. For the past six years he has served as the Director of Technology for the De Soto School District helping teachers integrate technology in the classroom. He has also coached wrestling, soccer and football. Jeff and his wife Jennifer, who is also a member of Team 4, volunteer in many capacities in Kansas City and at their church, St. Andrew Christian Church. St. Andrews has had a sister relationship with El Higueral, a mountain top village in El Salvador, since 1992. The families living there have had to rebuild their lives after the turmoil and devastation of civil war. Jeff has served as the sister-community liaison for St. Andrew and El Higueral for two years, and he has made two week-long trips to visit the community.

Last year Jeff rounded up some laptop computers for us to take to orphanage. This year, he will be the go-to person for the computer lab at St. Mary Kevin – teaching classes and helping the children feel more comfortable with technology. I’m sure he’ll also frequently be found playing soccer with the kids and teaching them a little about American football and wrestling. How lucky we are to have a teacher, an IT specialist and an athlete all wrapped up in one compassionate human being!

Friday, November 05, 2010

"huge" exhibition

FotoWeek DC starts tomorrow. All things related to photography will spring to life in Washington DC. That includes exhibitions, lectures, workshops and portfolio reviews.

Considered one of the most spectacular parts of FotoWeek DC is the NightGallery program. I’ve never attended any of the events, but I have heard that this is especially cool. The NightGallery turns the entire city into a massive nighttime gallery, illuminating the facades of DC’s architecture with gigantic photographic projections. This year, the NightGallery projects are being projected onto these buildings: the Corcoran Gallery of Art, the Newseum, the Holocaust Memorial Museum, American Red Cross, National Museum of the American Indian, Satellite Central and Human Rights Campaign building.

The NightGallery selections are presented in three divisions - journalism, environmental and fine art - and were curated (respectively) by Jamie Wellford, the photo editor of Newsweek; Kathy Moran, senior editor for natural history projects at National Geographic magazine; and Andy Adams, Editor & Publisher of FlakPhoto.com—along with Larissa Leclair, photography writer and curator.

I am very pleased to say that my photograph “Children in Front of Chalkboard, Magada, Uganda, 2006” is among the photographs chosen for the fine art display, which is entitled “100 Portraits – 100 Photographers.” These photographs will be shown on the façade of the Corcoran Gallery.

I wish I could be there to see and experience what must be a breathtaking way to view images! Please check out some of the work of the other photographers, in whose company I am thrilled to be.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

team 4: meet emily

Next up on the impressive Team 4 roster is high school senior Emily Collins. Emily was in the audience when I spoke about CTT at Shawnee Mission East High School this time last year. She pulled me aside after my presentation and told me she wanted to go to Uganda on the next volunteer trip. She meant what she said. A few bake sales and odd jobs later, Emily is now thinking about how she’ll squeeze everything into her luggage when she heads to the airport after her final exams in December.

She is an accomplished seamstress and has collected yards and yards of donated fabric, thread, ribbons and zippers. She’ll use these items to teach the older children at the orphanage how to make and repair their own clothes. There are three very old foot-pedaled Singer sewing machines at St. Mary Kevin; Emily and her students will fire them up and put them to good use for the ten days we are there. After we leave, her sewing class grads should be able to continue on their own.

Emily is President of Shawnee Mission East High School’s “Coalition,” a world service club. She is involved in the National Arts Honor Society. She is also a CNA (Certified Nursing Assistant.)

Going to Uganda will be her first trip outside the Midwest.

I'm so happy to have a teenager going on the trip, especially this one. The children at SMK are going to love having someone close to their own age on the team!

Monday, November 01, 2010

team 4: meet suzanne

The first Team 4 member I’d like for you to meet is Suzanne Garr. Suzanne and I have more than a few things in common. She and I both have a passion for photography, travel and children. Suzanne has even studied photography with Thatcher Cook, who was my workshop instructor during my first trip to Uganda (and who wrote the introduction to my book, Kutuuka.)

Ever since Suzanne contacted me a year or so ago, she has been such a good friend to Change the Truth. She has rounded up donors by spreading her infectious enthusiasm about our projects and has made her own real commitment to helping the children at St. Mary Kevin. She is responsible for the donation of 180 handmade beautiful, cuddly teddy bears that we’ll be giving to the children for Christmas. (They will be so well-loved!) More on them later.

Suzanne lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, a place Eddie and I called home for a while back in the late 70’s. She has a background in art and has practiced yoga for the past six years. Her experiences with kids is vast, having worked as a camp counselor for disadvantaged youth, a reading tutor, a volunteer at Wisconsin Children’s Hospital and a Sunday School teacher. She has traveled to Ecuador, Kenya, Nepal, Mexico, the Dominican Republic and Bhutan, working as a volunteer and/or photographer. Suzanne also serves on the boards of several non-profit organizations.

In her own words: “I am a very compassionate and caring person especially when it comes to children. I am well read, especially when it comes to anything related to Africa and the causes that have been in the forefront. I have been wanting to get back to Africa ever since my first trip there in 2000, and I cannot think of any better way than to be part of Team 4 and the work that Change the Truth is doing.”

Besides helping with yoga and various other projects, Suzanne will teach art classes and will spearhead the Ugandan side of this year’s banana fiber project. I know she will take lots of pictures, too!

CTT, Team 4 and the children at SMK are very lucky to have Suzanne's support!