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

Saturday, April 30, 2011

art art everywhere

The dolls are arriving in great numbers now, and they are forming a dynamic community on my dining room table. I am excited to show the rest of them here on the blog, but today I want to present a sneak preview of some of the children's artwork. These pieces are equally as fabulous! The exhibition of dolls and drawings this year is going to be very, very good.

These are just some of the pieces that will hang on the gallery walls (and which will also be available for silent auction bidding). Included here are gems by David, Nicky, Oscar, Brian and Issy.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

miranda mei ping holloway

I have asked seven young artists to participate in the doll project this year. I don't think there is anything I can possibly add to what Miranda has written about herself and her doll. Except that I think she (and her doll) are amazing.

"Hi, my name is Miranda Holloway. I am 7 years old and go to second grade at Stanley Elementary. I was born in China, but now live Overland Park, Kansas. I was an orphan, but I’m adopted now. My parents are Meg and John and they brought me home from China when I was 8 months old. I really like creating art for fun. I also love reading, playing Barbies, school, piano, gymnastics, cheerleading, American Girl dolls, and being outside.

It’s really amazing that some kids in Uganda have enough money to go to school for one whole year because of Change the Truth. Hopefully the auction of my doll will get enough money for two school scholarships. I really hope that this can help their dreams of going to school come true.

I feel powerful when I know that I can help kids in Uganda even though we are on the other side of the world.

My doll’s name is Mangeni. Mangeni in Ugandan means 'fish.' I named her that because I think her family lives by a lake. She is 8 years old and the middle child in her family. She has five chores to do each day. One of her biggest jobs is fetching water for cooking, and that is what she is doing. She’s wearing her best clothing, since it is a Sunday and they are going to church. She made her necklace when she was 5 years old and it is the colors of the Ugandan flag. The two brown beads that she put on her necklace represent the Ugandan people. She likes red and black a lot, but her favorite colors are blue and purple. She always brushes her hair as smooth as it can be and she has bangs, too. Her hat is to shade her from the sun, and it’s made from gluing seashells together.

The book is a little bit about Mangeni and her personality. It also has the message I want to share through my artwork: 'Education is a gift worth giving.'"

** You can't see it in the photo, but the water Mangeni is carrying is represented by a sweet, single light blue sphere.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

j. leroy beasley

If you have watched the Doll Project film from last year, you have already met J. Leroy Beasley, Michelle's husband. He was one of a handful of artists featured. I really enjoyed getting to know him during the interviews we had. J. Leroy is a tradesman and a self-taught sculptor, photographer and painter. He's passionate about the arts.

During the doll making process at the orphanage last December, I asked the children to try making some animals. It was pretty difficult to do, and I came home with only two: a camel, whose neck did not survive the long trip back to Kansas City, and this bull. Upon seeing it, J. Leroy claimed the latter immediately! (I'm fairly certain it was made by Willy; J. Leroy was excited about the collaboration, especially after I told him all about the artistic 15 year-old.) He will get to meet Willy for himself when he travels to the orphanage this year as part of Team 5. Who knows what the two of them will create when they actually get together?

The piece is 26" long. When J. Leroy handed it to me, he said: "We all have our heavy loads to carry."

** On the painted base are the handwritten words "believe in me."

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

michelle beasley

Michelle Beasley is a self-taught artist who enjoys using a variety of technical approaches to her work. She is one of the sweetest and most sincere people I've met in a long time (well, her husband, J. Leroy ranks right up there, too). The Doll Project brought us together last year, and we have stayed in touch since.

Michelle's doll reflects her obviously huge love affair with shoes! It's hilarious and beautiful, uplifting and joyful.

Michelle gets her inspiration from people she knows and places she visits. She says that her strongest inspiration, however, comes from her loving and supportive husband and fellow artist, J. Leroy Beasley. "He provides me with a sense of strength, support and challenge. This gives me the freedom, confidence and joy I needs to reach further, wider and deeper as an artist."

The really, really exciting news is that both Michelle and J. Leroy have confirmed that they will be members of Team 5! The children at SMK are going to fall in love with this warm, loving, spiritual, creative, kind, down-to-earth, funny couple. It will be Michelle's first trip to Africa, a place she has wanted to visit for a long time.

If you are a shoe lover, this doll is for you! She is 16" tall, a bundle of colors and fun. The words say: "Oh how I love shoes. Momma says when I grow up I can have all the shoes I want!"

** There are eleven pairs of shoes in the piece, all made with a quick drying clay. There's even a pair of pink flip-flops.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

charmalee gunaratne

Charmalee Gunaratne is a licensed architect from Sri Lanka. She is a the co- founder of Eco Abet, a not-for-profit architecture firm. Eco Abet’s mission is to provide design and architectural services to impoverished, underserved and traumatized communities around the globe.

Charmalee is a champion for those in need. She's been a dear friend to Change the Truth, loading us with flip flops to take to the orphanage in 2009 and stocking caps to take in 2010. She has spent countless hours making detailed architectural drawings of the SMK grounds (from photos and measurements provided by the director and some of the older boys) so that, if the opportunity should ever arise, a new structure can be designed or an old one renovated.

This is the second year Charmalee has participated in the Doll Project. She used Silly Bandz to decorate her doll this time around. It's really a happy coincidence; we gave Silly Bandz (brightly colored rubber band type bracelets) to the children as part of their Christmas gifts in December. The kids will be excited to see them stretched around and across their beloved banana fiber doll.

Charmalee told me she named her creation "Sili Doli" and that it symbolizes the inspiring laughter and vibrant expectations of the joyful children at St. Mary Kevin Orphanage. The doll is 17" tall.

Charmalee is a recipient of Kansas City's Central Exchange Scholarship awarded by Kauffman foundation. Outside her professional life, she is a passionate painter, sculptor and a full time mother, raising her own “Sili Doli” Hiru, who is now sixteen months old.

** You won't notice this about the doll unless you get up close and take a whiff. Charmalee placed sticks of incense inside the banana fiber body!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

social unrest in uganda

This past week I asked Melissa to describe the current situation in Uganda (regarding the recent election and political/social unrest). She replied with this comprehensive update:

"Directly following Museveni's reelection for President in February, he firmly stated that he would not allow any protesting of any sort to occur in Uganda, as he did not want Uganda to become like other African countries in the recent media. He forewarned political opponents and civilians alike that the harshest, firmest punishments would ensue for any such protesters. Within the last few weeks, many of the Presidental candidates have been publically denouncing Museveni for the increased prices of fuel (among other things). The two loudest, and most publically known opponents are Kizza Besigye (who was 2nd in the election) and Norbert Mao (who was a very distant 3rd). Each gentleman has staged a couple of 'Walk-To-Work' Protests where people are urged to chose to walk to work instead of taking a taxi or boda boda to show dissatification for the increased fuel prices (which has been directly correlated to other increased prices for food and other necessities). The men have publically urged others to take a stand against the rising fuel prices. All of the demonstrations have ended in the police using excessive force, tear gas, and rubber bullets in attempts to get the protesting to stop.

Following each protest (and there have been about 4 of them), the leader of the protest is arrested to inciting public violence and held accountable for the injuries that occurred during the protests. (Each man has been arrested at least twice.) Within a few days of arrest, either Besigye or Mao is released from jail by the courts. As of today, both men are back in jail-- Mao for his leadership of a demonstration earlier this week in Gulu, which resulted in a couple of deaths (as people ingested too much tear gas from police), and Besigye for his leadership of a demonstration mid-week that resulted in the death of a small child. Museveni has publically released statements that while he does not condone any excessive violence by police, these men should heed his warning about further protests within Uganda.

Besigye's first protest was actually stopped here in Kajjansi. Besigye was injured by a rubber bullet which broke one of his fingers. The shots of the guns could be heard from the school, although at the time, we did not know what was happening. Moses, SMK Headmaster, has been very cautious this term about releasing students to guardians and keeping them at school until the end of the term following that event.

There is a noticable increase in police and miliary soldier presence again around Kampala. At least one officer within a large group will have tear gas canisters on his jacket, probably more as a visible deterant. But I have not felt unsafe within Kampala. I just follow the news daily to chose my day to go into town.

Click here to read an April 21st NYT article about the situtation.

Friday, April 22, 2011

happy 90th!!

Tomorrow is my father's 90th birthday.


This is the earliest picture of him that I know of. He's five and standing quite proudly next to his mother.

These are more recent pictures.

Happy birthday, Daddio!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

small buttons, big buttons, lots o' buttons

Guest post and pictures by Team 4 (and Team 5!) member Suzanne:

"Last year, as part of Team 4, I was involved in an effort to bring the kids of SMK (through the incredible generosity of the Mother Bear Project and many knitters from around the world) 180 teddy bears, handmade with love. I carried to Uganda two very large duffel bags brimming with the bears, which were personally signed by the knitters themselves. (See pictures of the kids with their bears here.)

As a fortunate member of Team 5 for this year's December journey, I began to think, what can I do this year? I came across a magazine filled with handmade crafts, and there was a ‘button bracelet’ idea on page 31. I thought they looked like fun, they’re colorful, they use old and new buttons and are small enough to transport to Uganda. We could even make some in December as an art project. I ran the idea by Gloria, and she gave me the thumbs up, but there was one small obstacle: I needed help - and lots of it.

I thought about who I know who loves to make things, is creative and enjoys the idea of kids helping kids. My friends Molly (16), Libby (13) and Mary Sue (Mom) Protz were the first to come to mind. While at Mary Sue's for dinner one night, I brought the magazine with me, showed the ladies the idea, and it was an instant, ‘of course, we'll help!’ They were on board.

I have known the Protz family since I moved to Wisconsin 22 years ago. They are family to me. Molly was adopted from an orphanage in China and Libby from Korea. Both girls had asked me before I left for Team 4's trip if they could have pen pals from SMK. Issy & Molly and Rose & Libby are now pen pals. This is an incredibly generous family and has been involved with CTT ever since I first told them all about the foundation, Gloria and the kids. They all wanted to do something. Molly's friends from high school are writing letters to the kids for me to take to SMK in December. For her English class she had to pick someone who has accomplished humanitarian acts of kindness; she asked Gloria if she could interview her for her speech (she got a B+!). Their mother, Mary Sue, belongs to a knitting group and asked if she and the ladies could make hats for the kids (more on that later). Libby, a master bead maker, lent her tools and expertise to the rest of us novice button makers.

We had our first button making party complete with pizza and lots of laughs. Our output, at first slow with buttons falling on the floor every which way, quickly picked up as we mastered the art of button making and ended the night with 15 bracelets of various colors, sizes and shapes. We have many more button bracelet parties to go, but we will have 100+ bracelets by December, we promise.

-Molly, Libby, Mary Sue and Suzanne

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

allan winkler

Allan Winkler makes, among other things, metal and paper cutouts. His most recent solo exhibitions have been at the Epsten Gallery, Bluebird Café and Shiraz Restaurant in Kansas City. His work can be found in many private and corporate collections, as well as the High Museum of Art, The Kansas City Art Institute and Hallmark Cards.

I’ve known Allan for a long time. He’s a serious devotee of folk art, and I’ve always loved the way each of his artistic endeavors stays true to the naïve nature of that genre. Visiting with Allan is an entertaining, enlightening and inspiring experience. He’s talented on so many levels, and he’s insightful, humble, whacky, funny, smart, genuine, unique and kind.

One of my favorite pieces in my own art collection is an Allan Winkler paper cutout.

Like last year, Allan was one of the first of the doll artists to come by and select a doll, and he was the first to bring it back completed. Allan has become a good and true friend to Change the Truth.

Last year his doll was selected for the live auction and brought on some heated bidding! He’s one of Kansas City’s best-loved artists, and I am so pleased he’s in our corner!

The doll is 25" tall, including its stand.

** Notice the salt and pepper hair on the head of the doll? It’s Allan’s hair. He gathered what he needed last time he gave himself a haircut!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

cathy broski

It's that time of the year to begin presenting the fabulous dolls that will be for sale at the 4th Annual Change the Truth Friendraiser/Fundraiser!

The dolls, made from banana fiber by the children at St. Mary Kevin Orphanage and now adorned by a great group of Kansas City area artists, have started returning to my doorstep. I am so excited to see them again; they each look a lot different than they did when they left my house a few short weeks ago. Each artist has had free reign to decorate or alter the doll any way she/he sees fit. And just like last year, the resulting creations are magnificent!

Cathy Broski is new to the Doll Project. I am happy to have had the chance to recently meet her and wander around her fabulous studio. I'm so glad she agreed to participate in the project; as you can see, she made a wonderful piece. Her doll, pictured at the top of the page, stands 13" tall.

In Cathy's own words:

"My work is steeped in archetypal and personal symbolism. Figures, houses, boats and pottery are all vessels to contain things we hold dear, and sometimes those things we would cast off. I chose these forms to work with because they have several levels of meaning I find intriguing to explore. The surfaces reflect my experience and attitude.

I love the idea of found objects, because of their wear and marks of their journeys. This is the feel I try to achieve on my surfaces. To accomplish this in my own work, I use a layering technique.

Each piece begins on the potter’s wheel or with slabs. The pieces grow with the application of coils or additional slabs. When each piece is completed, I carve or texture the surface and let it dry. The base colors are applied and fired. Once the first firing is complete, I apply and wipe off a combination of terra sigilattas, slips, stains and glazes, then fire again. This process is repeated until I achieve the desired effect.

Since receiving my BFA from the Kansas City Art Institute in 1990, I have worked in the ceramics field in many capacities. Presently I am represented by numerous galleries, teach many pottery classes, instruct workshops, sell at art fairs, and have been published in several ceramic periodicals. In 2000, my husband and I built my studio right outside our backdoor. And in 2007 we completed a 40 cu ft gas car kiln.

Life is good.

Check out Cathy's website here.

** Notice the skirt? It's made of keys. And there is a lock in the palm of the hand below.

Monday, April 18, 2011

reaching out: part 2

A second inspiring “kids helping kids” session took place last week - this one was at Shawnee Mission East High School. Emily, a member of Team 4, figured out a way to make cloth dolls that look just like the banana fiber dolls made by the kids at the orphanage! She passed along this knowledge to a group of Kansas City kids who will sell their adorable handmade dolls at a fundraiser next month. (Way to go, Emily!)

Do you see how cool all of this is? Kids at an orphanage in Kajjansi, Uganda taught Emily how to make banana fiber dolls. Emily came home to teach American kids how to make a slightly different version (with her own spin) to raise funds to send back to the orphans.

Same thing happened with the paper beads. The kids at the orphanage taught me how to make them. I came home to teach American kids how to make them, and those kids are using them to raise funds to send back to the orphans.

A circle that includes us all keeps going round and round. Along the way, we each learn something new and we teach something new. And each of us - in our own way - gains so much.

(I'd like to send a big "thank you" to teachers extraordinaire Adam Finkleston and Nina Young for making these two recent “kids helping kids” sessions possible.) Please read a past post about Adam’s doll project. It will culminate with a big fundraising event in May. Thank goodness for people like Nina and Adam. These special teachers help kids see that, even at a young age, they have the talent and the power to help others. With such a good start, who knows where these kids will go from here!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

reaching out

What could be better than kids helping kids?

This week I was invited to participate in “Africa Day” at Pembroke Hill School. (My own kids each spent thirteen years at this wonderful place!) The eighth graders have been studying Africa for a few weeks now. “Africa Day” was the culmination of this curriculum. In the morning I showed “Changing the Truth,” Lynne Melcher’s second film about CTT. The kids asked some really good questions and seemed truly interested in the work we are doing at St. Mary Kevin Orphanage.

In the afternoon, I taught the kids how to make paper beads. The eighth graders took their new skill and ran with it, making lots of pairs of beautiful earrings. They plan to sell them and give all the proceeds to CTT so that the kids they met in the movie (and in the pictures and letters I shared) will have a better shot at life.

Some of the students also wrote pen pal letters.

I always feel so inspired by kids, especially those who want to reach out and grab the hand of someone their own age who happens to be in need. It’s just a good feeling all the way around.

Friday, April 15, 2011


I am working on a commissioned piece for a local hospital's labor and delivery unit. It's a great gig because I get to photograph babies! What could be better? This cutie pie and her mom came by my studio yesterday for a quick session.

Thursday, April 14, 2011


This is a portrait I made on Sunday of high school senior Ali. The afternoon light in Kansas City is so pretty now. And, obviously, so is Ali. Both were captured with my new camera; this was my first portrait outing with the Hassie. I'm really happy with the crispness and the color. I still feel like I'm fumbling around, but I am at least getting a few keepers.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

beginning again

I finally made a picture (that I like) with my new camera. I feel like I'm back in the first grade of camera school.

Monday, April 11, 2011

9 1/2 years later

My son Max will graduate from college in one short month. Yes, it seems like about a minute ago that I was posting about how traumatic it was for me when he graduated from high school and headed out to sunny southern California.

Max is trying, as are most college grads, to figure out what's next.

The following is the charge I gave to him on the day he became a Bar Mitzvah. Nine and half years later, it actually still resonates. I sent it to him yesterday.

"Max, you often ask, 'What’s the point?' You get up every morning, eat breakfast, go to school, come home, play guitar, drums, soccer or tennis, talk to your friends, have dinner, work on the computer, do your homework, read and go to bed. Then you wake up and do it all over again the next day…and the next…and the next.

And consider this. Without any thought at all, you also do the following…every 24 hours…over and over again. And these are some really amazing feats:

-every day your heart beats 103,689 times
-your blood travels several miles
-you breathe 23,240 times
-you eat 3 ½ pounds of food
-you speak 4,800 words
-you exercise 7 million brain cells

That’s a lot to cram into one day.

So you’ve always had this nagging question: Why do we do the same things over and over again…what’s the point…where does it all lead?

It has become acceptable and even expected to travel at a fast pace… we each have too much to do – and we do too much too fast. In the middle of it all, I think we tend to forget why we are here. We have 24 hours each day. Are we using them the best way we can?

Consider this…

It takes just one heartbeat to perform an act of compassion. It takes just one breath to say, 'I love you.' It takes less than an ounce of food to energize an act of courage. It takes just a few words to speak a commitment. It takes a fraction of our brain cell capacity to think purposefully about social problems.

Any of these actions could convert a day of your choosing into the greatest day of your life.

Think about it: what is greater than love, stronger than hope, more powerful than an idea whose day has come?

I guess, Max , it’s a matter of timing. Starting tomorrow, you will have a whole day ahead of you. And then another, and then, God willing, another.

If you move slowly and live each moment to its fullest potential, perhaps you will start to realize that… one kind thought can lead to friendship… one good act can help make a better world… one bit of courage can lead to change and justice…one brilliant idea can re-shape society.

Max, you have so much to offer the world. You are a kind, smart, funny, curious and enterprising young man. You are artistic, a good problem solver, a patient and thoughtful friend. This world needs your contributions. Your task is to figure out a way to appreciate these things about yourself… then discover how to continue to share these wonderful attributes with the rest of us, day in and day out.

I think it’s kind of like playing the guitar. When you put the right finger on the right fret at the right time, you can make a beautiful sound…. and maybe even a difference in someone’s life.

Take your time, Max. Make each day… each moment your own sound, and I think that in time you will discover the reason why you are playing

From Mom on the occasion of your Bar Mitzvah, December, 2001

Saturday, April 09, 2011

high tech grandparenting

When my ancestors wanted to have face time with their grandchildren, I imagine they simply shuffled across a dirt road or two within the shtetl or perhaps across the hall into the next room of the house.

When I wanted some face time with my own grandparents, Dearie (sweetest grandmother name ever) and Pawpaw, I hopped on my blue Schwinn and pedaled over to their house. (There was a drawer in their bedroom that was chock full of Juicy Fruit chewing gum and Sweet Tarts; I usually hit that up before settling on the couch for the aforementioned face time.)

Now it’s my turn to be a grandparent. And when I want face time with Henry, well, forget the walk across the road, the trek to another room or a bike ride to a nearby neighborhood.

It’s 2011; face time is just a few clicks away. It sure shortens the distance between Kansas City and New Orleans.

Henry is growing up thinking G-Lo is curiously flat with an unfortunately distorted face. She disappears every now and then without warning because of something called dropped calls. She does all the things other grandmothers do and have always done, though: she talks in a high, lilting voice, she makes funny faces, she sings songs, she blows kisses and she reaches out her hand. But she’s pretty small relative to other things in the room, and she’s encased in a small black frame.

Don’t get me wrong, I am so grateful for this new technology. I just want to be able to squeeze those cheeks. And Henry has not only cheeks suitable for squeezing. He’s also got a couple extra chins and some rolls on his arms and legs that put him right up there with the adorable Pillsbury dough boy.

Anyhow, last night I realized how funny the situation has become around our house. Eddie (Zayde… Yiddish for grandfather) and I race to our iPhones whenever new pictures or videos of Henry are posted. It’s like we’re drawing our six-shooters to see who’s the fastest.

Zayde and I were sitting on the couch when Abbie sent a 30 second movie of Henry laughing. Zayde pulled out his iPhone, and he and I watched it together a couple times. Then I pulled out mine, and we began hitting the replay button on our own respective phones, watching the giggling grandson over and over again.

I knew we’d finally gone over the edge when we held our phones side by side and created a set of twins. The two images of Henry giggled back and forth at each other while we waved our phones around in the darkened room. Zayde and I were so pleased with ourselves. In our minds, we had topped the” babbling boy twins” video that went viral last week and landed the parents on Ellen, Good Morning America and the NBC Nightly News (just to name a few).

Pretty funny, don't you think?

Maybe you had to be there.

What would my great-great-great grandparents, sitting around in the darkened room of their home have thought? Whoa, I hate to think.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

sponsored students: nicky and eddie

You may have read about Nicholas (Nicky) before. He’s one of the children I met very early on in 2006 and whose fantastic artwork has been featured on my blog in the past. I have always had a particularly soft spot in my heart for this gentle, caring, funny, artistic young man.

Nicky is 15. He’s been at the orphanage since 2005. Both of his parents were killed by LRA rebels during the civil war in the northern part of Uganda. He comes from the Lira district; his family’s tribe is called Langi.

Nicky’s two younger sisters are Izzy and Petra. He enjoys dancing, playing basketball and football (soccer) and reading novels. (He does an absolute killer impression of Michael Jackson; his moonwalk would make MJ proud.) On the academic side, he's one of our top performing sponsored students. Nicky wants to be a famous artist and sell his work all over the world. He especially loves painting the human figure and animals.

In his own words:

“I believe in myself - that I can make it. I see people in poor conditions that have become good people & I want to do the same. President Obama inspires me. My aunties and uncles inspire me. They had a poor mother, but they are now living a happy life. Even before my father was killed, he was a traveler, a bus driver to other countries. He worked hard and had a happy life.”

At 17 years old, Eddie is a very friendly, sweet young man. He’s lived at SMK since he was ten. His father died when he was five, and his mother currently works in the market in Entebbe. He is from the Bugandan tribe.

Eddie’s a good drummer. He’s also an excellent football (soccer) player. He plays for his school team and is one of the most talented and respected players.

In his own words:

“I don’t know that my father ever really loved me. My mother said that she and my father were very happy until I was born. When I was young, my father left my mother and me, and he married my stepmother. He had other children with my stepmother. When my father died, my stepmother made my family move from my father’s house. We could not take any of our belongings with us. I have not liked my stepmother since that day. My mother works very hard in the Entebbe marketplace to provide some school fees for my sister, my brothers, and me. I love my mother very much. She is a good woman. I also love football. My football coach brought me to St. Mary Kevin when I was younger. He wanted me to continue to play football, and I live to play football. Rosemary recruited me because I am an orphan and because I am talented at football. I now play at my school. I love SMK because they give me food. I get to see my mother and siblings once in a while. To me, family is the people who live together and do the same things together. I have two families, my one at SMK and my mother and siblings.”

Eddie works hard in school and wants to either be an accountant or a professional football player. His favorite professional team (and he is a rabid fan!) is Manchester United.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

paper beads

I’d like to think that whenever I go to Uganda I teach a few things to the kids.

Of course, I also learn a few things.

This past December some of the older girls showed a group of us how to make the beautiful paper beads that they string onto bracelets, necklaces and earrings. I admit I wasn’t very successful and didn’t actually complete anything that day. But I did come home remembering how to make them.

Next week I’ll be speaking about Change the Truth during “Africa Day” at Pembroke Hill School. I’m giving a presentation to the middle school students in the morning. In the afternoon I’m conducting hands-on workshops with the students. During those, we’re going to make paper beads! The students will make earrings to sell as a fundraising project.

I needed to make sure I could actually make the beads and create earrings! So I set up shop at my dining room table and had a date last evening with an old magazine, an exacto knife, glue, varnish and some jewelry making supplies I picked up at a local bead store.

Voila!! A pair of earrings was born.

I can't wait to see what the group of middle school "kids helping kids" will create next week.

And I can’t wait to show this pair of earrings to my teachers at the orphanage!

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

toms: a day without shoes

Experience what millions of people in the world go through every day.

Go barefoot today.

TOMS is an ultra cool company. Whenever you buy a pair of their comfy cotton or canvas shoes, they give a new pair of shoes to a child in need. One for One. Using the purchasing power of individuals to benefit the greater good is what they're all about. The TOMS mission transforms customers into benefactors, which allows TOMS to grow a truly sustainable way of giving, rather than depending on fundraising for support.

There is no “TOM”; the founder’s name is actually Blake Mycoskie. TOMS is an abbreviation for “Shoes for a Better Tomorrow”, but they couldn’t get that on the back of a shoe, so they shortened it to TOMS.

WHY DOES TOMS GIVE AWAY SHOES? (As of last September, they'd given away a over a million pairs!)

Why not water or medicine or something else? While all those are important, shoes have been shown to be a fundamental resource for protecting children from rough terrain, infection, and soil-based diseases.

Shoes have value beyond being critical for physical health. Many schools in developing countries require shoes for attendance. And some soil-based diseases not only cause physical symptoms, but create cognitive impairment too, crippling a child’s long- term potential. It’s simply just a fact that in many developing countries, children must walk barefoot for miles to school, clean water and medical help. Hundreds of millions of children are at risk of injury, infection and soil-transmitted diseases that most can’t afford to prevent and treat. Healthy, educated kids make for positive change in their villages and communities. That can ultimately lead to positive change for everyone.

Take 'em off, people! Raise awareness. Start a conversation with someone who does not know. Change a mind. And then change some lives.

Monday, April 04, 2011

school days

Want to know what high school is like in Uganda? The following report from Melissa, the CTT/SMK Liaison, spells it out.

Kajjansi Progressive Senior Secondary School is located in the heart of Kajjansi, Uganda (a small village a short distance south of Uganda’s capital city of Kampala). Kajjansi Progressive is a mixed boarding secondary school (with some day scholars) that provides a comprehensive education program from senior one to senior six. The School has been in operation for 19 years.

Change The Truth has a total of 14 students currently attending Kajjansi Progressive. Seven students are in the boarding section, and seven students are day scholars. Kajjansi Progressive has demonstrated exceptional understanding and support of the emotional and educational needs of the orphans from St. Mary Kevin. (Most of our other sponsored secondary students attend Bethel Covenant College.)

Students who are in Senior 1 and Senior 2 take 16 courses during each term. They are as follows: English, Mathematics, History, Geography, Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Commerce, Computer, Christian (or Islamic) Religious Education, Political Education, Luganda, French, Agriculture, Literature, Fine Arts. Students in Senior 3 and Senior 4 take 10 subjects. Senior 5 and Senior 6 students take 4 subjects.

Boarding Students’ Daily School Schedule (Monday-Friday):

5:00a-6:00a Morning Class Prep Work
6:00a-7:00a Morning Prayer (Lead by students grouped within their religious denomination) and Breakfast
7:00a-4:40p Classes (one hour lunch break during the day)
4:40p-5:30p Extracurricular Activities or Organized Indoor games –or—Extra Lessons for Senior 4/ Senior 6 candidates (organized in small groups)
5:30p-6:00p Evening Dinner
7:30p-9:30p Evening Class Prep Work
10:00p Lights out within Dormitories
Note: All Progressive Students have School ½ day on Saturday, and all Boarding students attend church service for their religious denomination on Sunday.

As you can see, Secondary School in Uganda is serious business. Change the Truth does all it can to help make it a successful experience for the orphans/half orphans who qualify. CTT provides everything from the school uniform and books to toilet paper and a broom. We are so lucky to have Melissa watching over the kids now. She has told me that when she pulls up at the school in a taxi or on a boda-boda, the sponsored students go crazy with excitement that she has come to see them. Because of the strict and disciplined nature of the Ugandan schools, though, visits are few and far between.

Melissa is the “parent” who proudly shows up at Kajjansi Progressive and Bethel for the official Visitation Day. She usually brings along several of the students’ younger siblings. She attends the parent meeting and gets a chance to speak with many of the teachers about the individual progress of our sponsored kids.

Melissa also delivers "sponsor gifts" to the students. These include: one kilo of sugar, a small bottle of tomato sauce, a small jug of juice, one bar of wash soap, one fork and one covered bowl with lid.

She also hands out sponsor or pen pal letters and doles out encouraging words. And last, but far from least, she gives (and gets) a lot of hugs.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

sponsored students: samuel and alex

One of the great advantages of having Melissa live and work at St. Mary Kevin is that she is involved up close and personal with the students who are being sponsored by Change the Truth. Melissa helps the children register for school, gather the supplies they need and sees them off each morning (if they are day scholars) and visits on Visitation Days (if they are boarders). Melissa recently shared with me the daily regime that is required of the boarding students, along with some interesting facts about the schools themselves. She also described a typical Visitation Day. I'd like to pass this good information on, but first I want to introduce you to two more of our sponsored kids, both of whom attend Kajjansi Progressive Secondary School. Samuel and Alex are both "half orphans" (one parent is still living).

Samuel is 15. He arrived at SMK when he was 11. Sam's mother lives in a village and sells alcohol. His father was killed by the rebels, and he doesn't remember when. in his words: "I came to SMK because I wanted help. I wasn't going to school, and I knew I could go to school here. A football (soccer) coach, Michael, brought me here. Change the Truth supports me. I want to study and have a better life so I can help my sisters, Charity and Irene. I want to become an aerospace engineer and build airplanes. My favorite subjects are math, physics and chemistry. My talents are football (soccer), acrobatics and yoga. My friends who I study with at SMK are my inspiration."

Alex is 16. His mother lives in a village, and his father died when he was too young to remember. He has a brother, Bob, and a sister, Esther. In his words: "I came to SMK to be helped. I needed school fees to get my dreams in the future. I would like to be a great lawyer. I like to study laws. I came to SMK to make friends. I don’t usually see my mother. If I wasn’t at SMK, I would be home doing nothing. I like to sing, dance, play drums, and I like to play football, volleyball and swim."

In my next post, you will learn more about the school Sam and Alex attend. They are day scholars, which means they come back at the end of the school day to stay at SMK. The schedule imposed on their classmates who are boarders demands a slightly more disciplined life style. (As a new policy put into place this year, CTT sponsored students who are just entering the program begin as boarders.) You will be impressed by what is expected of all these dedicated teenagers.