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

Sunday, September 29, 2013

in my room: some photographs

the view from my bedroom window

My parents built our family home in 1959. My room has pretty much always been the same. Unfortunately, the shocking pink shag carpet was pulled up last year. 

Spending so much time in my old room this week brought a lot of different emotions to the surface. Of course, I tried to process them them by making pictures.

Friday, September 27, 2013

in my room

I’ve been hole up in my childhood bedroom for the past 2½ days. During a visit with my dad, a vestibular migraine snuck up from behind and knocked me for a loop. So, here I am, snug under my old pink blanket staring out at the wallpaper that is a sea of green and pink flowers and butterflies.

I’ve been thinking about sounds. When I was a kid, there were the sounds of my friends playing outside the window, my mom calling us to dinner, songs from my record player, requests on the radio and my siblings in their rooms talking. Now I hear the squeak of my father’s walker as he pushes it down the hallway, the ding ding ding of Wheel of Fortune, the canned laugh track from some worn sitcom, the ring tone of a caregiver’s cell phone and a cough or sneeze from my dad’s room. The sweetest sounds by far, though, have been the occasional...

“Glor?” coming very softly from my father as he pulls up close and parks himself at my bedroom door. “Glor?” is long and drawn out (two syllables), just as it should be with a proper Kentucky accent. It’s sweet and slightly strained just as it should be coming from a man who is 92 years old.

He stands there for a moment to see if I’m awake. I turn my head slowly toward the door and tell him I’m OK. He’s worried about me.

Yesterday there was a small bowl of Jell-O on my bedside table. He spotted it when he poked his head in the door just after the “Glor?”. I was lying in bed trying to decide whether or not to eat it.

We looked at each other for a few moments, and then he asked, “Do you want me to feed it to you?”

I thought about saying yes, just so I could savor the experience. But I knew it would be hard for him, I knew I could do it myself and, anyway

my tears were kind of getting in the way. 

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

the five stars

The Five Stars: Emison, Tony, Rose, Claire and Oscar

I just realized I have been blogging for seven years. My first post was 9/23/06. Man oh man.

But the really cool realization of the day is that over the course of these seven years, a lot has changed for the children at St. Mary Kevin Orphanage. A LOT.

Here is a guest post written by Monique Udo, a talented Dutch musician/teacher who first contacted me two years ago after she found out about Change the Truth via the internet. Monique became a member of one of the CTT teams and has returned on her own several times. She is one of the most dedicated and hard working teachers I've ever met, and she has worked wonders with the young musicians at SMK - primarily the horn players.

This is her account of the rise of five shining stars, two of whom are CTT sponsored students (a third will become a sponsored student when he graduates from primary school this December).

I love this story. I love that it is a true story. And I love that I can share it with you because of this whacky, wonderful world of blogging.





The story of The Five Stars.

It’s hard to believe that is was only August 2011 when Tony, Oscar and Emison blew their first tones on the saxophone and even more difficult to believe that Rose and Claire started only one year ago…

This is how it all started: in 2011 I came to SMK for three weeks and taught the three boys the basics of saxophone playing and note reading.  How these guys were eager to learn! In the morning they would show up early at my door, ready to play, and only when it became dark, we would stop. After three weeks, it was clear that I planted seeds in fertile soil and that we would be on a journey together.

In December 2011, I came back, together with CTT Team 5, and took it from were we left it in August. That Christmas, at the talent show, I played Hava Nagila with Tony and Oscar and I could feel the power of these young players very clearly as they went into playing the song faster and faster. Some time after this visit, I suggested to Tony, in a telephone conversation, that it would be nice to form a bigger saxophone group. I mentioned the names of Rose and Claire as potential members. Later I heard that Tony went ahead, stepped up to the girls and told them that I said that they had to join the saxophone group. Not only did he do that, he started to teach them how to play the sax, with the help of Oscar and Emison. When I came back in August 2012 I couldn’t believe my eyes and ears: Rose was playing the saxophone and sounded like she had been my own pupil for a few years!

Claire was still an absolute beginner at that moment; she needed something to trigger her more.
It came in the possibility for them to go on a trip to Rwanda and join me there in a music week at the Kigali Music School in October 2012.  Again, I was flabbergasted with what they had done, preparing themselves for this trip without me and without much help from anyone. Together they had helped Claire to raise her level, and once settled, Claire was very, very convincing.  Actually, the girls lifted the group to another level with their dancing movements and radiant stage personalities. In preparation for the trip to Rwanda they had chosen a name for themselves: The Five Stars.

And that is exactly what they are. Five shining stars, rising and rising.

During my visit last month, the rollercoaster built up more speed when I introduced them to the famous Ugandan saxophone player and TV personality Isaiah Katumwa. Through him, they got the opportunity to join the boot camp of the Ugandan Talent search, Talent XP. They were introduced as guests (they were too young to enter the competition) of Isaiah Katumwa who is a judge on the show, and they stayed for 5 days in a big mansion in Kampala with the other competitors. On their last day, they performed together with Isaiah before the cameras, the judges and other participants.

I’m sure that they will have more and more beautiful opportunities coming their way, because these five teenagers have got it all: talent, dedication, team spirit, courage and belief in themselves.

- Monique

[If you are a sax player or know a sax player or had a parent who was a sax player or you long to be a sax player or you love jazz or you love young, aspiring musicians or you simply want to lend a helping hand, please contact me ASAP. We have some plans in the works for The Five Stars that involves a bit of a financial investment. If you would like to help (and I guarantee it is the coolest plan ever, and you will love it) please get in touch. I will fill you in. Please email me at gbfeinstein(at)aol(dot)com.]

And now, please enjoy The Five Stars playing "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy":

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

fun with play-doh

Eleanor Macnair has been making Play-Doh pictures of some of her favorite photographs. Macnair is a press officer at the National Portrait Gallery. 

One of her creations happens to be inspired by of one of my all-time favorite photographs; above is her Play-Doh interpretation of Arbus’ "Boy with Toy Grenade.”
Macnair explains that each image takes around an hour to create and shoot. ‘I have six pots of Play-Doh which I create all of the photographs with, so this explains the limited colour palette’, she says.
‘It is honestly just a bit of fun and I wouldn't want anyone to take it seriously. I shared them with a small group of friends and it really just grew from there.
‘My hope is that maybe it will introduce a new audience to some of my favourite photographs or re-introduce those who are already familiar with the works, so they start to really look at the photographs again, the content and the context.’
Initially, she says, the pictures were created in the evening and left overnight before shooting in daylight, but they tended to dry up, so now the process is to take the photographs 'straight away.'
‘None of the copies exist anymore. They are all crumpled back up in their respective pots, waiting for the next time I have a spare hour.’”
- from BBC News in Pictures

Here are some more of Macnair's clever, albeit short-lived pieces. Can you guess these other famous photos by which she was inspired?

Friday, September 20, 2013


I'm in New Orleans enjoying my children and grandchildren. The house in which they live is such a peaceful, happy place - so obviously centered on the children.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

guest post from melissa: a response to natalie

Our Moureen… what a blossoming flower!  Moureen is a testimony to the power of love and nurturing.  After you returned home, Moureen really became the center of our household.  Each person took time with her…singing, writing, physical activities, playing, laughing.  We would be happily surprised as Moureen began to emerge… she is VERY smart!  She loves to sing (loudly)… one of her favorites repetitive lines is ‘I got no worries’ from Little Wayne (Antwain’s influence).  She speaks good English, Luganda, and her tribal language.  She is very observant and comprehends quickly.  We worked on numbers, letters, colors, and shapes this holiday.  She is partial to the big boys, and she LOVES their attention.  Her favorite was Brian (good taste in friends), cause he would talk to her and patiently play the same little games over and over with her.  Moureen became my little shadow, and we have really bonded.  I have fallen head-over-heels in love with her.  
 At the recommendation of a local doctor, I did not end up taking her for blood tests.  I very intentionally infused lots of proteins, calcium, and vitamins into her diet (instead of using medications), and the results were positive.  Her skin became clearer and filled out.  Her body strength noticeable improved (she runs, jumps, and climbs).  She gained 3 kilograms.  There is no food that I have found she does not like.  

She is sleeping at school with the big girls, which is the best for her long-term.  I have spent quality time with her daily, but her challenge is transitioning back.  Again, still a work in progress… However, her peers and staff have been pleased and surprised by her increased sociability and hearing her voice.  She is being showered with lots of love and attention at the school, which is something that she needs and responds to.  Just yesterday she sang ‘Pretty Moureen’ over and over again, and my heart was so happy!!

Thank you for all of your love and affection with her.  I showed her your Facebook photo with her.  She screeched and covered her eyes with a HUGE smile on her face.  She knows that she is loved by you!!  Here is a photo in her school uniform… a big school girl.  She is learning to write A, 1, 2, and 3, and she does very good work.  I will continue to update you on her progress, because I believe she is not yet done flourishing!!
- Melissa

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

guest post by natalie

I met Maureen within minutes of arriving in Uganda for the second time. Her tiny little body held in Melissa’s arms under a blanket, as Lynne and I made our way through customs to meet our gracious host and Mama G who arrived a few days before us. It was very late, so I didn’t make much of the fact that she seemed unaffected by the commotion going on around her in the Entebbe airport. As we made our 30 minute journey to Kajjansi I learned, however, that she hadn’t been affected by much of anything in the few weeks that she had been at school. Melissa didn’t exactly know how or why she came to be at SMK, where her parents were, or even if she still had parents, but she did know that she wasn’t thriving. Her movements were labored, her face was expressionless, her appetite nonexistent. As I looked at her sweet face, half asleep on Mel’s shoulder, I fell completely and helplessly in love with her by the end of that car ride.

Over the next few days, we were rarely apart, and if we were, she was being showered with attention from Melissa, or one of her new sisters at school. And slowly, we all started to notice a change in the little girl whose age we can only guess at. She began to eat. (Anything we put in front of her for that matter.) Walking seemed to become less of chore for her. And then, most importantly I think, she smiled. And laughed. And played. And danced. And, in many ways, came alive.

Now, I will admit that our little Maureen has a long way to go. But I am a firm believer that the progress she has made can only be attributed to the time that the people around her have put in to showing her how much she is cared for. I, along with many others who have devoted the resources to visiting our young friends, are often questioned about why we spend the money to visit when we could be putting those funds toward other things. I have often struggled with an answer. Until today. From this day forward, my answer will always be “because of Maureen.”

This tiny little girl has reminded me of the most important gift that CTT gives to the children at SMK—love. It was the theme of this trip it seems, serendipitously marked by the Love Fest where we passed out necklaces with the phrase “I am loved” on them. And they all are. You cannot meet these children without feeling like you are getting far more from them then you will ever be able to return, but I guess that is the case when you really love anyone. As a group of volunteers we can raise money to provide food, school fees, and other daily necessities for the children at SMK—and these things are important. But what we can’t raise with money is a child’s self-esteem, sense of self-worth, and the feeling that someone, somewhere, cares about them. Those things are all acquired by giving away something far more valuable, but that we all have enough to share with everyone we meet.

- Natalie

Sunday, September 15, 2013

a music video you don't want to miss!

Here it is: the debut of Nicky's music video!!! Please watch it, enjoy it and share it. 

He goes by many names: Bo’nichomar, Nicky, and also, deservedly, Nicky Bieber (a la Justin Beiber.) At only 17, he has written and performed songs that, in my humble opinion, rival his namesake/ nickname. Our beloved Nicky’s most recent song is called “Amor,” which he recorded and produced in a Ugandan music studio. Yet in order for this to become the YouTube sensation we hope it will be, he needed video to accompany his recording. Enter Okecha Brian.

Brian, like Nicky, is a gifted artist, photographer and musician. Anyone who has the pleasure of meeting Brian is immediately touched by his kindness. His heart is just so big. HUGE. But enough raving about these young men. You get it. Back to Nicky, his song, and the video, with a little back story.

Over the years, I’ve shot a lot of video, but I’ve never done a music video. Although Nicky put his faith in me, and I certainly made a few attempts at shooting this, it was Brian who ultimately shot the video that is now “Amor.”

Nicky had a vision for how the video should look, how it should be shot, and where. After the most basic of video lessons, I gave Brian my camera and off they went in to the hills of Kajjansi, without me. I never doubted for a minute that together, they would come back with something special. And they did. Out in the field they didn’t have the recorded version of the song to actually synch with. So Nicky played it by heart. Brian trusted his creative instincts and well attuned eye. He gave it his all. The end result was beyond what I could have ever imagined.

Congratulations to Nicky and Brian on this wonderful collaboration. Here’s hoping for many more. Justin Bieber, watch out!

- Lynne