September 13, 2011
Next month Isis Initiative, Inc. will celebrate three years of service.
It started as a gesture of thanks that became the seed of an idea that bloomed into a grass-roots international non-profit.
Many of you know the story: how I skipped covering the Iraq War only to injure myself in the Philippines. The young woman, Leah Mamhot, who sat by my hospital bedside, had dreams of attending college and becoming a teacher. The tuition and fees were beyond her means; I offered to pay her way.
When friends–and strangers–heard the story of Leah’s dream and her hard work, they offered to help.
I created Isis Initiative, Inc. with a lot of support from friends and family. From lawyers at Jeanne Smith and Associates in Corvallis, Oregon to Louise Barker and Mike Corwin at OSU Federal Credit Union to Mike McInally, publisher of the Corvallis Gazette-Times, who ran a December holiday story about our fledgling efforts.
Isis Initiative, Inc. is a shared accomplishment. And there are three people–friends and former colleagues–who stepped up and have stayed the course. They have volunteered and served as board members since day one.
Samanda Dorger teaches journalism at Solano Community College in Napa, California, and works with the students at their college newspaper, The Tempest. Sam and I attended grad school in the School of Visual Communication at Ohio University, worked at the Naples Daily News (FL) together and have found ways to meet for adventures in Paris, Lahaina and Anchorage over the years of our friendship. Sam is our treasurer…though her real talent and contribution is design. She created our website and our newsletter.
Melanthia Peterman is a my former colleague at the Associated Press, a wife and mother of two who runs her own business, Little Sprouts Gardening. Melanthia is our secretary and she has offered me the sanctuary and hospitality of her home and garden many times. We frequently hold our board meetings in a teleconference from her Seattle dining room.
I’ve known Alice Anderson since she was a baby. Her mother and father and I attended Oregon State University together…and worked on the college paper. Alice is a senior at College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, Maine. She brings youth and fresh ideas to our table. She created our Facebook presence and convinced me to embrace social media.
This month, I’m sending them my thanks..and a gift…for their service.
I found the perfect gift…a book by women celebrating women and their wisdom: “I Am Because We Are” by Betty Press.
I first met Betty Press when she and her husband, Bob, were living in Nairobi, Kenya and working for the Christian Science Monitor. We were all covering the famine and civil war in Somalia. They were generous, kind hosts, offering me shelter and hospitality in their home when I would return from the madness of Mogadishu.
Bob and Betty returned to Africa, this time to Sierra Leone, in 2008, when Bob received a Fulbright. They have now helped us identify five young women in Sierra Leone who are candidates for scholarships.
Betty’s photographs and her beautiful book are indeed the perfect gift. Purchasing the books, I support the decades of humanitarian and documentary work of an esteemed colleague. Offering the books, I share the stories and wisdom of African women with my friends, who’ve joined me on a journey to help women get access to a college education…and wherever that journey may lead them.
Thank you for your service. Samanada. Melanthia. Alice. Betty.
November 14, 2009
It’s stated with the upsweep intonation of a question.
“What are you doing back at the GT?
I’m sitting in Francesco’s gelato cafe in downtown Corvallis. I sometimes sit in a comfy chair by the window in the evenings and write my blog entry, taking advantage of their free wi-fi and the lively atmosphere.
I look up and toward the direction of the voice.
Karl Maasdam. With his wife and two lovely daughters.
I have answers. None are easy. Or short. None that can quickly respond to a man with his family waiting by the door to exit.
“My non-profit,” I say.
Karl worked at the Gazette-Times as a staff photographer after I left a position vacant when I went to graduate school. He eventually left the newspaper to start his own successful photography business in town.
I had asked myself the same question before I accepted the job. Why return? There were many reasons not to return.
Yet, I wanted to write again and I wanted a steady income stream–to help nourish and support the growth of Isis Initiative, Inc. For two years, Isis Initiative has been my passion and my focus–on my time. I made those volunteer hours work by working independently–and sporadically.
I wrote freelance articles. I received a Writer-in-Residence appointment from Fishtrap. Inc. last spring. I taught high school journalism and photography in Condon and Fossil, Oregon. I did public relations and media consulting.
I had freedom–time to focus on my health and my nonprofit. I loved those years of liberty–and I struggled in them.
I chose a time of solitude and healing.
Now I’ve chosen to use my time and talent in service to my local community while I build a nonprofit that serves women worldwide.
I get paid to write. I have the privilege and sacred trust of listening to people’s stories and sharing them with others.
And, I have a stable income that grounds me as I grow the nonprofit. (It would be great if President and First Lady Obama would respond to my letters and donate some of the Nobel Peace Prize award money to Isis Initiative.)
I’m working locally and making a difference globally.
I put my cameras down. I didn’t want to carry them anymore–nor carry the burden of the events and images I’ve photographed over the past two decades covering breaking news and war.
I photograph now when I write. I see details and capture them–write them down. I arrange vignettes of a story as if I were moving slides on a light table to prepare a slide show.
I am still a visual storyteller. And I dig it.
June 30, 2009
First, a shout out to Francesco’s, the lovely gelato shop in downtown Corvallis. I’m sitting in a comfy chair by the window, laptop on my lap, composing this post. (I’m not having gelato: I’m helping myself to the free Internet access.)
Today marks the end of our first full fiscal year. We haven’t accomplished all our goals, especially where fundraising is concerned; yet, we’ve made great progress. Our paperwork for 501(c)(3) status is with the IRS. We’re registered with the Oregon Department of Justice. We hosted two fundraising events.
Thanks to Phil McClain, who works at Oregon State University and has volunteered his time and expertise to create a database for us.
Michael Peterman (husband of Melanthia, our secretary) gave us a generous donation to close our books on a high note.
We have much to celebrate this year and much to do in the coming year. Hint: Anyone who’d like to host a fundraiser or has ideas on ways to raise money and/or awareness for our organization, please let us know. A golf tournament? A dance? A photo exhibit?
I’m heading home now to call Leah. I usually call her at 9 or 10 p.m. and find her 16 hours ahead in the Philippines. We’re working on the selection of the next scholarship candidate. I’ll save the report on the latest hiccups in our process for my next post.
June 6, 2009
As I was putting the final touches on our Form 1023 for the the IRS, I discovered that our application would eventually become public record.
As a career journalist, I realized I wanted our documents and our narrative to be picture perfect. At the last minute, I reached out to my friend Martha Anderson, who is a professional copy editor with a long and accomplished career working for the Oregon state legislature.
Martha and I were journalism majors at Oregon State University and worked together at the student newspaper, The Daily Barometer. She was the editor and I was a reporter and photographer. Martha’s daughter, Alice, is on our board of directors. Our friendship spans more than two decades.
Martha has a heavy and demanding workload. Yet, when I asked her if she’d be willing to look over our documents with her keen copy editor’s eye, she agreed. On a Sunday afternoon, when she could have been working in her garden or reading a book…or plain relaxing…she took the time and the care to honor a friend’s request.
Now I feel confident submitting our application. I know it’s been finely polished and handled with care.
Thank you, Martha.
April 21, 2009
My friend Jeanene was my guest at a community event tonight, sponsored by the Corvallis chapter of Zonta. Founded in 1919, Zonta International is a global organization of executives and professionals working together to advance the status of women worldwide through service and advocacy.
In March in celebration of International Women’s Day, Zonta presented me with a yellow rose to honor me for Isis Initiative’s work funding and promoting women’s education. I was guest for the program “Rose Day Honors: Helping Women Return to College.”
Tonight I want to acknowledge my friend Jeanene and all the women and girls who support Zonta’s mission.
Jeanene helped me create the three-year projected budget for Isis for our IRS Form 1023. It was Jeanene’s idea to use my photo note cards as a fundraiser for Isis Initiative. Jeanene organized our card party when we assembled our first 50 sets of cards.
And tonight, when the women asked “How can we help?”, Jeanene stood and gave a heartfelt pitch for our notecards. She collected $210.
I am grateful for Jeanene’s friendship (of 17 years we just realized tonight) and for her support of Isis Initiative, Inc. And for her iPhone photo that accompanies this post.
I didn’t know about Zonta before my yellow rose. At tonight’s meeting, I met local women from all professions and backgrounds with a common passion: uplifting women. Girls from Crescent Valley and Corvallis High Schools spoke about their work in Z-Clubs; many are sophomores who impressed me with their clarity, compassion and sense of purpose.
Zonta, like Isis Initiative, Inc., is an all-volunteer organization. Thank you!