Party On

October 10, 2010

J arrived today, welcomed by me and grey skies at Seattle-Tacoma Airport. And so much laughter. It’s one of the best things about hanging with my brother: he’s funny and quick-witted.

We went straight to Taste of India for lunch, shopping for beer and snacks at the Metropolitan Market, then we settled in to watch the SF Giants v. Atlanta Braves.

We just returned from a walk round Green Lake. Tomorrow we head for Corvallis.

J has been a great patron of Isis Initiative, Inc.  Join us on Oct. 16 for our fundraiser and performance by the J Hatch Trio.

Thank you to Beth Rietveld and Sam Stern for hosting the party.

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Jody Williams, 1997 Nobel laureate, signed my journal after I interviewd her during PeaceJam at Oregon State University on April 24, 2010.

I met Jody Williams at Starker Arts Garden for Education near Corvallis, Oregon. She had joined a group of PeaceJam students for a community outreach project. I was interviewing her for a daily feature for our Sunday community section front.

As we walked up a path toward the garden, I told her that I had been an international correspondent, that I had covered conflict and its aftermath, focusing on those caught in the crossfire. I told her I never liked being called a war photographer. Sure, it sounds sexy to some people. It sounds dangerous and exotic. It has mystique and cachet, this title of war photographer. But it wasn’t the right label for me. I wasn’t interested in the bang-bang although the bullets and bombs sometimes came with the package.

In my work, I had noticed it was the men who were shooting, killing people and getting high. It was the women who were volunteering in the orphanages and the hospitals. The women were running the businesses and the markets. I focused my attention and my lenses on the women and children.

I thanked her for her work on the campaign to ban land mines. I told her it was an honor to meet her. I told her about Isis Initiative, Inc. and she told me about her organization, the Nobel Women’s Initiative.

She said she would offer us her support and gave me her contact information. I’m inspired by her willingness to engage so openly with our work and mission. I believe there are good opportunities for support and collaboration between our organizations.

Thank you, Jody, for your support, your activism and your commitment to gender justice and peace.

When I accepted a full-time job at our local newspaper last fall, I thought I would be grounding myself. I imagined a regular routine and paycheck would support my work on Isis Initiative, Inc. Turns out the job can sometimes be more grinding than grounding. I found myself spending less time on the nonprofit–and less time on this blog, obviously.

Yet, the job has presented me with new opportunities to share the work and make wonderful contacts. Last week I interviewed Sandy Neubaum, the associate director of the Austin Entrepreneurship Program at Oregon State University. Sandy is a dynamic, passionate advocate for “doing good while doing well,” using business practices and profits to address social issues. She has 20 years experience working in nonprofit organization. Doing my job covering the higher education beat, I met a fabulous new mentor.

Sandy teaches BA162, a class in social entrepreneurship. Students divide into teams and create a fundraising project. She gives them $100 to invest and they’re expected to turn at least $150 in profit. Those profits are then invested in real nonprofit organizations.

When I was observing Sandy in class, she mentioned Isis Initiative, Inc. She asked me to give an impromptu five-minute speech about Isis and our work helping women overseas gain access to college education. Isis Initiative, Inc. is one of the nonprofits to which the students may choose to donate at the end of the term. I was so surprised and honored to have Isis selected.

Now we’ll see what the students do. Stay tuned.

“A quality education has the power to transform societies in a single generation, provide children with the protection they need from the hazards of poverty, labor exploitation and disease, and given them the knowledge, skills, and confidence to reach their full potential.” — Audrey Hepburn

My friend, Theresa Hogue, who works at Oregon State University, posted this on Facebook today. Thank you, Theresa.

Ms. Hepburn’s insight is perfect for International Women’s Day. And it speaks perfectly to the mission of Isis Initiative, Inc. It speaks to the power of education. I would add “the power of educating women.”

Check in the Mail

January 18, 2010

I went to our post office box on Saturday and found a plain white envelope addressed to Isis Initiative, Inc. No return address. I opened it to find a card and opened the card to find a check. I unfolded the check. $5,000. I read the number twice. Then I read the handwritten “five thousand” to be certain. (I won’t reveal more without the donor’s permission.)

I immediately thought: How many women can we send to college? I was giddy at such a generous and unexpected donation. Then I picked up the phone and called our board members to share the great news and my joy.

The money is great. And the check is so much more valuable than the numbers after the dollar sign. It’s a statement of support. It’s a testament of faith. It’s an acknowledgement of the value of the work we do and it’s a miracle. It demonstrates the possibilities when hearts and stories connect. When one  person’s story, one person’s words moves another person to act. It’s a shiny example of the power of women to make a difference in the lives of other women…and thereby make a difference for everyone.

I am humbled and elated. And inspired.

Picture Perfect

December 18, 2009

Alice Anderson found this painting during a Web search and we decided it would be a perfect fit for our thank-you card for our donors. The painting is by Filipina artist C.P. Adorio and she gave us permission to use it. We're thrilled.

Alice Anderson is in town for the holidays. Alice is a board member and a college student at College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, Maine. I’m refreshed by and grateful for Alice’s energy and perspective.

We had lunch at our local favorite McMennamins and trolled the Web looking for images of textiles from Africa and the Philippines, trying to find colors and patterns that would represent the countries and women we hope to serve with our scholarship program.

Alice discovered this blog: http://cesandherdishes.blogspot.com/. It features the work of a Filipina artist, C.P. Adorio. When we found the painting of the three women in traditional attire in a rural setting, we thought it was perfect for our purposes.

Oh, the power of technology. We sent the artist an e-mail and explained the mission and work of Isis Initiative, Inc. and asked if she’d be willing to let us use her photo on thank-you note for our donors.

The next day we received an enthusiastic response from Ces, the artist. Today I received a large jpeg file. And I learned she lives in Houston. We had imagined she was in the Philippines. I’d like to meet her and see her work in person.

Thank you, Ces. Thank you, Alice.

A Good Question

November 14, 2009

Cheryl?

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.

Good question. He’s the first to ask it directly since I returned to the Gazette-Times on October 28, 2009.

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.