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.

Women Helping Women

April 11, 2010

Beth Rietveld is the director of the Women’s Center at Oregon State University. In the past, she’s admired my photographs and asked to exhibit them next fall. In February 2009, she attended our Mardi Gras fundraiser. 

Kurdish women who have lost their husbands and homes hope for assistance as they wait outside the parliament building of self-declared Free Kurdistan in Irbil. November 1993

Recently, she purchased 100 of our notecards to use for thank-you notes for the center. 

With that purchase, she made a donation to support our work; and, each time she sends a note, she helps share our message and our work.

We are proud and appreciative of the support. Thank you, Beth.

“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.”

Our First Fiscal Year

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.

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.

Hang on.

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.

Lost and Found

January 29, 2009

I had a ripping headache today. And it was my last swim workout before the swim-a-thon this weekend, so I went to the pool anyway. A tight swimming cap and googles pressing into my eye sockets. I was whimpering in no time.

Our instructor made an announcement: someone lost a ring in the pool last night. She suggested we could keep a look out for it as we swam.

Around me the voices bounced off the walls and the water: You can’t find a ring in this pool. It’s better to look when the pool is empty.

I raised my hand: What color is the ring? Silver, my instructor replied. 

I swam a lap. When I reached the wall, I said: I thought I saw something that looked like a ring. Elizabeth said: You were looking? I was swimming with my eyes closed.  Yeah, I was looking, I thought. I’m swimming. I might as well look for the ring, too.

On my second lap, I noticed the silver circle on the mosaic of white tiles on the bottom of the pool. I dived down and put my fingers on the ring. I surfaced in triumph, holding the ring in the air. Lady of the Lake meets Lord of the Rings.

The instructor announced I’d found the ring. Now the sound of clapping and cheers bounced off the water and walls.

When the lifeguard came to get the ring, I held onto it for a minute to study it. It had serious heft. A man’s ring. It had intricate engraving around the complete outer circumference of the band: a small cross with rounded edges and, to the right of the cross, an infinity sign. There was also a rose and some entwined vines.

I followed the lifeguard to get the story. The owner was in a fraternity, playing water polo last night when he lost the ring. He stayed late, after everyone left, swimming, searching for it. He left a note and his name and number. The guard said he’d call him after class.

I got back in the pool. I started getting nauseous after a few flip turns. I bailed after 30 minutes of practice.

But I thought about the ring as I walked home. About the confluence of events that led to its discovery, of its eventual return to its owner.

I went to class in spite of my headache. I listened and accepted the appeal to look for the ring. I had the intention and the belief that I could find the ring. And it appeared right under me in my lane, one of nine lanes, with three or four swimmers in each one.

So, I wonder. Which came first? Was the ring there all along and called to me to find it? Or did my intention and my belief (and the owner’s) put that ring where I could find it? So that it materialized for me because I believed and therefore I could see it? Or is it both? Or neither?

What I do know is that I feel the same way about the creative process, about a project or a journey or an adventure, like Isis Initiative, Inc.

First: an intention. Second: a belief that it’s possible. Third: acting on that intention with an expectation that a positive result is possible.

Because I’m a journalist and I’m just plain curious, I called the number I’d memorized for Abe, the ring’s owner. Hi, this is Cheryl Hatch. He sounded distant, confused. I found your ring. Oh. Thank you.

Not a lot of information forthcoming.

You’re in a frat? Yes. Which one? Sigma Phi Epsilon. You lost it playing water polo? It’s a beautiful ring. I noticed the cross and the infinity symbol. 

It’s a promise ring, Abe said. I’d almost given up hope.

Almost, I thought.