November 8, 2011
We are lucky to be working with Abdul Koligbonda Lebbie, who runs the Network on Disadvantaged Children. He located four more young women who are highly qualified and keen to attend college. Since this is our first year in Sierra Leone, we chose to select one scholarship recipient. Next year, we’ll look at our funds and Ms. Bangura’s success and decide how to continue. We are committed to funding Ms. Bangura’s entire university education.
Here’s what she wrote in her application essay (without corrections):
“I believe education is a right for all. This is appeared in the human rights documents Universal Declaration Human Rights–UDHR, UN Security Resolution 1325.
As an educated nurse/medical doctor, I personally will benefit economically as I will be well paid and will increase my respect in society. This will be able to help me educate my future children who will not suffer like me in terms of marginalisation.
I believe education will help me rise up above poverty and become a pillar in my family to help others.
It is my dream to establish a medical centre that will cater for the less previledge. I will also use my skill to increase awareness on health and sanitation in my community. My focus will be on maternal health, infant mortality, malaria and HIV/AIDS.
As a teenage girl, I grew up in a community plague with high rate of illiteracy and teenage pregnancy. It is my desire to mitigate the above situation with will hlep to increase participation in my community and Sierra Leone as a whole.”
We are honored to help support Ms. Bangura’s pursuit of her dream.
August 19, 2011
We are excited to announce we plan to offer a scholarship to a young woman in Sierra Leone. Lillian G. N. Baio completed secondary school with financial support through a program and grant by the International Rescue Committee. She wanted to continue her education, yet there were no additional funds available. She wants to major in Peace and Conflict studies and we want to help.
Sierra Leone is slowly recovering from 11 years of brutal civil war, which ended in 2002. If you’ve seen the movie “Blood Diamond” or read “A Long Way Gone” by Ishmael Beah, you know something of the war’s depravity and devastation. The average annual income is Sierra Leone is $220. The adult literacy rate is 27 percent (Source: UNESCO EFA Monitoring Report 2009), one of the lowest in the world.
We are grateful to friends of Cheryl Hatch, Bob and Betty Press, who recommended Lillian for a scholarship. Bob and Betty worked for years as journalists in Africa. When Bob received a Fulbright grant, the couple spent a year from 2008 to 2009 in Sierra Leone.
We expect to pay about $850 annually for tuition, room and board, books, uniforms and other expenses.
You can learn more about Isis Initiative, Inc. and our work at www.isisinitiative.org. You’ll find a link to our PayPal account if you’d like to support Lillian’s education.
April 28, 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.
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.
August 21, 2009
I was driving down I-5 on Wednesday, listening to NPR.
They reported a story about bombings in Baghdad, Iraq that killed at least 95 people. And then there was a story about the United Nations’ inaugural World Humanitarian Day, which honors, in part, aid workers who have been killed while rendering assistance to those in need. It specifically remembers and honors Sergio Vieira de Mello, who was killed in the Canal Hotel bombing in Baghdad in 2003.
I’ve also nearly finished “Dark Star Safari” by Paul Theroux. He writes about his return to Africa nearly 40 years after he lived in Malawi as a teacher with the Peace Corps. He travels overland from Cairo to Cape Town and recounts an Africa that is much changed…and not for the better. He notes the fancy Land Rovers and trademark white vehicles of aid organizations, symbols for him of the entrenched, institutionalized foreign donors and their programs that often do far more harm than good.
Between the broadcast, the book and our recent board meeting, I’ve been thinking a lot about giving aid and how to make a difference without causing damage. Actually, I’ve confronted this dilemma many times over the course of my life, particularly in my career as a journalist working overseas in areas of conflict. Sometimes humanitarians are not humane.
I remember well a day at a refugee camp in Liboi, Kenya. A photographer with the International Red Cross was shooting portraits of refugees for an ad campaign. He had a a Hasselblad camera in hand and several assistants culling a line of recent arrivals for the most photogenic subjects.
He asked a Somali mother to remove the cloth she had draped over her baby to protect him. He wanted to see the baby’s eyes while the mother wanted to shield her child from the sun and the flies. He posed the women against the shiny seamless white backdrop. She looked uncomfortable but she did what she was asked.
I was appalled. The eyes of the malnourished and starving are particularly sensitive to light. These refugees had risked their lives and crossed the desert to find safety from war and famine in Somalia. They needed sanctuary not publicity.
The photographer was clearly causing the woman and her child distress. And I said so.
The photographer retorted that he was shooting for an ad campaign that would raise millions of dollars for future aid and relief efforts.
So what, I thought. So what if you raise millions with this photo if you cause immediate harm to the very people you say you are trying to help?
As we offer scholarships and funds through Isis Initiative, Inc., I am aware of the profound responsibility to do no harm with our good intentions.