Tag Archives: children

How Can We Make a More Compassionate World?

by Gail Mooney
December 17 2012

Once again, I try to make sense of another senseless act of violence – this time one that snuffed out the lives of 20 innocent children.  Every time there is another tragedy caused by guns, we question our firearms laws and vow to do something about the “problem”.  The usual discussion takes place with lots of talk on both sides of the issue and then dissipates – until the next tragedy.

I think the “problem” goes beyond the discussion of a “right to bear arms”.  I think it speaks to a greater problem and that is how we deal with our fellow man.

Maggie Doyne and some of her children at the Kopila Valley Children’s Home in Surkhet, Nepal

Too often we judge others without knowing much about their circumstances.  Too often we seek to be understood but don’t place importance on seeking to understand someone else.  I think this happens when we become too insular – when we don’t allow ourselves to become in tune to the rest of the world or even our own communities.

Some simple thoughts on how we can become more compassionate:

  • Seek to understand – not just to be understood.  I wish I had a dollar every time someone said to me “my point is…….” – I would be rich.  Every time you are tempted to make “your” point – also make an attempt to understand someone else’s.
  • Learn to forgive – Human beings are far from perfect.  They do things and say things they usually wish they hadn’t.  When we forgive others for the hurt they’ve done to us, we free ourselves from the pain as well.  When we don’t forgive, we keep the negativity inside. It ends up consuming us.  Try forgiveness instead.
  • Don’t judge others – There’s an old saying “people who live in glass houses, shouldn’t throw rocks”.  Don’t judge others unless you want to be judged by them.
  • Don’t bully – There are many ways people bully – it’s not always overt.  Bullying really means forcing your way on someone else.  When you ignore someone, you are being just as much of a bully as someone who is more aggressive.  Essentially, you are no different in how you go about “getting your way”.
  • Treat people how you would like to be treated.  Stop and think before you speak and act. Would you like to be treated that way. I’ve never liked cliques for this reason.  There’s always an exclusionary aspect to a clique.  There’s always judgments being made about who should and shouldn’t belong.
  • Do things for someone without the expectation of return.  The rewards of giving are just that – the act of giving itself is the biggest reward you give yourself. When you do something and expect something in return and it doesn’t happen – it takes away the joy of giving.
  • How many times have you told yourself that you will be more caring and giving?  And how many times do you let that thought slip into oblivion without acting on it. Next time you say that – follow through.
  • Every simple act of kindness adds up.  Imagine if we all did something kind for someone every day. Just imagine.
  • Look past the someone’s exterior.  It’s hard sometimes to look past the actions of someone.  We end up questioning and taking things personally when in fact many times someone’s actions have nothing to do with us
  • Live a compassionate life and teach your children through your actions what that means.  It starts there. Showing compassion is one of the best ways to make our world a better place. You will set an example for your children and they will pass that along to future generations.

What are other ways we can be compassionate?

“Compassion and happiness are not a sign of weakness but a sign of strength.” ~Dalai Lama

Introducing Our New Sponsor: CCI and Greenheart

by Erin Kelly
February 8 2012

Over a year ago, in October 2010, just a month after we had returned from our three-month journey to make the film, I wrote a blog about my new job that I had started just a few weeks before:

“I started a new job this month at the Center for Cultural Interchange – a nonprofit organization that facilitates cultural exchange programs for young people, mainly for high school students. I work in the Academic Year Programs department, which works with inbound foreign high school students coming to study and live in the U.S. You might think: “Wow! That job sounds perfect for you and makes so much sense, given your experience this summer.” And I would reply: “You’re right!” I’m very excited to be working there, and I feel fortunate that I am able to work in a field that I actually care about. I believe that it’s so important for everyone to have some kind of experience abroad, especially for young people, for it is through cultural exchange that we can learn to understand and respect others and ourselves. That is certainly something that I learned this summer.”

If you told me the same thing now, I would reply in the exact same way. In fact, I would have even more great things to say because I have learned so much about CCI (Center for Cultural Interchange) and all of its fantastic programs over the past 15 months. In addition to the Academic Year Program, which brings hundreds of international high school students to the U.S. each year to live with host families, attend school and participate in great cultural exchanges, CCI also brings university students to work, travel and have an internship in the U.S. through the Work Programs department. The Short-Term Programs department also offers a myriad of options for young people to participate in language clubs, direct school exchanges or stay with American host families for shorter periods of time.

Just as it’s important to bring international students here, so they can experience life in the U.S., it’s equally important to provide those opportunities to American students and send them abroad to learn about other cultures. CCI’s Greenheart Travel department provides such an opportunity, with programs for American citizens to teach abroad, volunteer abroad and attend high school abroad. Maggie Doyne is a perfect example of how someone could benefit from such a program – from her experience traveling and volunteering after high school, she was inspired to make a difference in Nepal and started the Kopila Valley Children’s Home.

Volunteering and giving back to one’s community is an important part of CCI’s mission as well through its Greenheart initiative. CCI is known as the “Greenheart of Cultural Exchange” because each of its programs offers all of its participants grants and support to do environmental and social volunteering while abroad. CCI encourages participants to collaborate with their new host community and work on projects to make positive change in a sustainable way. These experiences not only enhance the participant’s program, but also help make a difference in communities around the world.

We are very proud to announce CCI and Greenheart as a sponsor of Opening Our Eyes. We feel that their mission is perfectly aligned with the project and we look forward to future collaboration in promoting the importance of cultural exchange and how one person can make a positive difference in the world.

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Finding Your Bliss and Your Purpose

by Gail Mooney
December 22 2011

Last spring, my daughter and I set out to circle the globe on a 99-day journey, seeking people who were making a difference in the world.  A little more than a year later, we have completed a feature documentary about ordinary people on six continents who have not only had a positive impact on others, but they have had life changing experiences themselves.

This journey and the film were inspired by a

Maggie Doyne with her children at Kopila Valley Childrens Home, Nepal

young woman that my daughter had gone to high school with, Maggie Doyne,  At 19-years old, Maggie opted not to go straight off to college, but instead traveled on what was intended to be a gap year between high school and college.  Five years later, at the age of 24, she has built a home in Nepal for 35 orphaned children, where she now resides and had recently finished construction on a primary school for 250 children when we visited her last summer..

Maggie has caught the attention of quite a few high profile people who have helped her in her mission.  Last fall she appeared on the cover of the NY Times Magazine illustrating an article by Nicholas Kristof about DIY foreign aid.  She’s a remarkable young woman.  But what is often overlooked when one mentions Maggie’s accomplishments is that she herself, has changed her life’s path – before barely beginning.

Maggie is just one of eleven people that appear in our film, Opening Our Eyes.  As we traveled the world, my daughter and I quickly realized that all of these extraordinary people had one thing in common, beyond doing good for others.  They all had disrupted their own lives and had shifted course.  They had discovered their purpose and in the process, found their bliss.

Maggie is fortunate that she made this discovery while she was still young.  In a less dramatic way, I had my own awakening early in my career.  In the late 70’s, I had just finished studying photography at Brooks Institute in Santa Barbara, California and I headed back East to pursue a career as a photojournalist. It was not the best of times to be starting out as a photojournalist, at least in terms of being able to make a decent living.  So, I took a bit of a detour and pursued commercial photography instead.  While making the rounds with my portfolio in NYC, I went to see legendary photographer Jay Maisel. Jay was known for his blunt demeanor, and when he looked at my perfectly presented photographic portfolio, he tossed it at me and told me it was garbage.  He asked me if I had anything else to show him.  I took out my dog-eared photos from my first world journey that I had taken before heading to Brooks. As he looked through my “snapshots” he asked me how old I was.  I replied that I was 25 years old.  He looked me straight in the eye and said, “You’re 25 and you’re already making compromises?” That was a turning point in my life and I never looked back from pursuing my passion.

I suppose Maggie and I are lucky in that we discovered our purpose at such a young age.  But in making this film I learned one important thing – it’s never too late to find your bliss.

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Ten Things You Can Do To Make a Difference

by Gail Mooney
October 11 2011

I woke up in kind of a funk.  I watched the news and I instantly felt worse.  Everybody was pointing their finger at one another and they all needed to be right.

What a difference a year makes. Last year at this time, I had just come home after being out of the country for almost four months.  I had never felt better in my life, both in body and in spirit.  I had been following my heart and I had been on” purpose ” I had spent the entire past summer with people who were making our world a better place.  They were inspirational  and they all had one thing in common.  They were exactly where they wanted to be – in both body and soul.

Every now and I need to remind myself of the state of mind I was in after returning from that journey. I start thinking about all the ways that I can make a difference – even if it’s just a small act.  Its those small acts that

Maggie Doyne and Biscal, Kopila Valley Children's Home, Nepal

make big differences in people’s lives.

Robbin Moulds, a subject in our film said: “At 211 degrees water is hot.  At 212 it boils.  That’s a  one degree difference.  I say to people – what’s a one degree difference you can make?”

  • 1.  Call someone you haven’t spoken to in a while.  You’ll make them feel good – I guarantee.  Don’t put it off – you may not get the chance again.
  • 2.  Take someone else’s call.  Call waiting can be cruel sometimes and it makes it easy for people to avoid and ignore.  Would it be so horrible to have to listen to someone for a few minutes?  Ignoring someone is the worst thing you can possibly do.
  • 3.  Say something nice to someone  that you don’t really care for.  Surely you can find something nice to say.
  • 4.  Don’t always try to be right.  It’s a lonely path to be on.
  • 5.  Help a child with their homework or teach them one of your passions.
  • 6.  Read to someone – a child, an older person, someone who needs help with English.
  • 7.  Pick up a piece of litter that someone else has discarded.
  • 8. Write a note or a letter to someone.  I treasure every hand written note that I get in the mail these days.  They are rare meaningful gems.
  • 9.  Don’t judge someone by how they look.  Get past the clothes and adornments – the hair – the size and have a chat with someone you normally wouldn’t talk to if you judged them by their “cover.”
  • 10.  Make amends with someone you’ve had a falling out with. I try to patch things up if friendships get off track.  I treasure the relationships I have with people and I don’t take them for granted.

Live in the now and as Steve Jobs said:  Stay hungry. Stay foolish.

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99 Days and Counting

by Gail Mooney
September 28 2011

When I formed this idea, almost two years ago, I would not have believed then that I would still be working on this project now. Not only am I still working on it, but it has taken on a life of its own. In fact, we have  a new tagline, which aptly describes what this project has become:

It’s not just a Move – It’s a Movement

With that said, we have decided to launch another funding cycle, through Indiegogo. This time, we have more than just an idea and a lot of uncut footage – we have a finished movie and a movie that’s getting rave reviews.

Today is the start of our 99-day cycle of fundraising.  Why 99 days?  Well, for starters, our journey around the world took 99 days to complete the circle.  And, in 99 days, it’s Erin’s birthday – her 25th.  I was 25 years old when I decided to pursue the path I’m on as a photojournalist, instead of following a more lucrative profession.  I had gone to see Jay Maisel, a legendary New York photographer, known for his bluntness.  After making a lot of excuses of why I wasn’t going to follow my heart and become a photojournalist he looked me straight in the eye and said “You’re 25 years old and you’re already making compromises?”  It was a turning point in my life.

The post-production on the film was completed in July.

Opening Our Eyes Sneak Preview, Traverse City, MI

Since that time, I’ve spent countless hours submitting it to film festivals and trying to create awareness for the film. What’s the point of making something like this if it is not seen by as many people as possible? Our goal is simple and that is to get this movie “out there” by whatever means we can so that we can really make a difference with it.

A comment from an audience member at our sneak preview in Traverse City said:

“I just want to thank you for making this movie and let you know that you
have definitely succeeded in inspiring people. I’ve had a {sic} paradigm
shift after seeing this movie. I think you two should count yourself among
the inspirational heroes for bringing these stories to a larger audience.”

And at our sneak preview in Detroit, Oscar recipient, Pamela Conn who won for
“ best short documentary” stated:

“ I would just like to say that that’s the first thing I thought of was that
it’s obvious that this should be submitted for an Oscar. Absolutely this
is Oscar worthy.”

We have created something of value – a value that goes beyond dollars and cents. But to give this thing legs, we will need “dollars and cents” to take it the next steps. It takes money for festival submissions, PR and marketing and theatrical screenings. In fact Jon Reiss, the DIY of the indie film world says that a filmmaker should allocate half of their budget for PR and marketing – or your film will fall into oblivion.

This money won’t go into my pocket.  In fact, even creating this movie on a shoe string budget made up of airline miles and trades for services has exhausted my savings, not to mention taken me away from my business.  But, something is pushing me to do this.  If we can get this movie “on the map” then everyone wins, especially all the change makers that this movie is about.

Please help us with this movement. Contribute if you can or simply pass along this link to others. We all can play a part in making our world a better place.

As Marian Kramer, a subject in our film says “We all have to shine each other up.”

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Maggie in the USA on the Fourth of July

by Gail Mooney
July 6 2011

I live in a small town in semi-rural New Jersey.  Well at least it was semi-rural when I moved here 17 years ago.  Brookside is a historic town dating back to 1749 before there was a United States of America. It’s a quiet little town with less people living here now than there were during the American Revolution.  This area was pro American and General Washington had his headquarters just 5 miles away in Morristown.

Every year, the big event in town is the Fourth of July Parade.  I have seen every one since moving here in 1994 – except last year when Erin and I were in Nepal.  It’s a quaint little parade with boys scouts and girl scouts, fire trucks and tractors, family floats and even a mini parade within the parade – “the pooch parade”.  Folks sit along the sides of East Main Street or watch from their porches as their friends and neighbors pass by in celebration of our nation’s independence.

It’s the kind of community affair that is slowly disappearing from America.  It’s one day where we all slow down and re-connect with one another.  Each year we honor a Community Service recipient.  This year the award went to Maggie Doyne.  Brookside is in Mendham Township, so technically, Maggie isn’t a resident because she lives in the next town over, Mendham Borough. Mendham Township actually circles around the borough like a donut and the two towns share the same high school. That’s how Maggie and Erin know each other, they were in the same graduating class. But Maggie has become our local hero and we all claim her as our own.

In 2005, Erin went off to college  like most kids did in her graduating class.  Maggie took a gap year that turned into a different life’s path for her. And what a path she has taken. It’s amazing what Maggie has done  at such a young age.  She is twenty four years old and has built a home for 35 orphaned children whom she lives with in Nepal, as well as built a school for over 250 children.  She has not only been an inspiration for our film project, but has motivated countless others who have heard her story.

Watch Video of Maggie in July 4th Parade
Maggie July 4th USA For Web

I put together a few clips of Maggie at the last Monday’s parade.  I’d like her children to see Maggie riding in the convertible, throwing candy to children in the little town that she grew up in – on the Fourth of July in the USA.

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Happy Mother's Day

by Erin Kelly
May 8 2011

Today is Mother’s Day, a day to acknowledge and be grateful for all of the wonderful things that mothers do – making you grilled cheese on a rainy day, helping you finish that diorama that you waited until the last minute to do, buying you your first prom dress, encouraging you to follow your dreams and supporting you every step of the way. While I’m certainly grateful for all of those things, I’m even more grateful for what my mother did for me last year – provide me with the opportunity to travel around the world and meet incredible individuals along the way.

There aren’t too many mothers who could accomplish such a feat. Sure, they would love to do that with their daughters, but very few take the plunge and I bet even fewer could handle the conditions. It wasn’t exactly smooth sailing all the way. Staying in hostels, sleeping on the floor of a bamboo hut, getting bitten up the wazoo by mosquitoes, going without running water and air conditioning for days on end. And the hardest part – traveling with your daughter for 99 days straight. Nobody loves his or her kid that much to want to spend that much time with them, right? All in all, you certainly have to have an adventurous spirit to do such a thing, and no one has more of one than my mom.

I was continually amazed at her tenacity and determination throughout the trip. It didn’t matter how hot it was in Nepal, how badly her knees were hurting, how congested the streets of India were – she always kept going, no matter the obstacle. But then again, she has been like that all of my life; never making excuses and never giving up.

I think the best part of the trip for me was the fact that I got to do it with my mom and see her in action; not just as a mother, but also as a traveler in her element. I learned so much about her as a person, someone who has dreams and fears, just like me. And consequently, I have learned more about who I am as a person and why I am that way. Or in some instances, why I’m not a certain way. It’s fascinating to me how two closely related people can have such opposite reactions to the same situation. How can one person just jump on a subway train in Moscow while the other is compelled to stop and take the time to decipher the Cyrillic signs first? It’s a mystery.

I guess what I really want to say is that my mom is the coolest, most supportive and most inspiring mom I know. I am so lucky to have her in my life and that is what I am grateful for the most. Happy Mother’s Day, Mom. I love you.

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Maggie’s Visit

by Gail Mooney
April 23 2011

Last Wednesday I spent the day with Maggie Doyne, a family friend, neighbor and subject of our film Opening Our Eyes. We spent the afternoon looking at hours of footage that we shot when we visited Maggie and her children in Nepal last summer.

It was a wonderful afternoon,

Gail and Maggie in Mendham,NJ

we talked, we looked at the footage that I hadn’t seen in awhile and we had a nice simple lunch. Being with Maggie is like getting a shot of goodness and it brought back a lot of nice memories of the journey that Erin and I took last summer.

It’s hard to believe that next month it will be a year since we left on our global journey. There are days that the trip is so fresh in my mind and others when it seems like a distant memory. I am still so hands on with the project – editing but for Erin it must seem like it happened in another lifetime.

Maggie said something that really rang true. As she watched the interview and other footage that we shot of her at the Kopila Valley Children’s Home and School she remarked how far she and all the people at Kopila Children’s Home had come since then. When we were there shooting, the school was still under construction even though classes had already begun. And the new kitchen hadn’t been finished yet either. Now both are completed and used on a daily basis.

I thought about how I had been feeling this past winter as I spent 14 hours a day, every day in the editing room for two months solid and I couldn’t see an end in sight to this film becoming a reality. But now it’s in the hands of a great editor with a due date to be completed late next month. When we started our journey almost a year ago, I never imagined that I would still be so entrenched with this project a year later. But then I look back from where I came and I can see how far I’ve come. I needed to be reminded to look back every now and then and observe from that perspective.

Thanks Maggie once again for your inspiration.

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The Trailer

by Gail Mooney
March 30 2011