Tag Archives: children
The last two months, I’ve either been locked in seclusion in front of my computer, sifting through 150 hours of footage from our 99-day journey, or on airplanes, traveling as part of my “normal” working life. In either case, my mind is on this project, and more importantly on the people this project is about – the change makers of the world. I try to hold onto those thoughts, so that I can stay focused on our film and our motivation behind it.
Our goal from the start has been to shine a spotlight on the “individuals” who are making a positive change in the world, with the hope that our film will inspire and motivate others to be change makers. I’ve learned one important lesson is working on this project and that is we all, in our own way, even through the smallest acts, can make our world a better place. I learned that even though I’m not a doctor who has the power to heal the sick, I do have the power through my skills to create a film that can motivate people in a positive way, globally. I can use the tools of my craft – my cameras – to create awareness and that in itself is a powerful thing.
We still have one more story to tell and that is the story of an individual who is making a difference on the continent of North America. We saved our home base story as our last story to tell. So, we are now looking for our North American subject and we are reaching out to all of you for suggestions of people you know who personify the idea behind this film – the power of the individual in making a difference. It could be a child who is doing something in their own community and perhaps that would state the message the best – the simple, yet profound effect that even small acts can have. But we are open to any and all suggestions you may have.
We’d love to hear from you if you have a suggestion or if you could pass this request along to anyone you know who may lead us to our final subject of our film. You can either reply in the comments section of this blog or write us privately at:
I’d also like to say thank you again to all of you who have generously donated to our project through Kickstarter. At this point in time we have reached 42% of our goal, which is great but we still have a long way to go, and with Kickstarter – it’s all or nothing – if a project doesn’t get funded 100% then none of the pledges are collected and we receive nothing. That doesn’t mean we won’t finish our film – but it does mean that it will take a little longer, and that I’ll edit it myself without the expertise that a professional editor could bring to the film. If you haven’t made a pledge, please consider doing so here:
Even a $25 pledge has its reward of a DVD of the finished film if we meet our goal.
And don’t forget to send us your suggestions of who you know on our great continent of North America, that is making a difference in the world.
Hello everyone – yes, I still exist! It took me a little while to adjust to life back in Chicago, but now I can say that I finally feel settled in. It’s strange when I think about our trip – it almost feels like it was a completely different life. In a way, it was: living out of a suitcase, constantly on the move, and being slapped with culture shock again and again is very different from living in one apartment and going to the same job everyday. But, for me, that’s exactly what I need right now. Stability is something that I actually craved this summer. People might call me crazy but I love me some order and routine. That’s not to say that there haven’t been any changes.
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.
Although my job is mostly administrative, behind-the-scenes work, I got to meet some of the kids last week when a group of them visited Chicago. They were all from different countries, thus forced to use English as their common language. It struck me then that not only were they learning about life in the U.S., they were also learning about many other countries through their fellow members of the program. How cool is that? They were great kids and fascinating to talk to. I loved hearing them talk about how school in the U.S. was so different from their schools at home (aka a lot easier), what they thought of the fall season and American football games, how far off their perceptions of what the U.S. would be like were from reality. It took me back to talking with the boys on the farm in Argentina. I said to myself, this is why I am working here. I hope that there will be many more moments like that to come.
I want to thank everyone who has donated so far to our project on Kickstarter. Your donations mean so much to us, and we couldn’t do this without you! I hope that those who have not so far will consider contributing as well – or at least spreading the word to everyone you know.
Thank you again, and Happy Halloween everybody!
I’ve got great news, Maggie Doyne the inspiration for our project and one of the subjects of our documentary is featured on the cover of the NY Times Magazine tomorrow morning. (10/24/10).
Make sure to get a copy and read about Maggie’s incredible story.
Another bit of exciting news is that we just launched our project on Kickstarter. Kickstarter is a new way to fund creative ideas and ambitious endeavors. Basically it’s is an example of crowdfunding where one can host their creative project on the Kickstarter’s website and offer people levels at which to donate. People can pledge amounts from $1 to …….. the sky’s the limit and most creators offer various rewards at the different levels.
We put our project on Kickstarter to raise finishing funds for our film. So as I continue to cull through over 150 hours of footage shot during our 99-day journey, people can contribute to our project so that we can get the funds to hire a professional editor who will be able to take the film to a higher level. This will broaden it’s chances for distribution. We have a window of 74 days to reach our goal of $7500. Any funds that go over the $7500 will be split 50/50 with 50% going to promotion of the film and 50% donated to all our subject’s causes and foundations. If we don’t meet our goal of $7500 in the next 74 days – all bets are off and we receive nothing. That doesn’t mean that the film is dead. It just means that I will need to go it alone with the editing and it will take a little longer.
It will be exciting over the next couple of months to see what develops. But no matter what happens, our ultimate goal for our film is for as many people to see it as possible. The more eyes that we open – the more we will motivate and inspire others to be change-makers and make our world a better place.
Please share our project with people that you know or on Facebook or Twitter or any other places you communicate. We can all make this world a better place.
It’s subtle but it’s there and it wasn’t really expected, but something is different about me and people are noticing. Not quite sure what it is, but I’m in a different place since returning from my 99-day journey around the world with my daughter.
My outlook and attitude has shifted. I’m content, I’m relaxed and I’m confident that what we did over this past summer in creating our documentary about the change makers of the world was the right thing to do. It must have been because the universe is opening up to me.
In the six weeks that I’ve been home, my time has been spent editing hours of footage that were shot on our project, working on a video that I had bartered with the Mercure Sydney Hotel in exchange for accommodations and I’ve been traveling quite a bit, speaking at conferences and giving seminars for my trade association, ASMP.
The great part is that my speaking gigs were the motivation for me to quickly put together a sample of our film, which I show and in turn have the advantage of getting feedback, while the film is still in postproduction. That’s when I get affirmation that I am on the right track in making this film. I hear people telling me, even after only seeing the 10-minute tease; they are inspired and motivated to create positive change.
I also hear people tell me that they feel my sincerity and thank me, and that is perhaps one of the highest compliments I can receive. That is what I felt from each and every one of our subjects – sincerity in their purpose. They knew that this was what they weren’t meant to be doing in their lives. They are confident and that is bringing them joy and peace in their heart. They are following the path that is intended for them and not distracted by the road that others may follow as the norm.
It’s a funny thing but in doing something that comes naturally to me, I have attracted like-minded people that want to be a part of it. I’ve received quite a few emails from editors, writers, social media experts and others who want to be part of what my daughter and I created as it goes into the next phase of the production. Collaborating with others will only make the message of my film stronger and that means more eyes will see it.
I’ve discovered that in following my instincts, good things happen. I’m in Amsterdam right now, a trip prompted by an invitation to show my “tease” tonight at The European Summit for Global Transformation. I’ll also be reconnecting with two of my subjects, Maggie Doyne and Letha Sandison as well as other change makers at this conference. Last night’s pre event gathering of inspirational change makers from around the world has already stimulated my mind with endless possibilities. I can only imagine what the rest of the weekend has in store.
Now that we’ve been back in the U.S. for almost two weeks, I’ve begun to process things a little bit more in terms of our experiences and what I really got out of this trip. Apart from the thousands of photos shot, hours of video filmed, handful of trinkets collected, and millions of mosquito bites received, I have come back with a myriad of observations and several important lessons learned. And so I will now attempt to do my own version of “10 Things I’ve Learned Circling the Globe” (except there were certainly more than 10).
1. My mother is a real person. I know that may not come as a shock to anyone who has met her, but I mean in the sense that I see her differently now. I acknowledge her as someone other than just my mother, a person with her own fears and desires and mistakes and surprises. I feel so fortunate that I’m finding this out now rather than 20 years down the road when I might be a mother myself and can finally relate to her on a different level. I’ve already had this transformation and now she is a mother and a best friend.
2. Food is more than just a necessity for survival. It is an opportunity to share with others, to show someone that you care about them, to connect with people from other cultures, to express yourself, to spend time with family and friends. It doesn’t just fill up our bellies; it also fills up our hearts. We certainly learned that from Ronni Kahn with her organization, OzHarvest, in Australia, and from Susana Esmoris and Hugo Centineo
3. Besides food, water, shelter and clothing, there is in fact another crucial element needed for human survival – the human connection. People need someone to talk to, someone who will listen to them, someone who they know will be there for them. It is a fact for our species. Everybody needs some type of interaction with others, and even just having a cup of coffee with open ears will do wonders. So many of our subjects taught us this important lesson, but especially Paul Moulds
of the Oasis Youth Support Network in Australia.
4. There is always some truth to stereotypes. Yes, there is a lot of poverty in India. Yes, they eat rice everyday in Thailand. But the important thing is to be able to try to look past the stereotypes and explore places with an open mind. That’s when you can really discover the secrets of a culture.
5. Security is vastly inconsistent worldwide. You might think Russia is tough, but we somehow managed to bypass passport control when entering the country, as we had changed planes in a “satellite country” and therefore flew into Moscow’s domestic airport. And U.S. airport security looks pathetic when you compare it to our experience flying from Kathmandu to Delhi, where we were frisked 7 times in one day.
6. Nothing will make you stand out more than wearing a helmet camera
on your head. It doesn’t matter if you’re already the only white person in an entire fabric market in Uganda. There is no chance of fitting in when you’ve got that contraption strapped to your forehead. It’s worth it for the comments, though.
7. I’m a pretty decent navigator. And it is in fact possible to decipher Cyrillic. How else do you think we escaped the Moscow metro system without getting lost once? ☺
8. There will always be someone, no matter where you go, who speaks at least a tiny bit of English. The kids in Uganda constantly chant their favorite phrase “Mzungu! How are you!” Even in Russia, the guards know how to say, “Stop! Back” as they swing their billy clubs at you. That is definitely a testament to globalization.
9. It is ok for you to follow your passions. You don’t have to have a high-paying job to be successful in life. What’s important is that you’re doing something that you love and that brings you happiness. And what’s more, you don’t have to necessarily know what that is right away. You can change your career in your forties, you can explore many different things; you don’t have to know what you’re going to do for the rest of your life the moment you graduate high school or college. The mindset in the U.S. is to always be thinking of what the next step is in your education or you career and how to prepare for it. Sometimes you have to slow down and just live.
10. One person actually can make a difference. It sounds cliché but it’s true. Look at Maggie Doyne,
who provided a home for 30 kids and a school for over 200 students. Or Dr. David Marnaw, who single-handedly has built sanitation and water supply systems for over thirty villages in Thailand. If you really care about something and set your mind to it, then you can do it. Don’t let the daily obstacles of life stop you. Open your eyes, and your mind, to the possibilities.
Last night, I was sitting in a restaurant in Argentina, surrounded by adolescent boys asking me questions in Spanish about pop culture and music in the U.S. Do you know the band Kiss? What style of music is popular there? And most importantly – what was the reaction like when Michael Jackson died? Most of the music that they listed as their favorites had its heyday in the ‘80s, and they listened with wide eyes as I tried to explain that rock and roll actually came from blues music.
Sitting there at the table, I had a major flashback to when I was studying abroad in Santiago, Chile and volunteering at a public school for boys in the city. I helped teach English to 180 freshmen boys, and often I would take small groups outside of the classroom so that they could ask me questions about whatever they wanted, practice their English and hear a native English speaker talk. Most times, these conversations would center around what I just mentioned – music (they always loved ‘80s music for some reason), as well as movies, TV shows and what life is like in general in the U.S. In my blog at that time, I wrote “this also made conversation extremely exciting and entertaining for me, especially when I found kids that liked the same shows, movies and music as me.” The point was cultural sharing, and that’s exactly what I was doing with the boys at la Fundación Camino Abierto.
Cultural sharing is one of the many things that Susana Esmoris and her husband Hugo Centineo encourage the boys to experience at Camino Abierto, and one of the reasons that they began to explore rural tourism on their farm. She explained how important it was for the boys to be exposed to many different things – whether it’s through the foreign visitors that come to the farm, the field trips to other parts of Argentina that the boys take every year, the many cultural programs that they offer (including an orchestra, painting and theater workshops, and dance lessons), or the cooking lessons they have with some of the most famous chefs in Argentina. The point is to provide them with opportunities and the freedom to choose their own path in life – hence the name of the place, “Camino Abierto,” which means “open path” or “open way.” It was obvious how powerful and influential these opportunities have been for many of the boys – you could see the pride in their eyes when they declared what instruments they played or when they helped in the restaurant kitchen. It was clear that some transformation had occurred and that they were happy and were doing what they loved.
The whole atmosphere of the place was remarkable and infectious. The boys walk through the fields with their arms around each other, everything is fresh and wholesome, there is a sense of tranquil connection to nature, and the food is to die for. Perhaps that is because it is infused with love and happiness, which Susana describes as the continual state of the kitchen (even when there are 25 people working in it). Overall, there is an ambiance of peace, hope, and people doing what they love. Or at least that’s what I felt.
I am so happy that we got to wrap up the project with this story. I am grateful that I got to spend some time with Susana, Hugo, and the boys. And I loved experiencing those priceless moments of cultural sharing. After all, isn’t that what traveling is all about?
And if you must know – in the video clip that my mom posted, I’m describing to them how powerful the reaction was to Michal Jackson’s death, with people dancing in the streets and providing countless tributes to that infamous king of pop.
We have just returned from a couple of days in Carlos Keen, a small rural village about 85 km outside Buenos Aires, where we interviewed our last subjects of our documentary, Susana Esmoris and Hugo Centineo. When we left Buenos Aires pre-dawn on Friday morning, there was a thick damp fog enveloping the city that matched my opaque state of mind. On top of the early hour, we were both weary after spending more than 3 months on the road, and had experienced a few disappointments earlier in the week that left us both in a bit of a funk.
It was cold and bleak as we arrived at the farm of Susana and Hugo and I wondered how was I going to get through the next two days. But I knew that I had to somehow rally, as this was our final story of our 99-day journey that had taken us around the world. As soon as I met Susana and her husband Hugo and sucked in the fresh air of the countryside, I not only knew that I would rally but that it was just the place that I needed to be.
Susana and Hugo had left their “perfect” yet chaotic life in Buenos Aires years ago and bought a farm in the country. They also started taking in adolescent boys who had been abandoned by their families, giving them a better life in their rural community. Susana, Hugo and their
13 boys are self sufficient, living off the land, eating wholesome food, getting plenty of exercise and most importantly pursuing the possibilities of their future. Susana told us in her interview that even though she had a “model life” in Buenos Aires, she wasn’t happy. To meet her now, she exudes happiness. In fact everyone seems content on the farm, even the animals judging by the copious amount of barnyard sex we witnessed.
They have a restaurant at the farm, Restaurante Girasoles, which is open on the weekends and serves meals that would rival the creations of the best chefs in the world. All the food is homemade with fresh ingredients from the farm and tastes like food used to taste when I was a child – before chemicals became the rule to make food “bigger and more colorful.”
Everyone has a job to do since it is a farm and there’s plenty of work to be done – the cows need milking, the eggs need gathering, the garden needs weeding and the hogs need to be fed. But there’s also time for football (soccer), dancing, music and stories. Because people come from all over the world to their restaurant, the boys have plenty of contact with all types of people.
Last night we ate pizza at a long table with Hugo and the boys and when our meal was over, the boys gradually got the courage to grab a chair and move down to our end of the table and ask their questions.
It was one of the most memorable evenings of our long journey. And it was just what we needed.
In a little more than a week, our 99-day journey trekking around the world shooting this documentary will be over. Or will it? My work is really just beginning as I contemplate all we’ve done, people we’ve met and interviewed and how I will put this all together in an edited, finished film.
There are hundreds of ways I can edit this documentary and quite honestly, beginning the process and deciding the direction is always the most difficult. But there will be a moment when the light bulb goes off and the vision will be clear as to how to make sense of it all. Then it becomes easy as the story unfolds – as it should from my heart. It’s the story that can only be told by me and this case, me and my daughter.
My daughter and others have urged me to do a behind-the-scenes DVD
– she tells me “that’s what people want”, to know more about the making of the film – more about the people behind the film. As much as I agree with her and understand this interest on the part of the viewer, there is also a resistance to make myself part of the documentary. With that said, a separate “behind-the-scenes” chapter could be the solution – to provide more information, without inserting the two of us into the film itself.
One thought does keep popping into my head that motivates me to provide a commentary on the why’s and how’s of this journey and the making of this film. Too many times when I’ve visited museums, I’ve been taken aback by some of the things that I over hear docents talking about in relation to the paintings. They analyze and interpret what the artist meant by his choice of color, brush stroke and placement of objects within the art and how that related to what was going on in his life at that point in time. I often wonder how they know that or even how can they be so sure? Is it documented or is it really just someone’s interpretation that has become fact over the years?
My daughter and I do plan to sit down this week and attempt to do on-camera interviews – while we are still in the moment and before we get back to our normal lives. Here’s where we need your help – tell us what you want to know. Maybe you’re curious about how we survived the dynamic of a mother/daughter team for three plus months. Maybe you want to know why we did this – or how we funded it. Or maybe the questions are even more basic – what did we like? – what was difficult?– any surprises? etc. etc. Perhaps you want to know more about the craft of shooting the doc– and how I went about that. And maybe you don’t really want to know anything at all and just want to know about the subjects of our film.
But please tell me what you’re curious about – as far as the behind-the-scenes making of this film. All questions are welcome – from the seemingly obvious to the more provocative.
Little did I know when trying to come up with the right name for our documentary, did I stumble upon and recognize the perfect title “Opening Our Eyes”. I had been listening to a Jackson Browne song, “Alive In The World” and there it was in Browne’s inspirational lyrics:
“To open my eyes and wake up alive in the world
To open my eyes and fully arrive in the world
With it’s beauty and it’s cruelty
With its heartbreak and it’s joy
With it constantly giving birth to life and to forces that destroy
And the infinite power of change
Alive in the world”
And so on day 50 of our 99-day journey around the world, we’ve reached our midway milestone and with that our eyes are wide open. We have been inspired and deflated, energized and depleted, hot and cold, happy and sad, healthy and ill, hungry and satisfied, content to stay and restless to move on. We’ve run the gamut of emotions, climates and cultures. Yet, we carry on and continue because of the people we have met, who are helping others – the heroes and the subjects of our film. These incredibly selfless people are following their passions and helping others to realize their dreams – giving others a chance at life. That in itself has been a powerful thing to witness and one that has changed our lives.
As we move further on to northern Thailand today, to follow a doctor and trek into the villages of the hill tribes, we leave India behind. This has probably been our toughest week so far. India is a land of extremes. Beauty and history lie beneath extreme poverty and oppressive temperatures that give way to the torrents of the Monsoon. And as hard as I try, it’s difficult for me to grasp an understanding of a caste system that to my mind seems hopeless – at least for the people who are born into the bottom – the untouchables. But it does shed light on why so many seek the boundless opportunities that America offers. And so in trying to understand another culture, I end up understanding my homeland better.
When one travels they begin to know for the first time where they come from and who they are. Perspectives are shaped by real experiences, not from the nightly network news or the black and white print of a newspaper, but from one’s own eyes. It brings a deeper understanding and the desire to know more.
Our eyes have been opened and our hope is to open the eyes of others through our journey and our film. And if you’re reading this Jackson – thanks for the inspiration for the title of our film. And thanks to all of you who follow our journey and encourage us with your support and comments – it means the world.
Maggie Doyne told us a story about the youngest resident of the Kopila Valley Children’s Home, Bishal
who is a little more than two years old. He had just come to the home after losing his parents and was barely talking being so young. But one day Maggie heard him saying to the other children in Nepali “My mother and father are dead – what’s to become of me?” Another young boy, barely 4 years old comforted Bishal and told him – “It’s ok we’re all like that”.
And so it is with the children at the home Maggie has built. They are caring and compassionate, look after one another and are all pretty much in the same circumstance. Thanks to Maggie, these precious children have gotten their childhood back and with that a lot of love. Check out this quick pod cast
Erin and I spent a week with Maggie’s kids
and each day I got to see their smiles, hear their laughter, practice their English and just be kids. And it’s that simple, yet so profound – Maggie’s dream of giving the children a childhood. It gave me pause to think how blessed I am and how fortunate we are to grow up in a country like the United States and have the opportunities it offers. But it also made me think of myself in the context of the rest of the world and how unbalanced things are.
Travel puts things into perspective.
I don’t mean a typical jaunt to one of the world capitals but traveling to places that are outside our cultural norm and you don’t need to go far to do that. In fact you don’t even need to leave the country. I urge all of you to consider your place in the world – to count your blessings and think about those less fortunate.
Our main purpose of our film is to “open our eyes” as a collective and hopefully in our own ways, make a difference. I made a small difference the last day we spent with Maggie. A few months back the town government put in an open sewer trough but they ran out of funds and the trough ended at the entrance to Maggie’s home. It had rained hard the night before and everyone’s sewage and garbage ended up dumped at the gate of Maggie’s property – x’rays, plastic, bottles and feces – dumped right in the path of where her children cross everyday to go to school. We all jumped into the car and went down to the town hall and in my “Michael Moore” moment with camera rolling, walked in and voiced a complaint. I even showed the video of the debris to bear witness to the problem. They promised to send someone out that afternoon to clean up the mess and extend the trough.
You can become a sponsor of one of the Kopila Valley Children’s Home by visiting Blink Now. Please take a look and if it’s in your heart to help, it will be most appreciated. You’ll be making a difference in a child’s life and who knows where that will lead – maybe even President of the United States.