Tag Archives: orphans

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

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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Full Circle

by Gail Mooney
August 31 2011

A year ago today Erin and I boarded a plane, bound for home on our final flight of our 99-day journey around the world.  Seems like that happened in another lifetime – so much has transpired since then.

The day before we headed home, we sat down with our friend Ethan G. Salwen, who interviewed us on camera.  We are grateful for that because we were able to capture our thoughts at the time – at the end of an amazing adventure.

We had just finished our last story in Carlos Keen, Argentina – a town about an hour outside of Buenos Aires.  It was a story about Camino Abierto, a farm, a home to adolescent boys who had nowhere to call home,  and a restaurant – all filled with love.  We only spent two days there but those two days came at just the right time giving us one last burst of energy to complete the project we had started over 3 months prior.

At the time, I didn’t realize that it was really just the beginning of this project in so many ways.  As Erin headed back to Chicago and settled back into her life, I immersed myself deeper into this project with hundreds of hours of footage that needed to be edited.  I managed to get through one of the toughest winters of my life that taxed every ounce of my spirit on the darkest days.  But after a round of crowd funding via Kickstarter and finding the perfect editor, Erik Freeland and many more months of post-production – we now have a film that we are proud of.

As I mailed out the “rewards” yesterday to all of our backers that supported our project, I realized once again that this project is still not yet complete.  There are film festivals to submit to and community screenings to line up and plans to make different “cuts” at various lengths for different markets.  One idea is to break up the stories for the potential of a broadcast series. I actually went out to LA this past winter and “pitched” the idea to some industry folks and a couple of people were quite interested.  I even made a new version of the trailer and renamed the show.  We shall see if anything develops along those lines.

I have been richly rewarded in so many ways on this journey. Getting to really know my daughter has been perhaps the biggest reward.  But some of the kind comments that I have received from people who have seen the film have confirmed in my mind that this quest was meant to be. I’ll be sharing some of these comments with you in the coming months, on this blog that I have neglected as I’ve been off the radar working behind the scenes.

Here’s a tidbit from our Buenos Aires Interview on the final day of our journey.  I will share more soon.  This project was meant to be shared – that is the only way to manifest the true power behind this thing that we put into motion so long ago.

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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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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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Looking For Our North American Subject

by Gail Mooney
November 9 2010

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:
gail@kellymooney.com
erinmkelly87@gmail.com

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:
http://kck.st/cTApuP
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.

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Maggie Doyne on Cover of NY Times Magazine

by Gail Mooney
October 23 2010

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).

Maggie Doyne on the cover of the NY Times Magazine - Oct. 20, 2010

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.

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Looking for Change Makers

by Gail Mooney
October 19 2010

I’m beginning to realize the impact that our project is making, both in my life and in others and it’s quite astonishing. I suppose I should have known that this would happen, but I was only listening to my inner voice that was prompting me to get out and do what I do – create awareness with my camera.

I had a conversation recently with a medical doctor who had seen the trailer of our film.  He told me that he thought I was an amazing person. I awkwardly received his compliment and replied that I wasn’t amazing at all – that it was people like him and the subjects of our film who were amazing – people who were saving lives.  Then he told me that yes, he saves lives on a daily basis in his community and sometimes beyond, but that I was influencing people globally through the power of film. He reminded me that I should never underestimate the impact that I can have using my talents to create positive change.

I have just returned from a conference in Amsterdam, The European Summit for Global Transformation, where I had been invited to show my ten-minute trailer to open up the event.  It was an impulse decision to attend – less than a week’s notice – but again I was listening to my inner voice and said “yes”.  I can honestly say that this was one of those weekends that I know will have a profound impact on my life.  It was a weekend of listening to other change makers’ stories and networking with others to make the impossible – possible.  I had three wonderful days of being surrounded by believers – all just ordinary people – but people who are making the impossible happen.

Perhaps one of the most rewarding things that I got from attending this conference was the feedback I received from a culturally diverse group of people who saw our film’s tease. It was invaluable, uplifting and energizing. One thing was reiterated over and over by everyone I talked to and that was they loved the fact that my daughter and I shared our thoughts about making the film – in the film.  It personalized it for them and in turn made the film more powerful.  I’m not quite sure if I will edit the film to include us or will make that dialog a separate “behind the scenes” chapter, but I’m thankful that we took the time to capture our thoughts in those interviews on the last day of our 99-day journey and I thank my friend Ethan G. Salwen for his insightful questions.

I would love to connect with more change makers and in particular I am looking for young people – teens, 20 something year olds – who are doing things that are making a difference in the world. I met a young man at the conference who has created a network of young people who are change makers and he has asked me for people I may know.  I know that there are people who are reading this that may very well be a change maker or know someone who is and I would love to connect you – so please let me know who you are or who you may know.

One thing I have learned by doing this project is that when you give – what you receive is always far greater.

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Before the Memories Fade….And The Hard Work Begins

by Gail Mooney
October 2 2010

The tiger striped tan on my feet, from my well-worn sandals is fading, along with the familiar feeling of being “on the road”. As I ease back into my real life, and face the tough task of editing the 145 hours of footage that I shot, I want to take a breath, pause and just say thanks to all of you who have followed our journey these past months. Your support and encouragement helped us stay connected and focused on our purpose – shooting our documentary about remarkable people who are making a positive change in the world.

Kopila Valley Chilcren's Home, Surkhet, Nepal

Thank you all for being there throughout our journey.

There’s nothing worse than going to a huge effort, only to keep it a secret. Thanks to my good friend and colleague, Ethan G. Salwen who interviewed Erin and I while we were in Buenos Aires, during the last days of our journey, we were able to capture on camera, our thoughts about this experience before they faded away. I have used some of this interview footage in sneak previews and recent blog posts, to keep people engaged as I delve into the post-production aspects of this film. I will try to keep you all up to date on my progress. and I urge you all to keep following along and to share this project link with others. Our motivation for this film was to create awareness of what people are doing to make a difference in the world – the power of the individual, with the hopes that it will inspire others as to what they can do. Ultimately, we can only do that if the film gets seen.

My plan right now is to look at all the footage and then put together a rough cut of the story as I see it. I would love to bring a professional editor in on the project. Their expertise will only make the film stronger and tell the story better. My goal is to make independent videos of each of my subjects’ stories and then combine them in a feature length documentary. I have already connected with a couple of editors who expressed interest in this project through this blog and the power of networking. So, please keep passing along this link.

Of course once the film is made, I will need to publicize and distribute it, in order for people to become aware of it. I have some thoughts on how to do this, but once again it’s impossible for me to do everything myself so I will look to collaborate with others who have talents in PR. Anyone know any publicists with a good social conscience?

I know that collaboration is key to the success of any endeavors like this. From the start of the project’s inception, I have collaborated with friends and colleagues –who led me to people they knew who would make good subjects for the film – who helped me write press releases – who made donations – who helped me with on camera interviews – who, just by being there, supported us with their kind words and enthusiasm. So please stay tuned in, even if more time seems to lapse between posts, because we’ll be working away behind the scenes to finish what we set out to do.

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Being Back – The Big Adjustment

by Gail Mooney
September 15 2010

It’s hard to believe that we’ve been back two weeks already.  The time has flown by – a long holiday weekend, an ASMP Board meeting in Philadelphia (American Society of Media Photographers), and starting the daunting task of editing this film.  I guess it’s been good to be busy, pushing me right back into things – kind of like jumping into the ocean rather than going in gradually.  But on the other hand, I haven’t taken the proper time to reflect back on our 99-day journey or to sort out and digest the culture shock of being back.

1.   I miss my daughter.

Erin and Gail, Taj Mahal, Agra, India

We created a close bond during our journey and I feel like I’m going through withdrawal.  We were together 24/7 for the last 3 months – we were either going to become very close or come back never wanting to talk to each other again.  We connected with each other on this trip on many levels, working together, living together, sleeping together and having hundreds of wonderful conversations.  I really miss that.
2.    Reality check.  All the little (and big) things and issues that didn’t get resolved prior to the trip are still there, waiting for my attention.  Everything from computer issues, to driver license renewal to other tasks that had been put on the back burner.
3.    Culture shock.  It’s jarring when you first return to the U.S. after being in third world countries. We are a culture of a lot of excess and abundance and we tend to lose sight of that.  I am much more grateful for what I have and what I really need after these travels. I have a much clearer perspective about what’s really important – and what’s not. The other day, workers started jack hammering on a bridge that was being repaired at the end of my street. It was very early in the morning and for an instant I thought – “I should call someone about them starting so early” and then I thought how petty – I’m already up and it’s no big deal in the scheme of things compared to open sewage running through an orphanage, that we witnessed in Nepal.
4.    TV is too much.  Watching TV is a real eye opener.  Hundreds of channels to choose from loaded with pundits and experts and the shock and awe of reality shows.  Where did all these “experts” come from?  Were they always there or did we invent them to fill the content for 300 channels?  I can’t watch more than 5 minutes of the “news” – what happened to journalism?
5.   Re-connecting.  Resuming relationships with my husband, my friends, my colleagues.  With social media, I felt like I was pretty much always connected but since I’ve been back I’ve felt more disconnected in a way.  People are busy with their own lives and it’s tough sometimes to get real time with people these days.  Social media is one thing but it will never replace a face to face.  It has become more apparent to me how we all live our lives caught up in such a rush – to get to the next day or the next event or whatever, rarely making time for the simple little things in life like just visiting with a friend. We all seem to be so “tuned in” and connected  but are we?

I’m off to start my day, which will be devoted to editing this film.  It will be a necessary and good distraction from the reality of being back.

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