Tag Archives: Nepal
It’s not easy to hold onto your ideals, let alone your dreams as you get older. I suppose I should consider myself lucky in that regard, that I have managed to stay true to my ideals and I’m still foolish enough to believe in my dreams. I wish more people my age had. Maybe we’d have a better world.
Dreaming is usually left up to the young, who can’t even imagine that their dreams wouldn’t come true. Somehow when you get older, you give up on some of your dreams. It seems like in our culture, we buy into the notion that with the responsibilities that come with age, there is no room for our dreams. I must tell you though, that I’ve always felt that if I couldn’t hold on to my own dreams – how could I ever teach my daughter how important that is, for a life well lived.
When my daughter Erin and I set out around the world together two years ago, it was to film the stories of people who were doing extraordinary things. These were all ordinary individuals who believed in the impossible. The film was inspired by Erin’s high school friend, Maggie Doyne, who opted not to head straight off to college after graduation. Maggie traveled and wound up in Nepal helping children, orphaned by ten years of civil war. Seven years later, Maggie lives with her 40 children, in a home she built in Nepal, has built a primary school and is now raising money to build a high school.
Maggie is 25 years old with wisdom beyond her years and a youthful spirit to believe that anything is possible. She reminds me of myself when I was her age, although I pale in comparison to what she has done at such a young age. I too traveled when I was just starting out in life. I left college after two years and circled the globe to satisfy my curiosity. When I returned, I went back to school to study photography, graduated and set out to make my living at commercial photography. My heart was in photojournalism and documentary photography, but everybody told me that I couldn’t make a living doing that kind of work – and I believed them.
Early on, I was looking for assistant work in NYC and I went to see legendary NY photographer, Jay Maisel. I brought my perfectly executed commercial photography portfolio with me to get Jay’s advice. For some reason, I also brought some “snapshots” that I had taken on my trip around the world, before I had gone to photography school. Jay looked at my portfolio and tossed it back to me saying “this is crap”. After seeing the shock on my face, he said, “this isn’t what you want to do, is it?” I showed him my snapshots and he said, “this is what you want to do – why aren’t you doing it?” I proceeded to tell him all the reasons that people had told me, and I was telling myself, why I wasn’t following the path I was passionate about. He looked at me and he asked, “How old are you?” I replied 25. And he said, “You’re 25 and you’re already making compromises?”
There have been many days since then, when I have wanted to throw my hands up and give up on my ideals and dreams and then I remember that day with Maisel and I think about people like Maggie – and I manage to hold on.
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.
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.
I’ve been in hibernation this past month – or at least it feels like it. No airplanes, no adventures and not much interaction with people as I tackle the tedious part of editing this film. It’s tough sometimes and a hard adjustment after the summer that I had, and there are some days, I’m just looking for a distraction.
But I keep my eye on the prize and the prize is the completed film.
Yesterday, I got news that our project was featured on the home page of More Magazine. Jamie Niles had interviewed me a couple of weeks ago and they had gotten it online quickly. They provided a link to our Kickstarter site and that just might be the extra little push we need to reach our goal. We’re less than $400 away with 14 days to go! I’m sure we’ll make it.
In anticipation of making that goal, I have talked to a couple of editors and will pick one who is the right fit for this story or stories.
A professional editor will give the film new eyes and see things that I may not notice and help arc the story in the most powerful way. I cannot wait till I get to that point, when all the footage is transcoded and sound is synced and ready to hand off to the pro to do what they do best – edit the story.
One thing that has been enjoyable is reliving the experience by looking at all the footage and still images that we shot. Listening to the words of our subjects again talking about what they are doing, gave me the energy that I need to get through this part of the process.
I’ve also been editing the thousands of still photographs that we took. My idea from the start of this project was to shoot both video and stills.
The still images may become part of a book or exhibition or accompany magazine articles about this story.
Happy holidays everyone.
I’ll leave you with a few of my favorite images.
When we walked into the Kopila Valley Children’s Home for the first time, the first thing I heard was children’s laughter. It was everywhere; no matter where you went, you couldn’t escape that wonderful sound. Within five minutes of sitting down inside, a little girl – Maya – crawled into my lap. Ever since that moment, there has always been a child running up to say hello, asking me what my favorite color is, holding my hand as I walk down the hall, crawling into my lap, giving me a big hug, or just flashing one of those big, bright smiles that says it all – happiness.
These kids are so incredibly happy. When Maggie arrived with the new car for the first time, I watched the kids’ faces. One boy, Nabin, screeched with delight as he was lifted up to look at the inside of the car. I can honestly say I have never seen such happiness on a child’s face before. Even after being here a week, I’ve only seen the youngest child, who is 2, cry once. It amazed me then, and still does now, how open, generous, caring, and loving these kids are. They are big bundles of love and will hold you tight until the end of time if you let them. This is a testament to the environment of Kopila Valley Children’s Home and what Maggie Doyne has provided for them here.
The main message here is peace and love. Yes, the kids have a roof over their heads, and their own set of clothes, and three meals a day, and they go to school. But this would be nothing without the importance that Maggie places on family, respect and caring for others. Everyone looks after each other (very necessary for such a big family) and is treated equally. The kids are incredibly self-sufficient too, and all pitch in to help with the chores. They share their feelings at the end of each day at “satsung,” a type of family meeting. And you can see in their eyes the genuine love that they feel for each other. This is a family unlike any other.
It just goes to show you how providing a loving home and safe environment can open up a child and allow them to grow. These kids have been through so much already, many with tragic backgrounds and coming from seemingly hopeless situations. But here they are now, running around laughing, smiling, eager to learn, playing, and loving with all of their hearts. They are blossoming here each and every day and it’s because Maggie has shown them love.
Of course there are so many more children in the world who are in desperate need of such an environment, and it’s sad to think about the stats. But Maggie and her kids have given me hope and shown me that there is nothing more powerful for positively making a difference in someone’s life than a loving environment. The Beatles truly had it right – “All you need is love, love. Love is all you need.”