Monday, March 24, 2014

36by24 #4 - I Wanna See!

36By24 is a series featuring photos that, over time, have developed stories of their own. You can find more under the "36By24" tag in the menu bar above.

On one of the last days of "Roots of Happiness" we were walking through town with our team, cameras in hand. It was around the end of school and in the distance we could hear the sound of dozens of children walking up the road. They were trickling in at first. A young boy would show us his backpack or his shoes, and we would ask as best we could if we could take some pictures of him. Most of these kids had never seen a camera before. Alot of them hadn't seen foreigners, either. Many were curious of who we were and what we were doing.

After each picture we took, they would rush us and take a look at their faces on camera. They would point at each other on the screen and laugh, then ask for us to take another picture. Over time more and more kids came to see what we were doing and, before we knew it, we were overrun!

As kids everywhere are, these ones in my picture were a bit impatient. Before I even took the picture, they were mid-sprint heading over to my camera to be the first one to point out their friends. It was a beautiful, unintended moment that seemed to capture all the action of that day. The chaos was sublime. I still remember the sounds of their high pitch squeals as they saw their faces in something other than a mirror. This instantly became one of my best memories from Kenya.

Monday, March 10, 2014

End Polio Now

I recently spent a weekend in Mesa, Arizona at a Rotary International conference for incoming officers and leaders of the club. During one of the sessions, I had the honor of listening to an incredible speaker with an even more incredible story. Her name is Ann Lee Hussey, and she is one of many remarkable people working to eradicate Polio worldwide.

Her story is very personal when it comes to Polio, and I would encourage you to read a more in depth look at her journey and what she is doing today at this article by Real Simple. She contracted Polio when she was very young and before Polio vaccinations were commonplace. Polio, once contracted, is incurable. It is manageable however, although it requires modern medicine and extensive rehab. You never fully recover.

Ann spoke to us about how it takes twice the energy to walk across the room for her, and how she had to have extensive surgery just to be able to walk normally. She told us she how she was lucky that she was born in the United States, as those in impoverished nations without access to proper care often face a life spent walking on their hands and knees because their legs are so crippled and mangled. The pictures she shared with us from her 25 immunization trips to some of the harshest places on Earth made it that much more real and immediate. This was no longer a disease that existed in history books and far away nations; a disease that our grandfathers and grandmothers eradicated 30 years ago. This was a disease that, even at the brink of getting extinguished, is still destroying lives.

But Ann wasn't telling her story to scare us into donating or to garner sympathy for her cause. She was telling her story to let us know that Rotary and its partners are only a few steps away from achieving eradication. They are "this close," as illustrated in Rotary's End Polio Now campaign. They have 3 endemic countries left: Afghanistan, Nigeria, and Pakistan. They are gaining momentum, with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation on board and donating $2 for every $1 raised toward this cause. And, with one more push and finishing strong, Polio can and will be eradicated within the next 5 years.

When I was listening to her speech, I never felt like I was being sold a product or a cause like you would expect from someone speaking on an issue like this. Most fights that people take up are endeavors that tend to be ongoing. Ideally, every non-profit and charity strives to be so proficient in their arena that their issue is eventually resolved and they effectively render themselves obsolete. They are playing the long game: fight the issue, but remain organized and well funded long enough to see it through.

Listening to Ann and learning about what Rotary has done was more like watching a marathon runner towards the end of the race. They officially started up this campaign in 1985, and in 29 years they've gone from 125 endemic countries to 3. The finish line is in sight, and they are a Powerbar and a swig of water away from crossing it. Those causes are rare and exciting to see and be a part of.

Her speech was a testament to what we as humans are able to accomplish when we come together as an international community and work together. The more I travel and the more I see in this world, the more I realize how critical it is for everyone (and especially my generation) to recognize that there is strength to be found in our commonalities. We tend to gravitate towards that way of thinking, but those voices speaking out for cooperation tend to be quiet and reserved.  They should be plastered on every news channel and visible in every medium not for self-promotion, but as reminders to each and every one of us that human progress prospers when we are able to recognize our obstacles and tackle them together.

Monday, March 3, 2014

36By24 #3 - Sunrise

36By24 is a series featuring photos that, over time, have developed stories of their own. You can find more under the "36By24" tag in the menu bar above.
Canon EOS 5D Mark III, 24mm f/6.3, 1/30
Our New Zealand project was a beast to complete, and towards the end of it the cast and crew were absolutely exhausted. When we rolled into Queenstown, we had been shooting for just over 3 weeks straight...and this footage was the most critical to capture. I knew it going in when we were planning it out that Queenstown was going to be the most exciting part of our adventure, and that as filmmakers both Steven (the other filmmaker with me) and I had to be at the top of our game. It all worked it thanks to an awesome and flexible cast and our crew abroad giving us the support we needed.

Waking up to shoot the hot air balloon stuff was rough. We had to hop on a bus at four in the morning, struggling to sleep while working on everything else. The balloons are filled up before dawn so that, as you're going up, the sun peeks over the mountains and paints the sky fire orange and red.

The flight is incredible. Just like you would imagine, you float up with a grace that I didn't think was possible. This particular morning, we were blessed with perfect conditions: no wind, mild temperatures, and just enough clouds to give the sky some texture as the sun rose. At that altitude, everything is so quiet and peaceful. You can hear everything down below like it was right next to you, yet you weren't part of their world. You were above it, drifting in the space between the Earth and sky.

We spent most of the time up there looking through a camera. In futility, we tried to do the scene justice on screen. Fortunately, it was so beautiful that we didn't have to try too hard to capture something amazing.