Hey! I got interviewed!

My friend, Shelly Immel, has a kickin’ project called THE BIG LIFE PROJECT. As she moves into her own bigger, fuller life, she blogs about her own experience and interviews other people about theirs. Despite the fact that I have spent the better part of my life avoiding being in front of the camera (preferring to prep and stand behind the camera), I agreed to be interviewed…largely because it is Shelly and I figured she would find a way to make it easy for me. She did.

Go on over and check it out to see how I did. And while you are there, sign up for the Big Life Project to get updates on what she posts. You know you want a big life…go get some hints and support for getting yourself one.

Love,

Kimberley

 

Kony 2012, Charity Navigator and the Critics

My heart aches today and it has become too heavy for me to not respond to what I am seeing happening online with regard to the 2012 campaign. I have seen the criticisms. I have taken them very seriously. I read the blogs and articles. I read the comments on those blogs and articles. I looked at the financials and at Charity Navigator’s facts figures as well as the reviews posted by others on that site in the comments. I have done my due diligence, and I am continuing to do it.

I have lived as an aid worker in a developing country, which is something many of the people weighing in on this issue have not done. I also have a background in global communications (over 20 years in advertising/marketing and corporate communications). The combination of these two things…along with my emotional connection to the world and the problems in it, has made it impossible for me to sit silent in the face of the criticisms I have read. The critics, while sometimes making strong arguments, are dangerously and irresponsibly incorrect when looking the issue as a whole.

We live in a time where we are all bombarded with wild amounts of information and detail. We, as a culture, have begun to distrust all corporate media and for good reasons. We are aware that their job is to make money and to report things to get us to watch. We are clear that our government is controlled by lobbyists and have seen our elected officials fail, time and again, to live up to the promises made by them as they campaigned for our votes. And we are all keenly aware that injustice in this world is rampant and we feel completely powerless to do anything about it. Which causes are the most important and what can we, as voiceless and powerless citizens, do to change anything at all…anywhere?

So, there are two parts of this Kony 2012 mission…the one that is directly spoken about and the one that is hinted at. And the one that is hinted at is so important to us as a culture that it could change everything forever.

I want to address the overt mission first…the mission to stop Joseph Kony. I have read the academic arguments on why the Kony 2012 campaign is ill-conceived. One at a time:

“It is late/it is more peaceful now/he has moved and lost power already” Yep. This one is true. We should have done something 26 years ago. But we didn’t. And, while it is true that he does not have the power he once wielded and has gone into hiding, I can’t imagine how this is a good argument to just throw up our hands and walk away. His history is so virulent that it MUST be addressed…now. And to the children and families still living in fear in the vicinity of this horrible madman, and the ones who are still captive…it is not too late. If we do not find him now and bring him to justice, what are we saying to the children whose lives have been lost in service to him? What are we saying to the families who have lost children to him? What are we saying to those who would step into his place when he is weakened and gone?

“He is using children as a human shield and they would be in danger.” Yes again. This is true. But they are in danger now. They have been in danger. And, if we do not do something, they will continue to be in danger. Additionally, the Kony 2012 campaign is not advocating a specific military or diplomatic strategy for finding Kony and bringing him to justice. So to argue that because we are hanging up posters, we are telling Obama to send in troops is inaccurate and silly. They are asking us to keep this effort in our consciousness and to continue to advocate with our government.

“This is an African problem, not a US one.’ Not going to spend much time on this one, other than to say…we are a global community now more than we have ever been in the history of the world. The fact that this could happen, did happen, is a crime against humanity. Those children are our children. Those families are our families. Those dead are our dead.

We should be focused on empowering the people with education/jobs/clean water/etc. Oh, I love this one. We absolutely should be doing what we can to give these children a better shot at a healthy, educated and strong future. No question about that. However, that this even comes into the argument demonstrates an incredible “first world” bias. If families are terrified that their children will be abducted in the middle of the night…if children are afraid of going to sleep because they have seen their siblings and friends brutally murdered…education and medical care are an almost laughable approach. Maslow’s hierarchy of need, people. If I don’t feel physically safe, don’t talk to me about recycling. This should not be an either/or situation. And, while it is certainly true that the Ugandan people now need these things desperately, there are organizations already dedicated to this mission…and it is not the mission of Invisible Children, who have been dedicated to the cause of arresting Kony for nine years.

The Invisible Children foundation is spending too much money on film-making and media. As a Communications professional, I am always stunned at how completely clueless people are about what goes in to staging an effective campaign. The organization CLEARLY stated that their goal is to elevate this so solidly in the public eye, and insinuate it into so much of the social media, that those who have the power to impact change…will, if only because they will look bad to their constituencies if they don’t. This requires money and staff…good staff. People who know how to deliver a message in a powerful and compelling way across generations/economic divides/political divides/geography/etc. And those people who have this knowledge and these skills have families and lives to support. If you operate on a shoestring, you get a shoestring response. It is that simple. We would not even be having this discussion on this scale if the people running this campaign did not know what they were doing.

The film is centered on the little blond haired boy. Decades ago, leading international neurologist, Antonio Dimassio proved that it was physiological impossible for humans to make a decision, any decision at all, without engaging the emotion center of the brain. Facts, charts, figures…none of that does it for us. Ever. This horrible atrocity is occurring well outside of our Monkey Sphere (another study done that basically asserts that we can not hold attention for any person or issue that falls too far outside of our local experience of the world). What this means in terms of communication is that the event must be connected to us directly somehow in order for us to maintain the attention span for it. The film does an outstanding job of not only doing this, but also giving us an entry point into a story that most of us have not been following very closely as he explains it to his small child. His child is a perfect bridging element for us.

This is not simple. Nothing is ever as simple as we make it out to be. I realize that the campaign oversimplifies the issue. But 26 years to sit around debating what should be done is too long. It is past time to do something. Anything would have been better than 26 years of what these people had to endure, and endure still.

Tomorrow I will be blogging on the second factor in this Kony 2012 issue that, I believe, is FAR more important than the original objective and, if it succeeds, may change the way everything is done forever.

Here’s the 30 minute movie, if you haven’t seen it yet.

If You Wanna be the Top Banana…

A couple of weeks ago, I went to a thrift store in search of a kitty purse, and not just any kitty purse. This one was quite small, more of an evening bag in size, and the front was covered with a screen printed photo of a kitten. I tore the place apart looking for it. It had been there just a week before when I had been in this thrift store with friends. I even asked at the front counter if there was somewhere else in the store where these kind of things might be kept. No luck.

David Niven is not the kind of guy that you would expect would have an inordinate fascination with kitty purses, but he was among the group I brought to this particular store, and he was the one who labored over whether or not to buy this little purse. In the end, he left it there and voiced his regret later. I determined then that I would return as soon as I could and buy it for him.

To be honest, though, David is not the kind of guy you expect anything from…meaning, that he appears to be, and is, capable of doing all sorts of things. He is in his 20s, but his wardrobe is intentionally 80s…with neon and baggy pants ruling the day. He wears his blond hair long and is quick with a smile. It has been weeks since he left our home, after a short few days stay…and I miss him.

David travels around with Gary Lachance and his Decentralized Dance Party. He helps Gary get all the boom boxes set up and scout the route the moving party will take. Then, on the night of the DDP, David dresses in one of the banana suits and works the crowd while Gary runs the show with his broadcast. I used to be in event planning and I have seen many people in the type of role David plays in the festivities., if not exactly in a banana costume. I have never seen anyone work a crowd like David does.

Bananatude

When a circle forms, it’s David who gently and playfully urges just the right people to jump in and dance for the crowd. When part of the group needs to break off from the other for dramatic effect, David effortlessly leads them. When Gary plays a slow song and the crowd begins to sway, David somehow manages to pull the entire group together for a giant bear hug of a slow dance. And, he does all of this without anyone even really noticing he has done it. And this is the beauty of David. He is in it for the crowd, for the party, for the group…he clearly does not need any recognition at all that I am still a little stunned when I look back on the evening. I knew his role, and even I didn’t notice everything he had done until after it was over.

He wanted to cook us dinner before he left…and I wish we had figured out a way to let him. He kept wanting to do something for us, when all we did was offer him a bed to sleep in while he was here with us. We returned home from our trip to New York to find that he had hung our tire swing in the tree in our backyard. We have lived here almost two years and have not managed to get that hung. The fact that he even noticed it was out there is remarkable enough. Hanging it meant that he had to ride his bike to the nearest place that sold rope and then figure out how to get it slung high enough onto a solid branch. It had to have taken him hours. He said nothing about it until long after he had left.

When we drove the boom boxes up to New York, David was in the hallway of the Brooklyn artist loft space where they were crashing for the New York DDP. He had a yellow shirt laid out and was spray painting a design on it from a stencil. Mushrooms and sunshine…which is an obscure combination, to be sure. But I find myself thinking of it now and wishing I had one like it, if for no other reason, than to remind me that there are people out there who just naturally love to make things into a party…who just naturally want to get everyone involved.

If you happen to see a small kitty purse for sale…one with a screen printed kitty on it, please give me a heads up. I have no idea what on earth he wants to do with such a thing, but I have a feeling it would feel like a party to whomever he gave it to, which is reason enough for him to have it.

 

This Post is Empty

Today, the day that I have publicly proclaimed as the first official day of my life as a writer, I do not want to write.

I don’t mean that I cannot think of anything to write about. I don’t mean that I have writer’s block. I don’t even mean that I can’t get exactly what I feel onto the page and that it is frustrating. I have felt all of those things before at one time or another. Today, all I feel is resistance. My jaw is set against it. Yeah, I can feel my jaw tight and determined.

The logical part of my brain is pleading. I can feel that as well.

“It doesn’t have to be good!”

“It doesn’t have to change anyone’s life!”

“It doesn’t even have to be anything about Haiti, Nepal or the fact that you are blowing your life wide open!”

“Just get something down.”

“Just write.”

“Anything.”

But it is almost noon and I have cleaned the kitchen, finished some financial stuff that has been hanging over my head, I have made appointments and filled in more of my to do list. And all this was done with an undeniable air of defiance.

I am not your monkey.

And I don’t even know with whom I am fighting. Whose monkey am I not being exactly? There is no outside pressure on me to perform. I have no deadline pressures. I have no authority figure over me.

I am too new at this to know what to do with myself when I am actively and aggressively resisting something I want to do. How does one talk themselves down? And, seriously, what am I to do with the insolent child of myself, pouting with her ball in her arms, threatening to take it home?

Anyone?

Xo,

Kim

Haiti, A Wide Road and Two Boys

At the top of the hill above the camp is the MASH unit style tent hospital. A wide dirt road runs in front of it, scored by the hundreds of vehicles that have passed this way over the two years since the earthquake bringing medical supplies, workers, volunteers and the sick and injured. There is not any other traffic on this road as it dead ends shortly after the hospital at what used to be the helicopter landing pad.

I met Elius and Thierry on this road (I have changed their names). We all do eventually, the volunteers. These boys are as familiar on that road as the doctors and nurses. They live in the tent city below the hospital and spend much of their free time hanging around that makeshift clinic above the camp.

Neither speaks fluent English, or much english at all really, yet both are extraordinarily comfortable around strangers and strike up conversations with more ease than seems possible given their life. It is clear that NGO workers have been a fixture in their life.

Elius appears to be the ring leader…maybe of everything. He pursues language with a thirst that I have never seen in a child his age. He speaks bits of five languages…the languages of the UN soldiers permanently stationed in the camp where he lives. When I first met him a woman in our group told him she was from Pakistan. His first question to her, in English – “What is the language in Pakistan?” and then “Do you have an Urdu dictionary you can give me?” He is as proud of his collection of foreign language books and dictionaries as he is of his new soccer ball, which he protects to the point of obsession. He is chatty and curious. I love the fact that every single interaction with him leaves me exhausted from the work I do answering questions.

“What are you writing now?

“Does your son eat plantains?”

“Do you have a car where you live?”

He always grabs my arm, conspiratorially, and leans in close as he asks me things. He is unlocking the secrets of the world. Every question brings him closer in a way I do not understand.

Thierry is quieter. His angelic face adds to the impression that he is some kind of spiritual puzzle to figure out. And, perhaps he is. But he is also mischievous and fearless…he boldly asks me for money to purchase books for school and academic contests. And I always give it to him. Always. I know I am not supposed to, but when he asks, I am a mom and he is a kid who clearly needs a new pair of shoes. Badly. I smile broadly the next day when he shows me his beautiful new Croc knock offs.

Thierry is completely captivated by my camera. He and I fell into a routine…he lets me take pictures of him and then I hand him my camera for him to take pictures himself. I always sit, far longer than I had intended, on benches made of solid sandbags stacked under a tarp, and I watch him and the boys that follow him around to see what he is doing with this giant monster of a camera. While he wanders around with it snapping mostly useless shots of motion blurred dogs and cars, I rest. And this is really the deal we have struck, even if it is only me who is aware of it. There is nothing I can do here at the camp without my camera and there are times when I need to just feel the body of the group here without a camera between us.

Learning that moving the camera creates a blur...

Over time, he improves and toward the end of my three months, I can usually count on three or four decent photos from the hundreds he shoots. He gets some interesting angles as he sits with friends and when I give him a task, like moving up through the crowds at church and get pictures of the little girls in the choir, he boldly moves in and gets those shots and more. I am able to sit with him, look through the shots and tell him the story I see in what he has taken. He beams.

Theirry's photo of the church

It’s funny how little I anticipated their impact on me at the time. While living your life, you do not stop to think “These moments will define so much of my experience here.” But they do. And, as I remember them guiding me through the camp to the church or the market, I wonder what kind of options there are for them there. I worry about the fact that Elius is smart as a whip and a natural born leader. Most of the easy options for a child like that involve doing things that are not legal or safe. Thierry’s angelic looks are becoming a handicap as he slips easily into the hearts of the international aid worker community and the recipient of their easy money…because the problems in Haiti are too damn big for one person to solve, but $10 for textbooks is doable. And I am not the only one who starts to feel protective around these boys.

They were on my mind as I boarded the plane for home. I imagined bringing them here with me and wonder even today if coming to America would be better. The opportunity we have here comes at a cost, which I did not really understand until I lived somewhere else. But the point is moot, I cannot bring them home with me, even if I could discern if that would be better for them. But knowing that doesn’t stop the wondering.

xo,

Kimberley

And it begins…

When do you stop doing what you should do and start doing what scares the hell out of you? For me, it’s Monday.

I have always felt called to be a writer. But there was always too much work…too much family activity…too many excused why I can’t do it yet. But, as we all know, there is always time enough to do the things you make time for. It was always just easier to explain why I couldn’t instead of figure out when and how.

Tina and I have decided that I will not go back to work for now. For now, my work will be writing. We shall see in a few months what it comes to.

I appreciate every word I get from you on this journey. You can follow me here:

www.kimcambron.com

or on Twitter at kimcambron.

I am ignoring the panicky feeling in my stomach as I post this for everyone to see, and posting it anyway.

Xo,

Kim

Living Dangerously

“The voodoo priestess can kill you
And she does not even need to be anywhere near you.”
I am sitting in the back of a pick up truck
Against the tailgate
Because here I am in Haiti,

Living dangerously.

“It is hard for you to understand their magic.

Because you are not of here.”
The women with me in the back of the truck are American too.
They are skeptical.
We are always so skeptical of things we don’t understand.

“People in the rural areas,” his English perfect,

his accent perfectly Haitian, “they believe everything is voodoo.
But it is not everything.”
One of the women in the truck bed with us speaks up,
“Maybe they can kill people,
because people believe in it.”

Our young host looks down as if trying to find a connection

In the grooved floor of the truck bed.
There is none there either.
“You are probably safe,
you are not from here,” he decides.

“But we are of this land,

This soil is in our bones.”

A car pulls up behind us and the headlights frame the dark outline of my head
And shoulders
Until my reflection in the back window of the truck
Looks like I am
The absence of light.

“Yes, you are probably safe.

Still
If you see a white woman on a horse
Or a black dog that is unusually large,
Do not go home.
Do not go to sleep.
Just in case.”