Haymakers for Hope is a nonprofit organization that hosts amateur boxing events to raise money and awareness for cancer research -- in the past four years, they've raised more than a million dollars for cancer research! They held their annual New York City event at the Hammerstein Ballroom on Nov. 14, 2013, and I had an awesome time capturing the fights.
In September and October of this year, I had the amazing opportunity to spend six weeks traveling around East Africa and Ethiopia for my favorite nonprofit, She's the First. STF sponsors girls’ education in developing nations, giving them the chance to become the first in their families to graduate from secondary school. This was my third trip with STF's Co-Founder and Director of International Operations Christen Brandt to visit and document the organization's partner programs abroad. (We previously traveled to Guatemala and India together).
I had four main goals for this trip: shooting portraits of the 86 She's the First scholars we would meet over a month and a half, documenting the girls' lives in still photos at school and at home, shooting video profiles of several of the girls, and shooting two promotional videos for upcoming campaigns.
I was working for six weeks, and there are so many photos and stories I want to share! I'm dividing the trip into four blogposts, one for each country we visited.
We started our trip in Tanzania, where She's the First partners with AfricAid's Kisa Project, a leadership program for girls in their final two years of high school.
All of the girls we met in Tanzania are determined to finish high school and go on to have a positive impact on their families and communities; some young women are planning on continuing their studies in university, while others will head out to find their first jobs.
One of the most inspiring young women I've met in any of my travels is a recent graduate of the Kisa Project. Eli lives with her mom in a rural area and had to quit school for a period because she lacked the money for school fees. She's overcome many obstacles, but has an amazingly bright outlook on life. I'm currently working on a video profile about her that She's the First will release next year, but this quote from Eli sums up her life view:
The Kisa Project is so special because it recognizes the importance of strong female mentors in the lives of young women. The project has five full-time mentors who guide the girls through subjects including goal-setting, leadership training and computer skills. To help the mentors better document their work, I held a photography and video workshop with them. We worked on composition, lighting and storytelling over four hours in the Kisa office.
The young women I met in Tanzania are all so focused on their studies and their goals. Many of them live several hours away from their families in boarding schools because quality education for girls isn't available in their region. Yet every time I meet She's the First Scholars, whether in Guatemala or India or Tanzania, I'm reminded of what it was like to be in high school; these girls work hard on their studies, but also have friends and sports and hobbies. They love seeing their friends at school everyday, but are also excited about the next phase, be it college or getting a job and starting their careers.
This weekend, I attended my first film festival as a filmmaker. Magho (Daughter) -- the short documentary for which I was co-director, director of cinematography and editor -- was shown at the Asheville Cinema Festival in the mountains of North Carolina.
Magho (Daughter) follows 18-year-old Maheshwari during her last week of high school leading up to her graduation. She comes from India's "untouchable" caste and is the first person in her family to study past the eighth grade. In the 11 minute film, Mahesh reflects on her life at home, her future and her relationship with her mother.
My co-director (and the film's producer) Christen Brandt and I came down from New York and arrived the night before our screening. When we opened the local paper, The Asheville Citizen-Times, we found our film listed as one of the 10 films to see at the festival!
We really enjoyed seeing other films in the festival, and our only regret is that we missed films we really wanted to see because our schedule was packed!
Our film played in the first block of short documentary films, and we were able to answer questions from the audience about our experience. They were curious about the production process, how we'd selected Maheshwari as our star, and where we want to take the film next.
It was wonderful to introduce our film to a totally new audience and to present girls' education as a solution to global poverty. Maheshwari's story shows the power of education to transform a family. I'm so happy that we were able to bring Mahesh's voice to Asheville and share her strength, perseverance and compassion with a larger audience.
Magho (Daughter), the short documentary I co-directed with Christen Brandt, has been selected for Asheville Cinema Festival in Asheville, NC! I'm super excited about this festival because it's in my home state!
Magho will be screened on Saturday, Nov. 9 at 12:30pm at the Masonic Lodge. Our film will be shown in a block with four other short documentaries, and Christen and I will participate in a Q&A after the screenings.
I'm so excited to bring Magho to North Carolina!
I'm currently traveling through Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda and Ethiopia, photographing and filming students for She's the First, a nonprofit supporting girls' education worldwide! We're blogging at shesthefirst.org (click the photo above to be redirected), and you can follow my trip on instagram and twitter as well!
The film follows Maheshwari, an 18-year-old girl from India's "untouchable" caste, during her final week of high school. Maheshwari was the first person in her family to move beyond eighth grade and the first high school graduate. Magho documents her graduation day, reflecting back on her home life and her aspiration to become a cardiologist to lift her family out of poverty.
The festival is October 17- 20, so unfortunately Christen and I will miss it because we'll be visiting She's the First's partner organizations in East Africa. If you live in Southern California, swing by to see our film on the big screen!
Y'all, I'm leaping into the unknown, and it feels right. Friday was my last day at The Wall Street Journal; I'm officially an entrepreneur and I'm so excited about this adventure!
I started my career working in news in print and on the web, most recently as a photo editor at The Wall Street Journal and as a multimedia producer at NBC Universal. I loved the access afforded to these major organizations, but found that more often than not, we covered a tragedy but weren't able to circle back to tell the stories of the people and organizations striving to make their communities stronger in the aftermath. I chose to head out on my own to find these stories and support the organizations and small businesses behind them.
I'm passionate about helping nonprofits and small businesses craft their visual voice.
I tell stories with photos and video, working with each organization to form a narrative that defines their mission and inspires their audience. I’ve spent time with cloistered nuns in Peru for Sister Cities International, cheered Special Olympic athletes while filming the World Games in China, and documented mother-daughter relationships in an indigenous Mayan region of Guatemala for Starfish One by One. Last year, I made my first short film, "Magho (Daughter)," with She's the First, a nonprofit that sponsors girls' education worldwide.
My first project as a full-time freelancer starts next week - I'm traveling to East Africa to shoot photos and video for She's the First. We'll be visiting their partner programs in Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda and Ethiopia, and talking to the girls about their schoolwork, their families and their aspirations. We'll meet their mothers and explore the differences developing between their own lives and their daughters' due to education. We'll be blogging at shesthefirst.org/blog, and I'll be tweetingand instagramming as often as the internet connection allows!
Thanks so much to everyone who has watched my films, clicked through my photos, and cheered me on while planning my leap. I can't express how much your support has boosted me and given me the confidence to take this step;
I can't wait to share more powerful, inspiring stories with you.
I'm sitting here stunned by the outpouring of love and positive wishes I've received over the past two weeks because of two extremely exciting pieces of news!
Firstly, and most relevant to the usual content of this blog, I was chosen as the first everWild Sister of the Year by Wild Sister magazine! Wild Sister is an uplifting publication that encourages women to follow their dreams, believe in themselves, and inspire others to do the same. I was nominated by my dear friend Christen Brandt, the Director of International Operations for She's the First. Christen nominated me because of my photo and video work for the girls' education nonprofit, and I'll be using my winnings to visit East Africa with her to document the lives of She's the First scholars there. These young women are the first in their families to attend secondary school, and I'm so thrilled that I'll be able to help them share their stories. That trip is still in the planning stages, and I'll keep you all posted as we solidify the project.
As part of my award, I received membership to the Wild Sister community. I'm particularly excited about getting started with this sisterhood - I think surrounding myself with such strong, creative women will really inspire me as I continue to build my storytelling business. Particularly while working at a daily newspaper and working on so many tragic stories, it's wonderful to become part of a community based on positivity and love. I'll also be a contributor to Wild Sister Magazine about my work with nonprofits worldwide - stay tuned!
The past two weeks have also been incredibly exciting for a much more personal reason; after eight years together, my boyfriend Thomas proposed to me on the college campus where we met. (UNC-Chapel Hill - Let's go, Tar Heels!) I am so incredibly thrilled to be spending the rest of my life with my best friend! I've already started thinking about the wedding, and am now finally starting to understand what all my brides and grooms go through before the big day!
Beth Ely, photographer-extraordinaire and one of my best friends in the world, sneakily shot photos during the proposal:
And so I'm ending this post as I started it: with huge thanks to all my friends and fans who have sent me emails and facebook posts and real-life hugs in the past two weeks. It's been a whirlwind of excitement, and I'm so glad that I'm able to share such great news with all of you!
I've been working with Coro New York Leadership Center for more than a year, shooting stills and video that explains their purpose and expresses the enthusiasm of their participants. Their programs vary depending on on the participants' career level and goals, but all of them have sung the center's praises, from recent college graduates to established private sector professionals.
Leadership New York is targeted at successful mid-career professionals who are looking to grow their understanding of public policy and professional development exploration. In this promotional video, recent alumni program explain what they've learned from the program.
Wild Sister, an e-magazine about empowerment and inspiring women, has selected me as a finalist for its first Wild Sister of the Year Award! I am beyond excited that my work for nonprofits is being celebrated in this way. But more so, it means so much that Christen Brandt, She's the First's director of international operations, nominated me. I'm so grateful for Christen and She's the First - the organization is not only an amazing client that gives me creative freedom while providing access to AMAZING young women, but Christen has become one of my closest friends. Christen and I have traveled to Guatemala and India together, telling the uplifting stories of the incredible girls we sponsor, and I couldn't ask for a better co-director. She and I are planning our first feature documentary to be shot in East Africa about mother-daughter relationships -- if I win the grand prize, I will use it toward the funding for the film.
The judges will announce the overall winner in July, but I'm also up for the Wild Sister People's Choice Award! I'll keep you all posted on the results!
I can't believe it's been almost a year since I traveled to India to shoot Magho (Daughter) at Shanti Bhavan Children's Project in Tamil Nadu, India! As this year's 12th-graders near graduation, I've been thinking a lot about them and their classmates. The children who attend Shanti Bhavan's residential school (a partner of She's the First) come from families in the dalit, or "untouchable," caste. Had they not been chosen at age four to attend the boarding school, their lives would have been very similar to those of their parents: little to no education, marrying early and having children, working difficult manual labor, and living in poverty. But their lives will be very different - Shanti Bhavan provides top quality education and all of their graduates have gone on to attend top colleges! Shanti Bhavan's goal is that these young people will use their education to change their families' lives and end the cycle of poverty. After getting to know these kids, I have no doubt they will accomplish whatever they choose!
Prathiba: Prathiba will be graduating this June and is headed to college after scoring first class on her ISCE exams! She is HILARIOUS, curious and mischievous. I love when she's reacting to something ridiculous - she has the best scowl! Prathiba showed us all around SB and made us feel at home, even though we were only there for a few weeks. I am so proud of her and excited to hear about her transition to college life!
Vincea: Vincea, also a 2013 grad, has an amazing voice and leads the school's choir. She loves Justin Bieber (as most of the kids do!) and sang a duet of "What Dreams are Made Of" during last year's graduation festivities. I can't wait to see the videos from this year's ceremony to see what she performs!
Preetha: Preetha is completely delightful! She has an amazing voice (she sang Adele’s “Someone Like You” and blew me away!) and is also an athlete and artist - those photos of my henna? She did it for me :) Preetha is going into 11th grade this year.
Jancy: Jancy was the first girl that She's the First sponsored as an organization, so I was so excited to finally meet her in person! She has since gone on to college and is doing really well. Jancy has the most amazing facial expressions - she cannot hide what she's thinking and her look of skepticism is hilarious! She's also an amazing artist - her eye for color and pattern is truly stellar. I hope she continues into fashion design, as has long been her dream -- she would create beautiful graphic prints for clothing!
Maheshwari: Maheshwari is the star of our short film, Magho (Daughter). We attended her graduation last year and spent time with her mother at home in her village. She has an amazing story and was so gracious to share it with us. Even though she was nervous, she was immediately comfortable giving us intimate answers to our questions. She's determined to become a cardiologist, or a biologist, and take her mother with her wherever she goes. She's currently studying biochemistry and genetics in college. I'm so proud of her and so honored to have been able to share her story.
Pushpa: Pushpa is gregarious and hilarious. She's a 2010 grad of SB who came back last year to help out at graduation. She's graduating college this year - and recently accepted a position at Goldman Sachs! One of the members of SB's first-ever graduating class, she and her classmates are setting an amazing precedent for the kids coming up after them; Shanti Bhavan is like a family and when the older students succeed, it has an incredible impact on the younger students.
This, of course, is just a handful of the incredible students I met last year -- they are all on my mind because graduation 2013 is upon us!
We're putting together DVDs and information packets for screenings of Magho this fall at our campus chapters and anywhere else that would like to share Maheshwari's amazing story. If you'd like to host a screening, please email me at email@example.com - 100% of the proceeds from your fundraiser will go to sponsor girls at Shanti Bhavan.
For the second year, Coro New York Leadership Center asked me to create a promotional video for their annual gala. While last year's video focused on the organization's network and the power of those connections to improve the city, 2013's focus is Coro's ability to create positive change in New York during times of crisis, times of prosperity and for the future.
For this video, I met a city employee and a business development district director who worked together to create a volunteer hub in Red Hook after Hurricane Sandy; I spent time with the Mayor's Youth Leadership Council, a group of high school students who are influencing city policy as it effects young people; and I attended a meet-up of African immigrants looking for employment that matches their education and professional experience.
Eighteen-year-old Maheshwari comes from a family of quarry workers in rural India, none of whom completed schooling past the eighth grade. For the first four years of Maheshwari's life, it seemed she would follow a similar path: Waking at 5 a.m. to start the household chores, marrying young, bearing children, and bringing in money through odd jobs wherever she could. Instead, she was selected by the Shanti Bhavan Children's Project to attend their boarding school, a brush with fate that would change the trajectory of her entire life.Read More
As She's the First's photographer, I've visited girls we sponsor in Guatemala and India. Meeting these young women has proven to me how powerful young people can be - both the students themselves, and the young Americans who creatively fund-raise to sponsor girls' education.Read More
The United Nations declared October 11 the first International Day of the Girl, with a purpose “to help galvanize worldwide enthusiasm for goals to better girls’ lives, providing an opportunity for them to show leadership and reach their full potential.”
She's the First celebrated with a 48-hour leadership summit for our campus leaders, which included an assembly with the Young Women's Leadership School of Brooklyn, a reception with our most influential supporters, and activities from the Hearst Magazines & AOL Headquarters. Campus leaders from across the nation gathered for two days of activities and workshops planned for the students to bond with and learn from one another.
One of the exciting aspects of shooting with She's the First is the opportunity to work with young women domestically and abroad. Most of my STF work shared here are from projects about girls sponsored abroad (in Guatemala and India), but what makes STF unique is its two-fold empowerment programs here in the U.S. While providing the necessary guidance and support, She's the First encourages American students to create and implement their own fundraisers to sponsor the education of girls in the developing world. In the process, the Americans gain a better understanding of the complexities that lead to poverty and are empowered by knowing that they have the skills necessary to make a positive change in the world. This summer, STF worked with The Young Women's Leadership Schools in New York City, a network of public secondary schools for young women from low-income backgrounds that empowers them to break the cycle of poverty through education (a shared mission with STF!) Many of the girls who attend these schools will be first-generation high school graduates, like the girls STF supports in the developing world. She's the First lead a three-week "boot camp" on social media and completed the camp with a bead-making fundraiser to support a student in Uganda!
I had so much fun getting into the summer camp spirit - I can't wait to return to TYWLS next summer!
Even after they've completed the program, alums reach out to one another for support and guidance in their projects that are making a difference citywide.Read More
GIRLS WHO ROCK is a benefit concert for She's the First, a nonprofit that sponsors girls education worldwide. Proceeds benefited girls from Shanti Bhavan Children's Project in India (where I'm going NEXT MONTH to film a documentary about one of our girls!) This year's concert was sponsored by Umojawa and was held at Gramercy Theater in New York, NY.
I produced this piece for She's the First from interview footage and photos from the organization and its supporters. The video introduces Lindsay Brown, an NCAA soccer champion who inspired the nonprofit's largest annual fundraiser: tie-dye cupcake bake sales.Read More