Vicky Collins Online

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I Support Kony2012

Joseph Kony is infamous for his atrocities and crimes against humanity in Uganda and neighboring countries and now the group Invisible Children is trying to make him famous.  Kony is one of the most sought after war criminals and the hope is by bringing attention to him the whole world will engage and finally hunt him down and let justice be served.  His Kony’s Lords Resistance Army brutalized the people of Northern Uganda for 25 years, abducting children and turning them into child soldiers and sex slaves.  An entire region and generation were brutalized and broken.  Now Kony has fled from Uganda and has escaped into the Congo.  He continues his senseless killing and the U.S. has even sent troops to help Uganda’s military track him down.  A couple of years ago we met some of the child soldiers who had escaped and were being prepared to return home at Worldvision’s Children of War Rehabilitation Center in Gulu, Uganda.  Their stories are painful but they are also hopeful. Here is the video we produced for HDNet World Report:

For more information on Vicky Collins visit Teletrends Television Production and Development.

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A Son Returns to the Agony of Somalia By K’NAAN

K’NAAN is one of my favorite musicians.  He inspired people around the globe with his rousing “Wavin’ Flag” during the World Cup in South Africa and now he has written a powerful op-ed piece for the New York Times about a journey he took home to his native Somalia.  It’s an urgent call to action in case we are forgetting the famine already.

A Son Returns to the Agony of Somalia

By K’NAAN
K’Naan is a musician and poet.

MOGADISHU, Somalia

ONE has to be careful about stories. Especially true ones. When a story is told the first time, it can find a place in the listener’s heart. If the same story is told over and over, it becomes less like a presence in that chest and more like an X-ray of it.

The beating heart of my story is this: I was born in Mogadishu, Somalia. I had a brief but beautiful childhood filled with poetry from renowned relatives. Then came a bloody end to it, a lesson in life as a Somali: death approaching from the distance, walking into our lives in an experienced stroll.

At 12 years old, I lost three of the boys I grew up with in one burst of machine-gun fire — one pull from the misinformed finger of a boy probably not much older than we were.

But I was also unusually lucky. The bullets hit everyone but me.

Luck follows me through this story; so does my luckless homeland. A few harrowing months later, I found myself on the last commercial flight to leave Somalia before war closed in on the airport. And over the years, fortune turned me into Somalia’s loudest musical voice in the Western Hemisphere.

Meanwhile, my country festered, declining more and more. When I went on a tour of 86 countries last year, I could not perform in the one that mattered most to me. And when my song “Wavin’ Flag” became the theme song for the World Cup that year, the kids back home were not allowed to listen to it on the airwaves. Whatever melodious beauty I found, living in the spotlight, my country produced an opposing harmony in shadows, and the world hardly noticed. But I could still hear it.

And now this terrible year: The worst famine in decades pillages the flesh of the already wounded in Somalia. And the world’s collective humanitarian response has been a defeated shrug. If ever there was a best and worst time to return home, it was now.

So, 20 summers after I left as a child, I found myself on my way back to Somalia with some concerned friends and colleagues. I hoped that my presence would let me shine a light into this darkness. Maybe spare even one life, a life equal to mine, from indifferently wasting away. But I am no statesman, nor a soldier. Just a man made fortunate by the power of the spotlight. And to save someone’s life I am willing to spend some of that capricious currency called celebrity.

We had been told that Mogadishu was still among the most dangerous cities on the planet. So it was quiet on the 15-seat plane from Nairobi. We told nervous jokes at first, then looked to defuse the tension. The one book I had brought was Hemingway’s “A Moveable Feast.” I reached a chapter titled “Hunger Was Good Discipline” and stopped. That idea needed some contemplation. The very thing driving so many from their homes in Somalia was drawing me back there. I read on. Hemingway felt that paintings were more beautiful when he was “belly-empty, hollow-hungry.” But he was not speaking of the brutal and criminally organized hunger of East Africa. His hunger was beautiful. It made something of you. The one I was heading into only made ashes of you.

By now, the ride was bumpy. We were flying low, so I could see Baraawe and Merca, beauties of coastal towns that I had always dreamed of visiting. The pilot joked that he would try to fly low enough for my sightseeing, but high enough to avoid the rocket-propelled grenades.

FOR miles along that coast, all you see are paint-like blue water, beautiful sand dunes eroding, and an abandoned effort to cap them with concrete. Everything about Somalia feels like abandonment. The buildings, the peace initiatives, the hopes and dreams of greatness for a nation.

With the ocean to our backs, our wheels touch down in Mogadishu, at the airport I left 20 years before to the surround-sound of heavy artillery pounding the devil’s rhythm. Now there is an eerie calm. We clear immigration, passing citizens with AK-47’s slung over their shoulders.

It’s not a small task to be safe in Mogadishu. So we keep our arrival a secret until after we ride from the airport to the city, a ride on which they say life expectancy is about 17 minutes if you don’t have the kind of security that has been arranged for me.

Over breakfast at a “safe house,” I update my sense of taste with kidney and anjera (a bread), and a perfectly cooled grapefruit drink. Then we journey onto the city streets. It’s the most aesthetically contradictory place on earth — a paradise of paradox. The old Italian and locally inspired architecture is colored by American and Russian artillery paint. Everything stands proudly lopsided.

And then come the makeshift camps set up for the many hungering displaced Somalis. They are the reason I am here. If my voice was an instrument, then I needed it to be an amplifier this time. If my light was true, then I needed it to show its face here, where it counts. Nothing I have ever sung will matter much if I can’t be the mouth of the silenced. But will the world have ears for them, too?

I find the homeless Somalis’ arms open, waiting for the outside world and hoping for a second chance into its fenced heart. I meet a young woman watching over her dying mother, who has been struck by the bullet of famine. The daughter tells me about the journey to Mogadishu — a 200-mile trek across arid, parched land, with adults huddling around children to protect them first. This mother refused to eat her own food in order to feed abandoned children they had picked up along the way. And now she was dying because of that.

The final and most devastating stop for me was Banadir Hospital, where I was born. The doctors are like hostages of hopelessness, surrounded and outnumbered. Mothers hum lullabies holding the skeletal heads of their children. It seems eyes are the only ornament left of their beautiful faces; eyes like lanterns holding out a glimmer of faint hope. Volunteers are doing jobs they aren’t qualified for. The wards are over-crowded, mixing gun wound, malnutrition and cholera patients.

Death is in every corner of this place. It’s lying on the mattresses holding the tiny wrists of half-sleeping children. It’s near the exposed breasts of girls turned mothers too soon. It folds in the cots, all-knowing and silent; its mournful wind swells the black sheets. Here, each life ends sadly, too suddenly and casually to be memorialized.

In this somber and embittered forgotten place, at least they were happy to see I had come.

For more information on Vicky Collins visit Teletrends Television Production and Development.

To see Vicky’s photographs from Africa visit Vicky Collins Photography.


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New BeadforLife Party Video

We have just completed BeadforLife’s new party video. If you are not familiar with BeadforLife and the wonderful work this NGO does for women in Uganda go to http://beadforlife.org. BeadforLife is an income generating project which creates a circle of connection and compassion between women around the globe and women in Uganda who are trying to lift their families out of extreme poverty. Women in the slums of Kampala roll beads out of recycled paper and women in North America and Europe sell them. The money is returned to Uganda to help women care for their families, provide food, shelter, health care and education. BeadforLife has also launched an initiative in war torn Northern Uganda where women gather shea nuts for shea butter which is used in cosmetics. BeadforLife also offers a curriculum for middle and high school students to raise awareness and get them engaged in the fight to end extreme poverty.


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The Power of Words

As a writer I’m impressed by how powerful words can be.  As a producer I’m awed by the power of images to tell stories.  This little video about how words evoke compassion left me speechless and a bit teary eyed too.

For more information on Vicky Collins visit Teletrends Television Production and Development.


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“This Is What Freedom Looks Like”

Correspondent Ron Allen of NBC News was standing in Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt when the news broke that Hosni Mubarak had stepped down. He was in the thick of it and handed the microphone to men standing near him in the crowd for their reactions. They shouted and screamed in triumph. When he retrieved the mic he said “this is what freedom looks like.” How amazing for him to bear witness to such a historic day. And how exciting for the world to see a revolution like this. A regime brought down without guns, without violence, simply with the power of people who are fed up and want the better life that they see in other parts of the world.

Yesterday I was discouraged and even fearful about the cascade of events that seemed inevitable in the Middle East. Would the army crack down on its demonstrators? Would one autocratic leader after another dig his heels in the sand and make life even more hopeless for the people? Would Islamic extremists rush in and fill the vacuum during the transition of power? Would dire predictions about 2012 get their spark in the Middle East? Now there has been a shift and the Egyptians can envision the yoke of oppression off their backs. I wish I could have been in Cairo when Ron Allen heard the news, the joyful noise, and witnessed the birth of a democracy.

For more information on Vicky Collins visit http://teletrendstv.com.


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2010 in review

The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Wow.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 11,000 times in 2010. That’s about 26 full 747s.

In 2010, there were 85 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 193 posts. There were 12 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 12mb. That’s about a picture per month.

The busiest day of the year was January 7th with 215 views. The most popular post that day was Meeting Aron Ralston .

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were facebook.com, yosemitepark.com, en.wordpress.com, twitter.com, and teletrendstv.com.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for aron ralston, acid attack, acid face, acid throwing, and acid attack victims.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

1

Meeting Aron Ralston December 2009
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2

Juliette’s Acid Attack December 2008
1 comment

3

Yosemite: From Farm to Table July 2009
1 comment

4

Favela Tour in Rio de Janeiro May 2008
6 comments

For more information on Vicky Collins visit http://teletrendstv.com.


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The Joy of Giving

What a beautiful message during this Christmas season! Narayanan Krishnan is a bright light in the impoverished streets of Bangalore, India. His spirit of giving can inspire all of us. He is one of CNN’s Heroes.  When I was in India I often saw desperately poor people squatting down and begging for food. Giving food was a way people would get good karma in their next life but I’m certain they received many more blessings in this one, just from the act of giving.

For more information on Vicky Collins visit http://teletrendstv.com.


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“A Homeless, Homeless Advocate”

Thanks to my friend, Randle Loeb, for sharing this inspiring story with me.  Randle is a tireless voice for the homeless and wanted me to see this Washington Post article about Eric Sheptock, a homeless man in Washington, D.C.,  who is advocating for those like him using social media, Facebook and Twitter. People can make a difference anywhere.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/12/12/AR2010121203509.html?hpid=topnews

For more information on Vicky Collins visit http://teletrendstv.com.


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Photography: Stepping Up My Game

Just bought a Nikon D7000 camera and Nikkor 18-200 mm 1:3.5-5.6 GII lens. Have set a goal to teach myself to shoot and edit video in the year ahead. My television colleagues are trying to talk me into Final Cut Pro. Also looking into continuing education at the Santa Fe Photography Workshops. Need to enhance the skill set. Time to step up as a photographer and journalist. Nervous and excited. I posted my current portfolio on Flickr. Onward and Upward!

http://www.flickr.com/photos/vickycollins/sets/72157625467469718/

For more information on Vicky Collins visit http://teletrendstv.com.


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Uganda’s Child Soldiers on PBS

As a journalist I’m used to working long days.  Adrenaline keeps you in the game for 16 to 20 hours during breaking news and disaster coverage.  You sleep for three hours then you’re back at it.  But nothing prepared me for how exhausted I would be after just a couple of hours of listening to the painful testimonies of young Ugandan men and women who had been abducted as children and forced to fight in Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army.  We produced the story for the PBS Newshour with Jim Lehrer when we traveled to Uganda this past June.

http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/africa/july-dec10/uganda_11-16.html

During our journey we met up with the young men at World Vision’s Children of War Rehabilitation Center in Gulu, Uganda.  We also spoke with Sarah at her home in Orum in the Otuke District of Northern Uganda.  For 20 years kids as young as 9 were taken from their villages, marched to Sudan where they were trained to be soldiers, and sent out in the battlefield whether they were ready or not.  Michael told us how he was forced to kill his own brother.  Justin showed us his body riddled with bullet wounds.  Sarah gave us a tour of the village, pointing out graves including her sister’s.  It was a senseless civil war and the children didn’t even know why they were fighting.  Estimates are that 30,000 children were kidnapped but those are considered conservative.  More than likely the number is over 50,000.  Many spent their entire childhood in captivity and if they were not killed in battle or shot by ruthless commanders, if they survived their wounds and the traumas they witnessed, they might have been lucky enough to escape or be captured by the Ugandan government and sent into the arms of NGO’s like World Vision who work to rehabilitate them so they can be returned to their villages.  It is tough work.  Many of these children come home as young adults after spending the majority of their lives in the bush.  They have been robbed of their education and have little hope for the future.  They need to trust again.  They suffer from post traumatic stress disorder and depression.  One half of them were forced to kill someone.  Communities have mixed feelings about taking them back.  After all, these rebels killed tens of thousands of people and forced almost two million from their homes.  It’s understandable that there are some hard feelings.  Northern Uganda is at peace again and people have returned to their villages.  It’s hard to imagine this terror just a few years ago. But the physical and emotional scars endure for these children.  For their families.  For the people of the region.  And the LRA has not gone away.  Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army has just moved next door where they are traumatizing the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

For a longer version of the story watch the link below to see what we produced for HDNet’s World Report.

http://player.vimeo.com/video/15209575?portrait=0&color=ffffff

For more information on Vicky Collins visit http://teletrendstv.com.