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:

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Serengeti Highway: Going the Wrong Way

A plan by the government of Tanzania to build a road through the pristine Serengeti is so misguided, especially when there are other options for commerce. To put a busy road through one of the last untouched spaces on earth is a crime. Thank you Richard Engel of NBC for exploring the subject and to NBC’s Today Show for giving him the time to tell the story.

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/21134540/vp/40817595#40817595

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


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BBC: The Joy of Stats

What a clever way to make complicated and essential statistics user friendly. The BBC hit it out of the park with this program. For anyone interested in global poverty and the inequities between the haves and the have nots, Hans Rosling’s demonstration is must see TV.

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


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We are the World (Cup)

Sad to see the United States go down to Ghana in the 2010 FIFA World Cup but also glad to see Africa still in the game. The energy in the streets of Kampala was amazing while we were there. People would crowd outside of bars and stare through the windows of stores to watch the tiny televisions tuned in to the games. I’m sure they’re proud to have a team still in the hunt. This song was playing during every commercial break in Uganda’s World Cup coverage. It featured a little animated African boy drinking Coca-Cola. I like the full length celebration mix. A rousing anthem to keep me in the spirit even if the trophy is not for America (this year.) Love how the world can put aside its differences and come together for soccer. Thanks K’Naan for the rousing anthem.

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


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Out of Africa

Just returned from a three week trip to Uganda where we did more video production for BeadforLife (http://beadforlife.org.)  The highlight was seeing women who were dying of poverty just three years ago celebrate paying off homes they saved for and built themselves.  In a joyous ceremony BeadforLife presented 22 women with the titles to the land they sit on.  The women paraded from home to home dancing and ululating, and from what I heard they partied late into the night.  Women owners are extremely rare in Africa and BeadforLife’s Friendship Village in Mukono is an example of what’s possible.  Housing ministers from all over Africa came a few days later to see Friendship Village for themselves and other countries throughout the region are looking to emulate this poverty eradication success story.   

This trip we also visited Murchison Falls National Park to see the animals and also learn more about the oil drilling that’s going on there which is quite shocking in such a pristine place.  It is all happening very quietly and needs to be exposed.  We also visited Worldvision’s Children of War Rehabilitation Center in Gulu.  To hear the testimonies of young men who were abducted in grade school, held captive for 15 years, and forced to be child soldiers in Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army is extremely sobering.  One boy was forced to kill his own brother, another had 22 gunshot scars and a third, thankfully, was now back in school and in his village.  I will blog more about this all later but my friend Mark Jordahl, who was with us on our trip and is a prominent conservationist in Uganda, has written a very powerful blog about the child soldiers.  I hope you’ll read his very moving account of the experience. 

http://conserveuganda.wordpress.com/2010/06/21/what-if-it-was-my-son/

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


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Favorite Friends I’ve Never Met

Several of my friends and even my family think social networking is a waste of time.  They won’t Facebook, Twitter or read blogs and can’t really understand what I get from it.  I’ve found the most vehement opposition from my tango dancing mother and my friends who are cyclists.  These are not ladies who exercise casually, but rather women who compete on the dance floor, do 100 mile bike rides in the Rockies and think it’s fun to race up Mt. Diablo in Northern California.  Their buff bodies speak to their passion.  My flying fingers speak to mine.  They are my bricks and mortar relationships.  But because of social networking I have a new circle of virtual friends who I enjoy and respect, even though we have never met or for that matter, may never meet. 

First there is Susan MacCaulay.  She is a Canadian living in Dubai.  I stumbled across her website Amazing Women Rock (http://amazingwomenrock.com) when it was quite new.  What seems to have started out as a place to go for moderate Muslim women has morphed into something much larger and universal.  She is a champion of women around the world and has a large following now.  The first thing you notice about her is her passion for pink, her platinum blonde hair and her trendy get ups.  On one occasion she turned the camera on herself in a Riyadh hotel room and talked about how strange it was being a woman on a road trip to Saudi Arabia.  Then she posted it on YouTube and endured the threats from those who felt they were disrespected.  She has an elderly and opinionated mother who she adores somewhere back in Canada who reminds me of David Lettermen’s mom.  I am such a fan of hers I even contemplated a trip to Africa through Dubai just so I could meet her.  She hollers about injustice towards women and celebrates their achievements.  Susan rocks! 

Second is Dr. Qanta Ahmed.  She is a striking British national whose family came from Pakistan.  What’s interesting about virtual friendships is you often forget what brought you into someone’s universe.  I think I crossed her path doing research on a story for HDNet’s World Report but I’m not sure.  She had written an article about her transformative relationship with a rabbi who made her fall in love with Judaism while she lived in Charleston, South Carolina.  The irony came at the end when you found out she was a Muslim.  She is one of the most articulate voices for connection between people of all faiths.  She told me about her book “In The Land of Invisible Women.”  I ran out to buy it.  She wrote about the time when she couldn’t renew her visa in the United States and had to leave the country even though she was a doctor practicing medicine.  She moved for two years to Saudi Arabia and tells the story of the culture shock for a professional woman under the kingdom’s repressive laws.  Even so, she had a remarkable journey, had great stories about Riyadh and the Hajj, and got in touch with her Muslim faith.  I was stunned by her writing ability.  She has an amazing eye for detail and there was an extraordinary richness in her voice.  I still don’t know how she finds time to practice medicine with so much social networking.       

Third is my filmmaking friend, Zippy (is that the greatest name or what?) Nyaruri.  I met her via email when I needed a fixer for a story on the monetization of food aid in Kenya.  A fixer is a producer on the ground in a foreign country who helps set up a story and takes care of arrangements.  Without a fixer it is next to impossible to handle all the logistics and relationships.  Our story fell through but we have kept in touch through Facebook.  Through Zippy I see Africa.  When I first was introduced to her she was bouncing back and forth between Kampala and Nairobi.  Now she lives in Capetown, South Africa and recently she posted pictures of herself in Namibia.  She is developing a documentary about one of the few women truck drivers in Africa.  She introduced us to a fellow filmmaker named Godwin Opuly who runs sound and second camera for us when we are doing video production for BeadforLife (http://beadforlife.org.)  Even though I have never met Zippy, when I considered visiting Capetown for the FIFA World Cup, she invited me to stay in her home.

Fourth is Caroline Jones.  She actually found me when she saw a story I produced about an acid attack victim called Juliette.  She was so moved she asked if she could use a photograph of her as the foundation for a painting.  Caroline’s ambition is to help others through art.  Her inspirations are women facing obstacles and the book “Half the Sky” by New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof and his wife Sheryl WuDunn.  Caroline has created a body of work she calls Nguvu http://nguvu.artworkfolio.com.  Nguvu means strength in Swahili and her exhibit is this August in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.  She will donate 50% of the sale from each work to the organization selected by the photographer.  She also builds boats, has a daughter and is a vegan who blogs about tasty recipes for other vegans.  That’s all I know about her.

Finally there is Karen Daniel.  She is a freelance television producer just like me who lives in Knoxville, Tennessee.  She’s loves NASCAR and drives a truck.  She idolizes Dolly Parton and Linda Ellerbee.  She is the kind of person that you recommend even if you don’t know them because you know she gets it.  She’s been described as fearless and like me she wished she moved to New York City right out of college.  She has grey hair and the last time we chatted I told her that models dye their hair grey now.  It’s the new hip thing.  We also have a mutual acquaintance.  I met Ashton Ramsey trying to book Neil Wanless for the Today Show.  He’s the impoverished young cowboy who won a 200+ million dollar lottery in Winner, South Dakota.  Talk about a small world.  Both Ashton and I know Karen Daniel.  Once again, I can’t recall how it came up but imagine my surprise when I’m sitting in a small town bar and we both know my virtual friend.

Of course my virtual friendships aren’t anything like the ones I have with those who I grew up with, break bread with, go to book club with, and take Sunday walks with.  Those are the lasting friendships of my life.  But my virtual friendships are enriching my life and broadening my circle and I’m learning and pondering things that I never would have considered if I weren’t running across these amazing women around the world.  My college friend, Margaret Hoeveler’s mother, Griff, used to say at the end of the day you can count your true friends on one hand.  I think that’s wise but I also have a circle of special social networking friends I can count on one hand and they assure me the energy I spend doing this is not a waste of time.

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


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Passover in Kampala

Chag Sameach.  It means “joyous festival” and is a popular greeting during Passover.  With the Jewish celebration of freedom here again I recall our very special Passover seder in Kampala, Uganda.  I posted this as the very first story on my blog back in May 2008.  My story also ran in the Denver Post in spring 2007.

http://www.denverpost.com/search/ci_5534210

Cinematographer Paul Hillman and I are heading back to Kampala, Uganda again in June to do more video production for BeadforLife (http://beadforlife.org.)  It is our third trip.  This time we are focusing on the NGO’s market linkage program where women in the war torn villages near Lira and Gulu are getting assistance bringing their shea butter product to consumers.  What makes this extraordinary is the backstory.  All the women were refugees from the brutal reign of Joseph Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army.  For 19 years he and his men (many of them children) burned villages, raped women, killed men and abducted boys and girls in a senseless civil war.  With his retreat into the Congo these women have now returned from the refugee camps to their villages and are trying to get back on their feet by manufacturing shea butter which is a popular ingredient in cosmetics.  BeadforLife is linking these women to markets.  Other NGO’s are starting to do this on a small scale in Congo and Sudan which also have been wreaked by terrible hardship and civil war.  We are heading to the villages and expect the material to be powerful and compelling.  If you want to read about Kony and his murderous band of thugs in Congo today here is an article from the New York Times.   

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/28/world/africa/28congo.html?ref=global-home

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


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Africans on Obama

NOTE: THIS IS A REPRINT OF A BLOG FROM 11/27/2008 FOLLOWING BARACK OBAMA’S ELECTION.  IT STILL RINGS TRUE AS HE PAYS HIS FIRST POST-PRESIDENTIAL VISIT TO ACCRA, GHANA IN WEST AFRICA WITH FIRST LADY MICHELLE AND DAUGHTERS SASHA AND MALIA OBAMA.

Our Ugandan driver picked us up from the airport in Entebbe on November 9.  We were barely down the road before he asked us who we voted for in the election.  He wanted to talk about Barack Obama.  He wanted to tell us about the parties all over Kampala on the night Obama was elected.  They were still going on days after the election to celebrate the achievement of this native son and brother.

As soon as people in Kampala learned we were Americans they wanted to engage in a discussion about our President-Elect.  In the slums a man we met pumped the air with his fist and called out “Obama.”  We asked him what his thoughts were about him.  “He is African.  He is my brother.”  In mom’s arms nearby was a baby named Obama, a very popular name for African children right now.  People wore Obama buttons, Obama t-shirts, Obama on their sleeves. 

A video called “The Biography of Barack Obama” was on the market and news headlines screamed of his victory and how he would end poverty in Uganda and make this African nation the number one priority of his administration.  There was even a newspaper column with 50 fun facts about Obama including the food he likes to eat, the television shows he enjoys and the fact that he failed to fulfill his promise to Michelle and give up smoking.  People were so giddy that one worried they would be disappointed by the crush of expectations on this man who many viewed as a savior.

Others were a little more thoughtful in their assessments.  Mr. Kayondo looked forward to a man who hopefully would dialogue and help end wars.  Damien, a Nigerian professor who now teaches at a university in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, said his triumph meant that Africans and African Americans for that matter could no longer make excuses and act as though they are limited by white society.  Joseph and a young woman we met at an African market just said “let’s wait and see.”

For all the excitement this Presidency has brought to America, there is an equal amount of enthusiasm in east African nations like Uganda and Kenya.  In those countries, they slog along with leaders who are corrupt and siphon off money for themselves instead of fixing roads and fighting poverty.  But for now attention has turned to Barack Obama.  He may be the next President of the United States but he is their President too.

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


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BeadforLife on The Newshour

Many thanks to PBS producer Patti Parson, Associate Producer Rebecca Jacobson and the folks at The Newshour with Jim Lehrer for the wonderful story they did on BeadforLife (http://beadforlife.org) on Thursday’s program.  Every time the NGO gets national exposure of this kind the phones ring off the hook and more and more people join the fight against global poverty.  Together we are making a difference and helping families in Africa raise themselves up out of despair.  What continues to astonish me is how many different ways there are to tell this story and the way hearts continue to be touched by the women in Uganda.  Thank you Patti, Rebecca and The Newshour. 

http://www.pbs.org/newshour/video/module.html?mod=0&pkg=skoll&seg=5

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