“There are no words…”

16 November 2011

It’s an expression you hear all the time. It’s something we fall back on at convenience – to express the overwhelming task of appreciation. gratitude. goodness. you name it – the trusty ol’ saying covers it.

I returned this week from Ethiopia – where I spent 15 days taking it all in. We worked intimately with the education goals and communities of Imagine1day to build schools in the northern region of Ethiopia where a new generation of leaders await. Where communities hope to elevate their place in the world with books and pens and paper – under the simple and important truth that education is, in fact, freedom.

And so, There are no words.

Or should I say…there are too many.

Too many words and stories and photos of sweeping changes and great progress and limitless beauty and take-your-breath-away moments to narrow in on just one giggle-cry. or one child who stopped me in my tracks. or one elder who expressed his gratitude in a way I only wish I could bottle up and share with you.

I live for this stuff. I live for the people who stop you in your tracks with their joy. I live for the kind of global exchanges that remind you “we are all in this together.”

And I live for the telling of stories with words and cameras. But to be honest, I’m completely overwhelmed, in that best kind of way, by the responsibility to give a voice, to be an ambassador for the country and its people who have taught me so much. A country that is filled with incredible capacity. an incredible capacity for joy. for community. for bountiful crops and bright spirits. an incredible capacity for prosperity – one rich in education.

I’m patiently waiting for the stories to come to my pen in the way I feel they ought to be shared. In the meantime, I’d like to introduce you to the Ethiopia I’ve come to know. One that has so very much to teach us. These are the faces of the kids your kindness reached. These are the communities you said YES to. These are the landscapes you believed in. This is the country that will not let your generosity down.

(**after pushing play on the slideshow, please pause it to allow it to load fully or it may stall on you**)

I’m infinitely grateful for every effort each of you has made in this journey. Know that your contributions were never just a number. Your contributions have changed, forever, the lives of children who are so eager to learn, who want to study at desks, who want to grow up to be doctors and engineers. You are not just a number to the lives of their parents – who are deeply committed to education, who wish to see their children grow up to have lives grander than their own. And your dollars are not just a number to village elders who said to us, and to you, that through this school they can now move “out of the dark and into the light.”

Thank you for being the light.

Shine on!

Katie

A case for optimism! (and Ethiopia…)

20 September 2011

The other day, I found myself on one of those trail runs that accidentally fills your bucket. Nothing about the pace or the duration or the location should have made it that way. But as I scrolled through the usual suspects on my I-pod, a laundry list of meaningful ambitions and big plans surfaced – as they always seem to do when you’re nowhere near pen and paper.

You know that space. Somewhere between the ever-loudening playlist and the auto-pilot of the feet, there lies dreams of doing more, writing more, traveling more, giving more, stopping to notice more, becoming more.

Like most things, however, the music eventually stops and the dirty socks come off.  And with it, the noise of the world welcomes itself back into those big plans. Like the documentary whose message is too-soon-forgotten, so too my list of grand things to do (and become) gets put on hold.

Four weeks from today, I depart for Ethiopia and – there waiting – are the hundreds of kids who have stirred in my mind on all of those runs in the past six months. They are the boys and girls studying under a tree who have no idea how much they’ve inspired my community and I to be good humans.

photo credit: Imagine1day

You see – a school is waiting to be built in a remote rural community of Tigray, Ethiopia. Together with the others from my Imagine1day team, we’re raising $100,000 to ensure that this happens – to ensure that there is clean water to drink, super cool books to read, chalkboards to fill with beautiful words, and resources to make sure their 3rd grade teacher will be as great as mine.

I could recount for you all the facts and figures about the power of educating a girl as the first step to changing the world, about the 90+ million people living in Ethiopia and the 3+million kids without primary education.  But let’s be honest, you are just as resourceful as you are busy. And you already know that the world is filled with needs and different versions of the same story of ‘the least of the least.’

But here’s where the story changes. The goals are not insurmountable. The possibilities are REAL. As real as your morning latte and the pint of beer I’ll have at happy hour. These education goals are as real and POSSIBLE as the “to-become” lists we make when we are at our own best.

When I first joined the Imagine Ethiopia team, I signed a commitment to raise $7,500 as my contribution to building the school. I’ve used photography as a means to meet that goal – because it turns out, I’m not one to make an ‘ask.’ It seemed easier to put my nose to the proverbial grindstone than to make ‘the ask.’  To date, with amazing help from a community of YOUs, $12,800 has been raised in connection to my personal goal. This is all very humbling.

BUT the thing that had my mind reeling while running the other day is the reason I’m writing. Someday soon I’ll find myself in complete awe of just how much we can learn from the little girl who has nothing. As I look into her rich brown eyes, I need to know we did everything we could to enrich her world in the ways she is enriching mine. I do not want this to be a singular experience for a few who saw benefit through photography or for my close family and friends who couldn’t escape my incessant chatter about the project.

When smiling eyes are at stake, the work is never over – unlimited potential awaits. I’m hoping you’ll join me in reaching a new goal – because if I know anything about the people in my life, you are always always surprising me with your happy good human ways. I’m hoping all of our morning lattes stack up to another $2500. possible? absolutely.

photo credit: Imagine1day

Can I take you with me? I’ll be bringing my camera with me – and there’s a photo I imagine taking that keeps coming to mind. It’s one of a sea of happy kids running with effortless joy, with so little to hold on to but so much to be found. And in that moment, when I click the shutter, I want to take all of you with me. I want to be able to look through that lens and know that each of those happy footsteps is product of you and you and you and you and you…

And that we did everything we could. In big and small ways, we mattered.

Is all of this sounding too optimistic? I hope so. And I hope you’ll join me. Let’s be YES people.

If you’d like to make a contribution, click here. (You should know that 100% of your donation goes straight to the nitty gritty – we’re talking building materials, chalkboards, pencils etc – not a cent to marketing or admin. yay!)

Here’s wishing for you the something that finds you, the something that moves you to beauty and keeps your feet running, and – to borrow words from the region – I wish for you a “year of milk and honey.”

so.much.gratitude.

Katie

p.s. If you make a donation by Thursday, check out this super amazing donation matching program on GroupOn here! If you go this route, can you send me an email at katie@jennawalkerphotography.com so I can make sure to thank you personally? thank YOU!


This one’s important. (and might make your mama proud): Photo sessions with 100% profits to benefit schools in Ethiopia

22 April 2011

I did not take this photo. I do not have a story for it. I am not changed because of it.

Yet.


photo credit: Imagine1day

This year will be different. This one’s important. And it takes a village. So I’m hoping maybe, just maybe, you might want to – (wait for it!) – change the world with me.

My wheels have been spinning about this post for quite some time – where to even begin – because the journey that got me here is excitingly long and it just so happens I’m long-winded. (I was never able to keep up with the concise writing style that journalism school, without success, drilled into me…). There is not a coffee cup big enough for the conversations I’d love to have. So bear with me for a second.

The short of it is this: I am going to Ethiopia in October. We’re raising money to build a school. And the energy of it all is spilling over into every part of my life and our business. (yay!) What this means for you – photography sessions with 100% of the profits going straight to build a school in Ethiopia. Not a cent to overhead. win. win! more on that below. way below.

The long of it is…
Earlier this year, I serendipitously stumbled across the work of Imagine1day. Their understanding of our world and the potential in each of us to do good and rethink possibility is inspiring. Their mission even more so. It was decided – I needed to be a part of it.

Today, there are more than 3 million children in Ethiopia who do not go to school. A country full of possibility and PROMISE, its leaders want to change just that. The goals are in place. The work is starting. And Imagine1day is getting behind it – creating a global community of passionate people doing just the same. They work closely with Ethiopian community and government partners to create accessible, equitable and sustainable education programs to ensure every child in Ethiopia receives a quality primary education. By 2020.

I know you’ve heard this story before – it’s a similar story, different country, same sense of insurmountable goals. And it’s really easy to feel the world is just too big to make a difference. But all we have to do is start.

As part of the ImagineEthiopia team, I’m committed to helping raise the needed $100,000 to provide one primary school program for a remote community in the northern Tigray Region. This primary school program is comprehensive and includes the school structure, a water point, latrines, desks, books, PTA leadership development, school supplies and equipment, teacher training, and seed funding for school income generation activities. Pretty rad huh?

Let’s do something amazing. really amazing. All we really want – each of us – is to be a part of something. To move mountains. To make our mark.

Let’s make our mark.

Let’s start with Mother’s Day – that day dedicated to your very first educator. I invite you to be one of 10 families to sign up for a photography session to take place on Sunday, May 15 – gift it to mom. gift it to yourself. Wherever you gift it, 100% of your donation will go to the very school in Ethiopia that – together – we will build.

(…dramatic pause….yay!…)

The Fine Print:

  • What: 40 minute photography sessions – families, couples, photography mentoring. you name it.  Includes the disc of high-res digital negatives to print as you’d like
  • When: Sunday, May 15 (All sessions MUST take place on this date…*rain date would be Sunday May 22)  Time slots will be allocated once all spots are filled.
  • Where: Somewhere magical! Denver Metro area park  (I promise you’ll love it – it’s our secret little spot…)
  • Minimum donation of $250…give to your heart’s content! ($750 value)
  • Space is limited to 10 sessions and will be granted to those who email first.
  • The top three donors will receive a print package to include three signed and dated 5×7 prints in 8×10 mattes
  • To secure your spot: email me at katie@jennawalkerphotography.com with the donation amount you’d like to make and any information about your family (or who you’ll be gifting it to…ages of children, engagement shoot etc, nap-time schedule restrictions for young kids). I’ll follow up as soon as I can with verification, the donation link information and a gift card.

Whatever you do, whatever moves you – just start. It starts with you.
And that – that’s pretty awesome. That just might – make your mama proud.

If you would like simply to make a contribution to Imagine1Day – well, that’s pretty cool too. The goals are big and I know that the giving happens in $5 and $10 increments. It happens on random Tuesdays and it comes out of the woodwork in unassuming ways – I’d love to take your heart along with me in any way. To make a donation, click here.

With so much GRATITUDE!

Katie

Costa Rica Polaroids

11 February 2011

Last week Matty and I had the chance to jump away to Costa Rica for 5 days.  I’M. IN. LOVE.   Two days riding horses through the Children’s Eternal Rainforest outside of La Fortuna by the Arenal Volcano…and two days learning to surf in Tamarindo on the Pacific side.  In a moment of nerves – about 3o minutes prior to our first go at learning how to surf – we had a beer and a polaroid photo shoot…liquid courage and polaroids – a great combo.

Thank you a MILLION times over to all of our clients and friends who literally made this trip possible with all of your last minute awesome suggestions – you rock!  I’ll try to post more photos…yes – we took more than polaroids!

Much love!
Jenna

PS…not pictured: surfing lessons injuries that included 10 bruises, 2 surfboard rash legs, one cut and one good knock in the head from when I forgot to duck and the board and my head had a nice meeting….we survived and I’m definitely going to try again – but you surfers are HARD CORE in my humble lake girl opinion!

Katie – Self Portrait

9 January 2011

Just going through some film shots that I received right before the new year…and discovered a self-portrait (which we affectionately refer to as “selfies”) Katie took of herself off of the reflection of the millenium bean in Chicago in November.  I love the rain and the tones of this image…and of course I love Katie!

Hope the weekend is treating you well!

Jenna

Something to believe in…

25 December 2010

Whatever holiday you call home, here’s to celebrating the one day where the whole world looks through the eyes of a child…and finds something to believe in.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

all of us

Us

15 September 2010

Photos Courtesy Jonathan Canlas