An exciting start to 2015 with the completion of a few stories I’ve been working on for months…
MALI: Just back from a memorable trip (my first) to Mali, West Africa for the PBS NewsHour. I traveled there to produce three stories for correspondent Jeffrey Brown for a series called “Culture at Risk.” From Mali’s capital, Bamako, and the storied city of Timbuktu we reported on the country’s rich culture – specifically its music & ancient manuscripts – and the threat posed to these treasures by the jihadist militants who raided the North in 2012 and continue to threaten. Mali is a beautiful place. Having traveled to several countries in Africa I was struck by how relaxed and friendly the people are. They are peaceful, which makes the violence wrought by these extremists that much more heartbreaking. Because of security issues we had to travel to Timbuktu on a flight operated by the World Food Program. We never felt uneasy, but the threat is very real. In fact, the week after we returned home terrorists attacked a cafe in Bamako. All of this makes our stories that much more important. Links below….
EBOLA: As the Ebola epidemic reaches an end in Liberia, I reported on the fallout from the crisis in a 10-page feature for Scientific American Mind on orphans and one woman’s quest to save them. This story began in 2012 when I first visited the More Than Me academy in Monrovia. Since then I’ve continued to follow the great work of founder Katie Meyler and her staff, who found themselves on the front lines of the terrifying Ebola epidemic last summer.
“It is the greatest of all mistakes to do nothing because you can only do a little…” – Sydney Smith
Just off two incredible, fascinating trips to Kenya, East Africa, where I reported two feature stories for The NewsHour with correspondent Jeffrey Brown – one on the crisis of elephant poaching, the other on a literary festival, emerging African writers and the threat of terrorism. Kenya is a spectacular country. In the past two years its faced a growing threat from extremist terrorist groups and some political unrest. But the beauty of the landscape, and the wildlife, make it a country well worth visiting in a lifetime. I will never forget watching the sun set over Mt. Kilimanjaro as a herd of more than 80 majestic wild elephants passed by, so close to our vehicle I could almost reach out and touch them. A link to our stories below…
Now at work on next steps for “Still We Rise” given the fact that Ebola continues to rage in West Africa. I’m struggling with my instinct – at once journalistic and human – to get on the next flight to Monrovia. But I can’t – no way, no how. I’ve spoken to health authorities here in NJ and were I to make the trip I’d have to be under a 21 day quarantine upon my return – impossible given the fact that I’ve got small kids at home. It’s one of the most frustrating, devastating stories I’ve ever covered. And doing so from the sidelines makes these feelings even worse. But it’s all I can do for now. Working on a lengthy magazine feature about Ebola heroes – details on pub date to come.
“Tough times don’t last, but tough people do…” – R. Schuller
Pausing today to remember Danny Lewin, Internet genius, 9/11 victim/hero and inspiration for my book No Better Time. I continue to get the word out about Danny’s great legacy. On this year’s anniversary, the book is being featured in Tablet, and on several radio programs including WTOP in Washington, DC and WBZ in Boston.
Proud to be producing two important stories in Kenya for The NewsHour on PBS; one on the growing crisis of elephant poaching, the other on the power of poetry in the face of terrorism. Both shooting in Kenya in September, stay tuned for air dates/times.
As for Still We Rise, the documentary film I’ve been producing with Ben Niles in Liberia, West Africa since 2011 – please see the film’s Web site for details. After a successful fundraising campaign to complete the film, the deadly Ebola virus broke out and has since been ravaging the country. In light of this terrible news we have put the film on hold, and devoted our personal resources to supporting our friends on the ground in Liberia as best we can. On a personal note, I am greatly saddened by the trauma Ebola has already caused to Liberians. They’ve suffered so much and for so long, and I wonder just how much they can take. At the same time, I take comfort in knowing that they are the most resilient people I know. And I know that out of this new war they will RISE. Please check our Web site for updates on the news from Liberia and our film: STILL WE RISE
It’s with great excitement that I share the launch of our FIRST fundraising campaign for STILL WE RISE through IndieGoGo. To date, we’ve raised all the funds for several trips to Liberia on our own – calling on the generosity of wonderful friends and family. I even held a community garage sale, which helped us raise money and bags full of supplies that we delivered to Liberians in need on every trip.
Now, we’re in the final push, and we need to cast our net wider to raise the funds to finish the film and release it for the world to see.
Please check out our campaign link below and share it with anyone you know who might lend support to our film and push to bring global mental health out of the shadows.
Honored to kickoff the season with an inspiring, memorable talk to a women’s group from The Associated in Baltimore – thanks to the group for inviting me and helping me to give a “Voice to the Voiceless”…
“From a young age, Danny Lewin seemed to possess an uncanny sense of how short our time is. He vowed never to waste a second. And when he had an idea – even one as audacious as speeding up the Internet – he had to make it happen right away…“
“Little-known but thoroughly captivating life story… A superlatively written and well-deserved tribute to an overlooked internet pioneer and true American hero.” – Booklist
“Bittersweet but celebratory.” – Kirkus
“[A] terrific new biography.” – Tablet
“Exceptional story…fascinating, significant and ultimately moving.” – Amazon Vine
Excited to be juggling several projects (in no particular order):
My book (non-fiction, to be published by Da Capo press in 2013).
Election season! Thrilled to get back out on the road for some political stories for “The NewsHour.” My first story aired in July, a report from the battleground state of PA where the legal fight over a controversial Voter ID law was gathering steam.
Liberia. Remain in production on Still We Rise, my documentary film about an extraordinary group of young doctors determined to bring hope back to their war-torn West African nation.
I fully intended to blog daily from Liberia on my last trip there (in May), but the shoot proved much more grueling than the first and Internet access was tricky. During this trip we made it out of Monrovia to Nimba County – an 8-hour drive into the savannah. It was worth every mile to see such a different part of the country – one decimated by the war, but stunning in natural beauty and remarkable for the resilience and hope of its people. We’re scheduled to re-edit the trailer for “RISE” before the year’s end and raise our next round of funds, so expect more on this soon..