Gloria Baker Feinstein

September 19, 2010

Meet Gloria - who did some fabulous photography work in Uganda this year that I fell in love with last week. 

View her photography here. 

Can you tell readers a little bit about yourself, and what do you do, for those who don't know? 
I've been a photographer for many years, having started taking pictures when I was only two and a half years old! I received my MA in Photography/Graphic Design from the University of Wisconsin Madison in 1979 and opened The Baker Gallery, a photography gallery soon after. The gallery exhibited fine Twentieth Century photography and offered books and workshops for nearly a decade.  I stopped making my own work then, but on my 40th birthday I picked up my camera again. I've been shooting ever since. In 2006 I made my first trip to Uganda as a participant in a photo workshop. Shortly after I returned home, I established a not-for-profit organization called Change the Truth. It has been providing assistance to the orphaned children who live at St. Mary Kevin Orphanage, one of the places I visited on that first trip. Each December I take a group of volunteers to the orphanage.

 Explain a bit about your work in Uganda? 
There are approximately 180 orphans who live at St. Mary Kevin Orphanage. They have lost one or both parents to disease, accident or war. Extended family members can not adequately provide for them. Change the Truth provides food, secondary and post-school sponsorships, medical care and assistance with various projects that provide vocational training and sustainable income for the orphanage. We just recently egaged the services of a social worker who has moved from Kansas City to Uganda and will work full-time with the children for at least the next two years.  I am based in Kansas City; from there I spend a great deal of time fundraising for the organization. Since starting Change the Truth, we have raised in excess of $400,000 and have nearly 500 supporters. I also organize volunteer trips. Each December I take a group of ten people to the orphanage. The volunteers offer classes in everything ranging from yoga, art and karate to sewing, gardening and computer training. I try to spend a lot of time photographing the children. I use the pictures to raise awareness and funds. I have also been assembling a personal portfolio from the work.

What impacted you the most about your work there?
The work I do for the children has caused my priorities to shift. I have a deeper appreciation for the things I have and for the people I love.

What drove you to begin humanitarian work?
I was raised in a home where community work was a given. Helping others has always just felt natural and right. It was just not possible me to experience Uganda and the children of St. Mary Kevin without wanting to find a way to lend a hand.

What was your first experience with it?
As young children, my sister and I held an annual carnival to raise money for the American Cancer Society. For many years of late, I have photographed for a non-profit center in Kansas City that provides assistance to the children of the working poor and have also photographed for the MIdwest Center for Holocaust Education and for breast cancer survivors. I love being able to use my camera to raise awareness and to bring about change.

Are you still living there?
I’ve lived in Kansas City since 1980. I travel to Uganda once a year for two-four weeks.

What keeps you going, while doing it?
The personal rewards are tremendous. The children, who have very little, have taught me a lot about joy and love and hope.

What does your organization/the organization your involved with do, and why do you believe in it's work?
Education is the key for these kids. It will give them their best shot at life. The costs for primary school are covered by the Ugandan government. Change the Truth provides sponsorships for kids entering middle school. We currently sponsor 29 children, including one in his last year of nursing school and one who is just entering the University. 

Why begin to highlight humanitarian work with your photography, instead of other things?
I am a photographer, plain and simple. It's what I do best, I guess. 

Is there a story/moment/circumstance that impacted you the most and, if so, what is it?
On my first visit to the orphanage in 2006, the children sang some songs for me. The chorus of one included the words: "We cannot change the truth, we can only say 'welcome'" I was struck by the fact that they seemed resigned to their situation (we cannot change it.) It became more and more clear to me each time they sang that song that, with the help of some friends, their "truth" could be changed. The chorus rang in my head for several weeks after I returned home. It was these words that caused me to move forward and actually do something to try and help. It was these words that have set my life on a new course. Since establishing "Change the Truth" I have devoted less time to my photographic portrait business and more to helping the children at St. Mary Kevin Orphanage.

What is the hardest thing you had to do?
The hardest thing I do is say goodbye to the children, all of whom now call me "Mama Gloria", at the end of each December.

Experience that changed you the most?
Each time I talk to the children and learn about the hardships and struggles they have endured, I am changed. I am changed because I am more acutely aware of how fortunate I have been.

How has this work changed your perspective on yourself, other people and the world in general?
I take less for granted. I am happy with less. I more fully appreciate what I do have and my capacity to inspire others to help make a difference.




What are a few things you have learned about Africa?
While there is sorrow, pain and loss all the time in most settings, there is also an inspiring amount of joy, love and hope.

What can people do to help your cause? 
Visit our website at www.changethetruth.org to learn more about the work we are doing. Consider donating money to help pay for food or to sponsor a child in school. Become a pen pal to one of the children. Consider joining us on one of our volunteer trips.

Favorite quote?
"You must be the change you want to see in the world" - Ghandi

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