Category Archives: Giving Back

Wow it’s been a long time since I’ve shared any images to the blog!  Oops.  It’s not because we haven’t been taking any images, in fact my camera has been smoking!  I’ll do better sharing all that’s been going on, starting with this post.

Many people know that our whole family had the opportunity of a lifetime to visit India last year, when I was asked to document an amazing nonprofit started by friends of ours there. Last week, I got to go again (this time without Matt and the kids), and once again I was charmed by the people and moved by their experience.

Ark of the Rainbow is a school and community center in a slum of Bangalore, serving some incredible people and making a big difference in so many lives.  At its core, the mission of Ark is to educate the children of a very vulnerable community, where the threats of human trafficking and sex slavery are very real. The beauty of educating these little ones (especially the girls) goes beyond those threats, as the practice of underage marriage and teen pregnancy also decrease significantly with increased education. What we are seeing is a whole community changing for the better with this sweet school~ after school Boy’s and Girl’s Clubs minister to adolescents, a Women’s Club supports the ladies of the community with issues we cannot even fathom in our culture, and a free weekly clinic provides health care to those unable to afford it otherwise. It has been an honor to be a part of something so meaningful.

The school is funded fully by donations and child sponsorships are available for anyone wanting to support a child’s education!  Just $250 a year or $20 a month provides the school, supplies, uniforms, daily healthy meals, health checkups, and family support for a kid in need. By sponsoring a child, you also get to have a sweet relationship with them, communicating through letters and pictures throughout the year. Ark also provides college scholarships for girls in the Girls Club. Can you believe just $300 provides an entire year’s tuition? Amazing. Currently there are four young women who are benefitting from the college scholarship program, but there are more deserving girls whose future could forever be brighter if given the opportunity. More information can be found on their website.

Onto some images!  It is the most joyful place on the planet…a place where my cheeks hurt for hours from smiling so much. The contrast from inside the school to outside is stark.  See for yourself.

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This past weekend, Matt and I traveled to New Orleans for the annual Professional Photographers of America conference.  It’s always a great time to see those friends we only get to hang out with once a year, explore the huge trade show, and take classes from some of our industry greats.  And since this year was in New Orleans, there was a fair amount of eating and drinking that added to the fun!

We have long been involved with PPA Charities, serving on the Board for years and fund raising for its chosen charity, Operation Smile, since 2005. So at each year’s conference it’s a huge thrill to see that check….the one that for 3 years running has totaled $100,000!…get handed to such a worthy organization.

Well, this year, we had the added excitement of meeting Dr. Bill Magee, the co-founder and CEO of Operation Smile.  What he and his wife, Kathy, started 30 years ago in Philippines has not only grown into one of the world’s most recognizable charities, but is also one so close to our hearts.   Our nephew was born with a cleft lip 12 years ago, and I had the opportunity to travel with OpSmile in 2007 to photograph it’s medical mission in Honduras.  Both experiences changed us, and are the reasons why our business and family will continue to support OpSmile.

Dr. Magee is by far the most inspiring person I have ever met.  He is funny, warm, personable, brilliant, and passionate.   He is at once a plastic surgeon, a general surgeon, a dentist, and a father to 5 and grandfather to 13.  He is the best public speaker I have ever heard.  He is a humanitarian, and what he started has helped 160,000 children around the world lead healthier, happier lives.  They have a smile, ultimately, from Dr. Magee.  The fact that he chose to spend the weekend with us….a bunch of photographers who raise money in the thousands….rather than socialites or corporate types who raise money in the millions, floors me.  And I will take what he spoke of in his speech to heart.

Dr. Magee would likely not approve of what I just wrote.  He made a big point that there is not just ONE hero in any story.  A child’s life is not changed just by the skills of one doctor, but by the combined efforts of the nurses,  support staff, fundraisers, and local volunteers on each mission.  Each is a hero.  And through his words, I think I first started to really believe that by what WE are doing….raising what money that we can, photographing the children to give a face to the cause….we are heroes too.  He also spoke of never knowing which everyday moments would change a life.  This charity that has helped and changed so many, started with a small moment in he and his wife’s life.  One that compelled them to travel across seas to help those in need.

He also made a point very clear:  if you are doing something good to help others, it is not OK to just sweep it under the rug and never let others know of it.  Gulp.  Guilty.  I guess we have felt a bit too high and mighty to tout the fact that our business (ultimately our amazing clients), has supported Operation Smile so heavily through the years.  We set aside what we deem appropriate, keep out noses to the grind stone, and write a big check at the end of the year.  But Dr. Magee pointed out that this does NOTHING to raise awareness or excitement for others to have the opportunity to do the same.  We have not been vocal enough.  OK, so here goes.  Thanks to our wonderful clients, we were able to contribute another $6000 in 2011 for Operation Smile.  That makes for a total donation since 2005 of over $40,000….which translates to HUNDREDS of children’s lives changed!

Please watch this amazing video that Dr. Magee played for us.  Coldplay gave them the rights to use this song….just try NOT to sob!   We are excited to do more (and let it be known what we are doing!) in 2012 for Operation Smile.  How could we not?

 

This guy.  This guy is what started our love and appreciation for the amazing charity called Operation Smile.

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Conner is our nephew, who almost 10 years ago, was born with a cleft lip.

Not a huge deal, right?  He was a healthy baby, we live in America and my brother’s insurance paid for expert plastic surgery.  His tiny mouth was repaired at the age of only 8 weeks.

But in most places around the world, this is not the reality for children born with facial deformities.  They are shunned.  Their families are ashamed.  And many times they are malnourished.  Most of all, they do not have the resources to bring them a smile.

Did you know that a child’s life can be changed for only $240?  Yes!  $240.  This is what a cleft lip surgery costs this incredible group of volunteer doctors, nurses and support staff, that has provided thousands of children around the world the smiles they deserve.

Photographers, please join PPA Charities as we help to make a BIG difference in the lives of children.  PPA Charities has chosen Operation Smile as our main beneficiary, because…well, it just makes sense!  We photograph smiling faces every day…..how great is it that we can come together to provide smiles for children in need?

So, will you please consider joining us by becoming an Operation Smile Studio?

By becoming an Operation Smile Studio, you pledge to save smiles….$240 at a time.  Can save one smile?  Can you save a hundred?

Please visit PPACharities.com to learn more, and also view the slideshow below.  These are images that I took in Honduras over two years ago during the trip of a lifetime, and one that I wish every photographer has the chance to experience.

(sidenote!  since I produced this little slideshow, we have changed the terms of the trip awarded to photograph an OpSmile mission.  Before, the largest contributing studio got to go….now….for every $240 a studio donates, that photographer has a chance in a drawing to be the next one picked to go!  My friends Graham Wilson of Vision Photography and Bert Behnke of Behke Fine Portraiture both leave Tuesday to photograph missions.  Graham is off to Vietnam, and Bert is headed to Peru.)

Thanks everyone, and God bless!
-Angie and Matt

 

This October will mark our fourth year of supporting an incredibly worthwhile charity called Operation Smile.  Through PPA Charities, hundreds of studios across the country come together to do something very big….help create smiles for children who need them most.  Click play on the slideshow below to learn more, and please join the cause.

The images in the show are from my trip to Honduras in 2007 and Terry Farmer’s trip to Bolivia last March.  Having the opportunity to document an Operation Smile mission will go to the largest contributing studio.  It’s a trip that will change your life.

Did you know that a donation of only $240 can heal a child’s cleft lip, giving him a chance at a normal, happy life?

Did you also know that there are thousands of children all around the world where this mere $24o stands between them and the childhood they all deserve?

Did you know that YOUR studio can help?

Perhaps the most rewarding aspect of our job is how much we can give back with our talents….and the charity that we support the most with full and happy hearts is Operation Smile. Along with Professional Photographers of America Charities, we join hundreds of other studios across the country each October for “Family Portrait Month.” By combining all our efforts we have been able to collectively donate hundreds of thousands of dollars to this amazing organization.

I even got to witness and document an OpSmile medical mission in Honduras last year after our studio was named the largest contributor to Family Portrait Month in 2005 and 2006. This was a trip and experience of a lifetime, and we cannot wait to ramp up our efforts to benefit children around the world in need of a smile.

I will be hosting a web seminar through Marathon Press this coming Monday, May 19 at 12:00 noon Central time, explaining how charitable marketing can be a wonderful addition to every studio, and how to get the most out of a Family Portrait Month promotion. The cost is FREE! (yeah Marathon, thank you!) and spots are filling up fast. So come join us, and lets see how we can together help change lives, one smile at a time!