Lost in the woods

Posted: November 15, 2011 in employment

I had just turned fifty years old and I was lost in the woods.

It was April 8th, 2005 I had just spent my first full day I spent on the job at World Vision US Headquarters in Federal Way, Washington. . I never felt so ill-prepared for a new job in my life. I attended four meetings and went home at 5pm without a story to write. I didn’t feel like I was earning a paycheck. I didn’t feel like I had direction. I had a nice office cube in which to work but  I felt I had lost my purpose.

I had no idea how far I would have to go to find it again.

Within the next 24 months I would travel to the Gulf Coast following stories of how help was getting to Katrina survivors, then I was off to the hills of Pakistan to chronicle the story of how aid was getting to hundreds of thousands of quake survivors.

That’s me with my camera, showing the kids in a village called Balakot what the devastation looked like through a black and white view finder.  They showed me a lot about endurance and grace. Bringing back images of this destruction helped raise money to help kids like these.

In 2007, there were two trips to sub-Saharan Africa as I helped develop the story of Austin Gutwein, an Arizona teen who was raising money to build a school for AIDS orphans in southern Zambia. Austin showed me a lot about what one kid can do.  Once I heard about Austin’s story, I shared it with John Larson, a good friend of mine who was working at NBC News at the time.

With the help of the exposure Austin’s story got on NBC, Hoops of Hope was able to raise enough money to build a high school in an AIDS-ravaged region of southern Zambia. Since his story aired on a couple of networks (NBC and CBS) Hoops of Hope has been able to raise more than $2 million. Austin’s charity has helped build teachers’ quarters for that high school and a medical clinic. And he’s not done yet.

Getting to know kids like Austin has been an honor. Seeing how my talents as a journalist have been repurposed – has been nothing short of amazing. Because now when a story gets aired – lives can be saved.

It’s been a short, steep hike in the woods, learning how to pitch a story to media rather than write it on a deadline. But I still need to know what a story is. I try not to forget the journalist I was – the journalist I like to think I still am.

The repurposed journalist.

Now six years later, I’m the one with an office wall full of press passes who hasn’t forgotten where he came from.  And I’m also the one who doesn’t feel so lost in the woods anymore.

Stay tuned.

 

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