Tag Archives: social justice

Lights! Camera! ALASKA!

We practiced how to set up all the necessary equipment and did interviews on each other. There is so much work that goes on behind the scenes!
We practiced how to set up all the necessary equipment and did interviews on each other. There is so much work that goes on behind the scenes! Photo by Kari Welniak

“Lights! Camera! Alaska!” is the perfect phrase to describe how I feel right now. I believe that we all are ready to take action and use the skills we have learned throughout this week and fulfill our purpose of this trip. Even though this week of bootcamp has taken a little bit more of my energy each day, I find myself getting even more excited each day. I can already tell from just this week that this will be one of the most eye-opening experiences I have ever had so far in my life which only makes the excitement grow stronger. Everything about this week has been inspiring in many different ways. Each person in our group contributes their uniqueness in a very special way and I can even feel the beginnings of our family. There is definitely something to be learned from everyone in our family! It is almost like we are one giant family going on an “education vacation” (Term coined from Madeline Zukowski’s blog. Check it out! http://cubackpack.org/alaska2014/its-an-education-vacation/).

I am most looking forward to trying new things that will push me out of my comfort zone. I think the first step of my going out of my comfort zone is leaving my home of 20 years, Omaha, Nebraska, and going basically off the grid away from friends and family for 15 days. However, it will be rewarding in the end when I can finally cross off “Alaska” on my bucket list.

To me there is some scary element into raising tough, thought-provoking questions that creates some uneasiness in some people. These questions range from climate change to the effects of cultural domination. However, this week has really inspiried me to feel that it is our duty to raise these questions because it will create more social and conscious awareness not only in myself, but in the people that we talk and show the final documentary to. We have touched on these topics briefly in class this week by discussing and reading articles. However, it will be interesting to be able to elaborate more on these questions by asking the people who are directly affected by it in Alaska. I find this exciting and inspiring because it is a different type of research than what I am used to.

I have also discovered that playing with the camera equipment and iPad minis can be really distracting yet really fun. I’ve already caught myself a couple of times producing little short movies and thinking in the mindset of a filmmaker, “Oh that would make a great film!”. I also find myself using photography and videography terms (f-stop, aperture, ISO, rule of thirds, etc.) when taking so-called “professional” Instagram photos. Is the possibility of a future of a becoming a journalist, director, photography, or producer in my horizon? Maybe i missed my calling when I was little and would produce a family newspaper by interviewing my brothers and sisters (Mom, Dad, Amy, Sara, and TJ remember these?) Who knows! I am still pretty dead set on becoming a dentist, but I think the skills and lessons that I have learned will broaden my view and awareness in our world.

My only minor concern for this trip is the plane. I am terrified of planes! Oh well, this trip is all about going out of our comfort zone, right? 🙂 It probably won’t settle in completely that I will be in Alaska until I am on that plane. Alright, time to start packing!

Peace out, Omaha!

P.S. – How crazy is it that my next post will be in Alaska?!

P.S.S. – To only prolong my packing here are some cool Yup’ik phrases:

Hi. Waqaa.
How are you? Cangacit?
I’m fine. Assirtua.
Thank you. Quyana.


Upon returning from Uganda we have discussed the difficulty in deciding how to best react to the poverty we witnessed in such places as Ave Maria and Abia. Also, reading some of the personal stories of those who are sacrificing a life of comfort for a life serving the poor can reveal inadequacy in my own efforts to fight injustice (see the efforts of Paride Taban for example).

On this note, Dr. O’Keefe pointed out that to be discouraged by this inadequacy to the point of stagnancy in one’s own efforts to serve others is the wrong response. It is like the person who does not vote because he/she believe that their vote won’t matter in the grand scheme of an election. While I may not have the money to support one candidate and noticeably sway the outcome of an election, if I do not vote I support and perpetuate an unhealthy ideology. This ideology says one person cannot make a difference in a world of 7 billion humans.

This thought has crept into my mind several times since I have been back in the United States. Seeing the poverty in Abia desensitizes the problems I have witnessed in America. But to think that because something is worse makes lesser problems not as real is once again the wrong response. It is a fatal path that can lead to inaction. Just because I am not in Uganda does not mean I cannot make a better world at Creighton. Bigger problems should make smaller problems more real; they should awaken us to all injustices.

I speak to myself when I advocate for both small and large changes, to not be tempted by the whisperings of inadequacy. To say that the poverty in Uganda marginalizes the problems here is wrong. Both should be given attention and deserve action fighting the problem.

At Ave Maria, a young child no more than a year and a half old is carried by his older 7 year old sister. 1 in 3 of the children at Ave Maria are HIV positive, while many are orphans.

Initial reflection on backpack journalism

Ever since the end of my freshman year at Creighton University, I have uncovered an interest in understanding new cultures outside of my own. The Jesuit education has also reinvigorated a sense of wholeness with my fellow man. With this connectivity comes a sense of purpose in ensuring the health and wellness of others. An intrigue in social justice and service for others has had a major impact on my life as a college student.

The Uganda Backpack Journalism class provided an opportunity to fulfill both of these personal interests. It is a gateway to a culture starkly different from the America I experience. With that said, one question that I hope to be able to answer conclusively at the end of this trip is if this project did indeed improve (or will improve) at least one less fortunate person. Time will tell.


You know, the fact that I’m going to Uganda hasn’t really hit me yet. I’ve spent most of (well, ALL of, really) my life traveling. I’ve lived in Asia, the Middle East, Europe, Central America, and many different parts of the U.S. and Canada. I think I’ve become a little desensitized to the idea of traveling to a new destination. Which probably seems strange, but the way I see it: no pre-flight butterflies and panic attacks is pretty awesome sometimes.

A year ago, if you had asked me what I thought would be a new and exciting experience for me, I would probably say this, “God, I would really love to be on my own somewhere in Europe, meet a lot of people, travel a lot, and learn about my roots.” Since this isn’t a year ago though and since I already had that experience when I studied abroad in Ireland last year, my answer to that question is probably more along the lines of “well, I’ve been hearing a lot about East Africa lately…”

But in all seriousness, I think the opportunity to do what I’m about to do is one I’ve been looking for for awhile. In the past few months, I’ve gotten very involved in issues of social justice as well as read up on issues facing different parts of the world, such as the conflict in the Arab Spring, or the ethnic cleansing in the Sudan. Unfortunately, I’ve never had a direct exposure to these kinds of problems, which is something I believe is necessary in understanding how to solve said problems. It is my hope that by going on this trip, I’ll be able to have that exposure I need, while also being able to tell an interesting story through media that others should hear.

Being a Computer Science major, I relish the opportunity to solve complex problems using systems. Being a Journalism major, I’m incredibly interested in information, people, ideas, and cultures. In my mind, the world is one big system, made up of all the people in the world sharing information, culture, and ideas with each other. When it comes to solving problems the world is facing, such as poverty, genocide, economic and social injustice, war, or corruption, I always think that, with such a complex system with infinite potential at our fingertips, why shouldn’t we be able to solve the problems of the world?

It’s my hope then that by going on this trip, I’ll be able to:

1. learn about issues that I’ve read a lot about, but have had no direct exposure to,

2. learn new skills like video shooting and editing,

3. develop my existing skills like writing and interviewing,

4. learn about the people of Uganda and what their story tells,

5. hopefully have some good laughs and good conversation with some interesting people.

Let's hope these people are as fun as this picture makes them seem.


As well, I have some other, more personal goals I’d like to share, which will be part of another blog post I intend to write pre-departure.