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During my twenty-seven year career as a photographer, creative director, copyrighter, marketing and branding consultant, travel writer, and magazine editor and publisher, I have had the opportunity to experience and explore hundreds of industries, communities, and cultures. These diverse experiences have often provided me with a unique perspective to help my clients maximize their profit potential by positioning their brands to capitalize on current market trends. But at my core, I am a storyteller.
I believe that every culture, every tribe, every association, and every corporation has a “creation story” that gives meaning to their existence. It is their reason for being, their mission statement, and the bond that reveals a common purpose. In its most simple form it is a story that connects a product or brand to the goals and aspirations, the fears and expectations, and the core characteristics that define the lifestyle of a target audience. Much of my career has been about helping small companies develop or reconnect to their creation story and translating it into marketing materials and custom content that will make authentic connections.
As a travel writer and photographer I have been fortunate to visit some of the most remote and exotic places on Earth. During my travels I have met scores of fascinating people and witnessed both the beauty and tragedy of the human condition. I often write complicated stories about complicated places and have received numerous awards including the NATJA Grand Prize for photography in both 2010 and 2011, and a 2010 Lowell Thomas Award for an article about Varanasi, India. But now I want to do more than simply share the stories of my adventures.
This year year I am launching Innocent Eyes Project, Inc. (IEP), a nonprofit organization that will financially assist grassroots child education programs working in developing countries by raising and allocating funds for projects where small amounts of money can have the largest impact on underserved children and communities. This project will define my future. It completes my personal creation story and will allow me to give back to the people and places that have shaped my experiences and given meaning to my existence.
Over the years I have made a conscious effort to photograph the children I encounter and have developed an amazing collection of images. It was a personal journey to share the beautiful faces of the world’s children through pictures that I called my “Innocent Eyes Project.” Along the way I also met some very special individuals who saw a need, addressed a problem and were determined to make a difference in the lives of children who live below the radar of governments and international aid organizations. Many of these social entrepreneurs are American travelers who partnered with a local individual or community to build a school or library, hire a teacher, help pay for books, supplies and uniforms, or cover the tuition for a child in need.
Innocent Eyes Project will be launched through a private donation, but will partner with tour operators to help fund the project going forward and identify worthy programs in countries where they operate. We will also reach out to corporate sponsors who sell goods and services to travelers including equipment and clothing manufacturers, travel insurance providers, airlines, cruise lines, hotels and resorts, travel agents, retailers, and publishers, as well as seek small donations from millions of individual travelers.
Clearly, this effort can’t begin to confront the enormous global child education issues requiring billions of dollars and governmental resources, but together we can do some wonderful small things that will create a ripple effect and touch the lives of thousands with targeted donations to programs that have a proven record of success.
It is impossible to travel into poor or isolated corners of the developing world and not be touched by the innocent eyes of a young child. It is my hope that this project will become a valuable connection between grassroots child education programs in developing countries and the adventure travel industry. As travelers-of-conscience we can harness the power of a community to support the true hero’s in the field, the service providers, who are delivering a sustained impact on local communities. Starting today, I am looking for adventure travelers who have met the children of the world to help me start a ripple!