Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Broadcast & Infrastructure in Haiti

Quite the eye sore!

As you will no doubt notice, there is an addition to our blog that is going to eat up some space on the side bar to the right. This thermometer will help all of you to easily keep track of where we presently are with our fund raising efforts.

If it bothers you to see it hovering so close to the bottom, then I encourage you to make a donation. If not, then just look away (like I do for now) and hope for the best!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Alliance World Coffees and the CIMT

It's unseasonably warm for Central Indiana when my father and I roll into the poured-gravel parking lot of the "Coffee Church" in Muncie, Indiana. Muncie is nothing like the town that Steven Spielberg showed us in Close Encounters of the Third Kind. For starters, there are no mountains here like you see in the movie. It is unbearably flat here, save for the rolling shores of the White River as it cuts like a fat snake through the heart of "Middletown USA."

A few minutes before 9:30AM, Guy Pfanz bounces into the lot, driving his small car. The man that emerges seems taller than the car can accommodate but he manages to unfold himself into a tall and slender form, topped off with a sleek grey hat.

Moments later, my father and I are inside, shaking hands with Guy.

The church looks about as normal inside as it did from the outside, save for the gourmet coffee bar in the lobby, decked out with some serious coffee-making machinery. Guy switches on the steam-powered instruments and then digs for his keys. We follow him away from the lobby as the bar gurgles to life behind us.

Slipping outside, we leave the main building and twist around the back corner. No more than 10 feet away, a modest secondary building swallows us. Stepping inside, we are immediately wrapped in the comforting aroma of freshly-roasted coffee beans and burlap. This is where the magic happens. As Guy gives us the tour, we meet a gorgeous roasting machine, a warehouse stocked with un-roasted coffee beans from several countries, and a laboratory-styled room where the various blends are drafted and eventually refined.

The whole experience was inspiring.

Those who labor here are mostly students, interns who are specifically focused on growing their spirits and learning a trade. Each is provided housing (if needed) and paid a stipend from the coffee business to offset their living expenses. By the end of their internship, they will have learned a valuable set of new skills (both practical and spiritual) and will walk away with no new debt to show for it. The model is beautiful and I intended to explore ways that we can apply it similarly for our students in Haiti.



After the tour, we returned back to the lobby where the luxurious coffee-making-machines were eagerly waiting for us. Guy poured my father and I a couple of beautiful cups of Java and we sat around and proceeded to delve deep into conversation.

By the time we left, Guy, my father, and I had agreed that what we are collectively doing is deserving of some form of partnership, some form of shared-learning and information exchange. I really cannot speculate about what that might look like, but I can promise you, if there is something to be gained through community and cooperation, I am completely open and welcoming to it. As Guy expands the work of the "Coffee Church" to include a possible video production internship, we will be readily available to offer our advice, encouragement, and support. Beyond that, the possibilities for student exchange between Muncie, USA and Cap Haitien, Haiti has already been considered and the river of ideas has begun to freely flow.

For more information about what Guy Pfanz and his team are doing, or to order your own bag of extremely-high-quality coffee, please visit Alliance World Coffees online.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Contribute NOW, save even MORE on taxes

Kim Klein from Network For Good has provided some really useful information to those of you who are considering making a donation. According to Kim:

You can transfer up to $100,000 in any given year directly from your IRA to a charitable organization and pay no income tax on that. Normally if you withdraw money from your IRA you pay a tax, whatever tax bracket you’re in that year. And of course if you donate it, you claim that tax donation. This is a very nice provision that allows you to avoid taxation and still claim the donation, so it’s kind of a double tax advantage.

With that in mind, I ask you to consider reaching out and making some sort of contribution before the end of 2008. We have a long road ahead of us. The financial goal is to raise $250,000 in start-up funds. Can you be a part of what we are doing?


Please click here to make a secure online donation.


Thank you and have a blessed holiday season.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Day 09 - Lagosette, Haiti - Haitian Rhum

Just up the dirt road from Children of the Promise, with the Citadel lingering like a dominant, ever-watchful threat from above, you can smell an aroma that is very common in this area. The very fist time I smelled this odor (several trips ago), I remember being somewhat repulsed by it. For sure, there is a certain degree of difficulty in distinguishing the scent from that of stinking, rotten, burning garbage.

I call it a "sweet stink."

The closer you get to the source, you begin to see that in fact, something is burning. Piles of sugar cane are strewn about like an abandoned game of Pixie Sticks.

The process used to extract their sweet sugar and convert it into alcohol is an old one. To begin, freshly cut sugar cane goes to the press. As each cane stick passes between the tight rollers of the press, an ultra-sweet liquid is extracted and deposited into large wooden casks where the brown pulp will ferment (rot) for some time.



Back at the cane press, as honey bees gather to plunder the sweet, dripped remnants from the edge, each sugar cane carcass is cast aside, to be reintroduced to the process once the fermenting juice has been properly aged.



The piles of pressed sticks themselves begin to ferment in the open air as the pulp-filled casks stew nearby, beneath a makeshift shelter. From time to time, villagers pass by to pull a flimsy, discarded shaft from the pile and gnaw on its tart flesh. This byproduct certainly makes for a local treat. Taken in moderation, there can be some value in the remaining juice and it costs nothing.

After the pulp has sufficiently fermented in the casks, it is transferred over to a large boiling device... an oven.


Have a look at the delightfully rotten sludge! Anyone thirsty?



Here's where the discarded sugar cane stalks are reintroduced into the process. The discarded piles of cane stalks are inserted into this large oven and burned to provide the heat necessary for boiling the sludge and distilling the alcohol.



Personally, I love the fact that this process makes use of the entire sugar cane stalk, leaving very little waste product in the end. Quite literally, the plant that contains the sweet juice is eventually used to refine itself.

Impressive.



After passing through this contraption, the evaporated byproduct collects and begins to steadily pour through a pipe, situated just above a small collection bucket. From the pipe pours a highly concentrated liquid. According to our host, this rhum ranges anywhere from 80% to 90% proof and is much stronger than what will eventually make it to your glass, ice cream, or gourmet dish.

Nonetheless, I felt there would be no honor in this experience unless I took the time to sample the fruit of so much labor.




Many thanks to the gentlemen who walked us through the process. I am glad to say, I have a couple of new friends!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Days 7 & 8 - Haiti adventure continues!

Cap Haitien was beautiful as ever! I totally love this area. In truth, it is the surrounding countryside that REALLY makes my heart sing. When we finally get around to building a facility of our own, I would love to put it out there. For starters, it's GREEN! There is a wealth of agriculture, a number of trees, and much less polluted air. Absolutely terrific. Add to that the ever-watchful gaze of the Citadel (one of Haiti's most awe-inspiring landmarks) as it looms strong above, and you've got me sold.


I'll tell you more about these guys shortly.
Let's just say, it was a fiery encounter!!!


Kyle and I hoofed it up to the Citadel through a thick cloud. When we got there, it was far too cold to draw a crowd. Literally, they unlocked this mighty fortress just for us. We were the only ones there. We had the run of the place.


With the ever-present cloud, it was straight out of a movie. From the top, you couldn't see one end of the Citadel from the other. Thick. Soupy. Wet. Delightful.

I have been there many times before, all on sunny days, and I can say that this trip was by far the most eerie, mysterious, and ultimately rewarding visits of them all.

There is SO MUCH history in this region of Haiti. Most of her leaders come from the North. We passed by the Breda plantation monument several times and laid eyes on a number of forts and military strongholds along the coast. It was just remarkable.

Suffice it to say, as a lover of history I am eager to call this home!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Day 06 - Cap Haitien, new friends, and more progress.

We had a very uneventful flight into Cap Haitien, save for the special flyby that our pilot gladly supplied.


From there, we were picked up by Pritchard Adams (a great new friend, along with his wife, Dana). Pritchard and Dana have been working and living full time in Haiti for something like 26 years. Incredible, no matter how you slice it. They were SO KIND to Kyle and I. We had a lovely meal, saw some historic sites, and stayed up chatting for a long while. Dana even serenaded us with her BEAUTIFUL piano playing. Many thanks to them for their kind hospitality.

It was wonderful to see 4VEH again. If all works out, we will be holding our first classes at 4VEH, sometime next year.

Anyway, that's a good day in Haiti. Stay tuned for more.

Day 05 - TapTaps & Future Thinking

Spent a good part of the day filming a tap tap for the creation of a new opening for Joel Trimble's show, La Bonne Nouvelle. Should be fun. We even had the chance to hire a few extras and cue them to walk through the shot as "sidewalk traffic" in the background. Simple but effective.

We are off to Cap Haitien for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.

Not sure of our access to anything. If you don't hear from me in a day or two, have no fear... we shall return.

It's 5:30AM and I must now be off. I am driving to the airport from the mountain. Wish me luck!

Cheers!
Luke

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Day 04 - Haitian filmmaker reaches out.

It's exciting to see the possibilities that communications technology open up. I received an email today from a burgeoning filmmaker who wishes to find a community to belong to within Haiti. He found us online.

This may seem like a small thing, but I took it as a great sign of progress. Clearly the word is spreading and the response continues to be overwhelmingly positive.

There is limited internet access here and Kyle, my associate, has a good bit that he is trying to accomplish online. Also, in the next day or so, we will be hopping a plane up to Cap Haitien for a wee bit of exploring and sightseeing.

Stay tuned as I will be trying to keep you up-to-date from down here. After that, when I return home, many more interviews will begin to post for you to see. I expect the podcast to explode with content in short order.

As for day 4, we spent time giving back.


Kyle and I shot a ton of stuff for an orphanage down here. Turns out, like many organizations in Haiti, they needed some video promotions material and we were able to assist them. Yet another wonderful side-effect of having a media training school in Haiti. So much is possible.

Until then...
Cheers!
Luke

Monday, December 15, 2008

Day 03 - Haitian perspective matters most.













We spent the day at Radio Lumière, one of Haiti's oldest radio stations. Within the last two years, they have added television and are steadily making the difficult climb up the ladder of technological progress in Haiti. It was great to see many of the faces of students that I had taught earlier this year. Each one seemed to be as happy to see me as I was to see them.

I could ramble on and on but let me opt out of that and just say that Kyle and Joel and I were able to conduct another set of wonderful interviews with the management, staff, and employees of this organization. Without a doubt, it is what the Haitians have to say about The Caribbean Institute of Media Technologies that ultimately matters. My thoughts alone are but theories... ideas... speculations. Only when put to the test do they prove to be otherwise.

As it turns out, I am not crazy. The Haitians we have been interviewing have blown me away with their opinions. Honestly, it has been remarkable. One young man actually hounded me; he asked if I had forgotten him. He asked if I had given up. I assured him that I had done neither and that this is a big vision. It is taking time to get the funding.

Please stay tuned, our podcast is about to explode with meaningful content as I share with you what the Haitians are saying about the need for media technologies training in Haiti today.

I can assure you, this has not been mere speculation on my part. I have known in my heart that what we are chasing is relevant, important, and worthwhile. Personally, I have been sold from day one. It has been encouraging however to gather some eye-opening interviews that will go a long way toward demonstrating the real need for our school and the legitimacy and urgency of our cause.

For now, here is part 1 of the interview with Réginald Chevalier. I can promise you, there is tons more coming.


Sunday, December 14, 2008

Day 02 - Haitian Filmmaker speaks out!

Today was a great day as we were able to connect with Réginald A. Chevalier, an experienced Haitian filmmaker and prolific voice among the artistic community, both in Haiti and abroad.

I would not be saying enough if I told you that his perspective on the state of Haitian cinema was both incredibly informed and powerfully persuasive. After eating a lovely meal, he showed us some of his work. How wonderful to see such talent, artistic sensibility, and panache!

Upon returning from lunch, Réginald was gracious enough to grant us an interview (which we filmed). Not only did he masterfully articulate his position, he was also kind enough to answer a few of my own questions regarding the nature of what we are doing with The Caribbean Institute of Media Technologies. Look for his interview, soon to be posted to our video podcast.

If you would like to watch this interview when it posts (as well as future media from this trip), please visit our Video Podcast in iTunes by clicking on this iTunes logo:


From there, click the "subscribe" button (in iTunes). It is free, a much better quality than YouTube, and will automatically download new content for you every time we add more.

*NOTE: You need iTunes to be able to do this.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Back in Haiti

Greetings everyone!

I am blogging tonight from Haiti. I am here for 10 days to facilitate the work of Kyle Hufford, a student of Ball State University's new Digital Storytelling Masters Program. For those who are interested, you can follow Kyle's blog here. I am excited to assist him in this endeavor and look forward to his final thesis. At some point, there should be some video content and I hope to share some of that with you via our podcast.

Standby for more.

Until then, stay classy!

Luke

Thursday, December 11, 2008

SPEAKING ENGLISH - COLONIALISM - AND CHANGE

"Is that colonialism in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?"
One of the eligibility requirements that we have implemented for those who wish to attend The Caribbean Institute of Media Technologies is that they have a working fluency in English. This means they must be able to speak, read, and write in English.

Now I won't lie, this decision was not made easily. It comes with certain grand and sweeping implications; specifically, that it rules out a LOT of creative people who would love to attend the CIMT. Nonetheless, it is a decision that I stand beside.

There are several reasons for this decision. For those who care, I shall outline them now.

1 - English is one of the most-spoken languages on the planet.
Depending on your source, English falls as either the second or third most-spoken language on the Earth (Mandarin wins by a landslide - 1 billion speakers). According to most sources, English is spoken by around 500 million people worldwide. French, the language of the highly educated in Haiti, ranks 10th on the list (coming in at 130 million). In terms of global reach, there is no comparison between French and English; English takes the prize. In order for our storytellers to have a global reach, English is essential.

As silly as this may sound, I once told someone, "When Oprah calls, I want the students to be able to speak with her themselves."

Students who require a translator to speak outside of their own culture are immediately isolated and at a distinct disadvantage. In our estimation, this is not the correct place to begin.


2 - A wealth of great resources are available in English.
Software, literature, films, and a great wealth of industry professionals (less than 700 miles away) are readily available in English. To educate in Creole, a great deal of translation and interpretation would make for a drastically reduced level of efficiency (specifically as it relates to the interpretation of artistic matters) and ultimately serve to diminish (if not altogether destroy) the atmosphere required for this sort of technical and artistic training.

While we do fully intend to offer training in Creole in the future, we have again decided that to do so now would not be to play toward our strengths or the strengths of our initial students.

Certainly, this point is made with a twist of irony. When considering cinema, educating in French would make a lot of sense. For sure, French is a language that is intimately meshed with cinema. In fact, one of the first motion picture cameras was invented by a Frenchman (Louis Lumiere in 1895). Subsequently, there are scores of important films and resources available in the French language. Nonetheless, numbers don't lie, and with the enormous gap between the number of English and French speakers worldwide, the scales are once again weighted toward English.


3 - We are training the trainers.
Upon matriculation, the students we train are expected to be among an elite group or craftsmen (and women) in their country. To put it bluntly, these will be the leaders of the leaders, responsible for passing their knowledge on to their own countrymen. In this case, by having multilingual Haitians as seasoned experts in their field, the possibility for non-English-speaking Haitians to receive a quality education is even greater. With a rich cultural understanding of Creole and firm grasp of English, our students will be capable of deeper and better translation and interpretation than anyone from the outside.


We truly come in peace.
The point has never been to come in and change the culture, heritage, or identity of Haiti. Without question, so long as those things do not stand in the way of the development of the basic human rights of every Haitian, I think that they should be preserved.

Those who once settled the island of Hispaniola came primarily with the Christian sword as their authority and the lust for gold as their darker motivation. Their barbarism soon wiped out the native Tainos and introduced the Americas to an unprecedented wave of human trafficking.

When the slaves revolted and won their freedom from the colonizing French, it would be the beginning of a long and ongoing struggle for autonomy in an increasingly shrinking world. Today, with the bulk of her natural resources exhausted, Haiti must find a way to retain her sense of self while integrating herself into the global economy. The rejection of outside influences has long been a matter of protection and pride for many Haitians. After studying history, I can certainly see why. Experience has shown that outsiders cannot be trusted.

But the luxury of isolation and autonomy has run its course. Too much is at stake for the walls to remain. Quite literally, pride or no pride, people are suffering and dying in Haiti under the crushing heel of problems that the rest of the world has long-since solved.

I want Haiti to remain strong and independent. I want Haiti to be free, not just on paper, but in the practical sense too. I want international businesses to feel safe in Haiti again. I want tourists to book trips and cruise ships to travel further than the Northern Coast once more. I want children to be fed and living with their natural parents. I want roads that are well maintained. I want hospitals and forests and wells and decent schools and justice.

It starts with Haiti's ability to visualize herself as part of the world at large. It is time for her voices to be raised and heard around the world, and for that, Haitians must be willing to bend a little and show the world just how versatile... how truly amazing... they really are.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

SHAMELESS SELF PROMOTION

This Christmas, give yourself the gift of reading our E-Newsletter!
Sign up for FREE! The first one is coming VERY SOON!



MERRY CHRISTMAS
TO YOU!

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Tuesday, December 9, 2008

TAP INTO YOUR POWER!

December is the time of year when all of us are fairly comfortable with the idea of giving to others. This holiday season, I ask that you consider what you might do to help us raise our much-needed funds.

A media school like ours could easily cost millions of dollars. The equipment and infrastructure alone drives the cost up quickly. Thankfully, through strategic partnerships in Haiti, we are going to be able to get this school started for much, much less.

The Goal
We need to raise $250,000 to make this dream a reality.

When you think about it, that's not much money! 250 people, groups or corporations giving $1,000... or 2,500 people giving just $100... that's all it takes! When seen from a community or corporate point of view, I believe that we can make this thing happen.

What are you doing just sitting there?
Perhaps you think this whole thing is pretty cool, but that's where the thought dies. You think, "neat" and then begins the slow and stinky sizzle of brain cells being singed by the flicker of your computer monitor through the back of your retinas.

WAKE UP AND GET BUSY!
The reality is... you have a tremendous amount of power in what is happening here. This school and all of the history-shaping change that it can usher in for Haiti (and eventually elsewhere) is literally dependent upon your involvement.

Here are some ways that you can really help us out:

#1 - WORD OF MOUTH
This one is EASY. Just open up your mouth and talk about us. Tell your professor, your friend, your barber... anyone. But MAKE SURE you point them to our website... www.ageofthestoryteller.com

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#2 - SEND AN EMAIL
Surely you have a few trusted folks that actually READ your emails. So make a recommendation. It might look something like this:

"Hey dude, I'm a part of this really cool thing that's happening in Haiti. You should check it out."

DON'T BE AFRAID TO TAKE SOME OWNERSHIP! As it turns out... you really are an essential part!

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#3 - GIVE A FEW BUCKS!
When's the last time you found a dollar laying around? A twenty in your jeans? Some change in the ashtray? Everyone knows that each of us is guilty of practically throwing away a little money (or a lot) on things we don't really need or even want.

For crying out loud, we're not asking you to fund this whole project. Just reach down shallow and see what you can grip with your fingertips. Some of you can do better than that... and by all means, we hope you will! But for the rest of us, there is no excuse. Take a deep breath and give.

With that one, simple act, you are lighting a match under this rocket.



look how easy we made that!


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#4 - ORGANIZE
Don't have money to give? Then use some of your time and get creative! Now more than ever, we are keenly focused on raising the funds for this school, and it is a monumental task for sure.

By your sheer willpower, you can organize a local marketing campaign in your own community.

- Have a bake sale!
- Have a rummage sale!
- Get your youth group, church, or rotary club involved!
- Spread our videos around Facebook and Myspace and YouTube!
- Twitter our web address every chance you get.

Are you an artist? Have a fundraising concert or sell a few paintings or donate your earnings from one photo shoot. The sky is the limit!

It's the information age... SO WORK THAT INFORMATION!

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Well, there you have it.
That wasn't so hard, was it? With a teeny bit of time and energy on your part, you really can claim some ownership in this adventure.

Just remember... THINKING ABOUT HELPING IS NOT THE SAME AS HELPING. You actually have to DO SOMETHING.

THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR YOUR HELP!!!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

TAKE ME TO YOUR LEADER!

The Associated Press has reported on the first openly gay march in the Caribbean. The event marks a first for Haiti but it kind of makes me wonder, who's putting this thing together?

Didn't some schools just crush some children? Isn't Haiti one of the poorest countries on Earth? Aren't people starving to death there?

While part of the goal was to raise awareness about the prevention of AIDS, that was not the entire point of the march.

According to the article:
"AIDS awareness marches have taken place before in Haiti, but Boucicault and organizers with New York-based AIDS service organization Housing Works called this one the first march to include an openly gay group in Haiti."

It goes on to say:

"...gay men remain at risk because they hide from social programs due to prejudice and harassment, despite making up one-tenth of reported HIV cases in the Caribbean, the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS reported.

In socially conservative Haiti, discrimination runs especially deep."

It's that last sentence that really gets me thinking.

Certainly, EVERY SINGLE SOCIAL PROBLEM deserves attention. I'm not slamming the march and am in no way slamming the participants. I just find it odd that in a country with SO MANY OVERWHELMING SOCIAL, ENVIRONMENTAL, and POLITICAL PROBLEMS, somehow gay, Haitians would come up with this idea on their own. The entire thing seems foreign to me. It seems foreign to Haiti. I just cannot imagine the scenario wherein several gay men (or women) managed to see their homosexuality as a more reasonable cause for a public march than any of the hundreds of other pressing problems... problems that they too struggle with (like finding enough food).

Who sits there and thinks, "I have no money, not enough food, suffer terrible injustices, lack basic sanitation or clean drinking water, and am gay. I think I'll march about being gay!"

It just seems like an idea that was planted from the outside world, and if that is the case, it bothers me. I hate to see the political correctness of the USA's hot topics suddenly slip into Haiti and devour the spotlight while more pressing matters go ignored.

Developing nations are particularly vulnerable to assuming the voice of other nations, partly as the result of the tremendous media influence from abroad.

Again, it's not really that the march bothers me... it just seems "off" somehow. Any of you folks in Haiti wanna weigh in on this?

By the way, to the credit of those who have worked very hard BEFORE this march ever took place:

"The country has since been a success story, with its HIV infection rate falling from 5.9 percent in 1996 to 2.2 percent today..."

Now there's something to be happy about!

WE'RE ON THE AIR!


It's official. As of 5:30 AM on December 02, 2008, our TV Infomercial "The Age of the Storyteller - Episode 01" is ON THE AIR!

Presently it is airing on KTLN out of San Fransisco. Anyone in that area who sees the program might drop us a line and tell us what you think.

Right now, we could really use your prayers and any support you can offer.

Keep an eye peeled. I will announce other stations as they come on board.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Dollars & Sense

Who would have thought that in a time of looming financial crisis, your ability to make a PERSONAL IMPACT ON THE HISTORY OF THE PLANET is greater than ever? Seem far-fetched?

The simple truth is this... some methods of giving yield greater results than others. You have ALWAYS possessed the power to shape history. The difference is that now, you are really listening and growing more concerned about what your contributions are actually accomplishing.

It's all about traction.

While every charitable cause has merit, there are certainly some that promise a greater return on your investment than others. When choosing a cause to get behind, it is critical that you weigh the long-term implications of your investment. Here are some questions you should be asking yourself:

- How many lives am I impacting?
Does your donation help a person, a community, or a nation? One person CAN make a difference... and that one person is YOU. Whenever possible, make the biggest impact by giving toward causes that can ignite entire communities or nations into escalated growth.
- Is my donation adding momentum?
Some charities get stuck addressing the same issue over and over. Examine whether your dollars are merely treating a symptom or addressing the bigger problem. Why give a man a fish when your dollars can teach an entire village to fish?
- Is the cause critical or idealistic?
When money is tight, we need to avoid "painting the trim" and focus on "putting out fires." Alleviating human suffering should be high on that list. Fundamentally, this requires us to get past the "feel good" causes and look more deeply at the "live good" causes. In some cases, the difference is subtle, but in every case the implications are profound.
- Does the objective require patience?
Believe it or not, there really are no quick fixes. Any group that promises a speedy return on your investment is selling you snake oil. In reality, the biggest issues (most important causes) require the greatest fortitude (patience) and will deliver the best result (real and lasting change).
- Is education a primary objective?
I don't care what the cause is, if good education is not a part of the initiative, then it has no legs. One of the leading causes of all of the world's problems is a lack of quality education. When education is offered, progress is possible. Any organization that promises progress without education is creating a constituency of dependents and ultimately, ripping you off.
- Is the success measurable?
How has the charity made a difference? If they offered education, what are their graduates doing? In many situations, educational initiatives are token at best, offering no hope for advancement once the student has matriculated. If it is a new organization (like us), do they promise some form of measurable result?

Incidentally, we do.
- Are questions and feedback allowed?
When you have a question, does the organization respond? Do they seem open and honest or do you feel like they are hiding something? Basic rules of interpersonal engagement should apply. You can safely assume that they have good intentions, after all, it takes a LOT of work to give birth to a charitable cause. At the same time, good intentions are not enough. If your reasonable questions elicit a negative response, then be careful. Likewise, if the organization repeatedly fails to ask for your input, then they may only think of you as an ATM and not a critical part of the team, and make no mistake, YOU ARE A CRITICAL PART OF THE TEAM.
- Are they cooperating?
I have always said that individuals can create ordinary results but it takes a group effort to create EXTRA-ordinary results. I will take this belief to my grave. It is, in fact, the very reason that I started HANDS Across Haiti. In places where "putting out fires" is needed, no one group has ALL OF THE ANSWERS.

DO NOT WORK WITH GROUPS WHO REFUSE TO COOPERATE WITH OTHERS
.

I cannot stress this enough.

Refusal to cooperate is the symptom of a much bigger problem and should immediately send up a red flag. Naturally, you cannot expect an organization to always do everything in cooperation with other groups. Nonetheless, save for a few qualifications, a constant willingness should be present and at least some track record should be easily demonstrable.

Okay, that's all for now.

As you enter into December, you are probably starting to think about ending the tax year wisely. As you do so, please consider how your contributions can best lead to meaningful and lasting change in the world. Now more than ever, it is important that you get the most for your money. I encourage you to look for opportunities to transform communities (or entire countries). In the developing world, the truth is, community change is required for individual sustainability.

I'd be remiss if I didn't ask you to contribute toward our cause. If you don't, however, please do try and make the best decision possible as you plan your charitable giving.

The future of humankind is counting on it.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Starting somewhere.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

I am home from Dubai and recovering from jet lag and a 98-hour, 6-day run.

After witnessing the most amazing fireworks display ever (the people from The Guinness Book of World Records were there to take note) and breathing the same air with...

Charlize Theron



Chris Tucker



Robert DeNiro



Janet Jackson,



and more...





I am now back to what I consider normalcy.

Wouldn't you know it, Haiti never left my mind!

And so begins the next wave of our journey. On Monday, I will be picking up the phone and tackling the all-important task of fund raising. We have such a long way to go, but I believe that we can see a miracle happen.

As I look back on the journey thus-far, I am so very thankful that God has seen fit to carry me into so many diverse situations (both personally and professionally) and to see me through to the other side with little more than a renewed sense of purpose.

I have been in some of the world's most amazing places. I have spent time with some of humanity's most celebrated persona. I have been wined and dined. But the fact remains, I am sold... totally committed to Haiti and this cause we are on.

The flash is just flash. What is real are the people that we know and love. What is real is the task we find ourselves assigned to.

Go with us God.
We simply cannot do this without you.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Crickets or Cookies?

Part of assembling a really enjoyable experience for our donor base means giving you what you want. In order to do that, I have to ask a few questions every once in a while.

For those who know me well, you know that this isn't some pointless exercise. I do actually listen to advice and certainly try to apply it whenever possible. Naturally, with a specific agenda before us, we cannot always embrace every idea, but I vow to you that we always listen and weigh each suggestion on its own merit.

So then, I have some questions for you... all of you.

The first question is this:

WHAT DO YOU EXPECT FROM CHARITIES...
CRICKETS OR COOKIES?

When you give (and I'm assuming you do), what are your deepest, personal expectations? Are you genuinely happy if the gift is received by nothing more than a lonely audience of crickets chirping, or do you expect some sort of token in return (i.e. do you want a "cookie")?

There is no right or wrong answer. No one is looking over your shoulder. Just tell the truth... and be specific [rubs hands together menacingly].

If you're fine with getting no response from a charity, then say so. If you'd like a "thank you" card or some other token of appreciation (or acknowledgment), then that's fine too. Just tell me, cause I wanna know what you think!

The bottom line here is, this thing we are doing is a joint effort. Any great thing requires CO-operation.

So please, leave a comment (even an anonymous one if you feel more comfortable). I genuinely want to know what you think.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Having "THE TALK"

Today, as we sat idling in our driveway, Adrian and I had "THE TALK." For people of faith, specifically those who feel fairly in-touch with the "supposed to" feelings, you will understand me when I say that Adrian and I both feel that change is afoot. I cannot even begin to express how I quantify that. But Adrian and I both know what it means.

The time to move is approaching. This time, it won't be across town or into a different state. This time, it will be to Haiti.

Now the moms and dads shouldn't panic. I'm not talking about next week or anything. But the truth is, it will be sooner than it will be later.

At this time, Adrian and I are asking for the deepest prayers you can offer us. There is SO MUCH to consider. SO MUCH to handle.

During this time, we will be nagging our ex-patriot buddies in Haiti and generating the "to do" list of all "to do" lists.

Close your eyes.

Take a deep breath.

We're about to jump.

POLLS ADDED.

Hey there readers, I have just decided to try my hand at polling for a while. Certainly, my readership is not staggeringly high at this time... but why not try anyway?

Please feel free to check back weekly for a new poll. If this first one doesn't gather much response, I may try leaving it up for a smidgen longer than one week, just to get the fire burning.

Thanks!
Luke

Sunday, November 9, 2008

School collapses.

For those who don't know, a school recently collapsed in Haiti, killing at least 80 children (and probably more). I have been in prayer for these families. This is so tragic.

Please pray for them.

God have mercy.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Partners For Change



INNOVATIVE is a full-service production company based in Indianapolis, Indiana. Many moons ago (more than 10 years now), I was a fresh little intern, scurrying through the halls of INNOVATIVE (then called "Innovative Edit"), trying not to cause any trouble.

Today, INNOVATIVE has blossomed into a company that can both outperform and outclass the competition. With a penchant for pushing what's possible and a rarely-seen commitment to customer satisfaction, these folks are the industry's best kept secret.


I recently had the opportunity to interview Conrad Piccirillo, the President of INNOVATIVE (he likes to be called the Chief Disorganizer) and ask him some pointed questions.

I thought you all might benefit from some of his candid (albeit concise) insight. So with no further ado, I present to you...


Conrad Piccirillo
PRESIDENT (CHIEF DISORGANIZER)
INNOVATIVE

LUKE: Please describe INNOVATIVE for our readers (in a nutshell).

CONRAD: We are an entertainment and technology company that helps people communicate across all forms of media.

-----

LUKE: After looking at your portfolio, you continue to have an impressive global reach, working with major clients in countries all over the world. How does a once-small, Midwestern company go from servicing the local market to impacting the world?

CONRAD: Respect each other. Respect our clients. Service. Be nice. Help people communicate in the way their audience is used to receiving their information, or better, but no less.

-----

LUKE: What core values does INNOVATIVE cherish that you would credit for your company's success?

CONRAD: Respect I've said. Always move forward with the desire to be welcomed back. Live your life in that thin margin between what's correct and what's right.

-----

LUKE: In the marketplace, INNOVATIVE commands a great deal of respect and stays very busy. That said, your company consistently chooses to stand beside carefully selected charitable causes. Why do you think it is important to stay actively involved in charitable projects, despite the money not being so good?

CONRAD: We get involved with selected charitable causes because we believe in them. All of our charities involve children, except one, Heartland Truly Moving Pictures. Never do work for a charitable cause if you're in it to get 'something'. Be active because you want to give and not get. Our charitable work repays us immediately with that desire to give. I will tell you, every time we help someone, we are repaid for our efforts.

-----

LUKE: Why did you choose to support the work of The Caribbean Institute of Media Technologies and HANDS Across Haiti?

CONRAD: The Institute helps people communicate. I believe that your ability to write and communicate any story, any thought, any idea is directly related to your ability to succeed and make your dreams come true. Young people today communicate with motion pictures. They are the Creation Generation. The Caribbean Institute helps people without advantages tell those stories and reach the world.

-----

LUKE: In charitable causes, how important is it to generate quality promotional materials?

CONRAD: In a world where budgets are tight you have to make me laugh, make me cry, make me wet my pants, you must make me feel something so that I can care and differentiate you from other charities. You can't do that without a concise, well told story. It doesn't have to be slick. It has to be true.

-----

LUKE: What advice would you give to charitable organizations who are considering hiring a professional company like yours?

CONRAD: Know your audience. Come ready to tell your story. Come ready to make us care. Come prepared to have your story changed in a way that will help you reach your audience.

-----

LUKE: Any closing thoughts for our readers?

CONRAD: Be Brief, Be Brilliant, Be gone. That is how you'll get attention.

-----

I want to personally thank Conrad for both his willingness to come alongside The Caribbean Institute of Media Technologies and HANDS Across Haiti and his time in granting me this interview.

INNOVATIVE lives up to its name at every possible turn. Not only do they continue to blur the line between the impossible and the possible, they are genuinely good people in the midst of their greatest successes.

If you're in the need for a production company, look no further. INNOVATIVE has everything you could possibly want.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Paradise Lost - 01

For the past few days, I have been swimming upstream, trying to enjoy an old-fashioned vacation with my wife and kids in Orlando, Florida. I adore my wife and kids, but being obsessed with Haiti as I am makes a trip like this very difficult for me. When I say "difficult", I do mean that it is painful on several levels. Most of it is mental but it does have a way of manifesting itself physically as well.

It's 4:20 AM and I am unable to sleep. I woke up a couple of hours ago and had to take some vitamin C. My body is reacting.

We are staying at a popular hotel. Much like the rest of this city, the whole point of this place is to please the senses (certainly not the wallet). Walking back with my bottle of water, as I looked across the swimming area to observe a family of Brits congregated on their balcony (no doubt, jet lagging), I was reminded of a very similar experience that I had just last week. I was in Las Vegas, Nevada. I'll spare you the play-by-play on that trip. It should do for me to say that I hate that city. It single-handedly represents everything that is wrong with the human race. Scrap the morality; I don't even need to play that card to stand firm on the claim that Las Vegas is a shining example of human excess at its worst. The whole time, as buffets belched food and blackjack tables sucked up money, I could not help but see the people of Cité Soleil or the mountains of Haiti, most living on about .44 cents a day. You tell me how to fix that... how to ignore the suffering human beings and be dazzled by flickering lights and squawking machines. I have been unable because there is no excuse. There is no justification. So many people have too much while others have nowhere near enough.

More than once, I stood facing a slot machine. I was perplexed but willing to break free from any crippling ignorance I had. There was money in my pocket and the open-mindedness to give it a try. But I just couldn't do it. Not a dollar, not a quarter, not a penny. At one point, I was just down the hall from my room, face-to-face with a vending machine. Vegas is arid... dry like I have never experienced before. That left me extremely thirsty. But all of the excess I was experiencing was enough to make $2.00 look more obscene than it already was. Anyway, the point is to say that I was really, really thirsty. But the obscenity of the whole experience... the thousands of people just throwing money away, like it was garbage... made me unwilling to even pony-up a measly 2 bucks for water. In a flash, I was back with my ice bucket. After filling it to the rim with free ice, I waited for it to melt, contemplating the ridiculous nature of this world.

I am thankful that my work affords me certain opportunities to see people and places that I would otherwise never see. Since I am there on work, I can at least go home with the conscious-cleansing knowledge that I did not spend real money to have that experience. This post is not about condemning anyone. You may love Vegas. I could honestly never understand why... but that's why you're you and I'm not.

The point of this post is to say that I reject the notion that the USA is a paradise. To borrow a concept that a good friend of mine recently hipped me to, this place we now find ourselves in is more a paradise lost than anything else.

I'll be exploring this theme even more as the weeks unfold. For now, I'm just trying to stay open and authentic with you all. This post isn't so much about changing anything. I just have to log my time.

Be safe out there.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Coming back.

Hello friends and family.

It has been too long. I am happy to report that a return to regular blogging is here. There has been too much going on to even begin explaining. Suffice it to say, I have been busy as a bee working for several clients. This maddening rush has been a reminder that one cannot serve two masters. It is really hard to drive a vision like the CIMT and maintain any kind of a professional life at the same time. It is that impossible challenge that reminds me about the nature of what we are up against. I appreciate your patience during this time. I can promise you, I have been hard at work.

Presently, we are prepared to launch the second phase of our capital fundraising campaign. Remember that month of editing that you enabled? Now comes the fruit from that investment. Standby for further updates.

If you didn't see it yet, our website went live on the 13th of October (Columbus Day). The Age of the Storyteller has officially begun. For my taste, I would have liked to see it happen with a little more pomp and circumstance... but such things were out of my control. Click on the logo to the right to visit the site.

Please continue to keep us in your thoughts and prayers.

The future is just around the corner!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The blogger SINGS!

This morning, our 7-year-old daughter, Samara, had exploratory surgery on her right knee. She is home tonight, recovering with coloring books and Starbucks (hot chocolate).

On the way to the surgery this morning, I popped in a CD of a personal "golden oldie" and looked Samara in the eye as I sang along to it. It's a song I wrote, performed, and recorded about Samara when she was roughly a year old.




I thought I would share it with you here:

*press the play button.


Samara Smiled
Words and Music by Luke Renner
© Copyright 2002, luke renner

I was nothing more than excuses
Then Samara smiled at me
Who'd have thought that one
Little girl undone
Would change my destiny
When her little smile tore through my self-defeat
A light began to break
It brought me back my faith.

Now I'm so much more than I used to be
Since Samara smiled at me
Life is better now
It all worked out somehow
Color my lucky
Or maybe it just goes to show God is real
And proves it perfectly
When Samara smiles at me

Skeptics bow their heads, cynics softly tread
When Samara smiles at me
Politicians swirl
And try to kiss the girl
And blinder men can see
That true beauty is rare... doubting men would not dare
Question what they see
When Samara smiles at me.

Heaven shed her grace down on me
In a baby's face, cheek to smiling cheek.

All of time stands still
On a windowsill
When Samara smiles at me
The poets write no more
Cause what's a poem for
If not to find beauty
And I believe all the beauty the universe holds
Can be summed up without any words
When Samara smiles at me

And to all of those people who've never known love
You would if you could see Samara smile at me.

-----

*Thanks to my good friends, Ray Boltz (for the recording space), Randy Melson (on bass), Dane Clark (drums), and Rich Morpurgo (my engineering partner).

Sunday, October 5, 2008

The BIG one...

Forgive me bloggers, for I have sinned!

I humbly approach you this morning with fear and trembling. It seems that I have committed the single greatest sin of blogging: NOT BLOGGING.

As it happens, I have been overwhelmed by a maddening marathon of editing for one of my long-time clients, trying to hit a looming deadline and come out shining.

I am happy to report that the end seems to be near and my ability to regularly blog will once again rush back in. Nonetheless, I have to apologize for dropping off with nary an explanation.

In case you missed me... I'm about to return.

Cheers!
Luke

Thursday, October 2, 2008

HOW YOU CAN CONTRIBUTE

Please help us fund our work in Haiti.

Our present needs are:

Shipping of equipment: $6,000

Equipment upgrades: $10,000

Vehicle: $15,000

1st year's operating expenses: $40,000

All donations are completely tax deductible.
Please click on the button to make a contribution!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Something new and exciting.

I've been so busy getting ready for the launch... I can hardly think straight. For now, please READ THIS to learn about another project that we have just launched!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

This is how the world will end...



I was calm at first. Oblivious. The air conditioning in the Lexus SUV was working as you might expect... perfectly. Add to that the tinted windows and my 20 years of visits to this country that made everything outside of my windows seem safe and familiar. Though I had never been to this very spot, I felt at ease.

"So, when will we get there?" I asked.

Joel, my new friend, snapped back, "We've been in for nearly two miles now!"

In that instant, after the 8 little words sunk into my brain-matter, my entire world changed. It's funny what something as simple as language can do. The moment the information changed, my heart began to race. I felt tense. Everything outside had been commonplace just a moment earlier. Now, those same things were ominous and unpredictable.

That's when I began to see the bullet holes... BIG bullet holes... 50 caliber. Like cascading drops of crystalline water from a garden hose, the stream was almost visible from the sprayed pattern. My mind could drift away from the holes, visualizing the swing of the turret. Each pock mark seemed to point backward in time, ratting out the one responsible for its creation... each extending a finger toward the street and converging where the blue-domed UN soldier once poked from his armored transport.

The tops of buildings were missing. I don't mean to say they were left unfinished, like so many other projects in Haiti. No, these buildings had been torn apart from the explosive force of artillery. Shredded. Crumbled. Hobbled.

On July 28, 2008, I spent the better part of my birthday in a place I should never have been. I had voluntarily (albeit it through a strange set of unplanned circumstances) ridden into the heart of Cité Soleil, one of the poorest and most dangerous slums in Haiti. For a person like me (clearly a foreigner and seemingly well-off... read: expensive car, well dressed, nice camera), this was not exactly the place to be.

At one time Haiti was named the "kidnap capital of the world" * due to an increase in for-profit abductions that had risen to an all-time high. In many cases, the kidnappings were gang-related and therefore highly organized and protected. Similarly, it was not uncommon for the responsible individuals to have originated in specific regions of the city. Cité Soleil was not alone but was certainly battling for its roost at the top of that list.

Put mildly, there are certain places in Haiti that foreigner's should not go. In December of 2005, a US missionary of more than 30 years (and a long-time, personal friend of mine), Phil Snyder, had been shot in the head and torso with a shotgun and then held for ransom in this very same place. His story was right there at the back of my teeth as I stepped deeper and deeper into the "city of the sun".

As the US State Department's website puts it, "There are no "safe areas" in Haiti." For certain, there are several locations that are completely "off limits." Elsewhere on the US State Department's website it declares, "Embassy employees are prohibited from remaining in the downtown area after dark or entering Cite [sic] Soleil and La Saline and their surrounding environs due to significant criminal activity."
So here I was... smack dab in a place that I was not technically "supposed" to be. Add to that the fact that I had arrived in a Lexus and was toting around an expensive video camera (again, not by design).

"Cameras and video cameras should only be used with the permission of the subjects; violent incidents have followed unwelcome photography. Their use should be avoided altogether in high-crime areas."

- US State Department


I have been filming in Haiti for the better part of 10 years now. What the State Department says about photography is absolutely true. Simply as a matter of personal respect, I do not believe it is generally acceptable to point a camera at someone without their express permission, specifically if the resulting image can be easily defined as them. Over the years, I have personally made it a matter of common practice to spend several hours in an area where I may hope to film before even thinking to switch on the camera. As a general rule, forming meaningful relationships in a place like Haiti... a place that has been taken advantage of for so long... is not only critical, it is a matter of common respect. My experience has shown me that the average Haitian's "trust factor" with foreigners increases the further away from the big city that I get. Actually, it is very similar to what I have observed in the states; the mistrust of strangers is often more prevalent in large, metropolitan areas than it is in rural ones. Yet still, even in the most trusting of places, I am bound by the code of patience, respect, and cautious deliberation.

Cité Soleil was probably the last place I expected my camera to be an "acceptable" accessory. For a good while, I was wholeheartedly ashamed to even have it in my grip. I practically worship the people of Haiti. Forgive me if it sounds unbalanced but my love for haiti truly is more on the slant of an obsession for me. Never in a million years would I dream to take advantage of the people that I love. To think that I was now in a position where I could be extremely misunderstood (and subsequently murdered) was enough to make me sick at my stomach.

But there I was; the cards were all on the table and I didn't likely have much time, so I cautiously... and I wish to stress CAUTIOUSLY... raised the lens and requested permission to commence documenting what I was seeing.

5 hours later I was safely walking out of the bowels of what I can only describe as hell on earth. My boots were completely covered... and I do mean absolutely caked... in human and animal excrement. I hadn't strayed from the beaten path or played the hero. I was following the children, going where they went... observing. On several occasions, the young man following me would say (in broken English) "you ok man" or "I not gon let na-tin happen you." He could tell I was far from comfortable. What he didn't know was that even he made me uneasy. All of the horror stories that I had heard about the dangers of Cité Soleil could have easily happened to me that day. With one wrong move or cultural misunderstanding, I could have simply disappeared from the face of the earth.

But now the SUV was in sight, baking in the intense and unrelenting heat and I was leaving with several tapes full of astonishing footage.

To this day, I am still not entirely sure what the purpose was behind this providential day in Cité Soleil. I can say that I have never been the same since and that I now understand Haiti in a completely different way. Even the Haitian friend that took the journey with us that day was knocked clear off his seat. He expressed that he "had no idea" that it was "that bad" down there. He went on to admit "how good" he's got it. For a guy that probably makes the equivalent of about $500 US dollars in an entire year, that is really saying something. In a place like Cité Soleil, the difference between cultural idiosyncrasies and outright inhumanity are bold and flagrant. What I saw there was totally preventable and immediately condemns anyone who is unwilling to help the poor (including myself).

In light of what Haiti faces today, after the massive damage inflicted by this season's storms, it is easy to forget about the daily struggles of so many. In the past month, the area where I filmed this video was once again submerged in a river of raw sewage and debris. As all of the reports were likewise flooding in, I could not help but feel a sense of frustration with the nature of journalism today. The "hot story" seems to change with the winds (literally in this case). Right now, Haiti is a hot topic, popping up on my Google alerts in virtual piles. Story after story is tied to the damage left in the wake of the storms. Understand, I myself contributed to the appeal for aid and I stand by that appeal. Right now, Haiti is in a far worse place than she was a few months ago. Immediate aid is critically needed. But I would be remiss if I didn't also mention that what Haiti needs, in a far-greater way, are long-term solutions for sustainability. Feeding the hungry and healing the sick are great things to do, but these things alone won't really fix any of Haiti's problems. I like to think I'm being a realist when I say that after all of that humanitarian work is over and done, the people you saved from starvation or disease are still going to die. In an earthly sense, no one lives forever.

This music video (and the personal experience that went into crafting it) reminds me of the real need for storytelling in Haiti and throughout the rest of the developing world. As a professional storyteller, that is where I am focusing my energy. In a country where more than 50% (and by some accounts as many as 88%) of the population cannot read or write, mass communication is perfectly poised to be used as a tool of mass education. Through broadcasting technology, the problems of limited infrastructure are finally surmountable and the millions of people who lack basic education may finally be reachable.

When the food supplies are replenished and the flood damage has been repaired or circumvented, Haiti will still be the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. News channels will bow away silently and find something else to chase. All the while, Haiti will still be tragically illiterate. Her mountains will still be mostly deforested (approximately 2% remains), life expectancy will be staggeringly low, and people will be suffering in ways that our modern world should never allow.

"The Age of the Storyteller is Upon Us"

In Haiti, demise and progress are waging a virulent war. With an exploding population and the myriad of obstacles already in place, the odds are heavily stacked against progress. If there were ever any hope for Haiti, in a practical, human sense, it is time to present the "nuclear option". By that, I mean to say that the only way to stem the tide and tip the weight of Haiti's future away from cataclysmic catastrophe and into the direction of progress and sustainability is to introduce a strategy that can quickly and comprehensively dismantle or bypass the majority of the current obstacles.

Haiti may lack roads, water, food, and forests but it does not lack air. On that air, education can rise and fall like rain, onto the soil of a population that is starving for knowledge. Through a broadcast educational initiative, the tide of this war can be turned and a sustainable future will have a fighting chance in Haiti.

Thanks for reading. For more information on what we are doing, please click here. On October 13th, you will be able to personally become a part of this unique and lasting initiative. We welcome your interest and depend upon your support. Please stay tuned!

Sincerely,
Luke Renner



*In fairness, I should point out that as the data naturally ebbs and flows, the title of "kidnap capital of the world" eventually passed from Haiti to another nation, due in large part to extremely violent retaliation from the United Nations. Nonetheless, the reality of what put Haiti "in the running" remains a sobering and cautionary reminder of the reality of life in this desperate place.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

MUSIC VIDEO RELEASED!

I am so happy, humbled, and honored to announce the release of a brand new music video, "This Is How The World Will End". This video represents a powerful union of visuals and music between The Caribbean Institute of Media Technologies and my dear friends, The Elms (www.theelms.net). Please take the time to view the video, digest its message, and then pass it along to your friends.

The video has been uploaded to YouTube and can be easily embedded into your own websites (Myspace, Facebook, etc.). This is a GREAT WAY to spread the word about what we are doing.



In short order, we will be making the Director's Cut of the video available via our FREE VIDEO PODCAST. Please subscribe in iTunes for your chance to own a quality digital copy of this powerful piece. After watching this on YouTube, I strongly recommend that you go get this from our vodcast. The look and sound is much better.



We are also preparing to release a "White Paper" outlining the specific objectives of The Caribbean Institute of Media Technologies. This file is presently being authored and will be available in PDF form very shortly. To request a digital copy of this file, please go here and provide us with your information. As soon as the file is prepared, we will email you a copy. The purpose of this document is to better explain what this project is all about and outline ways in which you can be involved.

Thanks so much for your patience during this time. There is a lot going on right now and we are trying hard to give you some resources to help us spread the word. If you have any ideas or suggestions, please let me know!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Please Help Haiti.

For those of you who are looking for an immediate way to make a contribution to the post-hurricane efforts of 2008, please consider one of the following organizations:

Yéle Haiti

Partners in Health

Love A Child

OneXOne

Care

If you are looking to interface with smaller, grassroots organizations, the following good people come to mind:

G.L.O.W.

Real Hope For Haiti

Please know, my mention of these organizations is a "general endorsement" and not a guarantee of any kind. For the most part, I either know these people personally or have very good reason to trust them (through a great deal of research of my own or an openness and accountability on their part). Ultimately, your decision to help should be based on the tug of your heart. Just know that, in general, these are some of the best options I know to offer you.

If you wish to submit other names to this list, please send me an email and I will certainly consider doing that.

Before I go, let me say thanks to everyone who has bothered to stop by and consider making a charitable contribution. Haiti really needs your immediate help right now. Thanks so much for giving of your time to even go this far.

Sincerely,
Luke Renner

For more information on our organization, please click here.

Friday, September 12, 2008

THE SITE IS LAUNCHING!

Dear friends, family, and web explorers,

The time has come for the pre-launch of our exciting new website! Please take the time to visit OUR NEW SITE (<- Click here) to view the trailer and to sign up for further information, tell a friend, subscribe in iTunes, or add our announcement to your myspace or facebook account!



It's all right there!


Please, please, please... tell your friends... anyone who might be interested in what we are doing in Haiti. This whole effort is a grassroots campaign to get people interested and ultimately, involved.

Grassroots means that WE'RE COUNTING ON YOU!



YOU ARE GRASS ROOTS!


You guys share loads of information with each other on a regular basis. You recommend movies, restaurants, toothpaste, cars, presidential candidates, and websites. You are GOOD at what you do.

What we are asking is that you will now take the time... maybe 5 minutes... to pass along a recommendation about us. Our site makes that EASY TO DO! Just drop in your email address and the addresses of some friends and send them an E-mail. That's like falling off a log! Actually, that's easier... cause you'd have to ACTUALLY FIND A LOG to fall off of first.

This has been HANDED TO YOU!

Please help us help Haiti.

Tell a friend today!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Time to write again?

It's been 4 days. Sorry for the lack of content. Really, I am just trying to let the trailer linger a bit longer.

This is a big week for us. Two significant things will be happening.

First, we will proudly release a music video for a song written and performed by The Elms. Through a generous partnership, Owen Thomas (lead singer for The Elms) and I have seen fit to unite our separate visions for this powerful tune and deliver the resulting maxi single. Details will emerge shortly as to how you can get a copy of the video, as well as a detailed exposé on how both the song and the video came to be.

Second, our website's "splash page" should be up and running this week as well. This page will finally present our "Columbus Day" teaser along with a countdown to the website's official launch. From there, in a matter of weeks, we will be off to the races, airing the TV show and trying to raise the necessary funds to get this school off of the launch pad.

I will be sure to let all of you know when these things "officially" happen. Until then, please pray for the people of Haiti. They have been devastated by the recent hurricanes. They could really use your prayers.

Sincerely,
Luke

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

A BIG ANNOUNCEMENT!

On October 13, 2008, the United States of America will celebrate Columbus Day. For us, we will celebrate the launch of our brand new website and a massive fundraising campaign.

Please, feel free to pass this around like mad. Naturally, it's YouTube, so the quality stinks. Nonetheless, it is "viral" as they say and can be easily spread for all to see.





If you would like to load this trailer (and future media from us) onto your computer or portable media device (iPhone), please visit our Video Podcast in iTunes by clicking on this iTunes logo:


From there, click the "subscribe" button (in iTunes). It is free, a much better quality than YouTube, and will automatically download new content for you every time we add more.

*NOTE: You need iTunes to be able to do this.

I am really looking for people to help me start a grassroots campaign here. Generate some buzz. Perhaps in your church, specifically among the leadership and/or the missions board. This piece is intended to whet their appetite.

For corporations, churches, or community groups who wish to be involved at the "ground level", I have much more that I can show them, before the site launches. Just CLICK HERE to send me an email and discuss the possibilities.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

YOU NEED TO READ THIS!

Alright, I must concede; my brother is far more brilliant than I... at least this week. Here is a wonderful piece of satire that he recently wrote. I think all of you need to read this.

Open letter from God to Americans (satire)

Hello, I am God. I made you. I need you to understand a few things about me, so it will go well with you. I love you when you obey me, and I let the devil hurt you when you don't. I am your Father, and like all good fathers on earth, when you mess up - even accidentally - I get angry with you, but I eventually get over it, usually after I have punished you in a way that feels right to me. You're not smart enough to know my ways, but I won't give you the benefit of the doubt. I teach you things the hard way - it's the only way you will learn. As a consequence, if you do mess up, don't come to me for anything special for a while. Make sure you give me time to cool down first. OK, now that the heavy stuff is out of the way, and on a much lighter note -

You are my favorite child. I love you more than any of the other children I have created. That's why you get all the cool stuff like cars, and houses, and TVs, and food that isn't rotten. It's because of where you happen to live, because your country was founded by people who loved me and followed all my commandments. They didn't steal other people's property. They didn't kill other people to get what they wanted. They only came here to flee from the devil and his minions. They just wanted to be able to worship me freely. And you are truly blessed by me because of what they did. Your country is pretty freaking awesome. I am so glad I created it. Even your money says that you trust me. It's no wonder I count on you to rid the world of evil. Where would the world be today without you? Please don't worry about anything. Take whatever you need. Make yourself at home on earth. I made it for you to enjoy. I am good like that. And as for the poor...remember my son said that there would always be poor people. Don't worry about it. It's not your problem. Most of them are poor because they aren't following me as well as you are. Sometimes lessons are hard to learn, but I can't keep bailing them out all the time.

But be careful not to come too close to me on your own. You need anointed leaders to explain me and my scripture to you. My glory is too much for you to stand, so you should definitely find an anointed leader to follow. They will make sure that the things they tell you on my behalf are right. I trust them to lead you, and you should trust them wholeheartedly too. They got where they are by following other anointed leaders and learning from them. Just look at the signs and wonders that follow them. Look at the cars they drive and the houses they live in. That should be proof enough that I am blessing them and setting them apart to lead you. They don't make mistakes. That small voice in your spirit might be the devil - especially if it raises questions about the things that your leader does and says. Be sure to check everything that voice says with your approved leader. If they say it's not of me, it's not. I know my book says I talked with shepherds, fishermen, nomads, slaves, women, and children, but I don't talk to the rank and file anymore. I had to do that back then because I didn't have the leader class in place yet. You understand.

Finally, never underestimate the "hedge of protection" you have heard so much about. When you are inside my will for your life, nothing bad will happen to you. If something bad does happen to you, you only have yourself or the devil to blame. But since the devil is no match for my hedge of protection, obviously, you did something to make me mad. Didn't I tell you not to do that?

OK then.

A solemn reminder.

You know it's things like "hurricanes" that folks in Indiana never really pay much attention to. Of course, that all changes when you pack up and move to sunny Florida.



Hanna is headed our way soon but for now, she is pummeling the islands of the Caribbean. As you read this, if you are a praying person, please say a prayer for the people of Haiti right now.

In 2004, flash flooding killed so many people in Gonaives. The same is happening again. In addition, some of the very places that I filmed this past July, the poorest parts of Haiti, are presently underwater.

People are dying tonight. Water is killing them. Pray for God's mercy and for capable men to wake up.

This should not be happening.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Life is cruel.

Today, I was digging through a large storage bin, looking for an air pump. Samara and Samuel hadn't been on a good bike ride since winter and they were more than eager to fix that.

As I stood there, tossing deflated pool floats and diving sticks to one side or the other, a blood-curdling scream... I mean A BLOOD CURDLING SCREAM... came from the side of the house.

It was our three-year-old daughter, Emma.



As soon as I detected that this was a genuine scream (not born of sibling rivalry), I dropped my scavenger hunt and rushed out of the lanai.

Emma met me half way, stomping her feet like a well-trained soldier and screaming the most awful screams I have ever heard any child produce.

She was overcome with terror. Desperately, I tried to understand her words, but the screaming grew louder and her stomping more fierce. That's when I saw them.

Emma's tiny little feet were completely black... covered in FIRE ANTS!.

She was being eaten alive (if you'll allow me the melodrama)!

Quickly, I grabbed her and ripped the imitation crocs from her piggies. With her tucked tightly underneath my arm, I rushed toward a water spicket and dialed it up to full blast, unscrewing the hose as fast as I was able.

It wasn't fast enough.

Her screams were more than this father could bear. In a moment of desperation, I abandoned the hose and ran straight to the pool, plunging her tiny body into the water.

It was awful.

-----

This is a hard world for so many; those who seem to deserve it least, often get the brunt of life's ugliest manifestations. Monsters really do exist and they lurk in broad daylight. Some are corporations. Some are political systems. Some are religions. Some are ants. But usually, most monsters are nothing more than ordinary people.

I know people, right now, who are preying on others. I don't mean that I know of them... I mean that I know them. Some of them know what they are doing. Some of them have no idea whatsoever, thinking themselves to be virtuous. The latter are more dangerous than the former.

I encourage us all to check ourselves today. Explore your motivations. Dig deep into your own cause and effect. Are you merely searching for your things to possess? Are you a trusted leader, privately bound by your very own perversions, but publicly adored and trusted? Do you slip silently beneath the radar of exposure but know full-well what horrible beast you are, in your core?

If you are in power and abusing it... may God have mercy on your soul.

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For the rest of you...

Good people are not here to make the world good. Good people are here to keep the world from becoming absolutely consumed by evil.

-----

I blasted the anthill back to God with the garden hose. I decimated it.

I know, I know... the ant's actions were done in self-defense. My action was done in vengeance.

You see?

We all have a monster inside.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Anyone feeling up to a rummage sale?

Well friends, we are officially here at the end of August and we have come SO FAR with your gracious support of this vision. Now, we are down to the wire financially. With an initial goal of $4,100... I'll have to admit, we knew that it would pretty well have to be God if this was going to come together.

$3,777.00 later... we are BLOWN AWAY! Thank you all SO MUCH for your help. One family even made TWO contributions! Now THERE'S an idea!

What an absolute blessing you have all been.

To give you an update, we are still going to miss the mark... not by much... but it's a miss nonetheless. A few bills remain that we cannot pay... and with a hurricane on the way, it probably goes without saying that some supplies are in order. I'm thankful either way but I won't lie, getting this close, only to fall so short... is kind of a bummer.

While we are getting geared up to be drenched by HANNAH (how appropriate... our teenage daughter is named Hannah... she'll be the death of me after all !!!), I wanted to encourage any of you who might wanna sell some lemonade, have a rummage sale, or drop some junk on craigslist... please consider what you can do to put us back into the black. It genuinely won't take much and it will really make this month one heck of a success story.

So you know, I am already booking dates to work in September and November. In other words, I wasn't lying when I said it was just for this month. You are not getting roped into anything here. Help us swing for the fences just one last time.

You say you want some proof? You wanna know what we have ACTUALLY BEEN DOING this month? Well, okay then. Fair enough.

If you need a little encouragement, click here for a 2 minute peek at some video from this month's labor. Granted, there are nearly 30 MINUTES of really great, highly polished content, so forgive me, but I can only let a little bit of it "out of the bag" at the moment.

In other news... a music video premiere is imminent (in connection with a simultaneous single from a major-label band). Our official website is being designed (as we speak) and is being strategized for an exciting launch. Our ability to process credit and debit cards is underway and we have also begun the process of securing airtime for this 30-minute TV fundraising campaign.

You want more? Okay!

Our school's location in Haiti HAS BEEN OFFICALLY SECURED! I'm telling you what... this has been one SWEET SWEET MONTH.

Help us crack the bottle over this ship and let her sail.

BIG THINGS ARE ABOUT TO HAPPEN!!!

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If you wish to send us some support, you may do so one of two ways:

For those who would like a tax-deductible receipt please make your check out to ReNET and designate it for “Haiti”. ReNET is acting as our 501(c)3 umbrella while our own application is in process. You may then mail that check to

ReNET
2867 N. 200 E.
Anderson IN 46012.


If you don’t need a receipt then you can just make the check out to Luke Renner and send it to us directly. If you wanna do that, let me know and I will email you our home address.

Either way, I would appreciate an email alerting me to the incoming support so that I can keep track of where we’re at.
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