Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Traveling Postcards: Interview with Founder, Caroline Lovell


"We all carry a desire to be recognized and appreciated, and often it takes only a small gesture of deep listening or witnessing for a situation of despair to turn to one of hope and resiliency."
~ Caroline Lovell, Founder, Traveling Postcards

 
Traveling Postcards facilitates the creation of handmade art postcards that are hand delivered all over the world to bringing awareness and voice to women and girls whose lives have suffered from isolation, violence, or repression.  Over the last year, the work of Traveling Postcards keeps crossing my path, so I asked its founder, Caroline Lovell, to share with us:

  • How Traveling Postcards works
  • The path that brought her to this work
  • Her favorite Traveling Postcards success story
  • How we can get involved with Traveling Postcards
I've posted her answers below.  You can follow Traveling Postcards at travelingpostcards.org, on Facebook, and on Twitter (@TravelingPost).

How does Traveling Postcards work?

Traveling Postcards is a humanitarian organization that is gathering women’s voices worldwide, and creating a traveling collection of visual and written wisdom that so many women hold in their hearts. Hundreds of unique, hand-made art postcards, containing words of compassion and solidarity are hand delivered to individuals and communities all over the world, bringing connection, hope, visibility and voice to women and girls whose lives have suffered from isolation, violence or repression.

Everyday art making materials are used to represent innate connections between women and an understanding that even if we don’t know each other, we still care for one another. By slowing down and making a piece of art for someone, we provide a personal connection to the issues and to individuals and create opportunities to see our commonalities despite geographic or cultural borders.

The cards are unique and beautiful and carry the voices of women (and some men) depicted in images and words and offer compassionate healing for those who both make them, and for those who receive them. You do not need to be an “artist” to make a postcard, but each participant is surprised and delighted by their creativity and to see that their cards contain colors, words and images that reflect their strongest selves. Empowerment for our participants comes from connecting to an inner wisdom that is often kept hidden from public view, but is a place of extraordinary innate strength and well being. Connecting personal wisdom to effect positive change is our goal.

Each card is a piece of art in my mind. I imagined women or girls who received cards might keep them in a place in her home, in a drawer, or on a shelf that would always remind her that she is cared for, and that she is a part of a much larger global community. I feel that art is able to translate beyond language, and communicate a much larger vision of personal connection.

What is the path that brought you to this work?

Working in and with a community of women, advocating for women’s rights and the right to be free of violence, and empowering women to be leaders has long been a personal goal and driving force for me. It was a natural choice for me, as an artist, to begin holding workshops for women and girls using creativity as a way for my own self expression and dreams to emerge. Before this point I had not been able to affect the kind of change I was seeking by being a fine art photographer only. I was frustrated by the exclusivity of the gallery world, and I had not seen the success that some photo journalists have by taking a singular image that could change the world! Yet, I wanted to be that artist and still do. I know that I can make a difference for positive change, and am learning that Traveling Postcards might be the vehicle for making that change.

What is your favorite Traveling Postcards success story?

Honestly I think every postcard is a success story. Each card is unique. Out of the hundreds of cards that have been made, there have never been two cards that looked alike. Everyone has found it possible to share her voice by making a card. Several years ago, I had an opportunity to travel to Costa Rica with a group of artists. I brought Traveling Postcards and one day hiked into the jungle and made cards with a family we met. I watched as the girls carefully placed just a few stickers on their cards. I had brought an abundance of art supplies with me, but they didn’t need them. They were proud to engage in the process and to write their full names on their card. I was reminded of how much we take for granted in our culture of excess, and how important it is to see that there are simpler ways of living and giving. I also gave them some Traveling Postcards as gifts and I know that in that moment the girls, who lived high in the jungle in a remote part of Costa Rica, understood that they were a part of a larger community who cares about the health and well being of all women.

In Uganda, a group of young people made incredible, heartfelt postcards filled with glitter and cut up magazine pictures to send to women in the Congo. Expressing their emotions so openly was a new and uneasy task, but with the help of a wonderful facilitator, Conso Buzabo, they intuitively shared their compassionate connections through simple art making.

In the United States I have made cards with women who are survivors of domestic violence. During these workshops I felt a peace that seemed to resonate around the room. Simply sitting together around a table surrounded by beautiful art making supplies, we quietly chose objects that reflected the selves we wish to share despite our circumstances. Afterwards, one woman told me that she hadn’t felt anything in such a long time, and now she felt happy.

I always love to receive a singular Traveling Postcard in the mail. There is a beautiful story on our website of a woman who knew she wanted to make a difference, but felt uncertain that she would ever be able to do enough. She found that by trusting herself, and making one card with the intention of sharing her innate wisdom, her need to be of value in our society was fulfilled. She then went on to hold several Traveling Postcards workshops both in her own community, and then in Kenya!

How can Have Fun, Do Good readers get involved with Traveling Postcards?

First of all, you can make a postcard! Traveling Postcards workshops are easy and fun for everyone. Anyone can become a facilitator and host a workshop in their community, and we encourage everyone to get involved. We have directions and guidelines on the website, and lots of good ideas about art materials and how to get started.

Learn more! There are many issues that affect the well-being of women and their communities. Education, healthcare, violence, lack of economic resources, trafficking, to name just a few. Find an issue that matters to you and use art to find your voice and share your concern. Use the resources we provide online as a starting point. Learning more about the issues will empower you as you discover what really resonates with your heart.

Men are also encouraged to participate by finding their voice and honoring a woman who has made a difference in their lives. Art materials can be found at home, or can be provided for you. We are developing a Traveling Postcard Kit that can be adapted to your particular situation and sent to you.

We are always looking for facilitators on the ground, either individuals or organizations who would be willing to lead workshops with communities of women and girls who are isolated and disconnected from the larger global population. Sometimes we have volunteers who will pack Traveling Postcards in their suitcase and give them away while they are traveling. It is a great way to make a personal connection by giving a gift of love. Lastly we always love to receive an individual card in the mail. If you feel more comfortable making your card at home, please feel free to do so.

Please tell your friends, and "like" us on Facebook. The more people who know about Traveling Postcards the better! Please add your voice to the conversation. Tell us what you are doing to make positive change in your community.

We are also funding very special after school art classes in Afghanistan through our partnership with Trust In Education. We know that creativity and freedom of expression go a long way in educating children to be tolerant and open minded. We must raise $1,000 to keep our classes going for another year. I am passionate about helping women and girls in Afghanistan to be fully independent and self-expressed, and I am looking for opportunities to bring a Traveling Postcards workshop to women who are currently living in Afghan shelters. If you want to support Afghan women and girls, make a Traveling Postcard and send it to us.

We are also planning a trip to Peru! If you would like to join that campaign, please let me know.

What else would you like Have Fun, Do Good's readers know about Traveling Postcards? 

We have come a long way! What started out as a personal art project has grown into a global community project that has created over 800 handmade cards carrying voices to and from the Congo, Rwanda, Uganda, Costa Rica, Niger, Namibia, America, Haiti and Afghanistan. Anyone with a desire to enact change, empower women and girls, and help battle oppression is invited to share their voice and join us. Our grassroots campaign involves all ages from teens to seniors.

We all carry a desire to be recognized and appreciated, and often it takes only a small gesture of deep listening or witnessing for a situation of despair to turn to one of hope and resiliency. How can we step outside of our fears in order to lend a compassionate hand first to ourselves, and then to others? Traveling Postcards offers an opportunity to make connections without leaving home and is committed to offering voice and visibility to everyone.

 My focus is to create an opportunity to share our wisdom even when it seems as if no one is listening. Empowered action can take many forms, and it is not mine to define what any one person will express once their essence has been witnessed. Believing in yourself against all odds takes courage and strength. Traveling Postcards is an opportunity to be held for the time it takes to create a card, and then celebrated as your voice joins hundreds of others to stand strongly in the face of repression and isolation. We hope you will share your voice with the world!

Caroline Lovell is a transformative artist living and working in California with a deep commitment to affecting change for woman through creativity. Her life as an artist is about using the creative process as a healing tool for personal growth and community awareness. She believes that our stories matter, and our personal expression of that story can cross borders and reach far beyond ourselves to grow and affect change for generations to come.

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