I Am Still Here


I just wanted to let you all know that I do still exist and I am still doing life, on another side of the planet earth- the side from which I originated. . . “State-side.”

Here in my hometown of Portland, Oregon, after a radical eight months studying the Bible at Capernwray Québec, I am assembling a life including but not limited to aspects of serving kids at my home church Mosaic, making new friends, rekindling and solidifying old friendships, creating just the right assortment of part-time jobs (gardening, childcare, personal helper, teaching art, housecleaning- the sky is the LIMIT!), spending time with my family, re-discovering Portland and her idiosyncrasies, moving to a neighborhood of friends in N. Portland, volunteering at Shepherd’s Door, discerning my future steps. . . but mostly just seeking to serve God as He guides me and attending to matters He cares about like my health, writing, making art, seeing people, and, of course, befriending and helping people.

I plan to update this website when I have the chance.

For now, if you haven’t already, appreciate it as documentation of my time in South Africa and the unique opportunities I was given there. Thanks for all of your support and interest. Stay tuned. . .


Photography with Kids in Soshanguve. . . Only the Beginning


Well it’s been almost a MONTH since our photography exhibition at the local Soshanguve library showcasing twenty-four impressive photos of the eight kids in the “Kids with Cameras”-type project. We called the show “Mathlo Go Bona”- in Zulu, “Eyes to See,” a widely known phrase among many local South African cultures. A testimony to the kids gaining better “eyes to see” as well as opening the eyes of their families and communities in the process.

In back, Pretty (translator) and me. Then L to R, Tshegofatso, Nthabiseng, Tshepang, Lucky, Gopolang, Precious (behind), and Baleseng. Alex, my 14-yr. old Creative Assistant, is in front.

Lots has happened since then. After the two-month class, we had a “post-class class” where I gave them their framed photos and we discussed what they’d most like to do now that the class has officially ended. Tshegofatso mentioned journaling about all that happened to them during the class. Many expressed the interest to continue their photography. Lucky suggested we go on a field trip. . . and I got to tell them all that we will go somewhere before I leave, to see a photo exhibition and probably take more photos too. After the class has ended, I keep asking myself what I can do to make this a sustainable project, and many ideas have come to mind. Giving a couple of cameras to the families. Introducing the kids to an organization in Joburg that gives bursaries to interested, underprivileged students. Deep down, my main prayer is that this is only the beginning for these kids. . . It was so much more than a photo class.

Lucky showing one of his photos that he gets to keep from the show.

Since we had our exhibit, something sad happened as well. Alex (my “Creative Assistant,” 14 yrs. old) attended (along with me, my friends Barbara and Daleen, and countless others from Alex’s neighborhood and family) his own mother’s funeral. She had been sick with an AIDs-related illness, and although she was quite ill, she was also very young (38) and it hit our friends, a tight-knit family of sisters, hard. Alex has an older brother Sylvester, many aunts, and an aging Go Go as fellow survivors. We are trying to walk with the family through this as best we can. We welcome all prayers for Alex and the family hereafter.

As for sponsorship, at least half of the children have now been sponsored, as far as I’m aware. We still need about $400 more of the $800. All donations, again, cover the children’s class supplies (journals, prestik, posterboard, etc.), healthy snacks, disposable cameras for 5 classes, and development and storage of the photos, made to CD and copied to flashdrive. PLEASE CLICK HERE TO DONATE and help us reach our goal. . . All of the kids are so appreciative of the sponsorship that has come in, and they wanted to express this. Here are a few of their thanks:

To watch videos of our class (all done by Alex), click HERE. . .  More video of speeches from the photo exhibit are to come!!

And now for a few of the photos that were in the show. Each kid had one photo displayed from each of their three assignments. Through the lenses of their disposable cameras (Kodak), they explored the themes of what made them happy, what made them sad, and what things they loved. In one class, I also had them write up some explanations of the things, and those were posted along with the photos in the exhibit. Here are some of the exhibit photos (and explanations) from each category, two from each child:


“I like my colors in South Africa. We have 6 colors. I love my country.” - Alex, age 14

“This house is so beautiful- house and flowers and bricks.” - Precious, age 10

“My friend Job does karate.” - Gopolang, age 9

“I love to swim and the water.” - Tshepang, age 8

“I like to play computer." - Tshegofatso, age 8


“My friend Khensane. She is crying.” - Baleseng, age 9

“Do not throw clothes on the streets.” - Lucky, age 11

“This man, he lives alone. Nobody helps him. He’s sick.” - Alex, age 14

“No shelter. They are cold.” - Tshegofatso, age 8

“It’s dirty, it don’t make me happy.” - Nthabiseng, age 9

“She is crying and she looks at someone.” - Tshepang, age 8


“I love these people.” - Gopolang, age 9

“I like to play soccer with my friends.” - Lucky, age 11

“I love you baby.” - Baleseng, age 9

“Beautiful flowers. I wish these flowers could be my flowers.” - Precious, age 10

“Nthabiseng. I am happy because I pass in school.” - Nthabiseng, age 9

THANK YOU again for following this process. Don’t hesitate to email me at skwoolley.girl@gmail.com with any questions. I’ll continue updating. As I mentioned, I have a sense that this is only the beginning. . .

Sponsor a Child in Our “Kids with Cameras” Project in Soshanguve


Some of you know that I have been busy with a ministry in Soshanguve the past month, teaching some kids from our local township photography. I am doing this in partnership with Jon Hall of NieuCommunities San Diego and Peter Schrock of CRM’s Creative Services division. Peter and Jon will be facilitating a similar class with locals in San Diego and Ensenada, Mexico. In this project, we are focusing on teaching kids in low-income areas photography, inspiring them to photograph their worlds, hoping to empower them, their families, and their communities in the process. We hope to create cultural bridges and help transform economical divides.  As well as trying to teach kids the “art of seeing” through creative photography, we are challenging the kids’ communities to see through the eyes of their children. The culmination of the two-month-long class is a local show in the kids’ neighborhoods as well as a large exhibition of all the kids’ work combined in San Diego before the close of 2010.

Our class from back to front, L to R: Me, Precious, Pretty (my translator, 18 yrs.), Alex (creative assistant, 14 yrs.), 2nd row: Lucky, Tshepang, Gopolang, Tshegofatso, front row: Nthabiseng, Baleseng

To update you on my particular class, I have seven kids committed between the ages of eight and ten, and one kid, Alex, (also my “creative assistant”) soon to be fifteen. Most of these kids I have developed relationships with over the past three years, half of them belonging to the family of “Granny (Go Go) Beauty,” an extended family that NieuCommunities has befriended and spiritually mentored the past six years. While I am in a ministry transition of sorts, discerning where to go next within CRM, this class has been incredibly life-giving to me and I know it is to the kids as well. I give the kids disposable cameras each week, and they’ve been completing assignments on “What makes me happy,” “What makes me sad,” and “What are things that I love.” My good friend Emily, Go Go’s youngest daughter who I’ve been praying with the past year and a half, is hosting the classes at her house. Apparently, she tells me, the kids talk about the class all week long, looking forward to it. I must admit that I do too and am in a continuous state of excitement, wondering what their next batch of photos will reveal. One example of how excited they are is that at one point they were showing up to the class four hours early to Emily’s on Saturdays, at 9am instead of at 1pm when we begin.

In African culture, and even here in the modern, racially mixed township of Soshanguve, family and doing things together is of utmost importance. It’s actually a challenge for me to encourage the kids to keep their cameras for themselves, as they are used to helping each other (or in some cases, “taking over” for another). Because family background is so important, I’d like to relate some details on my understanding of each kid’s family situation. If you are interested in sponsoring a child to help with the costs of the project, please click on the link at the bottom of this post to donate. I will be happy to inform the children who is donating on their behalf.

ALEX, Age 14

Alex is the youngest son of one of Go Go’s middle daughters, Christina, who is currently quite ill. Alex has an older brother, Sylvester. Although Alex is a bit out of the age range we were aiming for (8-12 yrs.), I knew he should be in the class. Whenever I’d go to visit Go Go, he would borrow my digital and take intriguing shots. He’s always been fascinated by photography and a quick learner. He is a student but also my “creative assistant”: I give him my digital to take photos and shoot video during class. To see the videos he’s taken so far, see my vimeo account.

BALESENG (bah-leh-sehng), age 9

Baleseng is the daughter of Umpo, a woman I knew in 2007, who died quite suddenly of AIDs. My ministry partner Barbara and I wanted her to be a part of our book of women’s stories, but before we had gotten her complete story, it was too late. Now Baleseng’s go go (granny) looks after her, as well as our good friend Doris, who sees Baleseng as a daughter. She is the playmate of Doris’s son Gopolang, and Doris was sure she would enjoy the class. Baleseng’s got a sweet spirit and, from her photos, a real eye for beauty.

GOPOLANG (hope-uh-long), age 9

Ah, Gopolang. My little friend. Gopolang is the son of my friends Doris and Macdonald. He has an older brother Lebogang and a new baby sister Lesedi. Doris, a friend since I first came to South Africa, is HIV positive but has survived many years taking her ARVs. Gopolang has been tested since he was born and is still HIV-free. Like Alex, he has always had an interest in photography, taking interesting shots with my digital. He’s extremely quiet around adults but can be a little rascal- I think that’s why I like him though. I knew he’d get a lot out of this class- I was excited at the opportunity to challenge and engage him. Like I thought, he is loving it.

LUCKY, age 10

Lucky is the son of MaNthabiseng, Go Go’s neighbor, a woman with serious mental health issues. He has an older brother and sister but is the only one left in the family who has stayed in school. The kids basically look out for themselves and rely on help from Go Go’s family. Given MaNthabiseng’s history of causing trouble for Go Go’s family (verbal and violent abuse, even though Go Go’s family tries to help the family), I originally said he couldn’t be in the class. I didn’t want a scene from his mother. He showed up the second class, however, and it was after that that I sensed God wanted him to remain in the class. He happened to make “lucky #7” of the kids in the 8-12 age range of our class. Lucky is very well-behaved and engaged in the class despite his family situation. I’m so glad I listened to God about him. You can see hope woven throughout his character.

NTHABISENG (nn-tah-bih-sehng), age 9

Nthabiseng is the daughter of Anna, another middle daughter of Go Go’s. She has an older brother Tshepo and sister Dikeledi. Her mother, previously unemployed and separated from the father who was abusive, now works as a housekeeper and travels many kilometers by taxi every day to work. I’ve known Nthabiseng since I came in 2007. With a spritely spirit, she’s an important friend to many of her cousins.

PRECIOUS, age 10

Precious is the middle daughter of Emily, at whose house we have our classes. Her older sister, Pretty, just started college and is my translator for the class, and her precocious younger sister, Lungile, usually joins us for class. Precious is rather quiet but extremely joyful and always there to help if someone’s in need. She is blessed with two parents (Emily and Solomon), who may have struggles financially but are devoted to their family and community. Her mother, Emily, is instrumental in helping others, from taking Go Go to the doctor to actively fighting for the rights and needs of adults and children in their community. You can see Precious as well as Pretty beginning to follow in Emily’s footsteps.

TSHEGOFATSO (so-faht-so), age 8

Tshegofatso is the daughter of Champagne, who is daughter to Betty, another of the middle of Go Go’s daughters (Go Go has five in all). So she is Go Go’s great-grandchild. Because Champagne was so young when she had her and not quite responsible enough at the time, Go Go has mainly raised Tshegofatso as her own. Go Go is now ailing and I think all of the grand- and great-grandchildren are feeling sad about this. Tsegofatso now has a younger sister and brother. Champagne has become increasingly responsible and is currently staying with Go Go herself. She recently got a job at a nearby mall after praying and fasting. Tshegofatso, the baby of Go Go’s family for so long, is gradually growing in self-confidence. She has a great photographer’s eye.

TSHEPANG (tsah-bahng), age 8

Tshepang is son to Abigail, next-door neighbor to Emily. I have seen him around many times, playing with the other kids, but never knew him very well. Once he went with Emily and I to Doris’ and he didn’t say one word. He has an extremely sweet spirit though. For some reason I kind of hoped he could be in the class, and when he showed up the first day, I was very happy. He is very careful about his shots and tries out interesting angles. Some of his nature photographs are breathtaking. As one of our other youngest students, he is thoroughly enjoying the class.


The costs come to 5,918 Rands TOTAL. To break it down:

  • Disposable cameras for practice and three assignments = R2847
  • Development of film/ Prints and digital copies made to CD = R2283
  • Other supplies, including journals, storage envelopes, flashdrives, Prestik, Post-Its, pens, and posterboard = R381
  • Snacks for each class (introducing healthy items like crackers and cheese, and celery with peanut butter!) = R407

For the cost per child, the TOTAL divided by 8 is R739.75, which amounts to exactly $99.75, or


If you want to sponsor one of these children for only $100, please click HERE . It’s under “Project- Kids with Cameras.” (A donation of any other amount is much appreciated as well). Please email me to let me know of your donation at skwoolley.girl@gmail.com.

. . . THANK YOU for your support! I’ll be updating with the kids’ photos soon.

A New Light is Born


So I realize that for those of you who read my sporadic blog entries, there is a seriously unfinished story here. I never told you what happened with my dear friend Doris and her baby. Well. . . Doris had the baby the 6th of December. And it was healthy. And IT was a GIRL! Doris and Macdonald have named their baby “Lesedi,” which means “light.” And she certainly is a light in our lives. Since being back in Pretoria, I have gotten to enjoy her many times. We are all so pleased that God has answered our prayers. So please, see for yourselves:

"Hello, My Name is Light"

Doris and Lesedi

"Play with me, Lesedi"

"Weeee. . . . !!!"

"Happy to be me!"

Auntie Pretty

Auntie Emily

Auntie Anna

Auntie Barbara

Auntie Me

More to Come


I just wanted to inform those who are currently visiting my site that I will post some things very soon about the kids photo project I am doing in our nearby township of Soshanguve as well as a story about 3 miraculous births of good friends of mine that all occurred around the New Year 2010. True dat.

A Special Friend


Doris and I have been friends since 2007, when Barbara and I came regularly to visit her and took her story for our book of South African women’s stories. Ever since I met her, she has held a special place in my heart. Often, when we travel to Emily’s to pray for Wholesome Bakery on Mondays, we will stop by Doris’s first and sometimes she will accompany us. Doris has been HIV positive for a number of years and has suffered at various times throughout the years. Her most compelling story was when she was nearly on her deathbed, many were praying for her, and she was nursed back to health. Doris has two sons, neither of whom are infected. She has always wanted a little girl, and 5 months ago or so, became pregnant. We all knew she’d be taking a huge risk (and the news came as a surprise to most of us), but Doris is very stubborn and has been through so much that she deeply believes in prayer. Doris’s health has been a bit of a roller coaster since she got pregnant but currently she and her baby are quite healthy. Please continue to pray with us for the health of her and her child. She is too dear to us to have anything happen to her. And I secretly hope for a girl for her as well. . .

Me and Doris on Her Bed

Here I sit with Doris on her bed on my latest visit. Her youngest son, Gopolang, took the shot.

Winter Birthdays


July 19th 2009

Some of you are aware that I just had a noteworthy birthday. Three decades to celebrate! That was new for me. It was also my third South African birthday in a row, which meant that it was the middle of winter as opposed to summer. This year we celebrated simply but elegantly, in the Botanical Gardens with a “Bring ‘n Brunch.” Many of my favorite people were there including Lizzy, all four women apprentices (Colletta, Melanie, Busi, and Adrienne), fellow staff Barbara and Dayna, the Wards and the Stewarts, Samantha and daughters, and two friends from Enterprise International (Kat and Sally). I was blessed by this small gathering. It has been quite cold lately, but the sun warmed us that day as we ate yummy brunch food and chocolate cake, and sipped mimosas. Barbara presented me with a lovely book of “30 memories” that friends here and abroad contributed to, complete with emails and photos. I will treasure it always. Here are a few shots from that morning:

A Few from the Brunch Party

A Few from the Brunch Party

Dayna and I in our "fairy party hats"

Dayna and I in our "fairy party hats"

Barbara and I

Barbara and I

July 20th 2009

The following day, another young lady celebrated a very important birthday: Emily’s daughter Lungile turned five years old. Adrienne, Busi and I brought a cake to Emily’s in Block KK of Soshanguve to celebrate. Emily was happy for the reprieve from her bakery work. She invited many of the surrounding neighbors’ kids over and we set up a little party for Lungile. I think she was quite pleased, judging from her cheerful and characteristically catty demeanor. Here’s a few from that day as well:

This is Lungile in All Her Cattiness

This is Lungile in All Her Cattiness

Oh Yeah! I am Five!

Oh Yeah! I am Five!

Me and My Friends. But I am the Queen.

Me and My Friends. But I am the Queen.

And. . . She’s Back!


I just wanted to let everyone know (everyone being anyone who happens upon my site) that my blog is badly in need of updating. Of course, if you ever visit my site. . . you know that. Just to get you a TAD up to speed: Our 2008 apprenticeship year ended well, with an “eighties- themed” birthday party for staff member Daleen and many farewells among the apprentices, their ministry friends, and us.

In the interim time between apprenticeships, Barbara and I had a South African Christmas, visiting friends in the nearby township of Soshanguve after a slumber party with two girlfriends on Christmas Eve. The two months for me were blessed with much time with Soshanguve friends, especially those in “Granny’s family,” a family of mostly women and children whom we’ve gotten to know well over the years. I have enjoyed praying for Wholesome Bakery on Mondays, a new business venture managed by Granny’s youngest daughter Emily at her house in Block KK. I also enjoyed greatly a trip I took to Port Elizabeth (on the coast) with fellow staff members Barbara, Bryan, Daleen, and Dayna (with her husband Tony), and our good friend who’s been our landlord these past months, Elizabeth.

All in all it’s been a full-but-good two months and now, as we are wrapping up preparations for the new apprenticeship year, I am in that in-between state of readiness, not sure of how all the new changes will feel. Please pray, if you think of me, for my energy level as we begin a three-week-long orientation. And pray for divinely smooth transitions for our new (eight) apprentices and exceptional unity for our staff. I covet prayers right now and will continue to update folks on how to pray.

So there’s the “short” synopsis. I hope to write again soon. 

God bless, and stay well!!




Recently I’ve had the chance to do some portraits for people who have been interested. One set was for the Stewart family, for their yearly family portrait. Unfortunately, I was a bit late to their house so we only had a wedge of sunlight left to work with in the nearby park. Many of them were not so great because of it, but there were a few really cute ones, even if not the ideal- this was one (from left to right, Arthur-Paul, Melissa, Arthur, Iain, and Mairin):

I also had the awesome privilege of helping to fulfill a little dream that my friend Busi has had for a while of doing a certain style of photo for her, dressed in a sheet- kind of like in Roman times. We did some really amazing shots in my backyard, mostly in black and white, but this one was really classic and gives you some idea of the set-up:

It has been fun to get back into photography a bit, especially as I haven’t yet gotten back to my art. But this is a type of art! Portraits, especially like the ones I did for Busi, are my favorite type of photography- it is just an amazing feeling to be able to speak to someone, through the lens of your camera, how beautiful she is. . .

Raining Jacaranda


It is the time of the jacaranda here in Pretoria North, South Africa. The weather is humid, sometimes hot, and the past week or two, has been on the verge of storm. Jacarandas, common to California as well, are in full bloom now, and especially at our “home base” Pangani, the purple blossoms seem to be constantly raining down on us, the ground, and our cars. Here is a photo to give you an idea of the trees, the ominous clouds, and the wind, which has also been rather prevalent. (The other night there was a hint of rain and I nearly rejoiced in full but it was short-lived. We have yet to see a good rain for this season.)