About Kathy Eldon
On July 12, 1993, Reuters photographer Dan Eldon and three of his colleagues heard that U.N. forces had bombed the safe house of Somali warlord. The warlord was not in residence, but 74 innocent men, women, and children were killed in the blast, with many more injured. As the journalist began to document the atrocity on behalf of those wrongly killed, an enraged and grief-stricken mob surrounded and attacked them. All four journalists were stoned to death.
Dan Eldon’s mother, Kathy Eldon, is a writer, journalist, and television and film producer. With compassion, forgiveness, and grace, she has turned the loss of her son—arguably the most terrible personal tragedy a mother can endure—into an affirmation of life itself. Dubbed “Lesharo,” or “the one who laughs,” by a Masai woman whose family he befriended, Dan’s short life was dedicated to travel, art, and the spirit of giving. His mother shared that passion with the world when she took his art-and word-filled journal pages, and collected them in a volume called The Journey is the Destination. She is also the author of a number of best-selling guided journals, including Soul Catcher, Angel Catcher,and Love Catcher.
Kathy is the founder of Creative Visions, a television and film production company, and much of her work, including an Emmy-nominated turner Broadcasting film on frontline journalists, Dying to Tell the Story, has to do with issues of journalistic freedom and safety. She is currently developing a film about her son. She and her daughter Amy, also cofounded the creative Visions Foundation, which offers grants to young people who wish to produce projects with a social, humanitarian, or environmental focus, and the DEPOT, the Dan Eldon Place of Tomorrow, a youth center to help young people achieve their potential, based in Nairobi.
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I have always believed that we have a lot to learn from young people. My two children, Dan and Amy Eldon, have been two of my greatest teachers—and heroes.
|Dan and Amy Eldon as children|
Half Jewish-Rumanian, like their father, Mike, and half Protestant-American, like me, they were born in England, though when they were very young, our family moved to Kenya where I decided to try my wings as a journalist. Determined to tell stories about the extraordinary accomplishments of ordinary people, I brought home many of my subjects--every-day heroes like Father Groll, a laconic Dutch missionary who offered hope to the poorest of the poor; Nairobi street kids, prostitutes and slum-dwellers; John and Joan Karmali, who started the country's first multi-racial school; and Kenyan cameraman Mohamed Amin, whose courageous coverage of the 1982 Ethiopian famine ignited a global response that led to Bob Geldof’s Live Aid concert.
I watched with pride as Dan and Amy began to emulate those they admired. At twelve, Dan helped a destitute Masai family by selling their intricately beaded jewelry to his teachers, friends, and tourists, hitching a ride to his African "mother" to hand over the profits. At fifteen, he launched a "Save a Heart" appeal to pay for an operation for an impoverished Kenyan child. Determined to fund-raise quickly, he and Amy turned our backyard into a nightclub, charging friends to attend noisy benefit rock concerts. As a freshman at Pasadena Community College, Dan founded Student Transport Aid to help survivors of a cruel civil war raging in Mozambique. Dan and the STA team, including 15-year-old Amy, raised $l7,000, and delivered the aid in person to a refugee camp. The expedition changed the lives of every student on the trip.
When Dan was twenty-one and working as Reuter’s youngest correspondent, he traveled to Somalia to cover a little-known famine threatening the lives of millions. Like those of his hero, Mohamed Amin, Dan’s photos were among the first to awaken the world's conscience and led to a multi-national relief mission, "Operation Restore Hope." Dan, a true "son of Africa," returned to Somalia many times in the next year, reporting on the decline of the country into anarchy. The American-led mission turned into a disastrous situation for all involved, as dissident Somalis raided aid convoys and killed UN Peacekeepers. In retaliation, on July 12th, 1993, UN troops in Blackhawk helicopters attacked a villa where they believed the principle warlord, self-styled “General” Aideed, was hiding. Unfortunately, he wasn't there and during the ill-advised bombing, more than 200 innocent people were killed or wounded.
Rushed to the scene by survivors, Dan and three colleagues began photographing the carnage, only to be stoned to death by a mob enraged by the deaths of their loved ones. Upon hearing the news I was utterly devastated, lost myself in a blur of grief and pain. Just when I might have given up, my amazing daughter Amy brought me back to life. Enrolling at Boston University's College of Communications, she decided to follow in her brother’s footsteps, not as war correspondent, but as a “peace correspondent,” telling stories that would bring people together, not tear them apart. Amy’s commitment to her purpose helped me find mine. I realized then that I can never regain what I lost, but Dan's spirit of compassion could guide my path to the future. Focused on transforming my anger into a positive force, I worked with Amy to develop Dying to Tell the Story, a film about journalists at risk, in which she interviewed top frontline correspondents including CNN's Christiane Amanpour, BBC anchor Martin Bell, and British photographer Don McCullen. As proud mom and Executive Producer, I was thrilled when our film premiered at the United Nations and CNN aired it in 200 countries.
Inspired by the response, we produced other films, including GlobalTribe, a PBS series about everyday heroes seeking solutions to global issues. We have been overwhelmed by the response of viewers who have written to ask how they could get involved. Today Amy and a team of talented young producers have developed the GlobalTribe Network (globaltribenet.org), an exciting Internet-based resource that gives young people the inspiration, tools, and resources they need to make a difference in their local and global community. Providing a hub of intelligence and creative tools, the project taps into the limitless potential of youth, and encourages them to—in the words of my greatest hero, Mahatma Gandhi—“be the change” we wish to see in the world.
In the years since Dan's death I have found it possible to transform my hurt and anger into a sense of gratitude for his short, but remarkable life, and for his ongoing inspiration to others. Fueled by his powerful energy and by Amy's gentle spirit, I have found my true purpose: to use the power of media to share the stories of others, each of whom becomes a part of our GlobalTribe, an ever-expanding network of change makers that extends across the planet--and beyond.
My children have been a source of true inspiration and have taught me firsthand the wisdom of Winston Churchill's quotation: "Making a living is what you get. Making a life is what you give."