Sunday, October 18, 2009

To Fill in the Shoes

My school, my friends, and my formed family
I miss you so much

The songs we once shared now I listen to alone

And the only way to connect is from over the phone
To let you know my feelings from afar is impossible
But know that my love and appreciation of you is colossal
Because I know that my success's are not undone
For your determination and accomplishments are more then just fun
You set you sights on the unseen
Almost as if you are the keen
The keen are focused on change
Change without recognition
And love without question
That is what this world needs
An unfamiliar face to accept without judgment or doubt
I can see that is what you are all about
You will see that helping and changing lives not only changes others
But in turn reveals your cover
You come out of yourself, the not you
And you become who you are but also who you weren't

Thanks for bearing with my poetic rants and if any of you want to talk I'd be glad to catch up and see how you are doing,

Saturday, August 29, 2009

SJVA, my growing place

I will start with a little bit of history of my attendance at SJVA for the people who don't know me that well. In 2005 I became one of 16 freshman students to the teachers of Mr. Okeke, Ms. Fox, and later Mr. Wharton at the academy. Then later throughout the years, our class was finally weeded out into the weird, creative, and involved kids that I graduated with. These people are like my brothers and sisters and the relationship we share with our teacher, ourselves and faculty is unique and beautiful. I have much hope in the following senior class of next year 2010. With all the sacrifice I put into Invisible Children I expect a very large involvement and success within this year. I am writing this to share my love and appreciation for IC and help you understand what is in store for you.

First off I want to thank you for your past involvement and helping me with all of my struggles all around. If it wasn't for people like Nicollette, Alex, Jonathon, Nate, Kevin, Boenzi, Burgo, Ward, Romeril and many more I would not be where I am. One of the most important things I have learned since being here in San Diego, through training and booking, is that relationship is the most important in IC. Staying true to their mission statement. " We are a social, political, and global movement using the transformative power of story to change lives," and this transformation is what drives me to wake up every morning at 6:00 AM to go to work and later come home to 60 people working and staying up till 1:00 AM in the morning to finish booking and studies. I am working this hard because I believe in something. Something that is bigger than me. I am not living a completely radical lifestyle because it's really fun, or it will be a great experience but the reason is my life is meant for a lifestyle filled with sacrifice, love, and impunity. The Invisible Children of Northern Uganda are not the people in harms way, and are not the only human beings suffering in this world. America is one of the most socially confused country in this world. Sure we have wealth, money, and security backing us up. But really what are we doing? Life is about serving, not taking for ones own selfish gains. Invisible Children the company, whether you know or understand it or not, changes lives in not only Eastern Africa, but the very people in America. I have personally been affected by this change and it is a wildfire spreading throughout the youth of America. We are the future for this world, and as Ghandi says, "Be the change you wish to see in the world".

I am showing you me true heart in this letter to help you better understand my reasoning and MY understanding of our potential as the youth of America. It is imperative that all of you feel deeply connected to what I say in order to understand many things. One, your importance in this world is more than you might think. All around are people who will grow up, hopefully become successful people in life. They will have, luxury beauty, and security. Then what? This is the cycle of life and unfortunately life is lived in this boring dogmatic way. But I have SEEN this new truth to life. A man by the name of Tom Shadyack, director of many films including Ace Ventura, Liar Liar, dragonfly, and many others came to San Diego CA to give us a speech on how great it is that we are roadies. Our cause is fluently respected among many people and we need to stay courageous throughout our journey. He is a pretty crazy guy, but I respect him and his beliefs very highly. He got me to think way more than I have ever experienced before and I appreciate that. The purpose of his trip to San Diego was to get us to justify ourselves why we are here and what the hell we are doing for 5 months. Also he wanted to explain to all 60 people why we are so different and why WE can make a difference in this world because we believe that there is change necessary "and it takes a crazy bunch of people to change the world, in fact its the only people who do" -unknown author.

This year I believe that SJVA has a good chance of winning the trip to Africa. I see some of the roadies that won the trip and they are great people. I can't believe how much people change through this jouney and I can't wait to hear all the good news about SJVA's progress with not only IC but in general. So on the last note, thank you for reading and giving away your time. Because remember time is precious, nothing can take that away, except you. Become yourself, let the not you die with the change in your life, and most of all become a humble serving human being... And all will be well.

Thank you and I love you all,

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Singing Elves

Today was a good day. Most of the day I did not have any responses from ANY contacts but still progress was made. I guess since a lot of people who read this won't understand what the heck a contact is or an account I will go into detail. Pretty much my life right now involves, Salesforce, staying up late, and waking up early. Maybe once in a while I eat... While working. Here are the details.
Salesforce is an online program designed for many businesses including non-profits like Invisible Children. We store all contacts, (people within the community of IC that participate regularly), accounts, (venues used to host screenings), and events (dates in which we will host the screenings) in this database. Everything we experience is documented, analyzed and taken into account from meeting a person that is curious of IC, to a mega church that had a $5,000 successful event. Being a Roadie is much more than lazily booking screenings throughout the tour. Our job, to save the future of Northern Uganda, is based on our success between booking successful quality screenings before our tour begins and the speaking aspect as well. Maybe when someone thinks of a roadie they think of a kinda smart, and maybe a good speaker. Truthfully, I did not expect what was to come. What I once thought would be relatively difficult working style would be completely forgotten. This is definitely the hardest and most complex situation/job I have been involved with. The stress is high, along with the lingering cloudish feeling above my head. Do not even come close to thinking that this is me complaining. I would regret not having to work this hard on Invisible Children. I love my work, if I could continue this for the rest of my life I would. Don't be afraid parents I won't. But the future if Invisible Children rests in our hands, the hands of 60 simple youth leaders, but good hands at that.

If you are a little curious as to why the title to this post is called "Singing Elves" and I have not even come close to talking about singing or elves, I will explain. Today I called my Grandparents Mother, Father, and last but not least, my great Girlfriend. After the wonderful talks with my family and friends I just sat and looked at the hazy but somehow beautiful landscape of San Diego.

I am a very pondering type of guy. I have my thinking times and I have my socializing times, but most of those times are my independent alone focus periods. As if on cue, some of my fellow roadies walked outside with their cool acoustic guitars and a laptop. After about five minutes of singing and playing, about ten other people showed up. It was like the Roadie wild call. The way I come to the idea of putting a blog up randomly called Singing Elves, well there is a purpose. In my eyes singing organized and silently totally reminds me of an elf group singing. Maybe after reading the book Eragon I see it that way now. This book makes elves look like the all around better and more civilized humans of the world. Sometimes I feel that way about these people now living with me. They are mostly overall respectful, nice, and caring. So I guess an elf is the best way to describe these features.

Whenever these "elves" sing in the story everything is serene, peaceful, and beautiful. Thats the vibe I felt that night. A sense of accomplishment and commitment in my life that I had never once before felt. My thanks go out to the singing elves.

Saturday, August 22, 2009


Yesterday my Girlfriend gave me the greatest gift.
My very nice Mom drove Nicollette down for our last date before we both set apart for several months. That makes me laugh, it almost sounds like a movie where both of characters are sailing apart going on their quests in the sunset. Wow, that is weird, I am listening to Pandora radio and randomly two songs came on by accident
Wish You Were Here by Incubus and So Far Away by Stained.
Sorry for being all over the place but that was just weird cause I was about to talk about leaving my friends and family and those two ironic songs come on. Ok I'll go back to where I was...
So when I got picked up me and Nicollette went to sushi and had a great dinner. We had fun, great talks between each other and pretty much had the best going away dinner ever! After dinner we got a little lost and took a little bit of a detour accidently, but in that process she whipped out this little envelope filled with a card. I could definitely tell she put a lot of effort into this because of the anticipation showing on her face. And besides Nicollette always puts a lot of effort into everything done by her. Obviously, I mean she graduated with two degrees at once. But this surprise blew me away. I opened the envelope and saw the little blue card with a prewritten silver fonted front, two beautiful flowers that distinctly reminded me of the corsage that I made for Nicollette from the flower plants outside of Red Robin. As I opened the card I was overwhelmed with words. She filled both pages with writing, one of these writings included a full poem. A special poem written for me. I couldn't believe how incredible this was. The pre-written part of the card was, as I can tell genuine and picked because of who I am.
I felt like crying before I even read it, and this is how it went....

Since I met you,
all I can think about
is making you happy.
I want to see your smile
and hear your laughter.
I want to kiss away old hurts
and hold you until you know
without a doubt
that this is for real.
I want to memorize
the sound of your voice
and the dreams of your hear..

This part is what meant the most to me. Nicollette wrote this all by herself...

Hey Boyfriend :] I decided that I wanted to write you a poem... soo here it goes.

I remember the first moment you looked into my eyes and saw more than just a friend....
I remember the first moment that I held your hand... I remember the first moment I felt your lips touch mine... I remember the first time you held me against you...

Every moment with you I feel happy.
I feel safe. I feel... Thankful. I feel perfect...
You make my world stop.
I never knew...
I never knew that four years ago I would meet the guy...
The guy that could make smile, just by looking at me...
The guy that would give me butterflies... Everyday.
The guy that makes everyday feel like a dream...
I never knew that it could be like this... :]

I adore you Boyfriend. And I know what we have is amazing . And we can make it no matter how long we have to be apart. "This is our fate... I'm yours!
your Girlfriend
Nicollette Zuniga

I am happy to be with Nicollette, soo very much. I felt so deep and happy I just had to post this on her wall.

Hey Girlfriend. I just want you to know that I adore you, believe in you and love to be with you. Our separation will make the both of us stronger and wiser. I am positive our relationship will thrive and flourish but I want to make it clear for that you, not just as my Girlfriend but as a person you are an amazing human being. It isn't just because of your circumstances that you are above and beyond, but because that is what you decided. I have respected that every day of my life. This isn't my goodbye, this is my see you later "note", remember to believe in yourself and to never give up. Thank you for being in my life Nicollette. This quote will be the basis of my life and I hope you love it too.

"Become who you are and change who you aren't" -Jason Russell, Invisible Children

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

My mission. The Office. The Life


 Fall 2008, Schools 4 Schools begins, Invisible Children, its values, missions, all adopted by me. I never knew such a great thing could come from sacrifice and a lot of hard work. S4S (Schools 4 Schools) was my life for 100 days. I helped plan and execute fundraisers from concerts to custom bracelets selling, even working the lunchtime snack sales table at my own high school. These things are pretty much what I was putting myself into that trimester of the year. The money raised had all gone to people I have never met and possibly never will. I thought why should it matter that they are completely different and alien compared to my world. Then one day I made the decision to put more of myself to the non- profit/ social justice community, sooo I applied to be a Roadie for IC. Best damn choice of my life. As a Roadie I will be trained, mentally beaten, and most of all become immersed into as I said before the Social justice community. As one of the five important rules of IC, “jump first, fear later,” I followed my heart and jumped first. This is what I want to do and truthfully I do not know what lies ahead in the distance but I do know the possibilities are endless, but beautiful.       


            To be accepted by Invisible Children, as an intern to work alongside such amazing people is a privilege and an accomplishment well above anything I have ever done. I don’t know about anyone else but I personally do not take this job lightly in any way. I think it is normal to have a fear or skepticism before actually experiencing the content of the subject. Well, boy was I wrong about that judgment. All 60 Roadies and 11 interns arrived at the IC office in San Diego Ca at 9:00 AM on August 5, 2009, with shaky knees and racing hearts. All of us, the new lifeblood of the company, were about receive the privilege to be introduced to such great people and be soon be branded and named as IC property. That day was so short as I remember. The time slipped as though the more I loved the moment the quicker it flew by. And as soon as we arrived, we left, with homework, and information stuffed into our brains like trash compactors. But I still felt a bit conflicted; I really wanted to know how much of a legit company this was. 12 hours later I pretty much got the answer I was looking for thrown at me so to speak. The next training session revealed every single bit of information regarding overhead spending, on the ground implementation, everything… I almost felt ashamed to have questioned this program in any way. I will always trust IC and the staff empowering the movement for the rest of my time here.

            Seriously every staff member at the office could be flagged as a person you always look up to. I see the devotion and love from them everyday, I feel motivated just from there actions on a daily basis. To see sacrifice, love, and emotion put into this kind of venue by people who enjoy it just as much as I do can be overexciting at some points. For example Ben Keesey the CEO of Invisible Children was offered a high high paying job @ a different company, but he chose to support this cause because he cared. He sacrificed an easier life of riches and fortune for a life of struggle, uncertainty, and near minimum waging. Sacrifice, hard work, and determination are just some of the values IC spreads.

            After only working in the office for four days I can really say I have lost count of the great talks some of the staff have came up with and shared. Its not that they weren’t good because that’s exactly the opposite, they were amazing, but too freaking many. I do recall one of the best speeches given by our Mission manager Margie Dillenburg, one of the oldest and wisest of our staff (recognize how she is only 30). The topic of her subject was the use and misuse of the word passionate. Quickly all of my fellow team members and I quickly know to not so much as whisper this word around her for fear of lashings. Her argument was that the passionate feeling is overused accidently to explain the short-term bursts of pride that make a person bigheaded about their accomplishments. The term she wants us all to include into our vocabulary is, “The Deeper Yes”. The ability to say yes and participate in something you know might be impossible.

            Even so far in the past couple days I have learned very much but I won't be able to t touch right now. Thanks for reading, I really appreciate it and I will talk to you later :]

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

First Day of "Work"

Exactly what I expected. After being the last to wake, all 60 of us anxiously rode our way towards the long awaited expectation of the Invisible Children office. We were quizzed, questioned, entertained, and most of all challenged today in the meeting room. Soon my true character will come out, and I just can't wait to look it in the eyes. 
Meeting all of these new amazing people is truthfully tiring and overwhelming but o soo rewarding. Everyone had their own great story, and I am always excited to hear one of the newly arrived roadie's story of how he began his trip into the world of IC. 
The sound of the typing on my teammates laptop keyboard almost completely shut out the sounds of the guitars being played on the porch. But not quite, and I love it. I dont really understand why either, maybe how relaxing or comforting the sound is. 
Right now my thoughts wonder back and for worth between writing this and all the overwhelming information we are held responsible to memorize. But today I learned a valuable lesson, hopefully not a temporary one, but a change that will that will last indefinitely. As one of our IC team leaders was giving an invigorating lecture about an interview he had with a very lucky individual in Northern Uganda I had a realization. This man had been fighting for the LRA forcefully for the past couple of years. He told Ben Keesey (CEO of IC) that he had been happy his leg had been shot and later removed because he got to escape the LRA forever and never had to return to that kind of torture and pain. After hearing this story and how it affected Ben, and how a man instead did not complain because he got his leg removed from the knee down but actually enjoyed the gift of leaving the Army because of it I came to the conclusion that I have never really had anything to complain about. What I complain about daily is nothing compared to the horrible atrocities happening right now as I simply type away. But now I can say that I Steven Penner, a sacrificial Roadie, is doing something to stop it. Whether I am one ant in the anthill or a main decision maker in IC, I know that there is hope for me to use my talents and achievements to further push the boundaries of Invisible Children and its motives. 

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The new beginning

First of I would like to thank all of the people for all of the support. Whether the support was a "great job"! or a money donation they are both equal. I would not be here if it was not for that support. Second I think all of my family and friends deserve the right to follow behind me to see and hear everything that is going on in this crazy endeavor. Toward the bottom are some of the amazing and EPIC people I have met over this insanely out of this world "move in". They have already inspired me in short time with them. The energy is pulsing throughout every single individual that takes a step in this house. Whether they like it or not. I will keep everyone updated throughout my travels but in the meantime go to and donate! 
Love you all, 
Steven Penner