The John Alexander Project
 
uganda
Meet Our 2012 Fellow: Matthew Kielty
[Matt Kielty] Matt Kielty grew up in Minnesota, the heartland of public radio. He snuck into Burma, studied at the Salt Institute, worked with This American Life and Radiolab – and pitched us on a story that left us wanting to know more: the clash between traditional and modern medicine in Uganda to address nodding syndrome, a little-known condition affecting children.

His two-part series aired on Weekend Edition Saturday-Sunday, June 1-2, 2013. Listen: Part I | Part II

2017 Update: Matt is a Peabody Award-winning producer on staff with WNYC's Radiolab.

stuck in the mud

By Matt Kielty; May 31, 2013

I was given specific advice before I left the country. Often, it was logistical – places to stay in Uganda, how to get around. And then there was something my editor, Didi Schanche, offered up before I left, which was this: Be patient. She repeated it a couple times, an anecdote attached to each repetition. Be patient.

The advice that Didi gave me was practical. Reporting in Uganda was by far the most challenging thing I’ve done in my short career. I spent days stalking the halls of the ministry of health, trying to snag an interview with an official, jumping through every bureaucratic hoop I was told to jump through to no avail. Up north, there were the roads – pure clay, pockmarked, topographically diverse. One day, my driver, five local Acholi men and I spent four hours getting our Land Cruiser out of a muddy ditch. Patience was less a virtue than it was a necessity.

Stuck in the mud

And, I want to make a point here, hopefully without sounding scarily pretentious. And the point is that inherent in this fellowship – at its foundation, more or less – is this massive amount of patience, a patience that allows for chaos like the above to unfold without derailing everything. And then another sort of patience, one that I cherished the most, which was the patience for story.

This is where I’ll probably start sounding pretentious, misquoting Ira Glass. The quote I’m searching my mind for, I think, comes from Ira’s stump speech for graduation ceremonies. It was something about taking chances and hoping for luck, something like, “you have to walk around in the rain to get struck by lighting.”

In Uganda, I sat with a guy who gets paid by the government to spend two days a week catching black flies, the size of gnats, off his body with a small vial from sunup to sundown. I flew in a prop plane (“there are no regulations here,” our co-pilot said as he flipped some switches, then grabbed the yoke) and bomb dived the Aswa River as the pilot flooded the rapids with insecticide; I spoke to an herbalist. I spoke to child psychologists and read about mass hysterias. I ran at any scene or tape I could that I was curious about.

I guess to tie this together, what I want to say is that I feel like so much of the John Alexander Project’s mission stems from that sort of patience. It’s a rare and incredible thing for a young journalist to just have the chance to travel to a far-flung (using the JAP language!) or remote place and file a story, but even rarer to be given such a long leash, a chance to keep wandering around in the rain. —MK

auma gloria
Atanga Health Center

Matt sent us this haunting photo of 9-year-old Auma Gloria from the Atanga Health Center in Pader District, Uganda. Atanga staffers had not yet diagnosed Auma, but believe she has what they refer to as nodding-plus, meaning she has symptoms of nodding syndrome as well as more common epileptic seizures.

 
news

7/1/2017
Pencils down! The 2017 application cycle is now closed.

5/31/2016
Stephanie Joyce's special report is live!
Check it out.

5/30/2017
Stephanie Joyce airs a second story on NPR's "Morning Edition."
Listen here.

5/29/2017
Stephanie Joyce airs the first of two stories on NPR's "Morning Edition."
Listen here.

5/1/2017
The 2017 Above the Fray fellowship application is live! Apply here.

3/13/2017
Stephanie Joyce airs a piece on NPR's "Morning Edition."
Listen here.

10/6/2016
Stephanie Joyce is selected as our 2016 Above the Fray fellow. Read the release.

7/1/2016
Pencils down! The 2016 application cycle is now closed.

6/2/2016
NPR's "Embedded" podcast features our own Rebecca Hersher!
Listen here.

5/2/2016
The 2016 Above the Fray fellowship application is live! Apply here.

4/22/2016
Rebecca Hersher airs part two of her series on NPR's "All Things Considered."
Listen here.

4/21/2016
Rebecca Hersher airs part one of her two-part series on NPR's "All Things Considered."
Listen here.

4/21/2016
Rebecca Hersher's special report is live on the web!
Check it out.

3/12/2016
Rebecca Hersher airs a piece on NPR's "Weekend Edition Saturday."
Listen here.

1/25/2016
Rebecca Hersher airs a snapshot from Greenland on NPR's "All Things Considered."
Listen here.

10/14/2015
Rebecca Hersher is selected as our 2015 Above the Fray fellow.
Read the release.

7/13/2015
Emma Jacob's second piece airs on NPR's "All Things Considered." Listen here.

5/25/2015
Emma Jacob's first piece airs on NPR's "Morning Edition." Listen here.

5/1/2015
The 2015 Above the Fray fellowship application is live! Apply here.

2/5/2015
Emma Jacobs airs a piece on NPR's "All Things Considered." Listen here.

10/14/2014
Emma Jacobs is selected as the 2014 Above the Fray fellow.
Read the release.

7/1/2014
Pencils down! 2014 application cycle is now closed.

5/1/2014
The 2014 Above the Fray fellowship application is live!

4/13/2014
Andrés Caballero's second piece airs on NPR's "Weekend Edition." Listen here.

4/12/2014
Andrés Caballero's first piece in a two-part series airs on NPR's "Weekend Edition." Listen here.

3/15/2014
Andrés Caballero is back from Cameroon and reported a piece for NPR's "Weekend Edition." Listen here.

2/19/2014
Andrés Caballero airs a piece on NPR's "Morning Edition." Listen here.

10/10/2013
Andrés Caballero is selected as the 2013 Above the Fray fellow. Read the release.

7/2/2013
Pencils down! 2013 application cycle is now closed.

6/2/2013
Matt Kielty's second piece airs on NPR's "Weekend Edition."
Listen here.

6/1/2013
Matt Kielty's first piece in a two-part series airs on NPR's "Weekend Edition."
Listen here.

5/1/2013
2013 Above the Fray fellowship application released.

3/27/2013
Brian Reed wins a Peabody!

9/19/2012
Matt Kielty is selected as the 2012 Above the Fray fellow.

7/1/2012
Pencils down! 2012 Above the Fray fellowship application closed.

5/1/2012
2012 Above the Fray fellowship application released.

4/27/2012
Nina Porzucki's second piece airs on NPR's "Morning Edition."
Listen here.

4/26/2012
Nina Porzucki's first piece in a two-part series airs on NPR's "Morning Edition."
Listen here.

9/23/2011
Nina Porzucki is selected as the 2011 Above the Fray fellow. Read the release.

7/1/2011
Pencils down! 2011 application cycle is now closed.

6/8/2011
We're on Twitter!
@JAPAboveTheFray

5/1/2011
2011 Above the Fray fellowship application released.

2/17/2011
Brian Reed's second piece airs on NPR's "Morning Edition."
Listen here.

2/16/2011
Brian Reed's first piece in a two-part series airs on NPR's "Morning Edition."
Listen here.

2/14/2011
The JA Project featured on TakePart.com.
Read the article.

11/1/2010
Brian Reed lands in Kiribati.
Follow his dispatches.

9/15/2010
Brian Reed is selected as first Above the Fray fellow.
Read the release.

7/1/2010
Pencils down! Cycle one applications due.

4/5/2010
Above the Fray
application released.

3/14/2010
NPR signs on as official media partner.
Read the release.

12/31/2009
$20,000 anonymous matching funds contribution.

3/15/2009
Recipient of Edward R. Murrow grant, courtesy of Ted Koppel.

 

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