Kathy Eldon: Creative Visionary

Dan Eldon, Reuters’ youngest ever photo journalist, documented Somalia, a country that was spiraling into civil war.

Kathy Eldon turned the tragedy of her son’s murder into an internationally acclaimed movement for social change.

Dan Eldon was a young photojournalist working for Reuters news agency when he was killed in Somalia in 1993. Inspired by his life, Creative Visions Foundation ignites the creative spark within all of us to make a positive difference.

“We provide tools, resources, mentorship and community to help people build social movements and impact the world, through the power of media and the arts,” said Kathy Eldon, who founded Creative Visions in 1998 in memory of her son. So far, Creative Visions (with offices on Topanga State Beach) has aided 260 projects and productions on five continents, while keeping her son’s legacy and spirit alive.

Dan and his sister, Amy, were raised by Eldon and their father, Mike, in Nairobi, Kenya. The family loved Africa and its people. Eldon worked as a freelance journalist on the biggest English language newspaper, which sparked an interest in her son.

“Dan was always a noisy spirit,” said Eldon. “He was funny and handsome and flawed, as we all are. He was not perfect, but he cared a lot about other people.”

As a teenager, Dan assembled a team of other young people from all over the world for a seven-week trip across South Africa to deliver aid to a refugee camp. The trip was funded by money they raised themselves.

Dan was dyslexic and found the math side of college hard. “He would pop in, learn what he had to learn and pop off and have a life experience,” said Eldon.

When he was 21, Dan went to Somalia with a friend who worked for Reuters to report on a famine they heard was happening there. “Dan’s photographs triggered a global response,” said Eldon. “He was so excited by this that he went back to Somalia as a stringer — the youngest-ever Reuters correspondent—and documented a country that was spiraling into civil war.”

A year later, Dan went back to Somalia. Kathy said, “I didn’t want him to go, but I told him how proud of him I was and how much I loved him. We agreed to meet in two weeks.”

On the day Dan was supposed to leave Somalia, U.S. forces bombed a house where a war lord was supposed to be living. He wasn’t there and the collateral damage killed 80 civilians, including women and children, injuring 200.

Survivors raced to the journalists’ hotel and begged them to visit the scene. “After getting assurances that they would be protected, Dan and his colleagues went,” said Eldon. “When they got there, the people were so enraged by what had happened that they beat and stoned four of the journalists to death, including Dan.”

Immediately after Dan’s death, Eldon strived to bring the world’s attention to the serious problem of journalists at risk (that year, 56 journalists were killed around the world). She produced “Dying to Tell the Story” with her daughter Amy interviewing frontline journalists. Nominated for an Emmy, it premiered at the United Nations and was distributed globally by CNN. It led to successful documentary careers for both mother and daughter.

“I was staying in a hotel in Santa Monica, working on a film, when I heard the news of Dan’s death,” said Eldon. “I was so enraged, I remember tearing at the curtains.”

While she understood the anger that drove the Somalis to kill, Eldon couldn’t forgive them. Not until she was in a taxi, with her daughter, on the way to a screening of “Dying to Tell the Story.”

As they slipped into the back of the cab, Eldon noticed their driver was Somalian and she decided to tell him what happened to her son.

“We got to the UN with the flags flying,” said Eldon. “The guy turned around and there were tears in his eyes.”

The driver said he knew the story. “It was absolutely wrong,” he said. “On behalf of all Somalis, I ask your forgiveness.”

Eldon remembered what Gandhi had said. “That we have to be the change and if I didn’t change, how was I going to expect the world to change? So, I said, ‘Thank you. I understand why they did what they did. And I forgive.’”

It immediately felt to Eldon that a weight had been lifted. “And a skylight opened in my soul. Anger, revenge, retribution and hatred weigh you down. I felt so much lighter. When we went back to South Africa to shoot the film about Dan’s life, there were 400 Somalis there. I felt closer to the Somalis than anybody else. They had also suffered and lost so many in that incident. We were joined by the tragedy.”

It took Eldon 24 years to make, but The Journey is the Destination was premiered at the 2016 Toronto Film Festival and won numerous awards.

“I wanted to make a film about the young journalists around Dan,” said Eldon. “I envisioned a film that was not just a movie but would act as a vehicle to ignite a global movement of young people and the young at heart, to believe they have a role in changing the world around them.”

Directed by Bronwen Hughes and starring Ben Schnetzer as Dan and Maria Bello as Kathy Eldon, The Journey is the Destination is available on iTunes and Amazon, with plans to stream it on Facebook in what Eldon hopes will be the biggest streaming event ever.


For more information: creativevisions.org; kathyeldon.com.


Claire Fordham

Fordham worked for the BBC, ITN and Sky News in the UK and wrote a weekly anecdotal column for Britain’s biggest-selling newspaper, The Sun. She currently writes regularly for Huffington Post, The Malibu Times and the Messenger Mountain News. See "A Chat with Claire Fordham" on this website under Podcasts.

No Comments Yet

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.