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Team Members

Jane Lillian Vance

Vance is the artist of the painting we carried as a gift to Tsampa's village, Jomsom, in Nepal. Her paintings are in private collections on four continents.  For over twenty years Vance's highly narrative and studiously detailed paintings have been concerned with bridging the space between East and West. 

Born in Greensboro, North Carolina, in 1958, Vance attended the College of William and Mary, Exeter University in Devon, England, and Virginia Tech University. She is currently adjunct professor of The Creative Process through the Center for Interdisciplinary Studies at Virginia Tech, as well as a public school aide for middle-school-aged children with special needs such as Down Syndrome, autism, oppositional defiance disorder, and brain trauma. 

Vance adores her two children. Iris Lillian Vance graduated from Tulane University in New Orleans, majoring with honors in Cell and Molecular Biology and Art History, and begins Medical School in August, 2008, at The University of Virginia in Charlottesville. Emerson Arthur Siegle, Vance’s son, thoroughly enjoyed his first year at Pepperdine University in Malibu, California, and looks forward to his continued studies in Political Science and English, as well as his volunteer work with underprivileged Los Angeles youth.   

She spent a year in New Delhi, India, and another year in Kandy, Sri Lanka, home-schooling her children and researching South Asian art. The Gift for The Village journey was Vance's eighth trip to South Asia, which she first visited in 1985.

Without public notice for twenty years, Vance worked constantly on her elaborate, increasingly Tibetan-focused oil paintings, until internationally acclaimed art critic Suzi Gablik visited Vance and began their great friendship, writing about Vance in Satish Kumar's Resurgence magazine, and in Images of Earth and Spirit, an English anthology of spiritual contemporary art.

In 1999, Vance met the remarkable teacher Jenna Swann and began their travel partnership and project collaboration, resulting in their award-winning documentary, Into Nepal, and in countless presentations together about their travels. In the winter of 2000, accompanied by their friend Amchi Tsampa Ngawang Lama, Vance and Swann crossed an 18,000-foot Himalayan pass in a snowstorm during a month-long trek in Nepal's Annapurna region. It was during this trek that Tsampa, Swann, and Vance planned Tsampa's first visit to America, when he stayed at Vance's home and agreed to her to making the Amchi portrait.

The festival for A Gift for the Village drew national and international attention, with Nepal’s television and newspapers interviewing and airing segments on Vance and her long-standing appreciation of Nepal and its people.  The King of Lo personally thanked Vance for the gift of the painting, which Amchi Tsampa described to the King as “the jewel of Mustang.”

Vance lives with 24 rescued cats, thousands of flower bulbs, and many garden beds on three acres on a roller coaster of a rural road in the Blue Ridge mountains of Virginia.

Jenna Swann

In 2000, fifth-grade public school teacher Jenna Swann was the first recipient of the coveted McGlothlin Award for Teaching Excellence, an award designed to bring the world into public school classrooms. Swann traveled to India and Nepal for three months, visiting schools, monasteries, homes, artists, and craftspeople, while she kept in touch with her classroom as well as schools in Ohio, North Carolina, and Kentucky. She answered children‘s questions and helped them with research while she was on the road. Her travels resulted in the production of  Into Nepal: A Journey Through the Kathmandu Valley, which she co-wrote and videotaped. This production won NETA‘s (National Educational Telecommunication Association) award for Best Documentary for 2003.

Swann has also participated in a Fulbright-Hayes grant to Malawi, Africa, where she taught in a rural government school. As a result, she co-produced Teacher Travels: The Warm Heart of Africa, distributed nationally as part of the NETA instructional television series, “Teacher Travels”.

Swann is a highly sought-after speaker at educational and technology conferences across Virginia. She has been teaching fifth grade since 1990. 

In the winter, Swann can also be found snowboarding and working as a Certified Senior Snowboard Patroller at Winterplace Ski Resort, in West Virginia. Swann spends her summers living in a renovated school bus, and works as a white-water rafting guide for North American River Runners on the New and Gauley rivers in West Virginia. Visit the North American River Runners website to explore the river and the scenery.

Swann is certified as a children’s yoga instructor and enjoys continuing her practice of yoga.

In July, 2007, along with Vance, Austin, Cy Kassoff, and her brother Jason Swann, she was one of five westerners in the third team of explorers ever to reach The Cave of the Snow Leopard, whose discovery made world news on the BBC in March of that same year.  Her thorough videography of the thousand-year-old murals there required her hauling a forty-pound equipment and camera bag on her back as she scaled the treacherous sheer cliffs and countless jagged ravines which explain the cave’s secrecy for so many centuries.

Tom Landon

Tom Landon is a certified Social Studies Teacher in grades 6-12 and has almost a decade of classroom teaching experience, and now enjoys the challenge of turning his classroom virtual, teaching  advanced placement courses for Virtual Virginia, where he has already earned a reputation for his devotion to shepherding his students through cyberspace.

Landon was also Producer and Education Specialist for Blue Ridge Public Television, where he worked from 2000 until 2007.

Before going into teaching, Tom worked as a producer/videographer for a small production company and has been on location all over the United States and in 1989 circumnavigated the globe, shooting video in England, Russia and Japan for an industrial client. Over the last several years, Tom has become committed to the idea that anyone with dedication and motivation can become a television producer, given training and attention to detail. When Jenna won the McGlothlin Award for Teaching Excellence in 2000, Tom gave her some basic tips on shooting and editing prior to her trip to India and Nepal, which helped make it possible for the program to be produced on an extremely small budget.

Tom is married to Beth Macy, an award-winning journalist for the Roanoke Times, who is also an avid gardener and an amazing cook.  They have two sons, Max and Will. Max, an accomplished creative writer and film buff, was a little jealous that his Dad would be traveling to Nepal without him, but next time they can make the journey together. Will loves playing the cello, and is a budding computer master.  When not working, Tom enjoys time with his family, and the red and white touring kayak at his Uncle Frosty’s  1796 Rappahannock River home, where, on a full moon night, he circumscribes an unnamed mid-river island quietly.

Prior to traveling to Nepal, Tom wrote: “I am truly filled with excitement about this trip. I go to bed each night and wake up each morning full of anticipation. This group of people brings such talent and good energy to the table that I'm sure this will be a life-changing event personally, and it has great potential to achieve our goal of helping West and East see each other with new eyes. I'm especially excited to be able to share the art of Jane with the world, and then sit back and see what happens. I'm so happy I'm married to a woman who supports the crazy ideas I have, and who is encouraging this trip wholeheartedly, despite the burden I'm putting on her while I'm gone."

Now that he knows Nepal, Tom understands Jenna’s and Jane’s old stories intimately.  He knows rickshaws, temples, monkeys, the highest mountains in the world, and how exhilarating and miraculous a duel prop flight feels, motoring him a mere few meters from those glacial peaks.

Tom has incorporated Lucky Dog Productions, to help facilitate the production of A Gift for The Village, named for his loyal hound dog adopted from the local Angels of Assisi shelter.

Sherrie Austin

Sherrie Austin has been involved in image gathering for over 15 years. As a videographer, editor, and still photographer, Austin attempts to capture everyday life in a not so everyday way, hoping to illuminate the beauty in our world and the vast array of people who inhabit it.

At Radford University in Radford, Virginia, Austin created and produced ROC-TV, the university’s first student produced television show. She has been involved in numerous video and still imagery projects, including a documentary about the historic Fourth Ward School in Virginia City, Nevada, Steadicam operator for a worldwide promotional video for Cinemaproducts, inc., and videographer for the Golf Channel Mercedes Championships. She currently works through Austin ImageWorks as a freelance videographer and photographer in Hawaii and continues pursuing her love for looking through the lens.

That, and her love of paddling, biking, hiking, and all things outdoors.

Austin has an inherent interest in anthropology, culture, and the human beings creating and living within those cultures. “I believe travel can be one of the greatest teachers of tolerance and understanding. The exploration of our surroundings provides an excellent opportunity to celebrate our world and the unique sameness that ties us humans together.”

 “It is my intention to gather images of locations and peoples and spread them out over the entire world. Not everyone has the desire or the ability to experience different cultures, and thus I hope to provide those experiences in a real, honest, and easily accessible way.”

 “A Gift for the Village is such a unique opportunity. How rare to actually give a gift as a tourist, as so often we only take from the places we visit. I am honored and thrilled to capture the still images from our project and give our gift to the village and the world.  Many thanks to everyone who keeps holding me up - my family, family of friends, and Travis Tiffin of Maui Web God – without whom this website would be a dream.”

Jason Swann

In the summer and fall, our outdoor specialist Jason Swann lives in a converted school bus and is a white-water raft guide on the New and Gauley Rivers of West Virginia. In the winters, he is a mixologist at a fine dining sushi restaurant at Snowbird Ski resort in Utah, where he snowboards, climbs in Moab, and does multi-day rafting trips.

With his blue-eyed stray dog Kionee, whose name means Winds of Destiny, he has driven and camped across the country six times. He has explored Hawaii and Idaho, and has lived in Bend, Oregon, where he worked at a micro-brewery and as a guide on the Deschutes River. He loves music, movies, people, rivers, the outdoors, biking, hiking, good food, and adventure. 

Swann’s first experience of Nepal included a rare private audience with Raja Jigme, the King of Lo, in Upper Mustang, after an arduous 155-mile trek at average altitudes of 15,000 feet.

Reba Webb Hoffman

Reba Hoffman has lived in southwest Virginia her whole life and was especially thrilled to be traveling to the other side of the world.  Hoffman is already sure that she will travel back to Nepal to introduce  her two adventurous daughters, Mary and Ella, to her many new friends there.  For Hoffman, Nepal’s generous and friendly people were like a second family, defined by the loyalty, honesty, and hard work that her parents Hugh and Naomi instilled in her. 

Soon after her return to Virginia, she was able to host Sunil and Sarita Shahi, great Nepali friends from Kathmandu (see www.agiftforthevillage.blogspot.com), and to hear her youngest daughter Ella ask, one sleepy morning, what the Nepali people were making in the kitchen. 

She was also very happy, in her time in Kathmandu, to have been able to meet Mr. Bhatt and Yusef-la, Kathmandu’s finest jewelers, about whom she had heard rather a lot over the years from Jenna and Jane.

 

After doing drafting/design work for industry and engineering firms for 8 years, Hoffman decided to pursue a career in education and has been teaching physical science to 8th graders at Blacksburg Middle School since 1993.  She met Jane as she worked with a special-needs student in Hoffman’s classroom, and Jenna as a colleague in the public school system.  They hope to collaborate on many future projects together.

Hoffman lives with her two daughters and three cats: Leo the cinnamon-striped extremely rare; Little, the three-legged and patient; and Swiper Swawah, the fierce and untrustworthy. A baby ball python, Slytherin, and countless Web Pals also share their home.

Diane Scribner Clevenger

Diane Scribner Clevenger is the senior minister of Unity of Roanoke Valley, a beautiful 26-acre interfaith community in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. A dynamic public speaker and frequent presenter at New Thought events, Diane’s fascination with sacred geometry began through labyrinths when she lived in Europe. Prior to studies at Chartres Cathedral, she followed the paths of the Cathars and Mary Magdalene throughout France.

Diane is Chaplain of the Association of Unity Churches, Eastern region, and part of 21st Century Metaphysicians for Unity worldwide. She serves on the Ministerial Advisory Board for SOFTLY Int’l. and Partners Council of Habitat for Humanity. She hosted the Blue Ridge PBS Television production of Mary Manin Morrissey’s Building Your Field of Dreams and has inspired many through her CD “Pray Attention… With Your Self.”

Diane is a world traveler, having recently walked 480 miles solo across Spain on El Camino de Santiago as well as taking part in her church’s mission trips in Costa Rica, Honduras, Peru and relief work on the Gulf Coast after hurricane Katrina.

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