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Today as I reviewed some of my past work I was reminded of the story of Jennifer, a young child in Siaya County, Kenya, who lost both of her parents to HIV/AIDs and was living with her 75 year old HIV+ Grandmother, Momma Margret* along with 5 other siblings and cousins.  The story was so poignant due to the fact that Jennifer, after hearing the adults speak of how HIV had ravaged her family, ran out to stand in front of a small home built after her mother died to represent her.  Jennifer stood there consoling herself as she was reminded of her mother, and Scholastica Appidu, a coordinator from SWAP (Safe Water and Aids Project) informed me that she has seen the little girl do this before.  



The story of Jennifer, her Mother and Grandmother is a perfect example of how HIV/AIDs cuts a wide swathe, and how women are more directly affected than men as they are the caretakers.  My work as a humanitarian photographer has exposed me to a wide range of situations, human rights issues, and subjects.  My question was, “who will take care of these souls?”  The lucky ones do have family, which may give some emotional support: they may get their ARV’s and clean water supplied to them.  But, what about the importance of psycho-social support?  Who helps them to cope emotionally with the devastation, especially when it is so wide spread?  Sometimes the community steps in, sometimes caring individuals do, but more often than not I have seen the sting of lifes ramifications leave people to just hold it in.   The UN’s MDG’s cover a broad range of these issues, dealing with many of the more widespread problems, poverty & hunger, universal education, gender equality, maternal health, HIV/AIDs, Environmental Sustainability, and Global Parternship.  Looking deeper into the goals, I found that there was an urgency for programs that would address the emotional welfare of people that suffer, and especially for women and girls.



When I worked in Haiti last year teaching visual media to youth, I discovered that even the small one on one time I spent with these teens had a large impact.  That is where the inspiration for Cameras 4 Change came from.  I saw it as a way to not only impart skill transfer, and teach other specific components such as clean water & sanitation, or HIV awareness: but equally as important it built in social and emotional support and skills.  Arts based programs can open the door to creativity, and build in life long mechanisms to dealing with trauma, loss or extreme challenges. In some cases this can be the first step to healing from these experiences.


Over the next year I will be initiating a number of different projects working with people of all ages in Africa, Haiti, and more.  I hope you will join me on my journey.

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