Know your rights

The right to freedom of expression is at the heart of what we do and what we are creating here at C4C!  We are super excited to be able to work with some of the world’s coolest people in Kenya this November, The Maasai Girls Education Fund, and Heshima Kenya!  The ability to use artistic means to express yourself is really a pillar of the human condition and experience, and we are proud to be providing access to young people and allowing them to showcase thier voices in a visual way.  Really, it can’t get cooler than that.  Imagine if you had never held a camera before, and suddenly you are holding one!  A simple thing in essence, but there is alot of power in that moment that we take for granted.  Young people and technology seem to synch very easily, so it is almost a natural progression when they have the opportunity.  The need to understand for the power of use also makes the teaching process easy too.  Then the magic happens, they engage with us, with each other, with their community and all sorts of possiblity comes forth. 

Cameras 4 Change will be running 2 workshops this November, please stay tuned to this blog and join us on our journey.  We have lots of exciting things to share with you and with them!

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The “Real” Real Housewives of San Miguel – Part II Guille Morales Alazar

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Guille and Jenny lead the way through San Miguel as we walk to the market to grab some tortillas and quesa for lunch!

 

There was no doubt about it when I met her for the first time, she is warm, inviting, open and confident.  There is nothing ostentatious, onerous or effected in any way.  Sol Garcia and I were visiting Isla Urbana and their work for the first time last November.  I had heard much about Guille, a guiding force in the HCBC funded San Miguel project for Rainwater Harvesting Systems (RHS) being implemented by Isla Urbana.  She had been the unstoppable force and lead into a community that badly needed assistance with water access.  Spreading the word, rounding up community members, and creating a movement that was building force. 

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Driving home after a day of instalations the heavens opened and the rain poured down, typical for this time of year.

 

Water in this region is actually abundant, a rich rainy season from June to October annually provides around 820 mm – 32.3 inches, which compared to London, England, where they receive on average 650 millimeters (25.6 in) per annum, is a respectable amount of wet!  So with buckets-worth falling from the skies, and none in their cisterns, which they need to pay to have filled by the city, makes collecting it from the rooftops a viable and economical way to go.  It is difficult for many members of this community to pay for water to be delivered, and takes away much needed monies that could be well used for other practical uses. 

 

Guille knew that her neighbours needed the RHS’s badly.  HSBC was providing 9/10ths of the funding, and the stakeholders themselves needed to do the rest.  They needed some convincing to commit, with Guille’s help, IU were able to begin the process.  They installed at Guille’s home, and once word got out that her family were enjoying ever available water, for showers, cooking, laundry, gardening and more, it didn’t take long for others to follow suit!  Sometimes they will help each other to come up with the moneyfor the instalment, also providing sweat equity, digging holes for cisterns etc.

 

Guille is a natural community leader, setting an example of really caring for the people she sees on a daily basis.  When tornados struck the valley, she fought tirelessly to get emergency assistance from the regional governement, people needed tarps, food and water, Guille didn’t stop until the trucks dropped off  emergency supplies.  People trust her and when there is a community issue, they will come to talk with Guille. 

 

On my last afternoon in San Miguel, Jenny White and myself were off to visit another housewife, we heard there was a problem, a disagreement with a neighbor over a property line.  When we arrived I was not surprised to find Guille, quietly talking about the problem, trying to find a solution that would work for all.  For Guille family and community are everything, it is a way of life. 

1.  Guille

2.  Jenny and Guille looking at project management

3.  Guille’s grandaughter arrives home from shcool

4.  Guille talks about her community involvement

5.  In the back yard at a neighbor’s house, always at the heart of the situation

6.  LIke many Mexicans, Guille runs a small Tiendo (store) from the front of her property

7.  Goofy Girls – Guille’s grandaughter with a friend!

8.  Sol Garcia of Project X Impact, my running partner on many of my projects interviews Guille as I document.

THE GUARDIAN short doc on FGM – “I Will Never Be Cut”

This amazing doc (link below) showcases a story in Pokot Kenya where C4C have worked in conjunction with Project X Impact collecting research on the stories of girls rescued from fgm and early childhood marriage.  Many of the girls we interviewed had the same sense of conviction portrayed here by Nancy and Gertrude.  These girls are amazing and something to behold!

 

http://www.guardian.co.uk/global-development/video/2011/apr/18/female-genital-mutilation-video?fb=native&CMP=FBCNETTXT9038

 

Also a great article relating to the short by Madeleine Bunting of The Guardian UK

http://www.guardian.co.uk/global-development/poverty-matters/2011/apr/18/kenyan-girls-rebel-against-fgm

 

 

The “Real” Real Housewives of San Miguel

This is part 1 of a series of stories to introduce you to the real lives of the women of San Miguel.

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Picturesque San Miguel Valley with Ajusco in the background

Meet Guille, Eusebia, Lidia and Gloria.   Women living in San Miguel, a barrio on the sw edge of Mexico City, with real life drama big enough to compete with a certain namesake.  The lives are real, the drama is big, and the stakes are too.  These women are too busy surviving in a community where they have to fight for the right to have water, services, land, homes to live in, education for their families, and more, than to give a thought to fast cars, haute couture and mani-pedi’s.

My last day in DF found me in the heat of a community story that was playing out in real time as I sat for an amazing lunch set out by the ladies. I have visited this community a number of times during my past 2 trips to work with Isla Urbana, an organization that works to provide water through rainwater harvesting systems (RHS).  However, Isla Urbana do so much more, they know the families they work with in a much deeper way than one might think.  Jenny White, one of the directors has been visiting Guille and families in this community weekly over the past few years, and has come to be very nearly a part of the family; babies are often named after this woman! She knows their life stories, their trials and tribulations, and every way in which they have had to struggle and overcome in order to make their lives better.

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We walked through the breathtakingly beautiful San Miguel, the Ajusco as a backdrop, picture perfect with cornfields and a valley.  In this area where community members have scraped together enough money to buy small plots of land, only to have the district deny their right to “be” in what they term an illegal or irregular zone, you can see both the beauty and the struggle of life.  Homes have been built, families raised, and still the basic services have been hard won.  Water is a huge issue, and so the community banned together under the guidance of Guille Morales Alazar, a women who has become somewhat of a role model, a community leader in her own right.  When there is a problem, the women in this community look to Guille for guidance.

 

Guille heard about RHS, and wanted one installed in her home, she now helps to organize other families so that they too can have enough water for their households.  Jenny While has been working the region, organizing for installs, educating families on the use of the RHS, and so knows intimately the status quo in this valley.  

Next instalment:  “Guille – community matters” 

1. Ajusco

2. San Miguel

3. Guille (left) gives advice

4. Eusebia

5. Lidia waves from her front gate

6. Gloria

7. Ladies Lunching together with Jenny White and Guilles grandaughter with friend

8. Walking through the valley in San Miguel