Today is the first day after returning from East Africa that I have actually slept until 7 am, although I have been home for nearly 2 weeks, my sleep rythyms were somewhere over the Atlantic, as I was continuing to wake at 3am. A solid day of physical work put that to rest yesterday. As I was bright eyed in the wee hours of the morning over the past week or so, it gave me plenty of time to reflect. Photographing as much as I do at times can be a visual bombardment, you see it, you react, you click the shutter, you look at the image on the camera, you download, look at it again, again and again in editing. Always returning to the image, sometimes you dream about it, especially when what you are recording is a powerful emotional experience. Which is exactly what our team has just done. Although we ran the workshops and shared and taught skills, it was truly an exchange, as the participants (19 girls and 1 boy) had been through much in their short lives. Conflict, War, loss of family, displacement, rape, female circumcision/cutting, physical and emotional abuse, early child marriage, trauma, depression, PTSD, abduction and more; this list could go on but I am certain you are getting the picture.
The drama in our lives is often related to the heirarchy in our societies culture, taxes, insurance, trouble with cars, and also very obviously in our own personal lives with relationships with neighbors, loved ones and family. I have also heard and believe that suffering is relative and you can not compare, but I can not help but compare at times when I hear of unspeakable things that happen to minors. Yet here they all were, survivors of what we would find incomprehendable in our lives here. We as a team had much to learn from them. They were ready to engage with us, excited about the cameras and learning a new skill, taking part in the experience. The joy was paplable, and yet only a month prior some of our students had been in situations where there was no certainty as to whether they would even survive.
The abundance was evident all through the programs for all of us participating together, and if that is not success then I don’t know what is. Girls (and 1 boy!) were learning about digital cameras, many had never held them previously, but took to it quickly. Equally as important they were learning about themselves, what is possible, how to express emotions, literalize thoughts and use creativity as a tool moving forward in thier lives.
Some participants began expressing themselves eloquently in poetic fashion, others showcased amazing talent at becoming advocates for themselves, thier issues and communities, they floored us, we are so proud to have met and worked with them all! To all our students, we thank you, miss you and will NEVER forget you! Extra thanks so our team: Sol Garcia, Shannon Kohli, Thea Grivakes, Gillian Harrow, Barb Briggs and Allie Fluevog!