#RISE UP

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Today is February 14th and is now also synonomous with Eve Ensler’s V-Day campaign to end violence against women.  This year One Billion Rising a new born effort by V-Day, is taking place in cities all over the world.  I arrived home from the Vancouver event to watch them “doin it live in San Fran”, it is an empowering piece of work!!!  So happy that everyone is joining together to consider the momentum that needs to take place in order to overcome the many issues that women face.  Sometimes the acts of violence themselves cause a domino effect in a girl’s or woman’s life, it is not just the event, but the long lasting and far reaching consequenses that are also at issue here.  Solidarity goes a long way to create a space for people to begin the healing process.  V-Day and One Billion Rising is a good turn in the right direction, and I really hope that as humans we can all take stock and move together.

Working around the world and witnessing first hand the after effects of the myriad of rights violations that women and girls face every day on this earth, causes this issue is to be close to my heart.  Cameras4Change recent work in Kenya allowed us the joy of assisting a number of young women refugees take a break from the oppressing mental emotional issues that go along with many of these mentioned breaches of human rights, and feel the joy of being in the moment through the simple creativity in using a camera.  Whether it is dance, drama, art or photography, exposing people to the arts does effect thier critical thinking and can definately help them to move forward.  We believe it is an important component in a holistic approach towards healing and transformation. 

There are billions of stories out there, from women dealing with conflict, in marriages, wars, young girls forced into circumcision, marriage, human trafficking, unpaid labour, domestic violence, and more, the diversity of women, stories, and issues is both as complex as it is astounding.  Thank you Eve Ensler and V-Day for making the world take notice and action!

 

PS…Kudos to the Vancouver One Billion Rising organisers: Tree Walsh of “My Treehouse Vision”, Lucky Gill of “Global Girl Power” and Lunapads

Away

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Last night I attended a BC Film rally called We Create BC for the seemingly dwindling film industry here in Vancouver. I was face to face with thousands of industry co-workers, many whom have not worked in months, and looking at an equally bleak 2013 in their field of work.  It is worrying.  I was walking alone to my vehicle which is normally never concerning for me at night, but for some reason I felt a chill down my back – fear –  thinking this was strange I quickly got in my car and drove home.  I wondered why I was feeling anxiety and fear?  Could it be the state of the industry and even though I am managing to work and stay afloat I was feeling that stress?  Was there someone looming in the background of the car park seeking an opportunity, or was it just a coincidence that there was a tingling wariness on the back of my neck?

 

Either way when I got into bed the feelings crept in again, and as I remembered the news from earlier in the day when I learned the Kenyan Government was taking action on a directive to “round up” any Somali refugees in Nairobi, to detain them in a stadium and then ship them to even more crowded IDP camps like Dadaab or Alinjugur, I imagined the fear that would bring to anyone being put in that position, not to mention the subsequent danger women and girls are in while in camps.  It is a horrible thing to be overcome with worry, fear and anxiety, whomever you are and where ever you are in the world.

 

We recently worked with young Somali girls that may now well be in danger of being targeted, detained and sent to such a camp. Dadaab  has become high-risk and dangerous, following a series of incidents, including the abduction of aid workers and fatal attacks on refugee leaders and Kenyan security forces.  From January to August 2012, the Dadaab and Alinjugur camps received more than 5,700 new arrivals from Somalia, bringing the total population in these camps to some 474,000. The large numbers were mainly due to the prevailing Horn of Africa drought, famine and insecurity in Somalia, already stretched to the limit, a large influx of of newly displaced refugees from Nairobi will only push resources further and cannot be positive.  This action has been spurred on from the recent retaliative matatu (local minivan taxi’s)  bombings, thought to be implemented by Al Shabaab in Nairobi over the past months.  Through the actions of the terrorism, it is as always the innocents that suffer.

 

I am feeling the insecurity, the anxiety of these girls that I know and pray for their safety, there is nothing I would like better than to get on a plane and go there right now to assist in any way I could.  For now I will focus on what I can do and that is to bring awareness to what is happening.

 

To help raise awareness please share this story, and for more direct action you can donate to:

CARE (who operate directly in both camps)

Heshima Kenya

 

STormy

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Tonite I sit with a mountain of emotion evolving inside my head.  It feels like a storm brewing and taking shape into a massive tornado of feelings and energy.  It has been just over a month since our Cameras4Change team returned from the whirlwind of work that was Kenya.  Leading workshops, filming a documentary, doing interviews, hearing stories that cut to the bone, drama and trauma in real time and real life.  Since that time it has been luckily slow in my “day job”, giving me a chance to edit and go through all the coverage and footage we shot.  Allowing me to edit and process, process and edit.  It feels like it has all hit me tonite as I receive little snippets of insight back from our story editor as he begins to peice our doc together.  Quotes that are beginning to bare the truth through sharing often begin to make more sense and take on deeper meaning when they are recognized for the power that they hold as another set of eyes and ears hears the messages.  I cannot begin to express the importance of what we were allowed to witness, of what we were bestowed with in terms of the lives of others, their stories, their history, sometimes from thier hidden archives, sometimes so raw and evident it had not choice but to explode in the air. 

However much they had been through, whatever travesties life had set upon their young lives, we were also able to see thier joy at experiencing something so new to them, and yet so simple, holding a camera, taking a photograph, making art with images and words, connecting with each other and equally important, with themself. That is the power of photography, that is what I wanted to accomplish when I set out to formulate Cameras4Change, so it is so gratifying when you see the gold of what is possible.  The amazing thing is that our team is doing the work that we do to bring relief, opportunity, experience and transformation to those that would not normally have the chance to use cameras, but whatever way we shake it out, we are also effected deeply by the experience and it alters our lives profoundly.Thank you Kenya, thank you world. 

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PS:  We will keep everyone posted on the process of the documentary as we continue to move forward on it!

CLICK to MAKe $500 to MAKe CHANGE!

Our good friends at MAKe have offered an amazing opportunity for us here at C4C.  They have created a unique Holiday Experience called “MAKe: Experience the 12 Days of Christmas” which has been entered into the 2013 Photography and Illustration Awards at APPLIED ARTS WIRE.  For every download of the sound file, Cameras4Change will receive $1 (up to $500!).  So please join in by linkinghere, scrolling to the bottom of the page to the red “download” of the file so C4C can receive some DOSH-4-CHANGE!  Help us to MAKe Change!

 

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Life Lessons in Kenya

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!

WORLD AIDS DAY 2012

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Every year HIV/AIDS affects over 5 million people of which 0.8 million are children, and 95 percent of those people are living in the developing world*

Today is World Aids Day 2012  and we at C4C would like to show our support to everyone around the world working and/or living with HIV/AIDS.  We applaud you.  As this is our last day in Kenya we have just spent the last 2 weeks with many children that are directly affected by this issue and want to continue to bring awareness through all the work we do.

 

* AMFAR/Yale AIDS watch

Full Circle

Yesterday Cameras4Change wrapped up the second of two digital camera photo workshops in Kenya with ground partners Heshima Kenya and The Maasai Girls Eduction Fund.  We were a synchronized team of 5 women working together to bring skills, education and connection to girls in need.  Months of planning and work prior to was necessary to bring us here but did not match the level of fast paced work the team needed to provide for the groups we worked with.  We needed to remain flexible and always return to the essence of the reason we were here as we were thrown many curves that could have changed the outcome.  I am proud of the work that was done and the information collected for the workshops along with the documentary we were shooting.  The workshops we ran added to the curriculum, and brought us into contact with some amazing participants.  Some of the stories we encountered during the filming showcased the strength of spirit and the capacity for an open heart and hope to rise out of chaos and loss.

 

 

At the end of the second workshop a girl came into the classroom and approached Sol Garcia to ask if she remembered her.  At that same moment both Sol and I realized that this was one of the original girls we had met and interviewed 2 years ago when we first cme to this region in SE Kenya to talk learn about the affects of fgm and early child marriage on girls.  She looked amazing, happy and grounded, doing well in school as she had a sponsor that was making a huge difference in her life.  She said she had often thought of us and wondered if she would ever see us again.   We told her that she had inspired us and was the reason we had continued to work to bring awareness and why we were here now.

 

Both of the ground partners are working in phenomenal ways with girls that have been affected by issues such as war, conflict, loss of family, fgm, early child marriage or lack of access to education.  Providing a safe place, education, community and connection goes a long way to getting them back on track and we were honored to work with them both.  Thank you again to Heshima Kenya and to The Maasai Girls Education Fund and all of the participants in our workshops.  Thank you for your sharing, your stories and for your hearts.  We hope you will never forget us as we know we won’t forget you! 

 

1.  A t-shirt that reads “Dream can come true” in Swahili by Photographer Agnes Ntari

2.  Girls greet us at the beginning of the second day eager to begin

3.  A student is proud of her work!

4.  Educating girls is tapping into a huge resource for the future of a community.

Day 1 Kenya-Off and Running!

Today will be the first day of our first workshop in Kenya with a group of participants from Heshima Kenya.  We met with the group briefly yesterday to introduce ourselves.  It was a hectic day as we are all newly arrived from half way around the world, a bit disorientated and jetlagged.  We found Heshima Kenya with a little help from our driver and it was like opening into another inner world driving into the compound.  There were a few girls coming and going with inquisitive looks and once we spoke with our points people there we got to meet outdoors under a tree with the group.

This group consists of students that are “unnacompanied minors” from other countries that live here in Nairobi.  These refugee children are separated from family and country, and all of this group have been taking part in a journalism program here at Heshima Kenya through a curriculum set up by Imgard, a journailsm graduate volunteering with the organization.  I loved that they all described themselves as “Journalists”, or “Journalism Students”!  Many have never held a camera before, so this will be a big experience for them and Imgard has told us they are all really excited to learn and take part.

Our Cameras4Change Team on the ground here worked really hard yesterday pulling all of the pieces together, we all helped to collect intake data from the participants, and our DP Shannon Kohli began filming a number of shots as we hit the ground running.  There is so much we need to accomplish in this short format 3 day program, so our work is cut out but it is super exciting to finally be rolling it all out.  We are all learning so much on every level, we are giving skills and time, but we are also learning so much from the crew here at Heshima, this group is amazing!

Huge high fives to everyone on the team here, Thea Grivakes & Gillian Harrow from C4C, Sol Garcia who is partnering with us from Project X Impact, and our Director of Photography Shannon Kohli!  Here We Go!

PS:  I have been so busy with the workshops that I am not really photographing as much, so will be making a few adjustments to that!  We are struggling to find internet, hence I am up to use the one internet stick at 3am!

 

 

Malala’s Message

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Saturday November 10 was “Malala Day”, bringing into focus the fact that nearly 32 million girls world wide that should be getting an education are not.  It is 1 month since the Talaban boarded a bus and shot a 14 year old girl in the head because of her message, “to educate girls”.  As Malala seems to go from strength to strength in a hospital in England, her message has become even more emblazened, stronger and far reaching.  The spotlight for the campaign in Malala’s name that has begun for girls in Pakistan to be educated, has widened to include girls all over the world.

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I feel entrusted with that message, and have been working the past couple of years to help girls in Kenya affected by early child marriage and female circumcision to move forward in their lives through education.  In a few days I will be leaving for Kenya with a team of incredible women, we will be running 2 photo workshops with 2 different groups, and documenting that process on film.  Our workshops with Heshima Kenya and The Maasai Girls Education Fund will offer the participants the chance to learn the skill of using digital cameras, produce a small exhibit, document and express thier lives visually, and perhaps offer a message to the world. 

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I spent time yesterday in prep going through a number of different things, including a years worth of iphone photos.  I was struck by how I was immediately pulled into the moments I was glancing through.  Imagery makes the mind and the memory come alive.  We often take for granted the access that we have to personal imagery through the computers, our phones etc.  I am excited that our group will be assisting others to have access to that. We will be leaving behind photos, cameras, memories, and giving them the opportunity to use visual media to record events, tools to act in advocacy, ways to express themselves, and the idea that creativity holds an important place in life, especially in extreme challenging situations.

We are super excited to be meeting our ground partners in Kenya next week!  Here we come Heshima Kenya and Maasai Girls Education Fund!  Thank you to the Cameras4Change board for all of the hard work, organizing, shameless asking of favors and more, you ladies all rock!  Thea Grivakes, Gillian Harrow, Barb Briggs, Kimberley French, Sol Garcia of Project X Impact and also to Shannon Kohli our DP.

Also huge thanks to everyone that has supported us to this point, we are proud that so many individuals and business’s have been a part of this! 

 

Awe of Epic Proportions

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Hurricane Sandy

This has been a weird day, from a powerful earthquake 48 hours ago in my province BC in Canada, to Hurricane Sandy that has affected friends from Haiti to NYC I feel in awe of nature.  It is strangely unsettling to think that we really have no choice in matters like these, other than to find a way to endure it and deal with it. 

I have just donated to my friends in Haiti at SOIL who are undergoing a huge crisis to help after the hurricane, there are so many people that are still living under tarps after the 2010 earthquake.  SOIL are an amazing organization that focus on sanitation, one of the biggest issues in Haiti, and they do amazing work.  I personally also know so many that are enduring extreme personal challenges in all sorts of ways right now. 

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SOIL, an organiztion in Haiti that focus on Sanitation, a huge issue that is magnified after a hurricane

Cameras4Change is about to embark on one of our most important projects to date, our trip to Kenya to run 2 workshops, one with Heshima Kenya, and the other with The Maasai Girls Education Fund.  While there we are travelling with a few amazing friends.  Our girl Sol Garcia from Project X Impact, and a very special team member for this trip, Shannon Kohli, a camera operator and director of photography.  Shannon will be filming for us as we begin the process of documenting a very special group of girls participating in our workshops.  We want to highlight the role of art in development, this will be an amazing opportunity and we feel so lucky to have Shannon working with us!

We as an organization have also been involved in our Final Push to Kenya Campaign, and the resonse has been wonderful.  We are so touched by the action of so many of our friends and supporters.  We have just reached the 2K mark and it has been an incredible response, fueled by many different folks from all around the world!  I love that people have responded into action, it means that you connect with what we are doing, it means we are all on the right track and we are all part of this together!

When there is so much going on, when the world is such a crazy place, I feel more than ever that it is important to do what we feel we must.  That is why our team here at Cameras4Change keeps on.  Our incredible team is all volunteer, and we are accomplishing some major amazing things, I am proud of us!!  

This time next month we will be finishing off our second workshop, I can only imagine what the experience will have been like, and what the participants will experience.  I can’t wait to put the cameras into the hands of these girls and see what they do with them.  I know it will be awe inspiring all over again!

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Working in Kenya with girls affected by early Child Marriage and Female Circumsision (FGM)

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