Flight – bringing awareness through photography to newly arrived refugees

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Thanks to the hard work of Cameras4Change volunteers Maxine Bulloch and Kathryne Racich, ten recently arrived refugees and immigrants to Canada were provided with cameras and equipment from Nikon Canada, Lowepro and Sandisk to document their first thoughts and interpretations of Canada. The project, entitled FLIGHT was in collaboration with local organisations, DIVERSEcity and MOSAIC with support from SIETAR.

The purpose of the project was multifold: for participants to create their own story of what it is like to start a new chapter in a foreign country and create a visual time stamp of where they are right now; to increase communication of what it is to be a refugee/immigrant in the wider community; and to forge connections and help create communities for participants.

Participants came to Canada from Myanmar, Thailand, Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran, and had been in Canada from between two months to two years. During the workshops which were constructed as an absolute safe-space and operated from a ‘do no harm’ frame, the participants talked about their experience of photography, what they were hoping to learn through their participation of the project and they learnt how to use their Nikon camera. At the follow-up workshops, participants shared what was opening up for them and their photos they’d taken, and photos were beautiful! Each person turned their camera and attention to what was important to them, with topics of interest including nature, symmetry, and symbols of the future. This was very much an exercise of ‘through the eyes of’, rather than having participants be in front of the camera – although if they wished to do so then by all means were free to! It was so great to see participants’ confidence grow during the project, and that reflected in the photography they did too.

From the images taken, the participants selected their favourite five and wrote descriptions to go alongside each and the chosen images were printed and exhibited from 1-7 April in a weeklong gallery located in Chinatown, downtown Vancouver in a space kindly donated by This Open Space. The opening was organized by SIETAR, and there were four speakers – Farooq Al-Sajee (Iraq/Syria), Josiane Anthony (Togo/Ghana), Daniel Tseghay (Eritrea), and Yashar Nijati (Iran), who helped educate the visitors of FLIGHT about the realities of the refugee experience. Farooq also serenaded us with his amazing classical improvised talents on the Oud.

FUTURE PLANS
– We are looking at connecting with organisations and city halls that are within the participants’ communities and beyond, in order to extend the exhibition. We are doing this with the aim of continuing advocacy and raising awareness – to increase understanding and to contribute to the building of stronger, more connected communities through dialogue and inner reflection.
– As a result of participating in the project, participants have expressed a desire for more programs, and for these subsequent projects to have longer durations. Thus, one of our future endeavors is to secure funding for the continuation of this powerful program, keeping in mind the needs and wishes of the participants.
– We are also looking for future collaborations with organisations and people who are interested in supporting newcomers and other societal groups going through transition or those who desire self-expansion through creative self-expression and dialogue.

To see a copy of the FLIGHT report and up-to-date news of what else is going on head on over to the FLIGHT Facebook page.

Check out this gallery of some of the work and words of the FLIGHT participants!

Waheed

Waheed, Afghanistan – “This is my favourite photo. It represents my longing for education in Canada, a desire I could not achieve as a refugee in Pakistan. University is something that builds someone’s capacity. I have sent an application and have been accepted to study.”

Rafi

Rafi, Afghanistan – “I like how the tree stands right in the middle of nature and the future. I think it represents how we are destroying nature and we think we’re making the world a better place but we’re really making it worse. I like how the tree doesn’t have a single leaf. It’s like the chemicals from behind have made it dry.”

Paw December

Paw December – “In the evening me and my nephew went outside to a pond because we wanted to see ducks. We brought duck food, and my nephew fed the ducks which they enjoyed very much. This is my favourite photo.”

Omar

Omar, Iraq – “Everything you see here is old. The chair, the clock, everything. I see English heritage in this photo. It is a classic look.”

Maryam

Maryam, Iran – “These two flowers represent that we can live together and share everything.”

Ku_Shee

Ku Shee, Myanmar – “This shows that Canadians love their pets. Even if they go to the snow they bring their pets. It makes me feel very happy that people walk with pets in the snow.”

Hlah

Hlah, Myanmar – “This is my favourite photo. It’s well known that people in big cities live a hectic life. I personally enjoy an easy life in a busy city.”

Fatemeh

Eh Hser, Myanmar – “My family took a walk with our neighbour. We’d never seen a tree like this, as we don’t have it in Burma. There were no leaves on it, just flowers. My son was so happy so I took a picture of him.”

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Bahar, Iran – Grande Prairie Alberta.
“Be strong against the problems. I took this photo as a memory on the last day that I was in Grande Prairie.”

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Fatemeh, Iran – “The snail in this photo showed me to live in any way that I want even if I am going to be alone sometimes because we only live once.”

Quiltepec Community C4C Workshop Day 1

Today we worked with 15 different community members in Quiltepec, a full range of boys, girls, men and women came together in a remarkable setting high atop Mexico City.  Silvia one of the communities leaders who helped to arrange logistics in the community also took part, it is wonderful to see all ages take up the cameras and create their own photos.  Today was all about getting to know each other and for the participants to get to know the cameras.  I am always excited to see what the participants photograph, but the look on their faces when they get the cameras in their hands is always incredible, what a gift!!!

Silvia brings us a snack from their gardenPPBWSDay1_0001 PPBWSDay1_0002 PPBWSDay1_0004Working under a tarp overlooking the city

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First shots with the Nikon Coolpix!PPBWSDay1_0024

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The Team: Renata Fenton, Liliana Riva Palacio, Thea Grivakes, Cate CameronPPBWSDay1_0030

The Workshop location in QuiltepecPPBWSDay1_0040

 

meet the team!

-1This end of November and into December is turning out to be a very busy and productive time for C4C.  Cate has just returned from Mexico City where C4C worked again with Isla Urbana and Sistema BioBolsa, and we are running our 2nd fundraiser on Nov 30th in Vancouver, and our premiere event in Calgary on Dec 5th.  On top of all of this we are winding up our Indiegogo campaing to raise specific funds for our Doc project Weta Pichu.  Above is one of our updates and we will be rolling out some great student imagery., introducing some of the main Weta Pichu cast and new film clips!  We appreciate any size of donation for this, and there are some great incentives, so join our campaign and become a part of the film and its’ journey!

http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/weta-pichu

It’s Simple!

8 Louise Klune   02581. connecting with nature through the camera. Margaret Dixon

Whenever people hear the name Cameras4Change they are always receptive, and often intrigued to hear more!  Everyone seems to love photography and our name rings that bell!  There is an obvious connection with cameras, but when we explain on a deeper level how the camera can do so much, there is a delightful reaction.  Just like the magic of seeing an image come to life in a tray of developer, little by little a transformation takes place through the simple process of working in a group with cameras.

Our recent workshop here in Vancouver was no exception.  When kids have cameras they have fun there is no doubt, but there are so many other subtle things happening at the same time.  They are forced to focus in the moment, and by doing that a whole domino effect takes place.  They are continually interacting with not only themselves, but their environment and each other.  They may need assistance with the camera, so they ask a leader, or friend; they want to share what they see through their lens and continually reach out to others around them.  They gain knowledge of the camera and that builds skill and understanding that can be accessed again, and also applies to learning in other areas.  Their sense of pride and self is strengthened through this very simple process.  It really does distill down to “connecting”, the hand on a shoulder, talking with each other in authentic ways, sharing, caring and taking the time to simply be there.  We could even call it Connecting 4Change!

 

These are images from the participants, the ways they approach the world with the camera can also be applied to life!9 Margaret Dixon 03492. checking out what’s growing in the garden. Margaret Dixon9 Margaret Dixon 03203. Fun with a “selfy”. Margaret Dixon

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4. Looking up.  Margaret Dixon7 Seraphina Lalonde  0213

5. Learning the ropes together on the 1st day.  Seraphina Lalonde7 Seraphina Lalonde  01995. Looking at things from a different perspective!  Seraphina Lalonde

Our First Vancouver Workshop!!

This is exciting, tomorrow C4C will be running it’s first ever “local” workshop right here in Vancouver!  It will be a wonderful opportunity to connect with 20 inner city urban kids aged 10-13 as part of their day-camp curriculum at Brittania Secondary School in East Van!  The cameras are all charged and raring to go like a little team all on their own!!

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Big thanks to our supporters at Nikon Canada for supplying the cameras and also to The Camera Store in Calgary who have kindly donated 8 gig Panasonic cards.  Kimberley French, Thea Grivakes and Cate Cameron will be facilitating along with some great peeps at Brittania (Sadia, Mitra and Mike) Can’t wait to get them out shooting in beautiful sunny Van!!!  Stay tuned!!

The C4C team!!

 

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

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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Surfacing

It has been a while since I have blogged or
posted. Partly because of a nasty flu right after our event in April, partly because my other work as a set still photographer has kept me busy, and also because of a little but of burnout! I think it is important to say that we all need breaks from certain things that are demanding of us, sometimes the most important thing is to do nothing at all! Oh, and also, I am moving!

But last night felt like I was getting back, returning to business as normal, resurfacing for that breath of fresh air! A great night with my C4C”wing-girls” Thea Grivakes and Gillian Harrow! First, a meet and greet with some amazing folks from The Compassionate Eye Foundation, Robert Brown , Susan McDonald, Rob Daley and Sue Dick! Then on to Dignity Vancouver 2012, an event in support of The Acumen Fund for Global Poverty, at Vancouver Urban Winery.

Getting back into the swing of Cameras4Change business confirmed that
It is easy to become overwhelmed in our world, and reminds me of people I have met working in field, very much over whelmed by the extreme poverty and life issues they have to face every day. It can mask any bit of joy or hope inside of you. It takes alot of effort to rise through that. The images and photos up for auction last night were a testament to lives living this way, very powerful and truthfully beautiful! It gives me hope to know so many of us want to see transformation, and that photography truly has the capacity to assist in change!

TAKE A RISK!

 I have definitely thought about it, the risk that I have put myself in when I work in field with some of my partners.  There have been occasions when I felt I was in danger, like putting a plan into place about how to deal with abduction, like the time we were robbed in Haiti, which sounds worse than it actually was, or the time I was being dangled over a 3 foot wide 50 foot  deep hole in the ground in Kenya by a very inebriated man.  Point being, I was putting myself into situations that were potentially putting me at risk.  The upside of that was the experience I had, giving me a better understanding, the people I connected with, and my connection to the world.  Beats staying home and watching tv!

So now here I am, the creator (along with some very dedicated people) of a non-profit, ready to put more endless hours of planning and creating a program overseas in Kenya for girls affected by fgm.  This is going to require many more hours of making plans, creating budgets, more meetings, planning travel, creating schedules,  more asking, more redefining plans, taking time from our families homes, and jobs.  Cameras4Change is not just a thought or a dream anymore, it is a full blown reality, a full time job that takes up a lot of space in my heart, head and life.  We all took risks putting the event together, would people come? Would they buy tickets?  Would they stay and participate in the silent auction? Would we run a great event that people will come back to next year? We believed in it, we got others excited, we got corporate sponsors excited about us, we got everyone willing to participate, donate time, services and money so that we can go forward and take even more risks. 

Every step of the way was a risk, but one that we were all crazy enough to believe in, one that we visualized and made happen.  Sure we spent countless moments of nail biting, and many sleepless hours of anxiety too, but we just kept on doing it anyway. We ignored the nagging voices in the back of our minds, the ones that we would never make a move with if we actually listened to.  I know it will be the same going forward, running a project will take huge tenacity, we will have to take many risks, albeit calculated, as we forge forward.  We are doing it because it is the right thing to do, and in life there is no such thing as “risk free”.  Every breath we take is a risk, every time we walk out the door, get in a car, fly in a plane, there is nothing that is certain except uncertainty.  We will learn more about ourselves, others, and, our world. We will feel better that we are active, that we are participating, that we are alive, that we are breathing and that we are living, really living.  That is life friends, take a risk, I’m telling you it beats watching tv.

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 In Haiti there was a healthy respect for the potential risks, we were told point blank before we arrived.  It is interesting to note however, that the largest cause of deaths among humanitarian and aid workers is traffic accidents.  In the short video below from India where it is common to enter highways and have to travel a good distance on the wrong side of the road…you’ll see what I mean!  I was in the car with @calamityjones’ Melanie Jones!

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Watch on Posterous

You will note a stunned silence, that is Melanie and I speechless after a near death experience!  Then my saying “good idea Ravi” when he returns to the correct side of the road.

where are you coming from?

I have said this before and now seems a pertinent time to say it, but #PhotographyHeals!  It may seem almost too simple, and perhaps that is why it is true because of it’s purity.  You ask anyone and I am pretty sure they will agree.  Many of my most memorable childhood memories are imortalized in photographs.  As a child I spent hours upon hours looking at photographs, of myself when I was a baby (fervent!) and of my parents when they were young, of my grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins at different points in their lives. My favorite magazines were LIFE and National Geographic, all of these helped me to understand the context of my life, and where I was in the world. 

What if that aspect of our lives never existed, or was lost, as in the case of my mother whose home was burnt to the ground when she was young?  This came up recently when I spoke with Jeff Topham of Liberia77, an amazing photo project and documentary film about the people in Liberia who lost their connection to thier past photographically due to civil war.  Many destroyed or had to be hidden.  This drastically affected the conciousness of a country.

As I draw near to a personally important date for Cameras4Change April 19th, the question “Where are you coming from?” has a deep meaning.  If you don’t know where you are coming from, you may not know how to go forward.  This may be magnified in the lives of those that face severe challenges or have been through trauma, and the simple use of a camera, a photograph, and the documentation of yourself and your life can bring many things into perspective.  This is the essense of what Cameras4Change is about, a subtle shift in how we view ourselves, our lives and our world to help us tranformatively move forward.  #PHOTOGRAPHYHEALS

Photographing girls in Kenya affected by fgm

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Youth in Haiti engaging in thier own work at the end of a C4C workshop

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Please join us April 19th if you are in Vancouver to raise money for C4C to run a workshop with girls in Kenya affected by fgm, for more info click here

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