Let’s Talk About It

When people hear about Cameras4Change they are immediately drawn towards the idea of an organization that uses cameras!  It’s fun, it’s creative, and we all pretty much love cameras and photography right? They want to know more, and often have questions as to the how and why.  Sometimes folks wonder if it is really plausible to make a difference by doing something as basic as photography?  Well…it is!

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When students first hold a camera you will know right away by the smiles on their faces that they are excited to photograph with an actual camera, it is a very different experience from that of using a cell phone.

Cameras are almost our magic tool, shooting with them our secret weapon.  We use them to connect with our participants, they connect with themselves, each other and us too.  Photography as an art form can be very thearapuetic, a way to expand on self evaluation, explore your life, your hopes and dreams as well as advocate for yourself or your community.

These simple workshops allow for participants to experience an array of creative skill sets, and follow through naturally with what they are most attracted or adapted to.  We often see group leaders and those that support them blossom when it comes to working in small groups.  We also dialogue with the participants to allow them to develop and create something that is actually their vision.  Not everyone is a natural photographer, but we also see some raw talent in the development of the program.  At the end of a C4C Workshop everyone gets to experience the pride and joy of showcasing their work in a community exhibit, and that is a brilliant moment, the smiles, the pride in working together and creating a cultural experience…that is in fact “priceless”.

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Whether you are 7 like Tenoch or 73 like Josefa, it is wonderful to create your own photos, because we all have a way of seeing things that is unique and special!

Xochimilco Workshop with Isla Urbana

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Today was the first of 2 workshops here in different communities in Mexico City with our partners Isla Urbana!  Late this afternoon, Jennifer White of Isla Urbana and  I headed to a wonderful community high in the hills that flag the edges of DF  San Francisco is a community of needs within the delegacion of Xochimilco.  Isla Urbana are implementing a rainwater harvesting project here to satisfy the needs, and part of the overall process is to also provide cultural experiences within those communities.  This helps to solidify a bond with their clients, and also assists in solidifying the success of their programs.  We are delighted to provide creative experiences through photography.  When I asked the 20 participants ranging in age from 5 years to 72! ( yes there was a delightful 72 year old woman that came to our workshop) who had held a camera before, not one put up their hand.  They were so excited to get the cameras and we couldn’t help but smile.  One small boy who was going to share a camera with his mother had huge tears in his eyes and so of course we gave him his own camera to use!

Today was all about getting to know each other a little and introducing photography and cameras to the group, then we let them take the cameras to the streets for the first time.  Tomorrow we will be focusing on portraits.  I will be posting more as I can, it is a very busy workshop as there is only myself and one assistant with 20 people!!

Many thanks towards all of our tribe of supporters, from all of the individuals who have participated in our funding events, to our corporate partners, Nikon Canada, Fluevog Shoes, Sandisk, and Lowepro.  We couldn’t do it without you!

 

Below:  20 cameras tagged and ready to go out into the world, that would be 20 Nikon Coolpix point and shoot housed in some sweet little Lowepro bags and holding 8gig cards from Sandisk, thank you!

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Quiltepec

We have been in Mexico City for less than 48 hours, and we are keeping a pretty busy pace!  Our first day was used to settle in and get basics taken care of, capping it off with a team meeting in the evening.  The four women we will be working with come from 3 different NGO’s, Renata Fenton and Carmen Hernandez of Isla Urbana, Rachel Smith from Sistema Bio Bolsa, and Liliana Riva Palacio of Proyecto ConcetrArte, are all formidible forces in terms of the work they do here in Mexico.  The Mexican ground partners all collaborate on interdisciplinary projects around natural resources and education, through the NGO platform IRRI Mexico (Instituto Internacional de Recursos Renovables AC) and C4C is collaborating on the Agua Nuestra Vida project funded by the Porticus Foundation.  Being involved with so many partners can be a tricky road to manoeuvre but working with these ladies is proving to be fantastic, their knowledge and experience is amazing, but so are their hearts!  It is so great to be able to work and learn from them, see all that they are doing and share our process too.

QUILTEPECa_0004 Carmen Hernandez lilililiana Riva Palacio

“Quiltepec”, the name resonates with the romance of the Aztec language; tepec actually means mountain, and the informal community we will be working in is literally on the top of a mountain on the south end of Mexico City. Today our meeting took a different turn however, as the road we needed to access the community was peppered with high security swat team police, who told us we would be going up at our own risk and we would have to walk up.

Driving towards Quiltepec

QUILTEPECa_0002 QUILTEPECa_0003Carmen Hernandez speaks with three very serioso police, who told us that the army was about to arrive and the road was blocked!

Carmen decided that it was too risky, and so we will wait until tomorrow when hopefully the whole sting operation is over!  Thank goodness for ground partners that know the score, and when to make the right decisions!

In the meantime we are taking the time to fully organize ourselves and get more background info on our community!

Quiltepec is a small informal community nestled high up (around 8000 ft) amongst 8 other pueblas in San Miguil de Xicalco in Distrito Tlalpan, one of the 16 Delegacions of Mexico City (DF).  Beside and behind it are homes that are recognized by the delegacion of Tlalpan, and so they have water, electricity, sewage and other infrastructure, but not so Quiltepec.  The children of the community however do attend school down the mountain, but as far as the policy makers are concerned, they do not exist, and so therefore they do not need to provide any infrastructure in the way of basic needs.

Isla Urbana decided a few years ago, that they do have the right to water and to begin installation of their Rainwater Harvesting Systems whenever they had some extra resources to do so.  So a relationship began and has grown tremendously which has been wonderful thing for this community, because now, the community has numerous rainwater harvesting systems, as well as two water treatment systems, 5000 liter water cistern, 4 hydroponic systems and 4 biobolsa bio digesters.

Our goal tomorrow will be to meet with the 15 chosen participants and dig right into our program. Tomorrow we fully expect to come home with many photos of the kids as they get their hands on the Nikon Cameras and run with them!! Stay tuned!  Hasta Pronto!!!

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Xicalco, DF

Chicalco_CC_2013_11_002                                      Ahhhh… DF, Mexico que linda!

Chicalco, DF

Xicalco, an informal community high up above Mexico City

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San Miguel Xicalco, Tlalpan, 14490 Ciudad de México, D.F., Mexico

 

This June C4C will be running our next international workshop in collaboration with IRRI’s Paz Paz Bus in Xicalco, an informal community in DF (that’s Mexico City y’all!).  The Paz Paz Bus is a colorful bus that travels to the communities that IRRI has programs running, in this case Isla Urbana and Sistema BioBolsa have been installing rainwater harvesting  and renewable energy systems in this small community through an HCBC grant.  It will be exciting to return to Mexico and work with these organizations as well as Proyecto ConcentrArte to bring cameras and photography into this neighborhood.  I was lucky to visit Xicalco last year with Jennifer White as part of a tour with Isla Urbana to view communities that we could potentially work in.  You don’t have to go far to find people with a lack of access to water, even though Mexico City has an annual rainfall of over 27″.  As always in Mexico, the locals have an abundance of hospitality and we were welcomed to see what it is like living above the city, what an amazing view!  We will be taking cameras provided by NIKON Canada!  Please stay in touch on this website and on our facebook page for updates during mid June!!

Chicalco_CC_2013_11_012a large water cistern on the right side of this home provides water collected from the rooftops, then filtered and used for laundry, cleaning, cooking and bathing.  There is no other water infrastructure for the members of this community. Chicalco_CC_2013_11_018 Chicalco_CC_2013_11_023 Chicalco_CC_2013_11_033 Chicalco_CC_2013_11_055 Chicalco_CC_2013_11_057 Chicalco_CC_2013_11_063 Chicalco_CC_2013_11_022Chicalco_CC_2013_11_016Adios!  Hasta Luego!

 

@8000 ft with Isla Urbana

Last night I arrived into Mexico City at 10pm, hired a cab and began my journey to the main Isla Urbana sight on the SW perimieter of D.F., which also happens to be the highest point in the city.  DF is surrounded by 64 mountains, and the community of Tlalpan where the office and housing is located is the highest point in the city, so when I woke this morning I was feeling the effect of high altitude for the first time in my life!  At first I thought I was hung over, (but I only shared 1/2 pint of beer with David Vargas last night!), and the dizzyness and lightheadedness was striking and unusual to anything I had felt before.  Not letting that stop me, I am busy today getting the facts on this amazing NGO, the work they are doing, the stories I think will be the most important to cover and the ideas that Jenn White the community relations director and I have been brainstorming on  They are an uber cool organization, and I am more than impressed with everything they have cooking, and I mean this literally, as they are as we speak part of a project implementing the Sistema Bio-Bolsa (a geo-membrane bio bag that ferments animal excrement into methane gas for cooking and super rich fertilizer!)  More on this to come.  In the meantime I have been given the story from the ground up on RainWater Harvesting, and can’t wait to share more with you.  Please follow myself and Sol Garcia as we meet the players in the story of water in Mexico City through the eyes of the Isla Urbana Team and the individuals in the community they are bringing water security to!

Rooftop Garden with Rainwater Catchement System at Isla Urbana in DF Mexico

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