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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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.

WOW!

Tomorrow night at 7.30 pm MST I will be interviewed about my work as a Humanitarian Photographer and be presenting via SKYPE at WOW, Women of Wisdom, an event in Calgary!  I am really excited and honored to be a part of this and will be showcasing some of my recent work from my trip to Mexico City!

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PREMONITION

Last night I had a premonition that all things are possible.  That we don’t have to suffer our way through life, or struggle towards joy.  That maybe we can simply “be” joyful, and be happy in life.  I am choosing this right now.  I love my life, I love the work I do, and on a daily basis I choose to meet interesting, inspiring people, and guess what, that is what happens.

 

This past weekend I gave a presentation at DIGITAL EXPO 2011 in Calgary, an amazing weekend for photographers with guest speakers, trade equipment and most importantly, community!  I spoke about my work as a humanitarian photographer, defining what it means from my perspective, how it differs from photo-journalism, and the direction it is taking me. 

 

Crucial to the way I operate, is the theme of connection.  That is how I work in field, by truly connecting with others, looking past the situations and circumstances that separate us, and aligning myself with them on a human level.  In taking photos that tell their story, my intention is to reconnect others to them.  What I often find is that despite their often extremely challenging lives, underneath that I am meeting interesting, inspiring people.  That the more severe the situation, the more uniquely brave, amazing and rewarding are the individuals I work with.  Here are a few, and I look forward to many more that I will never forget.

 

#1I met these women by getting up at dawn to walk around the village of Karikudi in the Chettinad region of India to beat the heat of the day.  They were on their way to wash at the lotus pond!

#2 These children were all set to have fun, love the superhero poses!

#3  I love animals and saw many in sub-Saharan Africa, India and Haiti, but this guy was the most friendly, it was hard to leave him.

 

COMFORT ZONE

 

“Remember: YOUR LIFE BEGINS WHERE YOUR COMFORT ZONE ENDS”

 

 

This quote “liked” by my muse is my inspiration for today!  I totally agree with this, when we are pushing is when we experience the most growth, the most knowledge and the most of life.  If we never explored our outer limits we would all be stuck back in the womb! 

 

I really laugh when I think back to my late 20’s, whenever I heard of people traveling to Africa and India, all I could think about was how afraid I would be of the unknown kinds of creepy crawly’s if I ran into them!  Even funnier when on my very first night in Africa with Melanie Jones we sat in a living room, pondering Zambia.  We were locked inside a house with iron gates, guards outside, and even more gates, but no one was there to protect us when the biggest baddass spider crawled up behind Melanie on the couch!  We both jumped, screamed, and ultimately had to deal with it ourselves.

 

In reality our comfort zone was being truly desensitized over the following days when we rolled into Mapallo, Mackenzie and George.  3 small “illegal” settlements where life was no-where near anything we knew or had seen before, as we covered an unfolding story of the World Water Crisis.  We wondered a lot over the next few weeks, but became accustomed quickly to that life, and shared it with the people we met there, grew to love them in fact, and cried when we left.  Returning back to Canada 2 months later, I wanted North American life to cease and desist, I wanted only to return to the uncomfortable life that had become my comfort zone. 

 

 

It is not for everyone, the love of venturing to places like that, but whenever I return to Africa, the first thing that greets me is the warm air, laced with the sweet smell of smoke, and I take comfort from that strangely enough, because I know I am in a place where life and death is played out in the blink of an eye, that reality makes you love life

 

Walking through a doorway to the

unknown can be difficult, but life is an experience!

 

One of the first African Homes I went into was a cross cultural experience, seeing how people live, I didn’t know how much it would effect me.

Unity in Life

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I love this quote and wanted to post it because it really makes so much sense in terms of how I feel about working as a humanitarian photographer…

 

He who experiences the unity of life sees his own self in all beings, and all beings in his own self, and looks on everything with an impartial eye…Buddha

 

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THE PERFECT PLACE

I need to believe that I am in the perfect place right now, for where ever it is I am meant to be going.  Sometimes that can be a hard pill to take, but I take respite in this meditation whenever I feel the frustration of where I am at, especially if things are not moving fast enough for me – which is…always!

I have been working away at organizing Cameras 4 Change in a succinct, patient and organized way, so that when it does finally come together it will be solid.  It is taking some time, but I am learning so much along the way, and things are unfolding perfectly.

As I have kept this thought in my mind so much of late, I have also wondered how it relates to those that are struggling, both in my world and the many people that I have met in Kenya, Haiti etc.  Their lives are so vastly different, some unimaginably so, and it makes me wonder how that could be the perfect place.  This is a philosophical question and I am not exactly an expert, but still, here it is.  I guess my place in all of this becomes simple, to accept where I am, and know that I can make a difference in all of it.  It may only be a small difference, like that of one ant.  It seems to me it is the consistency of the heart that matters, and the continuation of belief that will resonate with life and others to fuel the change that needs to happen.  There, I think that is a good answer!

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1.  The Perfect Place to talk on your cell phone!  Rural Coastal Kenya

2. I never had difficulty finding the perfect place in India, here morning prayers at DHAN Foundation, or…

3. Meeting Women doing laundry at The Lotus Pond!

White Rabbits – Part 1 in a story of FGM/C and Child Marriage

Walking up the dusty red path I realized how tiny she was, bewitching with her black and white plaid dress, her silhouette dancing in the sun as it started to go down.  Elizabeth, the 9-year old daughter of Pastor John Kiroka was my companion on the path as we followed her father up towards the water tank above the AIC church in Bissil, Kenya.  I was here with Sol Garcia of project X to visit the community.  At the water tank Elizabeth and her 2 brothers played swinging on the iron gates of the enclosure, and we could see the entire valley that comprised Bissil.   The beauty of Kenya is astounding, and as I gaze at the epic view I wonder at life here. 

 

Sol Garcia began her work here a couple of years ago with Help A Child Africa, a Kenyan NGO.  She helped to raise part of the money to fund a badly needed well that now services over 1500 people on the north side of Bissel, 900 at the boarding school across the highway, and many others in the surrounding part of the community.  Project X helps to fund different projects by partnering with in-country organizations.  I have joined her here in Bissil to meet the community and follow another story of many of the rescued girls in this part of Kenya.  We had met 9 girls this afternoon that have been rescued by a group of volunteer Kenyan women, saving them from child marriage and FGM/C, a common theme in the land of the Masai.   FGM/C is a huge problem in many parts of Africa and specifically in areas where the Masai

 

Pastor Kiroka is a Masai that became a Christian community leader and pastor in Bissil.  He advocates for change and is well respected.  John has 3 children with his wife Mary but is also helping with the upbringing of 5 children of his father, who was recently murdered in a near by town, the case is currently in the courts.  Life can be harsh here under the African sun. 

 

As we walk down the path towards the pastors home, a concrete and corrugated steel 3 room home, one of his dogs erupts past us chasing a white and brown rabbit.  His dogs, although friendly and ready to receive a pat, are extra lean and hungry.  I secretly wish for the rabbits escape, but know it would be a much-needed meal for the dogs.  In the next 2 days I will be hearing the stories of 9 young girls who have experienced too much trauma in their young lives.  Life can be harsh here under the African sun, and I sometimes feel like the white rabbit in Alice in Wonderland, so much to do, what to do first?

 

In the upcoming weeks I will be working and developing this story further, please look for more posts.