This 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!
That’s what modern thinking wants us to do, always focus on the positive, and that is part of our MO at C4C. Yesterday’s attack at the Westgate Mall in Nairobi cuts a clean swath through our minds as we have family, friends and colleagues in that city. Our C4C team spent time there last year, immediately after another Al-Shabaab extremist attack, the suicide bus bombings, and so the thoughts that haunt us now as we await an outcome are playing real time in our minds. Our programs work to advance thought patterns about ourselves by using creative thinking and photography as a way to “transform”, and while working in Kenya last year this became so evident as many of our participants had deeply traumatized histories, some girls from Somalia and other East African countries that were emotionally scarred from events as a result of conflict and war involving Al-Shabaab. We hope and pray for the best possible outcome in all of this, and our hearts are with the victims, their families and all affected by this horrific attack. We stand with you.
Recently someone in my family made the reference that they could no longer support any financial aid to African countries due to the fact that the money and effort previously poured into the continent has not done a thing! I was astounded by this attitude, as I thought that this way of thinking was really something of the past! I am also sure there would be millions of people living and working there that would be surprised too, as they are likely proof of the changes that have made positive transformation in lives and communities there. Further investigation shone light on the fact that my family member had been involved with an organization where the in country ground partner absconded with donated money and equipment. I can understand how as volunteers and donars they would feel angry, but this is such an out of date sentiment in this day and age. I think fear stops many from actually taking action, maybe of doing the wrong thing, or wanting to shut out the pain that others may exist in. We cannot bury our heads in the sand. Its like saying, we have poured millions into healthcare, but people still get sick. I myself have experienced the wrong end of the stick in the Zambia, Kenya and Haiti, but I don’t want isolated incidence’ to color the page for every person and thing that happens there. We all have eyes and we can all see that life can change in an instant, we have all been helped and supported in some way in our lives, and we have a responsibility to others too.
I am thankful that as a human being I have come to the realization that there will likely always be huge divides in the world, but that does not mean that we should not be caring, compassionate and make effort to do something. We are all given chances to help others every day. Missed opportunities happen all the time, but don’t worry, there will be another one just around the corner! If you have never taken action, please try it sometime, you will be surprised as to how “you” feel afterwards, and how it will change the way you “see” things. We are all actually “one” and if you don’t see that then you are part of the problem, be part of the solution instead. Nuff Said!
It works both ways, Jennifer was one of the first girls Sol Garcia and I worked with in Kenya on the subject of Child Marriage and FGM. She changed our life, and hers was changed too by a sponsor who has allowed her to educate herself and move forward. This meeting was 2 years after our first introduction, and she is a changed girl!
These Kenyan women work hard in their own communities to exact change on the lives of girls in the community by saving them from child marriage. The risk and sacrifice to their own lives is extensive, but they work to do it, very often with the support of others from outside of their country that allows the work to continue.
Today is World Population Day, with this years theme being Teenage Pregnancy. Cameras4Change has been involved with this theme for the past few years as we have been working first hand with East African girls directly affected by this. Whether it is a cultural practice to marry girls as young as 9, or through conflict, war, and rape, girls are often the first to suffer and the ones most affected in the long term. We applaud the efforts of the UN to bring attention to this and want to stand in unison with the many organizations and individuals working tirelessly to bring awareness and change to the all too many lives that are at risk.
As we move forward in our efforts through programs dedicated to the transformation of challenged youth both here in Canada and again in 2014 internationally, we hope you will keep in touch with our plans and join us to make a difference through the amazing power of photography workshops, allowing individuals the opportunity to raise self awareness, advocate and move forward with self determination and an enhanced creative outlook.http://cameras-4-change.org/donate-2/
When we first decided to run photo workshops in Kenya, we had a very long list of what we wanted, we had some really lofty goals, which I am very happy to relay that we were able to accomplish. Cameras4Change is proud of what the digital camera workshops can build in to the curriculum, we know that there are some key fundamental skills, lots of community building, self awareness and loads more that goes along with sparking creativity through photography. We took alot of time to consider different ways to ignite specific pathways of thought, and to get them freeflowing with their creative juices. When the workshops were in full throttle we gave specific assignments and urged the participants to push themselves, but afterwards we realized that the opportunity to photograph what gave them meaning in life was not that different from any other teens. What we forgot about was the plain and simple truth of allowing them to photograph what they wanted to, that being themselves with their friends, because the value of that was actually pretty huge. We looked at this as a visual architecture of their own history, and knowing the importance of that in our own lives, it is not that mysterious that they would be doing this right away and as much as possible once they had a camera in their hands! It gave them joy, it made them forget for a while what all of the difficulties were in their lives, it made things seem all the more possible, and afterwards when they actually held the photos that they took there was even more excitement. Simple and effective.
Friday March 8th is international women’s day, and we at Cameras4Change could not let it go without giving a huge shout out to the amazing women that we have worked with over the past couple of years. As Female Genital Cutting (FGM or FGC) has been in the forefront of the news this past week, I want to personally thank all of the women whom I have met and “e”met that are working on this issue. For the ladies in Ibissil and Kajiado who donate their time and energy and passion to saving girls from early child marriage and fgm, their bravery and strength is incredible. Mrs Loki, Judy and Co, you have blazed a trail and many young girls have you to thank! I also want to thank my running partner Sol Garcia of Project X Impact for her dedication and support in this arena, along with the team at The Maasai Girls Education Fund who help to sponsor girls after they have been rescued or left situations of early child marriage and FGM. Also a big round of applause to Julia Lalla-Maharajh and her incredible team at The Orchid Project in the UK for their tenacity and conviction to making the world notice! Bravo Julia! Lastly I want to thank the countless girls in Kenya and anywhere else in the world that have had the courage and strength to stand up and say no themselves. No one is going to stop you! Keep on!!!
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
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.
PS: We will keep everyone posted on the process of the documentary as we continue to move forward on it!
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!
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.