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.”

Qmunity

WE are all about creating community at C4C and so when we were given the opportunity to work with the transgender youth group at Qmunity in Vancouver, we were delighted to come up with a novel idea for a workshop.  We wanted a short program that would be fun and not only give participants the chance to learn something through the experience of photography, but also create the space for them to safely share about themselves and get to know other group members too.

Lead volunteer facilitator Kimberley French decided that a polaroid portrait session, complete with lights and a backdrop would be the perfect solution.  The evening workshop began by meeting with the group and then sharing a short slideshow complete with an intro to the colorful and fun polaroid work of Andy Warhol.  After that we hooked up the participants into small groups so that they could each take turns photographing themselves and each other.  Afterwards they were encouraged to get even more colorful and use their creative writing skills to expand on themselves through the theme “What I like about being queer is ….”

All of the participants work was mounted on a wall to admire and then afterwards we all spoke about the experience.  We capped the evening off with a draw for a brand new Nikon Coolpix camera from Nikon Canada.

We loved the comments:

  • “This was the most fun I have ever had”
  • “These portraits really boosted my self esteem”       
  • “I have only ever seen photos of myself as a boy, and this is the first time there are photos of me as a girl, and I love them. I didn’t even know if I wanted to participate, but I am so glad I did”      
  • “I loved that you told us about Andy Warhol”

As ever we love creating workshops that allow others to explore themselves in a positive way, have fun, create a stronger community, and all through the art of photography!

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Big thanks to volunteers Kimberley French, Kathryne Racich and Cate Cameron

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Cameras4Change in Thailand – a volunteer’s story

Early this May, volunteer extraordinaire Justin Yapp partnered with C4C to run a program in Thailand!  We loaned Justin a workshop in a backpack! He took a small lowepro backpack with 10 Nikon Coolpix cameras, cards and a thumbdrive containing all of the essential information to run a C4C photoworkshop.  It was exciting to get his newsupdates and photos from the kids, so much so that we asked him to do a guest blog post and here it is!

This past June, myself and four other young adults from Vancouver ventured off to Chiang Rai, Thailand to volunteer at Baan Nam Jai (BNJ) also known as Home of the Open Heart– an orphanage developed for kids who have been affected by HIV.

Screen Shot 2015-06-25 at 10.23.39 PMDuring the kid’s summer break, we organized various activities such as swimming in a river, venturing through a night safari, walking at night markets, and after partnering with Cameras 4 Change, we were able to include photography.
These kids were able to express themselves through photography where words could not be expressed. Their passion, desire to be heard, love for their surroundings and love for one another are seen through their photographs.
Everyday we picked a topic such as shadows, favourite spots, plants, and friends and they eagerly ran up to us to show what they came up with… including multiple selfies. I remember one of the boys showing me a photograph that he took of his favourite spot in the orphanage and why it was important to him.
I am extremely impressed by their perseverance, hope, and outlook in life despite being marginalized and going through hardships at an early age. It was a privilege to be able to share that time with them and to be able to see things from their perspective through photography.
Thanks Cameras 4 Change for making this activity possible!

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A Community Celebrates through “Nuestro Foto” – “Our Picture” Camera Workshop!

Cameras –> Education –> Community –> Connection –> Action!!  Oh ya, and a lot of FUN!

So happy to post the photos from the final day of the first Cameras4Change workshop in San Francisco Xochimilco, a lovely community high in the hills above Mexico City.

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This was a large workshop with over 20 participants ranging in age from 6 -72!!  They all amazed us with their enthusiasm, wisdom with the camera and some absolutely beautiful photos.  The workshop took place over 6 days and ended with a public exhibit in the center of the community at the church of San Francisco.  Thank you to all that came and all that helped us from Isla  Urbana, our collaborative partner in Mexico and the community members in San Francisco!  The party started around 11 am with a special theatrical performance by Leo, and ended with sharing the work of the students along with their creative writing about water in their community – “Agua es Vida”.  It was an honor to work with you all.  At the end of the program all participants received all the images that they shot.  This week we will be meeting a new group in the community of Milpa Alta! We will be creating a special gallery of all of the students best work from these workshops, labeled with the community name!  Thanks again to Nikon Canada, Lowepro Bags and Sandisk for helping with the camera equipment, and to John Fluevog Shoes and all of our supporters for getting us here!

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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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Cameras4Change a year in review

Screen Shot 2014-08-01 at 12.51.06 PMC4C 2014 AGM – A Year in Review V4

Here attached is a pdf document we want to share with our friends, it is a year in review recently presented at our AGM in June.  It has been a busy year for our C4C volunteers as you will see.  We will have a more in depth newsletter coming out soon, and look forward to sharing a short video from our Mexico workshop!  More photos in the attached PDF!

 

C4C 2014 AGM – A Year in Review V4

Take a Deep Breath

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Today is a day to do just that, take a deep breath and receive the moment.  The time Cameras 4 Change has spent here in Mexico has been in a word magic, or as they say here, “magico”.  Much like the beat of the drums of the Aztec Concheros, we have been drawn to the rhythm of many different ways of life here in Mexico.  First with the IRRI/Paz Paz Bus Project (partners include IRRI arms Isla Urbana, Sistema Biobolsa and Proyecto ConcentrArte) In DF, the largest city in North America, with over 30 million people, you can imagine the hustle, but we worked in Quiltepec, high on the south side overlooking the teaming city.  Life here is very different and the community amazed us with their ingenuity, and pride.  This coming Saturday we will finish the project there, culminating in a local exhibit and celebration.

As part of our objective with Cameras 4 Change, we also love to provide key imagery for the organizations we work with.  This trip certainly provided that opportunity.  Two of the partners Isla Urbana and ConcentrArte work in La Cebolleta, a remote Huichol community deep and high in the Sierra Madres.  Working on this project named Hata Tukari (Water is Life in the Huichol language Wirikuta) was an astounding experience, away from wifi via a 15 hour journey.  We also met and worked with Taller Lu’um (Mother Earth in Mayan) is the inception of partners Santiago Cosio Pando and Alan Favero.  The organization works with different indigenous women in Mexico providing a business model for women to sell handmade artisinal goods.  Since “transformation” is one of our tag words, the time spent in this community was exactly that!

I was also able to take a small printer and make photos for some of the community there, it was very exciting to share images of them with them!  Photos are so important to people, so make sure you print some of yours soon!! I can not wait to share some of the images!

Again I want to thank you, all of our supporters both here in Mexico and in Canada (and everywhere else too) for helping us to be here.      mex logos comp                      Our Partners and our supporters!!!  Muchas Gracias!!

Paz Paz Bus Supporters

 

Day 2 at a glance – or “The Beauty of Quiltepec”

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The second day of the C4C program in Quiltepec took place on Sunday June 8.  It was rewarding to see the participants return with as much or more enthusiasm.  Two girls had to race to be on time, coming from a function at their school, their mother came later to sit and talk with us, she wanted us to know how much they were enjoying the program, and how they were running to get there as soon as possible!

Working in informal communities can often be catch them if you can!  Members have so many challenges to life, and Quiltepec is no stranger to this.  So you know that you are doing something right if they come back!  They are however, fiercely proud of the paradise that they live in, and many of the participants photos showed just that, the beauty of Quiltepec.  Quiltepec is nesteled high above the south end of Mexico City, the community members have an astounding array of gardens, plants, trees and flowers, along with an equally large assortment of animals: sheep, cows, horses, dogs, cats, rabbits, ducks, and chickens.

But the heart of this community lies in the way they live, work and support each other together.  This is the familiar way in Mexico, values are deep for family and community, you make things happen together.  So apparent in the way our workshop came together, we needed a tarp up, and electricity, we asked Silvia one the community leaders, and of course it happened!

We are so fortunate to be welcomed into this incredible community, this place of beauty!  Thank you to all who are making this happen from the participants, the community leaders (especially Silvia, Maura and Elena) our ground partners (IRRI, Sistema Biobolsa, Isla Urbana, ConcentrArte) and our partners Nikon Canada, Fluevog Shoes, and  Porticus!  Un Buen Dia!

Thea Grivakes distributes a file to each of the students with their photos from the first day! Always exciting.

PPBWS DAY 2_0003Elena looking at her portrait and shots that she took on day 1.

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Lalo, Maura, a community member and Guillermo pose for a shot.PPBWS DAY 2_0008

Lily reviews and gives tips from a prepared slideshow.

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Students chose themes to work from for the dayPPBWS DAY 2_0038Off they go to shoot!

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Reviewing and editing work with the studentsPPBWS DAY 2_0045 PPBWS DAY 2_0062

The end of the day group shot!!PPBWS DAY 2_0015

Nely and Carlos, two of the young adults that attended – both very talented!PPBWS DAY 2_0019

Silvia brought some beautiful flowers to us to take home.PPBWS DAY 2_0021

Maria, Rachel, Lily and Thea PPBWS DAY 2_0077 PPBWS DAY 2_0079

Rachel with Silvia, a strong community leader and pretty great photographer too!PPBWS DAY 2_0086 Lily says goodbye to Silvia, we form such strong bonds working in these places.

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

 

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!

 

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