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.


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!


JeCC2_9677 CC2_9686 CC2_9690 CC2_9705 CC2_9725 CC2_9729 CC2_9735 CC2_9742 CC2_9743 CC2_9745 CC2_9747 CC2_9753 CC2_9755 CC2_9759 CC2_9762 CC2_9768 CC2_9770 CC2_9773 CC2_9775 CC2_9781 CC2_9783 CC2_9787 CC2_9790 CC2_9800  CC2_9815 CC2_9818 CC2_9819 CC2_9821 CC2_9822 CC2_9824


Today is World Water Day

If it were not for beginning my journey into the world of Humanitarian Photography with CAWST capturing the lives of those without access to clean water, I would not have experienced some of the most amazing things in my life.  Water does indeed change everything! Water is Life!

@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


On the Road to Mexico

Walking my dog in the crisp Vancouver sun this morning I felt lucky.  Tomorrow I will be flying to Mexico City. Sol Garcia of Project X Impact and I are on the road again, this time we are teaming up with ISLA URBANA, an amazing organization that is helping thousands of people in the barrios of Mexico City with water.  We often think of Africa, Haiti and other countries when it comes to the water crisis, but it exists in so many locations that we are less aware of.  One would think that Mexico City is not necessarily one of those places, but in actual fact daily, millions of people living there, fathers, mothers, sons and daughters strain to meet their fundamental water demands.  Isla Urbana is facilitating the widespread adoption of rainwater harvesting, a sustainable solution to the world’s water problems. 

We will be visiting the projects and staying in Tlalpan, the barrio district where they are working, meeting the families and seeing the process.  We are thrilled to have been invited to work with them, and to share the stories first hand.  So I am dusting up on my Spanish, getting my equipment ready, and excited to meet a new group of people doing the right thing! vida y el agua

Sol and I will both be collecting stories and images to share, and we have decided to post this blog together!

As you know, Cate and I are both passionate about this water crisis and doing something about it. We will be visiting the organization for a week (starting next week Nov 3rd-9th) and doing what we do best, researching and bringing the knowledge to the public! I will be interviewing community members about their experiences and Cate will capture it all and more. We will have wifi at our place of stay and will be blogging from there. I think this is a great opportunity.  For me, it hits home because I’ve long wanted to do a project in Mexico being that my family is from there.  I’ve been visitng every other year and I’ve grown up seeing the need and the situation.  In Mexico City alone, 8 million people lack access to adequate water.  I’m excited that Cate and I can team up again and I look forward to this continuing.


In rural coastal Kenya you have to get up pretty early to be the first one at the well.  On a drive from Mombassa inland working with P&G’s Greg Allgood, Keith Call from World Vision and members from CARE, we came across a well teaming with women, children and buckets.  I scanned the crowd and walked towards a young woman with a serious look on her face.  I asked her name, it was Alice and she was 22; but she did not want me to take her picture.  As we continued to talk I learned that she had to walk ½ an hour to get to the well, with her day beginning around 3am, sometimes she make as many as 6 trips per day.  This is time spent away from her 2 young children, and time she could be putting towards so many other things but instead she is spending 4 hours a day for water. Alice was with a neighbour, and as we talked she finally let a smile out when I asked her again if I could photograph her.  I walked a ways up the road with her and her friend, and tried to imagine her life, the length of the road ahead, but really just enjoyed walking with her.  Thank you Alice


*I wrote this on Tuesday, the day after the death of Jack Layton, an astonishing human being whose beliefs and life will continue to teach us for generations!


Yesterday one man lost his life in a battle with Cancer.  His last words to the world in a letter to Canadians were succinct, simple and synonymous with the way he lived, “My friends, love is better than anger, Hope is better than fear, Optimism is better than despair.  So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic, And we’ll change the world  I have seen this posted a multitude of times already on Facebook and Twitter.  Jack Layton, the leader of the NDP politico and the official leader of the opposition party here in Canada had values that I have not seen in other political leaders, actually, they were values that I don’t always see in everyday people, but they are values that are so important.


I choose to live without fear, and with optimism and love, perhaps that is why I accomplish the things I do in my life.  Today I spoke with David Vargas, chief operating officer with Isla Urbana, an amazing organization working in the barrios on the edge of Mexico City.  Tlalpan, the city delagacion where they operate is home to some 1-1.5 million people who have no water infrastructure.  Isla Urbana harvests rainwater and implements cisterns to keep the water in.  They have done this in a very cost effective way, and in the past 2 years since they began operating have implemented 500 cisterns and plan to facilitate another 1000! 


 Clean Safe Water is what makes the difference between living and surviving in many cases.


I love the work they do, because at the outset, it could seem daunting to take on such a dense area, but this is how change happens, how transformation begins.  Simply by beginning, 1 person, 1 family, 1 community, 1 cistern at a time!  They are revolutionizing rainwater harvesting to create a sustainable and environmentally stable solution to answer many of the water related problems that exist in Mexico City.  Isla Urbana is really taking the same values that Jack Layton had during his 3 decades of public service and putting them in action, a passionate, courageous man who fought many times for the rights of those that could not, refused to be affected by despair, hopelessness, or negativity, and simply making it happen because it is the right thing.  Thank you for the work that you do!


 It makes the difference to being able to work and make money to feed your grandchildren every day, Casey Kasoma‘s  children are dead and she is left alone to care for their children, waterbourne disease is responsible for 88% of diarhea cases worldwide, leading to death and loss in ability to work.


 In the developing world (that is most of the world) clean safe water is hard to come by.  Here in Haiti I visited SHADA, a slum in Cap-Haitian. Ancient Romans had better quaility of life than half the people alive now *Water.Org

The Women of Blue Hills



In late August I arrived at a small rural community on the edge of Cap-Haitian in northern Haiti.  Nothing could have prepared me for the reception, we arrived to a room of 90 women, they clapped and sang beautifully to us, bringing tears to our eyes right away.  They had been waiting most of the day in the hot Haitian sun, our plane was delayed and then our drivers got lost on the way to Blue Hills.  But when we arrived it was all worth it, the drama that unfolded matched the moody skies as dark heavy storm clouds, lightening and thunder danced around us.  We were there to talk to them about their lives, their worries and sorrows, and how water played a part in all of that.  I quickly decided to do a mass portrait session with them, and this poster is a tribute to the women of Blue Hills.