Grateful for IWD2016

It is International Women’s Day and it seemed appropriate to bask in the glow of all the women in my life that I am grateful for.  From my family (mother and daughters, aunts and cousins) to the many amazing women that have inspired and given me friendship.  Also to the women photographers out there in the world whose work will always be a light to me.  I also feel so thankful for the women that I have met along the way and around the world as I have worked, both behind and in front of the camera, it really has been so awesome.  I made a promise to myself when I had been working for a while internationally, that when I took a photo of someone, I wanted it to honor something in them, their struggle, their joy, their story, and I never wanted to compromise anything about them in the taking of the photo.  In other words I wanted complicity, I wanted them to feel like they were in it with me on some level, we were doing this together.  So whether photographing a woman in the midst of her challenges, or in the buoyancy of her empowerment, or the arc of her hope, the photos would hold a deep truth for myself, the woman and anyone that viewed it.  I thank them all for allowing me to hold that moment with them, I will never forget you.  I also want to honor all the women photojournalists that have paid with their lives, you are never forgotten.

ccs_6055.jpg Full Circle Today is World Water Day Back to Basics #WaterWednesday WHO WILL CARE? Drop by Drop A MOTHERsLOAD Photo of the Day

Surfacing

It has been a while since I have blogged or
posted. Partly because of a nasty flu right after our event in April, partly because my other work as a set still photographer has kept me busy, and also because of a little but of burnout! I think it is important to say that we all need breaks from certain things that are demanding of us, sometimes the most important thing is to do nothing at all! Oh, and also, I am moving!

But last night felt like I was getting back, returning to business as normal, resurfacing for that breath of fresh air! A great night with my C4C”wing-girls” Thea Grivakes and Gillian Harrow! First, a meet and greet with some amazing folks from The Compassionate Eye Foundation, Robert Brown , Susan McDonald, Rob Daley and Sue Dick! Then on to Dignity Vancouver 2012, an event in support of The Acumen Fund for Global Poverty, at Vancouver Urban Winery.

Getting back into the swing of Cameras4Change business confirmed that
It is easy to become overwhelmed in our world, and reminds me of people I have met working in field, very much over whelmed by the extreme poverty and life issues they have to face every day. It can mask any bit of joy or hope inside of you. It takes alot of effort to rise through that. The images and photos up for auction last night were a testament to lives living this way, very powerful and truthfully beautiful! It gives me hope to know so many of us want to see transformation, and that photography truly has the capacity to assist in change!

GO ASK ALICE

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

WHO WILL CARE?

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Today as I reviewed some of my past work I was reminded of the story of Jennifer, a young child in Siaya County, Kenya, who lost both of her parents to HIV/AIDs and was living with her 75 year old HIV+ Grandmother, Momma Margret* along with 5 other siblings and cousins.  The story was so poignant due to the fact that Jennifer, after hearing the adults speak of how HIV had ravaged her family, ran out to stand in front of a small home built after her mother died to represent her.  Jennifer stood there consoling herself as she was reminded of her mother, and Scholastica Appidu, a coordinator from SWAP (Safe Water and Aids Project) informed me that she has seen the little girl do this before.  

 

Jennifer2

The story of Jennifer, her Mother and Grandmother is a perfect example of how HIV/AIDs cuts a wide swathe, and how women are more directly affected than men as they are the caretakers.  My work as a humanitarian photographer has exposed me to a wide range of situations, human rights issues, and subjects.  My question was, “who will take care of these souls?”  The lucky ones do have family, which may give some emotional support: they may get their ARV’s and clean water supplied to them.  But, what about the importance of psycho-social support?  Who helps them to cope emotionally with the devastation, especially when it is so wide spread?  Sometimes the community steps in, sometimes caring individuals do, but more often than not I have seen the sting of lifes ramifications leave people to just hold it in.   The UN’s MDG’s cover a broad range of these issues, dealing with many of the more widespread problems, poverty & hunger, universal education, gender equality, maternal health, HIV/AIDs, Environmental Sustainability, and Global Parternship.  Looking deeper into the goals, I found that there was an urgency for programs that would address the emotional welfare of people that suffer, and especially for women and girls.

 

Mm

When I worked in Haiti last year teaching visual media to youth, I discovered that even the small one on one time I spent with these teens had a large impact.  That is where the inspiration for Cameras 4 Change came from.  I saw it as a way to not only impart skill transfer, and teach other specific components such as clean water & sanitation, or HIV awareness: but equally as important it built in social and emotional support and skills.  Arts based programs can open the door to creativity, and build in life long mechanisms to dealing with trauma, loss or extreme challenges. In some cases this can be the first step to healing from these experiences.

 

Over the next year I will be initiating a number of different projects working with people of all ages in Africa, Haiti, and more.  I hope you will join me on my journey.

DREAM BIG

1.  Working in Haiti with a group of youth teaching camera skills and bringing out so much more!

2.  A few of the girls checking out their work at the street exhibit in Petite Riviere, working with the girls in this group broadened  their perspectives about life.  Initially they all spoke of being only nurses or teachers, but holding a camera gave them other ideas too!

3. When girls that come from extreme poverty are educated, they make significantly better choices about money, family and education than do their male counterparts.  Women are part of the solution to a global shift in Social Change, so please support programs that educate girls!!!

 

 

Lately things have been stunningly quiet which can be a little disconcerting.  Especially when you feel like you have had months of being ON FIYAH!  In the big picture context however, this is a sure bet that you are cooking something up, ideas, connections, stuff on the backburner etc; it will all come forth, just have to keep on believing you are on the right path.

 

As many of you who have been following my blogs know, I have at times written about Cameras 4 Change, it is kind of my baby, and it is still in it’s gestation period, not quite a new born yet, still forming itself.  There is going to be more to come before we really kick it off, having said that, we know a few things about it. 

 

       it is born of my experience working with photography, creative writing, and social media as a means to

       connect people with the world to bring on social change.

       I got the idea after working in Haiti teaching a youth education program using cameras teaching teens and loved how it instilled so much more in them, like confidence, leadership, creativity, possibility, passion and hope!

 

Last night I had a dream that I was back in Africa, working with youth in a small community doing art-work inspired by photos they had taken.  The results were beautiful in my dream.  Now I want it to become an even bigger reality.  It is starting to feel tangible, especially as I realize how much has formed with Cameras4Change over the past year since I returned from Haiti.

 

       I now have a dedicated webpage and FaceBook Page for Cameras4Change

       There are 4 people involved – IT’S NOT JUST ME!!!!  you will meet them all soon!

       We are getting interest from the outside world, which is ENCOURAGING!!!

       Recently I got help in formulating the first draft of a MISSION STATEMENT – we will be reworking it at a second meeting coming up soon, it’s fantastic to be building from this!!!

       SOMETHING IS HAPPENING HERE!!!

 

In the meantime, I am continuing to work with Project X Impact on creating sustainable change to issues around FGM, Child Marriage, and the girl child in Kenya, as well as continuing themes around the World Water Crisis and Gender.  Please consider helping support the girls we have been working with for their education, even small amounts add up to make a huge difference. 

 

Go to the donation link at Project X Impact to become part of something greater than yourself.  Effecting Social Change is a challenge, poverty is a door, education is a key, and women are part of the solution.

 

“Your work is to discover your world and then with all your heart give yourself to it”  Buddha

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

W4 – Water Wednesday Women helping Women

Alot happens in a week.  I thought I would be writing a post about a reality check badly needed as I watched my city burn a week ago from people rioting in the streets of Vancouver after the Stanley Cup Final.  I took in a view from my balcony that kind of surprised me, but sadly the truth was before my eyes.  Yes there has been rioting all over the world of recent, for things like basic human rights, government oppression and human torture, yet they were rioting and looting in Vancouver because the city had set up giant TV screens for all to watch the hockey game, booz, a sense of self rightousness amongst a privileged few with a lack of good judgement caused the riots in Vancouver with the added excuse of losing the hockey game.  Enough said.

Thankfully alot does happen in a week, and I am excited to see progress and gain in another part of the world where people struggle on a daily basis to find things like, water capable of drinking without inciting illness and disease, and money to buy enough food to feed your family.  Earlier this year I visited a small community in the Rift Vally with Greg Algood of CSDW where a kiosk was being set up by another arm of P&G.  Women were being given business training on how to run the kiosk and sell various sundries in small amounts.  This is so positive, it is micro business on a different scale as it introduces products that women would not necessarily be able to purchace.  Kind of like when we go to a warehouse store but can’t buy the big lots of bulk products, they can’t afford to buy even a regular size package of something, it needs to be broken down into small amounts.  I love the concept as it opens up vertical possibilities for many people in need, and helps women to help thier families.  They sell many simple household products in ways that make them available and affordable, this is not necessarily something new in Kenya, but it is new that a large corporation is taking the initiative here, and providing the support to kickstart it in the form of business training, and other needed infrastructure.  They also provide water at the kiosk which has already been treated and is clean and safe!

Setting up a kiosk and providing business training to local women

Treating the water from the Sandu River

Crystal Clear and ready to Drink!