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Photos of Hope and Courage

April 22, 2008

A photograph can speak a thousand words.Luz Bonita - By 15 year old student Colochon

It can show that you do not require the most sophisticated cameras to capture the true essence of a scene. It can also show that you do not need to be a professional to make poetry out of an everyday activity.

And, most importantly, it can show that children with no means or exposure can wield their cameras like paint brushes and create masterpieces out of the drudgeries of life.

The idea of using photography as a means of honing children’s creativity hit Kathy in 2003 when she started with Joseline who was 8 years old then. Kathy knew the idea would be a hit but had never imagined how well it would actually work out.

After all, these kids were not your average carefree symbols of happiness, plied with the latest gadgets and toys.

The kids that EI works with live an extremely harsh life in the most shockingly poor conditions. They do not have the simplest necessities of life like safe homes or running water, leave alone electronic gadgets like digital cameras. Besides, this photography program was to be started for the most at-risk kids, the ones who had the highest chances of defaulting.

Still, the experiment began in an organized way in July, 2007 in the filthy slums of Granada with 15 nervous students. The beginning was jittery with most students finding it hard to hold the camera steady. But, amazing though it may sound, few of these kids who had never before held a camera managed to create unbelievably artistic shots within half an hour of the first class! This goes on to show that talent and hard work always persist over the worst conditions and the least resources.

As can be imagined, the photography workshop leader was thrilled with the results. The pictures were not jut simple snapshots of any still life but carefully framed posters of the most ordinary objects made extraordinary by their unique points of capture. After about a week of classes, 8 dedicated students were short-listed for the program. They were taught in two batches and timing was adjusted to suit their school schedules. The progress of these 8 kids has been very inspiring. Their photographs posted on Flickr have generated some of the most appreciative comments and numerous “awards”.

The only male in the photography classes is Colochon. This 15 year old boy is not only one of the most creative in the class but also the most at risk of moving on to the other side of law. With a recent loss of his father and a very real possibility of getting hooked to gangs and illegal activities, photography seems to be one of the only positive aspects of his life.

Extremely passionate and creative, this lad could easily go places if shown the right direction. He surprised everyone with his sensitivity when he suggested the idea of shooting elderly homeless people and child workers to raise awareness about them. This idea is to be one of the next EI projects in June. Advanced classes will be offered to him and other interested kids in summer.

It has been statistically determined that most female participants in the EI program (and in Nicaragua in general) often drop out by the time they are around thirteen years old, putting this category of participants at high risk. Photography, thus, became an engaging attraction for these kids who stayed on due to the innovative classes offered.

Joseline was the first unofficial participant. She started out by taking photos of kids entering the program as founder Kathy Adams interviewed them. She has matured into a phenomenal photographer and an excellent student who is still very much with EI. Just like her, several other kids, who might have cut short their education, have been tempted into sticking with the program. Photography has become the most loved extra-curricular activity that helps the kids channel their creative energies into timeless creations.

What is absolutely delightful is that these kids try to go beyond the usual technicalities and look deep into the soul of the scenery. A leaf becomes a canvas for shadow play. Fruits change into colorful paintings. A sunrise becomes a light from heaven. Tractors convert into dusty compositions of harvest. A pup becomes the symbol of these kids’ sad lives.

The heart wrenching conditions of these children are completely contrasted by the sheer magnificence of their lovely photographs. Every photo shows a mind crying out to have better opportunities and a heart determined to change the misery of life. Just look at the world through the eyes of the photographers and you see stories of hope amidst misery and courage in the face of devastation.

Neha Singh


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About Empowerment International

In Nicaragua 50% of the kids that start 1st grade never make it to 5th grade. It is our goal to make this percentage drop significantly.

$30/month is what it takes us at Empowerment International to put a child in school. If you would like to help a child stay in school and get better life, please click on the link below or contact us

Donate at Change.org

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