I know Global Benefit is a Clean Water and HIV/AIDS organization so you might be wondering why I spend so much time sharing other projects and writing about other people and organizations. I do this because I want to celebrate what others are doing and hope it inspires you to realize that ordinary people like you and me, can and are, making an positive impact in our world. Not everyone needs to be passionate about clean water like I am, but I think each one of us can find someway of giving back to humanity. I give back because of what Jesus did in my life when I was 22 years old. I was quite lost in life and God gave my life purpose gave me a passion for life and for people. Not that I have life figuered out…absolutely not, but I have been catapulted into a journey that has taken me places that I never dreamed about; all good of course. It’s been a trip helping others, especially those who live in extreme poverty. If you know me (Mark Warren) I am anything but religious, yes I go to church and yes I read my Bible, but bottom line is I love having a part to play in helping people get out of extreme poverty. So on that note, here is another story.
This morning we went to the African Bagel Company for what is called Donut Days. Every Saturday the African Bagel Company opens up for a few hours to sell donuts and coffee – another novelty in Rwanda. Most Rwandans don’t like sweets but many Expats who either work as missionaries, or for NGO’s or the UN crave them, so they come in droves to hang out, network and stock of for the weeks supply of Bagels, homemade frozen pizza, salsa, and bagel chips. It was a lot of fun and I had a chance to meet a lot of great people who have a lot of passion.
In the afternoon we went to hang out with Linda who has an organization called Through the Eyes of Hope www.eyesofhopeproject.com .
Linda Smith, who is a photojournalist New York City, first traveled to Rwanda in 2006 where she spent much of her time behind the camera. The Rwandans were captivated by the photographs that Linda took since many of the children and adults she photographed had never seen an image of themselves. Linda recognized the potential that the camera held for the children, by not only providing them with documentation of their lives but also allowing them to experience a sense of joy and fun.
When she returned to the United States, Linda began researching photograph-based projects for children. She wanted to develop an art program for children that utilized photography and had the potential to be successfully conducted in third world countries. As a result of her research and vision, the Through the eyes of Hope Project was born in 2007.The project has two goals-to teach basic photographic principles to extremely disadvantaged children and to educate children who are interested in learning about the children of other cultures.
In January 2007, Linda ran a pilot project in Rwanda with eleven orphaned children from the Kagugu School, who had lost their parents in the1994 genocide and AIDS. The workshops proved to be very successful and had a great impact on the eleven children. At the Kagugu School, teacher Prossy Yohana has continued the photography program to extend the benefits to the many other deserving children. Many of the photography students at the Kagugu School have been earning extra money for their school fees by photographing weddings and taking passport shots.
The Kids assignment for today, after looking at samples of famous portraits, was to go throughout the community finding people to take their portrait. I went out on assignment with two 18 year old boys; we had a lot of fun laughing and talking about American movies. One of them wants to be a comedian like Mr. Bean and the other one want to be a researcher – they truly believe they can be anything they set their mind to. Once all the kids returned back to the class with their photos, the children all reviewed eachother’s photos and had to vote on who had the best work. Of course they all voted for themselves – but it was great to see the excitement and hear the hope and promise in these kids voices. Rwanda definitely in an emerging country and it has great promise; I can see it in this next generation of children.