Today I realized that this is the last week of June… which blew my mind as I feel like June just started. At the end of the week, photovoice will have been in operation for 1 month. How crazy is that?!?!
Things have been going well overall – there have been many moments of chaos and/or self-doubt and more than a few situations causing an almost overwhelming desire (stemming from utter frustration) to scream at the top of my lungs or just walk away. There have also been a lot of unforgettable shared moments with some really amazing children & youth.
Tumaini was suppose to be open 5 days a week in June, but the funding was held up so this was postponed until July. On days Tumaini is open only for staff (Tuesday & Thursday), photovoice funds lunch for participants & those working on the project (a lunch that is similar to regular lunches at Tumaini to ensure equality among all groups). On these days, we all eat together after the session. One lunch we were sitting around the table with 6 boys 10-14. We were eating ugali (the local favourite carb that is made from corn flour) with sukuma wiki (cut up kale cooked with tomato & onion). There is usually one or two pieces of meat (goat or beef) with each sukuma serving. The boys don’t get a lot of meat so, when the boy beside me wasn’t looking, I put my piece on his plate and continued eating like nothing happened. As a ugali beginner, I still cannot portion properly so ended up with some ugali left after finishing the kales. As I was staring at my ugali trying to psych myself up to eating it plain (its rather tasteless and dry on its own), BAM – kales appeared on my plate. I looked beside me to see the same boy smiling this great big smile staring at his plate like nothing had happened…. Thinking about it now still causes me to smile.
After the first week of explanations, each week has consisted for a classroom session and a practical session somewhere in town. In the classroom there is a mix of teaching about photography techniques & “tools” and reviewing the previous week’s pictures. It is a priceless gift to watch someone’s face the first few times they see themselves on the screen (every person has their picture taken before they are given the camera so we can determine who has taken what pictures) or to see them beam with pride or amazement when they see some of the beautiful pictures they have taken. There are lots of pictures with fingers in front of the lens, white out pictures from being too close & using a flash and pictures with no discernible point of interest… but these are getting less as we progress through the practice sessions. People are starting to freely pose in front of the camera and photographers are beginning to look for contrast or a scene that tells a story. More often than not, people are looking through the viewfinders so less heads are cut off and more facial expressions are being captured. Unfortunately, rainy season is in full swing now so the group keeps getting stuck in the rain (today being the worst case thus far as it was raining sideways due to the wind so 5 of us were huddled under a leaking umbrella getting soaked trying to wait it out… only to realize it wasn’t stopping and having to run back to Tumaini through all the new rivers & lakes that had formed due to a combination of poor drainage & copious amounts of water) or we are left waiting in Tumaini for 1-2 hours with everyone (myself included) getting impatient. Maybe I’ll come home a person with patience?! Well, more realistically as patience has never been one of my strengths, maybe I’ll return at least a more patient person than the person who left to come to Kenya. Although we are struggling to keep our original participants engaged and coming each week, participants & staff alike are learning and improving each week.
Next week, we have one more classroom session & practical session…. And then the first round of cameras will be given to participants to ask the first research question. I’m not sure I can describe the mixture of feelings this thought invokes in me – but I’m excited to see the results.
I cannot share the pictures the participants have taken as these belong to the photographer. Each person will choose at the end of the project what pictures they want to release to Tumaini & the photovoice staff for use. I will post some of those at the end of this journey. I can attach some of the pictures that the photovoice staff has taken during the process…
3 boys 10-14 during one of our classroom sessions
The facilitator showing how to take pictures of reflective surfaces during one of the classroom sessions
Myself and a youth (16) walking down the street during one of the practical sessions. I was carrying one of the other boy’s sack with scrap metals while he took pictures…
One of the older boys practising getting “interesting” angles of ordinary things in Eldoret
Two of the girls in the female group waiting for their turn to practice taking pictures
One of the lunch sessions I was talking about earlier (some of the boys in the 10-14 year old group)
Unrelated to photovoice, but a really cute kid with a MASSIVE umbrella we saw during one of the practical sessions. The umbrella paired with the school uniform are just too cute…
The girl’s group and myself after the practical session (two were missing as they had to leave before the practical session started due to other commitments)
The facilitator with one of the male groups (youths 15-19)… we lost a few since the beginning as they weren’t interested for one reason or another (i.e. wanted to sniff glue, wanted to make money)
The four photovoice staff (me included) have given themselves the challenge of trying to answer a question through pictures (the premise of photovoice) so we can show the participants next week as well as help us to anticipate problems & better relate with what participants will be doing. We are to answer the question, “What do you like most about Eldoret?” I went out on Sunday for 1.5 hours around my neighbourhood taking pictures. I didn’t get many to really answer the question (I found a lot more about what I find challenging about living in Eldoret or couldn’t capture what I wanted in my pictures). I am going to try to take some more soon, but here are a few of my attempts:
This is wall surrounding the back of a house in my compound. People put broken glass into cement as a form of security… clearly no match for this guy!
The design of some of the fences in Eldoret make me smile (who is this keeping out?).
Animals just roam around during the day eating & hanging out (good because all the meat is organic and free range, but random as I can never figure out how people know whose is whose)
Some of the beautiful scenery around
The makeshift pathways people set up to deal with the rain & mud… make me nervous every time!
Some of Kenya’s roads and sidewalks…
What happens when you take one ill-fated step into quicksand-like mud or slip off a rock while trying to make it across paths like above…
I just wanted to say thank you again to everyone who helped this idea come to realization – I am so grateful to be here learning & experiencing everything that I have thus far (even the stress-filled moments that, at the time, make me feel powerless & lost….). I have learned so much about myself both professionally and personally. I must especially thank my family & close friends who listened to my endless photovoice talks, shared their own talents to strengthen different aspects of the project, took time from their busy schedules to come to my fundraiser, helped me get on the plane in one piece & with my essentials, parted with some of their hard earned cash to fund my dream, encouraged me when I felt lost or was afraid of the next step and continue to support me on this journey. Thank you for believing in and supporting me… love you!!
On a non-photovoice note, I am not doing so well on my running schedule. I’m not a morning person… so trying to get up early to go running is not going well. Now that it is raining, I have to pack up and go to the university home as my area is all dirt roads (which are now mud swamps)… this is not making things better at all. I am going to try to use my stubbornness for good (for once) and set a goal for myself (including setting my alarm far from my bed). Fingers crossed as I would really like to run that half both for myself and to help support this amazing Kenyan man who is making a difference for people who, otherwise, have a very slim chance at a bright future (if interested, check him a short youtube video about him & his organization). Wish me luck!
I have also finally read “Kiterunner” and would fully recommend it to anyone looking for an interesting read and/or wanting to learn more about Afghanistan from a perspective completely different than that portrayed in popular media. I finished it in 5 days… I just couldn’t put it down. Next up… a man talking about his year trying to live exactly as the Bible said. Excited!
Most people know that I tend to not make time to watch movies and, when I do, I manage to watch the worst movies possible. I might be turning a new leaf! Lately I have seen Salt (meh, although I shocked multiple times throughout), the whole Bourn series (action and Matt Damon go together like PB & jam), Beginners (I really liked it), Despicable Me (so good! I love animation movies!), Extremely Loud & Incredibly close (Kleenix needed), Catch a Fire (great South African movie about the Apartheid from a different angle) and Wasteland (amazing documentary about garbage & art!). Not one regrettable one in the bunch! Any recommendations as my access to Hollywood & new releases are slim to none here?
Well I am rambling… thanks for reading!
Usiku njema (have a good day),