Photovoice has gone from an up-and-coming project to my all-encompassing reality as of late. I don’t have children, but my current life feels (what I imagine) it is like when you transition from being pregnant to having an infant who needs your attention & time almost constantly.
Week 2 is now complete… and I am happy to say that we have retained 73% of the people from last week. We talked camera parts, went through an album of “What not to do” pictures and discussed ways you can tell stories through pictures. Afterwards, each group went out to a street nearby and each person got 15 minutes to use a digital camera to tell the most interesting story they could. The facilitator and mzungu (white person) note-taker [aka me for 4 groups and Colin for 1] helped reinforce the rules and help the photographers take the techniques from the classroom to reality. The RA has been away all week due to a family emergency so it’s been a bit of a struggle making each day happen… but somehow everything worked out.
The project is monumental on a personal level for multiple reasons. It’s strange to actually see the sessions happening that I designed back in October & November in my living room (with invaluable input from my absolutely genius-in-their-field friends Ken & Lauren). It’s almost unfathomable that I have moved from being the research assistant to actually having one of my own. Being the boss is so foreign to me that I have to take a moment now and again to take in what is happening. When no one knows what to do or an answer to the current hurdle, I have to mentally pinch myself to remind myself that everyone is looking to me for an answer and I can no longer defer to the person in charge (as its me). Most of all, sometimes I get this mental head slap (similar to Product Rule if you have ever heard that story) of reality that reminds me that this is really happening… all the hours, dead ends, resisted moments of throwing something at a wall, challenge of overcoming yet another roadblock and the necessary millions of consultations with people actually led to something that I believe will make a difference. It’s these moments of clarity in the mist of the chaos that often makes me tunnel vision onto the moment that result in this indescribable swell of a whole array of emotion… I suppose it makes those 9-12 hour days more bearable… right?
Below is a link to Tumaini’s quarterly newsletter….Photovoice made the front page J: http://www.scribd.com/doc/97104411/Tumaini-Spring-2012-Newsletter#fullscreen
I have included some more pictures below:
Other noteworthy moments:
– As I walked back from town gathering the participants for the project, I met up with two of the street girls (each carrying a baby). One of them basically threw the baby she was carrying into my arms as she did not want to come to Tumaini, but the mother (who had just recently had twins) could not carry both. Before I knew what was happening, I was carrying the smallest baby I have ever walked around with to Tumaini. He, and his full head of curly hair, was so light and so freaking cute. I always have mixed feelings when I see street mothers with babies – there is that innate side that ooohs and ahhhs because before you is the most precious (and defenceless) member of your species that you just want to protect him or her. It’s also always insane to think you were once that small… but then there is this sense of sadness that this innocent live is likely going to face more obstacles in his or hers first year of life than I have ever faced in my 26 years on this planet. You also wonder if he or she has become HIV positive before they are even able to sit up. You just wish you had endless funds to help fix the situation the mother is living in now and, even more importantly, that the mother actually wants to change her situation & plans to do her best to provide a different life for her child. Basically, street mothers and babies result in this whole slew of emotions that I’m not sure how to process.
– I saw two youths (not street youths) get robbed while I was in one of the bases… and then watched them run after the people that had robbed them into a group of even more street youths leading to round 2 of robbing. I have never been robbed or being in a situation that was extremely dangerous to my self-preservation, but I don’t see how you can hit another human being in the head with a rock over maybe 5-20 dollars. As I stand there shocked by what I am seeing and even more shocked when multiple people pick up rocks, I also wonder if I would see this as normal as eating if I had grown up in the same situation. Could I do the same thing? Mom, before you have a heart attack, I was behind some trees with Dan, the outreach coordinator, acting as my human shield to make sure I was ok. Also, most of the street children & youth know me by now and are unbelievable kind to me – I never feel afraid when I am in a base as there is always at least a few who look out for me and make sure I am okay.
– I was walking around looking for to recruit some more females for the project with Dan and Lewis… and found this woman about my age (I think… street life makes people look older than they are usually) crying outside of one of the shops. These women are tough and I don’t think I have ever seen one of the older women cry (even at a funeral). I went over… and, to my shock, her palm was sliced open so deep that some of the fat deposits that support the thumb were come out of the cut. Turns out she had put her hand up to protect herself from a knife attack… from her boyfriend she was fighting with. It’s one of those moments you wish you were a doctor or of some profession that would be useful at the moment… being able to do some statistical analyses or help with evaluations of a project are not very helpful in these moments. I rinsed her hand with the water in my water bottle and bought her a handkerchief to wrap her hand in. It sucks feeling so helpless and feeling so disappointed in how human kind can be sometimes. Such senseless violence. Lewis took her to the hospital…. And, for everyone else around, it was as normal as a group gathering to discuss the latest horrible thing the Conservatives have done or the results of last night’s hockey game. No matter how much time I spend here, I have these moments that remind me that I grew up in a world so removed from here that most people could never imagine it (and vice versa… although I definitely won in the lottery of life). It makes me feel helpless sometimes when I see the number of barriers people face just to make it through their daily lives… and so upset when I see the gender inequalities I know about or have seen (and sometimes experienced) taken to such an extreme that being born without a penis become justification to be treated as a second class citizen. You think having your genitals safely protected inside you, the obvious better design, would counts for something… life definitely is not fair.
– I started running again… and I really hope the elevation here is still a factor because I am dying after about 5 minutes. I have been a bit slack as of late, but I am going to try to train for another half-marathon in Toronto this October. Maybe writing it in this blog will make it more concrete, give me less space to find excuses to not go out for a run and help get my ass out of my bed in the mornings.
– There is a first year medical student that is suppose to help out with the M&E project at Tumaini…. She came with Dan & I out on outreach on Monday (when we were looking to remind the participants of Monday’s photovoice group) and I heard her telling some of the street kids that she did not speak Swahili but I did. I did the same thing when I first came here so, even though she has been here for only about 10 days, it felt good to think that someone thinks I can speak Swahili. Makes all these hours and slow slow learning seem a bit validated if that makes any sense.
– I fell off a motorbike the other day… we had stalled and the man finally got it started again then took off too fast and the bike went vertical. He stayed on, but I fell off on my ass. Lucky for me, there was someone on the back of the bike so he broke my fall (unlucky for him though). Only my leg got hurt, but it was quite the experience. The whole rest of the way the man oscillated from apologizing to explaining to me how I could write this once-in-a-lifetime experience in my journal to remember Kenya forever. Interesting day.
Well that is all I can think to say at the moment. In summary, as I like to ramble in these posts, photovoice has began and looks to be going well as everyone who comes seems to really enjoy the experiences. There are way more hurdles than anticipated, but I guess that will make the success of this project even more enjoyable. I am tired and stressed, but happy and ever changing as I take in all these experiences (the good, the bad and the outrageous). Thanks again for your support that helped to get me here and helps me get through the hard days. All the support and love means more than I can express here… Asante sana (thanks a lot).