Saturday, August 23, 2008

Capturing the Story: The Project

The realities of living as an orphan child or as one affected by HIV / Aids are rarely if at any time, documented through the eyes of that child. The purpose of this project is to give the youth the opportunity and, more importantly, the resources for the youth to tell their own stories. Using reflection to build insight is therapeutically useful for processing grief, loss and trauma, especially when youth find it hard to find the words to express such emotions. As a therapist, I have found that not only is it useful to have creative tools to connect with people, but that it is paramount that such ventures are done with ethics and responsibility. Working with marginalized and disenfranchised populations requires an awareness of how privilege, class, and culture influence the process.

When I arrived at my first school, a Muslim school in Kakamega, I met two of CES sponsored students. With the curiosity of the other students I tried to create a therapeutic atmosphere as much as possible, giving the students the choice to meet privately with me or not.

A quiet seventeen year old girl sat with me under the shade of a tree in the school yard. Unsure of what I wanted from her, she listened and hesitated before answering my questions. Describing being from a family of ten she also spoke about aspirations of becoming a doctor or a nurse. Never had she used a camera before.

The same was for the shy twenty-one year old who was also in Form four (grade 12). He had never used a camera before either but he was willing to try and take some of the photographs suggested. However, when we talked about school he expressed that he had difficulty getting to school because he was exhausted. He shared that he had to get up at 4:00am in order to walk two hours to school in the dark in order to arrive on time. He described that on some days he has barely slept and is too tired to attend. After school and the long walk home, he has chores and household duties that he is responsible for. We talked about what type of photo could represent this experience and he was reassured that it would be okay if he could not complete the task. I could understand and connect with what he was sharing, and it was hard to fight the wish to buy him a bicycle. He also shared that he wanted to be a secondary school teacher to help others.

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