Project Istwa was founded in 2011 by Linda D. Thélémaque and Fiona Korwin-Pawlowski, who worked together in medical mission after the earthquake in Haiti 2010. The organization’s goal is to build stronger communities and empower the Haitian youth by using photography. Besides to experience community together, they are given the possibility to express what their world looks like in their eyes.
Having started in Cité Soleil, one of the absolutely poorest areas in Haiti’s capital Port-au-Prince, the project quickly spread to other parts of Haiti. Project Istwa is not only offering workshops, they also keep in contact and support the communities they have worked in.
Tek4Kids partnered with Project Istwa on a photo workshop in January 2012. Children of the community in Jeremie were working on capturing what is important to them in photos. After six days of shooting on their own and various accompanying instruction meetings, a highly self-expressive, wonderful exhibition was opened at St. John Bosco School.
The 17 children participating in the Project Istwa Photo Workshop were chosen from the community based on what workshop they had an interest in, imagination and handwriting ability. I chose the St John Bosco Formation Center because of their open-mindedness and desire to work with Tek4Kids and Project Istwa.
Day 1: Met with kids and parents, introduced the project, filled out permission forms, answered questions. Distributed backpacks, notebooks and pens. Kids personalized their bags and we took individual and group photos.
Day 2: Showed kids various images, handed out cameras, explained all the buttons, settings, options, etc. Lunch. Kids and facilitators went on a photo walk to reiterate verbal consent before taking a photo.
Day 3: Handed out cameras, reminded kids of the week’s theme: Take pictures of anything that was important to them or that they wanted or they wanted to share. Each photo was to have a “story” to go with it. Lunch. Kids were asked to share about 1 picture that they had taken.
Day 4: Reminded kids that this was their chance to express how they feel, what’s important to them, what they see around them and what they think about. Kids had the whole day to shoot on their own.
Day 5: Kids started thinking and talking about which photos they would choose for the exhibit and captions to go with the pictures. Lunch. Went through photos, discussed in groups. Explained the exhibit (but not sure that the kids really “got it”), how cool it was really going to be!
Day 6: Handed out invitations (each child got to invite 3 people). Kids decorated invitations. Lunch. Planned the food for the reception. Kids filled out exit questionnaires.
Day 7: Prepared for exhibition. Set up. Exhibition was from 3-6 p.m. The theme was: “The Smaller, the Stronger: Photo’s and stories from the kids of Jeremie.” Students and parents came dressed in their Sunday best. Nearly the whole school was in attendance as well as others who were invited from the community, all coming to admire the students’ beautiful photographs and the reading the stories behind them. Children were gifted with their matted, enlarged photos (many 8 x 10s) and a small photo album of photos from the week, their photographer badges and backpacks. What a day! It was an incredible week and a huge success!
The Project Istwa exhibition was a huge success with over 200 people coming to admire the kids’ beautiful photographs and reading the stories behind them. Here is the proud team, the participants, and the decorated school yard. Thank you Jeremie, it was an incredible week!
Click here to visit Project Istwa’s website: www.projectistwa.org