After spending time at the garbage dump in the middle of town, I wanted to find a way to connect with the kids there. I wanted to find out what their stories are – and to help the kids tell their stories. I decided organize a storytelling workshop that incorporates photography, illustration, and words. I wanted to use disposable cameras for the kids to keep overnight, so finding those cameras in Uganda was going to be key. And I also needed to find a place to host the workshops.
You may recall from my, “King of the Fill” post, that I was wondering what – if any – organizations or programs Lira had that work with street kids. Since I am not going to be in Lira long term, I wanted to host this workshop somewhere that will be a safe haven for the kids in the future – preferably a place that works with street kids already. In fact, my coworker told me about Child Restoration Outreach Uganda (CRO) and arranged a meeting for me with the Program Manager, Vincent. I explained to him about the workshop that I wanted to do. He said he had heard of similar interests from other people before, but that the workshops were never carried out. That same day, Vincent introduced me to the educator/social worker, Beatrice. She and I made an appointment for later that day. When I returned I explained to her the workshop ideas in detail. She said I could use the CRO space, and that we could go out and mobilize the street kids together. So as not to loose any kids, we would start the program the day after mobilizing them. The kids that joined the workshop would also be incorporated into the main CRO rehabilitation program. So…. I’m quite excited to have the support of Child Restoration Outreach Uganda!! They also expressed interest in having me do a similar workshop with a woman’s group that they work with. But I had to tell them that I’m not sure how long I will be in Lira, and that it would depend on timing and support (funding for cameras and supplies).
Today I spent a few hours at CRO observing the program they have with the street kids and to get more familiar with the CRO staff. Since it is currently holiday for the children, both street kids and kids that have already been rehabilitated and reunited with their family are attending the program. So, there must have been about 30 plus kids there today. I will go back on Thursday to take some photos, video, and audio of the kids playing games, singing, and in the classroom perhaps. One of the CRO staff, Baguma Joshua, was taking photos today when I was there, and in this photo you can see me introducing myself to the kids. I told them that I am a photographer and that I enjoy photos because they can be used to tell stories. When I asked which of them enjoy looking at photos and images, almost all of them raised their hands.
Due to the nature of the kids living on the street, for this workshop I have chosen to work with disposable cameras. I had friends search Kampala for me, but no one could find disposable cameras. In Lira, the photo studios had never even developed film from a disposable camera until I tested it out last week. And one of my Ugandan friends said that he found disposable cameras in Kampala, each priced at 100,000 Ush – which is about $50! I told him that maybe that was a normal film point-and-shoot camera. So, a friend in Raleigh has mailed disposable cameras to me. I hope there is no delay in the arrival of the package! Another friend has also sent the Poloroid PoGo printer – which is a small printer that I can print digitial photos to using blue ray. This might turn out handy, just to give the kids photos that I have taken of them. In the future I think it would be great to be able to use the digital PoGo cameras that Polaroid has come out with. So, maybe Polaroid would want to sponsor these workshops in the future? (hint hint)
But as things stand, if the disposable cameras arrive in the mail this week (fingers crossed), the workshop should start next week. On Monday, Beatrice and I will go out for half of the day to mobilize/recruit new street kids for the photo story workshop to begin on Tuesday and end on Friday. After the program is done, the kids’ stories will be featured on this blog and in public exhibits in Lira, Uganda and in the U.S.
A bit about Child Restoration Outreach: CRO Uganda has four sites located in the cities of Mbale (headquarters), Jinja, Lira, and Masaka. According to the 2009 Annual Report, at the beginning of 2009, a baseline survey found 876 children on the streets (681 boys and 195 girls). Out of these 603 were part-time street children and 273 were full time. 80% of these kids were between the ages of 5 and 12. This year alone, Child Restoration Outreach assisted 1,722 children and young people (980 boys and 742 girls). 271 of these were reconciled with their extended families.
Some of these children have been a part of the program before 2009.
A huge contributing factor to the large number of street kids in Northern Uganda is the rebel war that had been ongoing in the Northern part of Uganda. The Lords Resistance Army was attacking villages and towns, and kidnapping children to force them to become porters, child soldiers, and young wives. So, kids from the camps and villages would run to the cities to try to avoid being kidnapped by the rebels. In addition, HIV was spreading, and AIDS was orphaning many children. Even today, after the war is settling down and there is relative peace in the North, children are still going to the streets. The CRO website states “Domestic violence, wide spread poverty, and death of parents due to AIDS are among the causes of street children in Lira town. The children came on the streets to escape being abducted by the rebels, get food and also earn income from selling scrap metals.”
CRO’s program consists of identifying children on the streets, psychosocial care and support, rehabilitation program, resettlement, home visits, primary and tertiary education support, vocational training, nutrition support, recreation, peer education, and the list goes on. Please visit their 2009 Annual Report or the CRO website for more information or if you are interested in learning more or contributing to their program. They also have staff exchange and volunteer opportunities.
If you are interested in supporting this or future photo story workshops that I teach, please comment or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Support can be provided in the form of social networking, physical space for classes and exhibits, and providing financial funding for photography and exhibit expenses. Please let me know if you are also interested in hiring me to work with your organization to host a similar workshop.