Postcards from Lima

Somehow it ended up being the beginning of October and with that brings this month’s Voices of Youth project: postcards.

The youth will take the pictures, design the postcards as well as sell them. They will be selling said postcards to volunteers (you may receive one, so check your mailboxes!), Building Dignity donors online and all other potential clients. In the coming weeks, we will be taking two groups to take pictures: one group will go to the Miraflores and one group will go to the Central de Lima. We also would like them to gain a sense of pride of the community they live in – Villa El Salvador and Lomo de Corvina – so this weekend we will be taking pictures of monuments that they chose in Villa El Salvador.

Voices of Youth is project-based, which will enhance the program’s structure and decreases any chance of repetition within its curriculum. The kids chose the project entirely on their own (well, with a little help from the lesson plans we constructed). While this project is aimed towards teaching financial independence, it is multi-faceted in that there is potential to also provide an opportunity to build confidence and honor not only in themselves but also in regard to how they feel about where they live.

From the start of this planning this project, I’ve been really excited about the photography aspect. One of the things I learned in my online global development class, EdGE, were the implications of having a camera. Essentially, it describes various situations and things to be aware of regarding the documentation of one’s volunteer experience. Despite the fact that I was at least vaguely aware of many of the points it discusses, it was really quite sobering. If you’d like to read the complete essay click here. The flip side of this is that I read this essay after arriving in Peru, having already taken pictures. To say I felt like a self-aggrandizing, ignorant gringa would be pretty accurate. However, I decided that self-loathing wasn’t the most healthy way to utilize this essay, and instead I became motivated to try and figure out a way to share my knowledge of photography.

First thing’s first, I am no professional. My semester-long photography class during my junior year in no way certifies me as a professional photographer, but I like to think that I know a few tricks. Although, I attribute most of the quality of my pictures to my Canon EOS 20D. I think I will always feel a little self-conscious about how conspicuous it looks to have an SLR hanging from my neck, but I digress.

At yesterday’s Voices of Youth meeting, I co-facilitated a small workshop about basic photography composition. I included pictures that I myself had taken of the locations they will be eventually going to, as well as pictures in Villa El Salvador. About a week earlier, upon hearing that I had said pictures, one of the kids asked me if I really liked taking pictures of Villa. This was quite sobering, as it provided clear proof that there is a lack of pride in where they live. One of the last pictures in the presentation was of Villa El Salvador and one young boy noticed that his house was in the background. He lifted out of his chair and pointed it out to everyone with excitement and apparent pride. While a picture may be powerful (enough to be “worth one thousand words”), I think it’s even more compelling when you’re able to share that knowledge of photography with others.