After the success of Piga Picha Kenya, in October 2008 we started similar “Kids with Cameras” program in Toronto. This time, however, we ran the program in the classroom of a local public school where Joanna Weis (a member of the Piga Picha team) teaches grade 7. Each of the 15 children, after hearing the Piga Picha story, received a camera that had been previously used by one of the orphans at St.Clares during the Piga Picha Kenya project. It truly seemed to motivate the students in Toronto to hear of the children who had taken a similar adventure half a world away.
Through the weeks we created various exercises and field trips to help expand their vision of what it meant to communicate through photography. In explaining why they had taken a certain shot at a certain angle, the students began sharing their feelings and thoughts. The young students used the photography lessons as a mode of self expression and also developed critical thinking skills–this artistic and emotional development is so important to the discovery of their identities and their role as innovators, social reformers, and leaders.
For the first couple of weeks while I got to know the students at the school I was constantly reminded of children from Kisumu. Children regardless of circumstances often need the same things: a sense of community, a sense of being understood, someone to listen. When asked to photograph their school, their neighbourhood, city, family, and selves the children often brought back photos that were not only poignant but also a distinct record of the times that we live in.