V3 of the project was based in the border town of Katuna, in Southwest Uganda, where for a few weeks I was working with a group of young vulnerable children whose mothers are all known to the organisation I partnered with, through their profession and/or their HIV status.
A little backstory to Katuna Marps The organisation I partnered with…
Katuna MARPS was setup in 2007 and is an organization that targets the most at risk populations including the elderly, children and people living with disabilities.
Mission: Socio-economic empowerment and reduction of HIV infections among the most at risk populations
Vision: To have an empowered and skilled community with reduced HIV infections.
Goal: The most at risk populations are empowered with life skills, can demand and access quality health care services.
The organisation is a Ugandan government NGO, run by Ugandans for Ugandans. The majority of their funding comes from USAID.
That first morning was a slow burner, time for the children to get to know me and vice versa – the exchanges were fun, interesting and at times intense.
After a brief stop for tea and bread, we talked photography and cameras. Their faces lit up when I produced the 15 cameras and started to work through the basic principles of photography.
Within a few short hours they were holding the cameras, could load film, knew the different parts of the equipment and were raring to go!
|Over the coming days I met up with the children, we fine-tuned techniques, looked at photographic results and began to also use some of the digital cameras.
The following week I took the group on a photo walk, we held our cameras proudly (no mean feat in a border town!) and proceeded to photographic life around us.
Meeting the parents
In between the project, it was vitally important for me to get out into the community and meet the mothers of these children. Humphrey, one of the volunteers at MARPS was my guide, interpreter (some of the women didn’t speak English, French etc) and helped me ease into some of the far more interesting areas of the town.. areas, that I wouldn’t normally venture into and Westerners certainly wouldn’t be welcome on normal occasions.
Whilst most of the mothers were sex workers and all were HIV+, there were a couple of instances where the young women had had enough of their work and were trying to make their life a little easier. One in particular had got a loan to buy a sewing machine, she was making school uniforms – something she was, understandably incredibly proud of.
Back to Eden School….
|had previously mentioned that I wouldn’t be running the project directly with Eden School again, as I felt a change was needed they had now accumulated a lot of support (look at how the school has developed!) However, thanks to continued donations , we (you and I) managed to support the school with development of the music teaching (my goodness that is coming on a treat!!) we paid for a music teacher for 9 months and continued the development of the vitally important school garden – trying to bring a level of sustainability to the school – we purchased tons of seeds, carrots, tomatoes, maize, cabbages, potatoes and beans!
Many of the old faces were still at the school – an amazing welcome greeted me for the two weekends I spent at the school. Children I had worked with previously came running, cameras (yes really!) still in hand, the photo room at the school has developed (excuse the pun!) and is covered in lots of magical glossy prints of the project and the dozens of other visitors at the school who have come since, putting their own stamp on the wonder that is Eden School.
Come Monday morning and Sarah (MD of MARPS) was delivering bags of rice, seed and bottles of water to two small children in the mountains. We drove for nearly two hours along barley passable tracks. Eventually picking up Moses, an HIV+ champion in the community who guided us to the home of Prima & Vincent.
A heart-breaking situation. Their mother, also HIV+ died earlier in 2017, leaving them (11 &13) on their own, in the community. Both sufferers of the awful illness, they have to take the daily medication – Vincent works digging earning around 70p per day, young Prima stays at home, cobbling together something to eat. They go back to school around now, it’s heart-breaking. Will they stick at school? I doubt it – the community is apparently trying to look after them, as and when they can – but essentially, they are on their own. It’s a terrible situation. I don’t think I’ve ever been so affected as this.
The Project continues…
After a few more workshops and visits, the group came together – cameras all intact and with beaming smiles. Films removed and off to Kampala to get the films and digital cards developed.
That Moment…the moment of opening the packet and finding glorious images – a view of African life coming to prominence, through the child’s eyes.
I spent days sorting through the images. In between visiting families, visiting other health centres and learning about the work of MARPS and their dedicated staff.
The children came together to look at their images – around a table, packs were open, fits of laughter erupted, fingers pointing, shouting, smiling. A real joy.
Each child selected their best images for the mini exhibition at the MARPS HQ.
The following week the mothers and relatives were invited to the exhibition. It was also a chance for Sarah & her team to check the health of the families and provide advice and counselling. We set about a wonderful morning, providing tea, bread and fruit.
I strongly believe this has been the most rewarding project to date. The standard of imagery is really quite something and I cannot wait to display some of the children’s work..I’ve decided not to show too much of young peoples work on here… that will come later in the year… I would prefer you to visit one of the upcoming exhibitions – in the meantime here are three of my favorites from this workshop.
Thanks as ever for the wonderful support there are too many to mention individually, but a special mention must go to Clive @ Dap Uk Ltd, Simon in Norwich, Cathy, Southwold Rotary & East Point Rotary.