In 2015, I traveled to Ethiopia with a good friend of mine, Dr. Jason Dimmig, to document a cataract camp ran by cureblindness.org. In six days, four eye surgeons restored sight to over 900 people. It was amazing to witness the joy that these folks experienced every morning when their bandages were removed. The surgery takes less than five minutes, and the improvement in quality of life is immense. The organization not only runs these cataract camps, but they also train local surgeons so that the work can continue and their mission of eradicating curable blindness in the world can be reached.
Groundworks Opportunities (GO) is an organization that helps fund projects in developing countries. GO understands the necessity of working with local champions to determine needs and to sustain projects through community education and leadership. I had the opportunity to travel with GO on a volunteer education trip. GO brought volunteers to Cambodia to learn about some of the projects that they helped fund, including the support of a childcare center for youth at risk of being sold into the sex trade, a school near Siem Reap that teaches English and supports youth who want to attend university, and a project to bring clean water to villages through wells and sand filtration. I was fortunate to meet Vichetr Uon, a man who took his time to help me understand all the dynamics that lead to poverty and the challenges that the people in Cambodia are facing. This trip was extremely educational for me in that I learned how important it is to work directly with local leaders to determine solutions and needs of their communities. Vichetr told me how one nonprofit came in and built chicken coops, assuming they were being helpful. The chicken coops were of higher quality than a lot of homes, so many people abandoned their homes and moved into the coops. Vichetr said, "now the chickens have no place to live."
World Muse is a local organization in Bend that empowers women and girls to be catalysts for change. I started working with World Muse when they were relatively small, and it has been amazing to see how the organization has grown under the leadership of Amanda Stuermer. Every August, World Muse hosts a retreat for women and girls called Muse Camp. This event is held at Caldera Arts Center near Sisters, Oregon. The retreat includes yoga, art, journaling, photography, and time to replenish to muse and replenish the mind and body.
In September of 2017, as part of Momenta Workshop's Project Portland, I had the opportunity to photograph the good work that Schoolyard Farms is doing in Portland. Their mission:
"Schoolyard Farms partners with public K-12 schools to build working farms on their underused schoolyards. We teach kids where their food comes from, how to grow it and cook it, so they can grow up to be healthy food citizens."
For this assignment, I visited the farm at Candy Cane Elementary, where Brooke Hieserich, the education manager, works with the kids and teaches them about farming and growing healthy foods. I learned from the kids that they enjoy seeing where their food comes from, that it's relaxing being on the farm, and that the winter squash is a hit with everyone
The next day, I met the Farm Manager, Annika, and her assistant, Lizzie, and spent some time with them and learned more about the operations of the farms. Annika and I visited another farm at the New Urban High School, where two teens helped her spread seed and told me how much they appreciate being able to take home some of the produce grown at their school.
This organization is growing and I for one, hope they start a program in my hometown sometime soon!
Brook Hieserich leads a group of kids through the farm at Candy Cane Lane
Santiago enjoys spending time in the farm.
Courtney Leeds, co-founder of Schoolyard Farms, with Charlotte
Winter squash harvest
Charlotte loves the winter squash.
Ruby picks some radishes
Lizzie Simpson helps weed the farm.
Brooke Hieserich, Education Manager
Annika La Fave, Farm Manager
Krista Basis, Brooke Hieserich and Courtney Leeds of Schoolyard Farms
Students who volunteer are given produce to take home.
High school students helping spread seed at the New Urban School farm.