harsh realities~ Qibao

a life she drifted into~

a life she drifted into~

a rough start at life~

a rough start at life~

In Qibao, and old area of Shanghai, is a neighborhood(if you can call it that) of green lanes. Confronting realities wait there behind each door and in front of some where young women prepare to sell themselves for a living. As much as this practice is as old as civilization itself, it remains heartbreaking to witness people’s daughters going through this to survive. And most painful of all was seeing a little girl forced to grow up in that strange world of green lanes.

 

Life course interrupted~ Syrian refugee

Syrian refugee in North Lebanon

Syrian refugee in North Lebanon

As the west prepares to launch a missile attack on Syria in the coming days, the innocent children find themselves caught in the games of warring adults having no say as to where their life will be taking them next. More than 4000 Syrians are seeking refuge daily in Lebanon, where they make a staggering 35% of the Lebanese population today. A ticking bomb in a fragile zone, heart breaking and unfair in so many ways. If the children are the hope for our future, why are we endangering that chance?

a bucketful of possibilities~ Yunnan

a bucketful of possibilities~ Yunnan

a bucketful of possibilities~ Yunnan

Children, no matter where they were born, under which circumstances, hold the whole promise of a better future. In them are the seeds of what has not yet happened and through them the codes of originality and possibility for human development. They are our greatest asset, let’s treat them with care.

displaced destinies

displaced destinies (a child at a migrant school in Shanghai)

displaced destinies (a child at a migrant school in Shanghai)

Today two good friends and I went for an adventure in a remote Shanghai neighborhood where mostly migrant workers from the provinces live and where their children go to special schools. These are the workers responsible for lifting Shanghai from the ground up to soaring levels with its new high rises and luxury hotels that mushroom at an impressive speed around the jewel of China. The residences are extremely modest and the children struggle to learn as best they can under their current circumstances. On this day the teacher said that they would be celebrating children’s day (normally on June 2nd in China) and strangely enough they pointed out a few of the girls who they consider ‘beautiful’ and explained why they were dressed in party clothes and not the usual school uniform. The declaration of their beauty was done openly in front of all the other students, a concept I found incredibly alien and difficult to understand. “She is the most beautiful girl in the class” the teacher announced loudly, ” and this is why she will be presented on stage today”.

Day 2~ December 2nd~ Guilin

hanging in the balance

hanging in the balance~ mother and child in Yangshuo

Of all the significant issues in the world, nothing strikes as more crucial than that of the future of our children. It is them who will inherit our planet in its current state, and it is they who will have to cope with the changes that are onsetting. How do we handle the very fine balance of preparing them without weighing them down, inspiring them without hiding the reality and training them when we ourselves are not sure what to do?

First love: It is the one that haunts us till the end.

It is always most powerful the first time. The first time we feel our hearts racing and fluttering, the first time we feel our breath shortening and escaping us, the first time we feel that a look can lift us off the ground and the first time we feel haunted day and night with thoughts of our love and with their presence inside of our skin at all moment of our waking and sleeping. It is powerful, passionate, wonderful, unreasonable and it scars us for life.

Egypt, 1996 is where I fell in love with photography. I had just gotten my first Pentax manual camera while living in New York (that is a whole other story), learned the basics very quickly, went to B&H photo when is still was downtown on 18th street and bought 35 rolls of film and slide film. Off I went to Egypt on the most memorable trip of my life. And like a first love this trip still lives in me and beckons me to go back and revisit it. We have to meet again.

We will…

a boy selling trinkets in Egypt, January 1996

girls baking and selling bread near Luxor, Egypt, 1996

When inspired children inspire

Demobilized child soldiers dancing in Goma, October 2009

Before the trip of “by art we live” to the Democratic Republic of Congo, an open line of communication and collaboration was opened with Jody Kennedy who teaches Middle School students in White Plains Public Schools, NY. Ms. Kennedy currently serves as a virtual trainer and consultant with the Center for Interactive Learning and Collaboration in Cleveland Ohio. She is the founder of the Global Ambassadors program and the Global Run project which is highlighted on the United Nations’¬†UN WORKS For People and the Planet website.¬†Connecting with over 26 countries, Jody provides a virtual stage for youth to share ideas, art, music, and poetry-she has pioneered live videoconferencing to promote a global, borderless classroom. Jody’s expertise in interactive technology brings young people all over the planet face to face, in real time, to celebrate culture and art and a collaborative vision of humanity.

The Global Ambassadors, who are a very inspired and inspiring group of children, were very moved to launch an Art Drive to raise awareness and raise funds for the purpose of assisting demobilized child soldiers in Congo.

After several video conferences that I was invited to by Ms.Kennedy and the Global Ambassadors, a video was produced as well as a drive to collect art supplies and materials for sending to the Congo.

Quoted from Ms. Kennedy: “These are some examples of what the students who learned about the Congo from you created in order to help teach our community about Child Soldiers! Hannah created the T shirt design,Daniella and Sophia had the idea of selling pencils for $1 to raise funds to buy more art supplies. Daniella created the drawing . Hannah is an accomplished artist for her age. She herself has said that art has taken her through some hard times in life. I think that is why she feels so connected to this project.”

The GLobal Ambassadors' pencil design

What is better than children helping children? So inspiring! Thank you to Jody Kennedy and her Global Ambassadors who are always doing so much. I am so honored to work with you.



Imagine a life so simple…

Imagine a life so simple

life in a little house on the lake

it is warm enough not to need any clothes

your toys are a little boat and a stick

no television, no video games, no ipods,

imagine that!

your school is on a boat and it floats

your playground is made of water and sky

your world is empty of complications,

you are not nagging to get the latest toy,

you don’t even know that it even exists,

because your life is so unimaginable simple…

 

Photos taken at sunset on a little floating village on the Tonle Sap in the kingdom of Cambodia

How do we unlock their future potential?

Photographs are funny things. They can capture the state that you and your subject were in when you clicked the photo, and each time you look at it again, you are magically transported to that moment and it all returns, the smells, the weather, the sounds, the colors, and your emotional state at that time.

This photograph was during my last day with the children at CCPP ( The Cambodia Children’s Painting Project) in Sihanoukville. It was very hot and very humid like every other day I experienced there. I remember thinking that it is going to be so difficult to leave this place. The smiles, giggles and joy of the children were so contagious and so attractive to be with.

But on that day, this boy caught my attention in such a different way. He was not painting, not laughing, not smiling and not even remotely aware of the camera or me as I photographed him for at least 5 minutes. He seemed so engrossed in his thoughts, thoughts that were perhaps too much for him to handle. I wondered for a long time and remained haunted by his look, by his state. He seemed to be locked in his own bubble of sadness.

I so wished I had magic dust, a wand, a circus, or anything that would take away his pain.

Children are meant to be protected, cared for, shielded from pain, allowed to be children. Whenever I see a child having to meet the pains of adulthood it tears me apart. I always think of my child and how I would do anything in the world to protect her from hurtful experiences. Doesn’t every child deserve the same parental shielding? Aren’t children coded with the potential of our future? It is so crucial that we help them, that we allow them to become who they are meant to be. I am always so grateful and in awe of people that I meet who dedicate their life, efforts and talents to help children in need.

Such a glory is found in the giving where a gift is needed. Such an honor it is to give respect and value to the potential of a child and to be an instrument in unlocking it. And whatever this child is doing now, I hope he is smiling and being a child.