[private] Grownups never really understand how children see the world. We try to imagine, ask questions, make surveys and apply statistics. Still, the world in children’s eyes remains impenetrable. One way of seeing the world through the perspective of children is seeing the photographs they take.
The Shooting Back projects, giving poor children cameras and guiding them in photography skills, began in the 1970s. The closest such ongoing project has been located in Cangrejal and is run by the Guaruma NGO. Hopefully Roatan will have another such program in just a few weeks.
PIER Foundation has approached me about coordinating such a “Shooting Back” project on Roatan, and I look forward to the experience. This is how the project will shape:
15 children will be chosen from 7-8 island neighborhoods from French Harbour to Flowers Bay. Girls and boys, black, white and Ladino, ages between 12 and 15, will learn how to use digital cameras to create an image of their neighborhoods and people in their lives.
Every Saturday for six weeks the children will be brought by volunteers to a meeting at the Learning Center for an hour and a half evaluation and assignment session. The children will spend a week each taking photographs on subjects such as, What makes me happy? What makes me sad? What am I proud of?
Every Saturday the children will meet to show their best photos, to receive a critique and to be given their next photo-shooting assignment. At the end of the six-week project the children will receive six prints of their best photographs and a CD with all their photos.
One of the project’s goals is to eliminate the perception among NGOs and government that Roatan’s youth are better off than the rest of Honduras. In fact, Roatan is in some respects facing additional challenges that many places on the Honduran mainland don’t face. With mass migration in the last 15 years, the island’s population shows little social cohesion. The ethnic and racial differences are not only apparent in racially segregated jail cells, but also in comments made on the street and at work.
Hopefully the project will put additional pressure on government institutions (Ministry of Education, IHT, Municipalities) to invest more in the education programs and schools on the Bay Islands. There should be a conscientious effort to change the perception that Roatan is only “a tourist paradise.” On an island where one billionaire lives and about 80 families amount their wealth in millions, 20-30 thousand people live below the poverty line–all that in a small space of just 47 kilometers square.
In general, Honduras isn’t the best place to count on child’s art education. On Roatan, the only “arts” offered to schoolchildren seem to be “marching band music.” As a result the children find few options for expressing themselves, and this project will provide one such a way.
Another of the project’s objectives is to give a way for island children to express their vision of the way they live and what they aspire to. A scholarship, or more likely funds for books and school clothes, will be given to the best photographers. The best photographs will be shown in an exposition at one of the cruise ship docks and possibly at the Roatan airport. Other products from the project will include a brochure, a website, a calendar and several Bay Islands Voice photo essays.
The “Shooting Back” project will work with several partners and sponsors: PIER and SOL Foundation, the Roatan Rotary Club, and Bay Islands Voice.