October 3, 2009
Although it’s been a few months since the Project Focus gallery nights, none of us have forgotten their great success! Our group worked together to transform a boring study lounge into a beautiful, cohesive, and enlightening exhibit. We are incredibly thankful for all the UIC teachers and students, as well as our families and friends, who stopped by to show their support and interest in not only the childrens’ photographs, but also their everyday lives and the experiences we shared with them in.
We displayed the photographs in four separate categories: Student Profile, which focused on the individual lives of the children, Community, Environment, and Health. We considered a critical analysis of each as most beneficial to our students’ understanding of the world in which they live.
In order to bring an interactive aspect to the gallery, we constructed an Indian flag out of sticky notes. We asked our guests to write one positive aspect and one negative aspect of their communities on the flag. Many people wrote about the city of Chicago, and from these responses, a few central themes emerged. Quite a few of our guests commented on the diversity of the city, not only in terms of ethnic identities, but also food, education, and architecture. On the contrary, the negative responses addressed the growing issue of gentrification, the great divide between the city’s rich and poor, inner-city violence, and the selfishness and close-mindedness of citizens.
The answers posted on the flag prove that there are many conflicting issues that need attention within our own city. While we had a relaxing summer, our minds remained active, constantly gaining inspiration and insight about the community we call our own. Now that our group is back together this fall, we are in the process of developing new ideas. We hope to utilize our tool of photovoice to empower more people and communities, and we are excited for the work that is soon to come!
April 18, 2009
ProjectFOCUS:India presents the photography and
art of Indian youth.
WHAT: Art Gallery
WHEN: April 21, 22, 29 & 30
TIME: 4 PM- 8PM
WHERE: University of Illinois at Chicago
Burnham Hall Room 121
828 S. Halsted St.
Founded in 2008, ProjectFOCUS:India is a grass-roots initiative of students, artists, and activists bound by a common purpose: to EDUCATE, INSPIRE, and EMPOWER the local community in Dehradun, India and the United States. We have established a critical reflection based educational program in conjunction with an NGO in Dehradun, incorporating photography as a catalyst for creative thought among youth. Our work in the community extends beyond material support and touches upon the human need to share experiences with others. Through creative collaboration, personal narratives and exhibition, we hope to support sustainable youth engagement and reveal the common humanity between two seemingly different worlds.
If you have an questions, please contact Adam Kuranishi at firstname.lastname@example.org or Dan Schneider at email@example.com
January 28, 2009
Daniel’s article on photovoice is on page 25.
January 21, 2009
Check out the first article in the Fall Issue of OneWorld Magazine! Please read and spread the word!
January 8, 2009
It has been quite some time since this blog has been updated. ProjectFOCUS: India is still alive and well, working to educate, inspire, and empower. We are all back in Chicago, actively balancing projectFOCUS: India with our academic lives in the treacherous maze that constitutes growing older, wiser, and looking ahead to the future. The next series of posts on this blog will be focused on reflecting. We want all of you to know what came out of our project and how we plan to improve on it in the future.
We will begin by talking about the children, the inspiration and driving force behind our work. When we arrived at Latika, we were unsure of what to expect from the kids. We didn’t know who they were, what they wanted, or how they interacted with the Latika Roy Community. We quickly discovered that each child was different and had her/his own style of interaction and communication. A few were passive learners and participants. They were continually unsure about the expectations we had for them and the benefits of participating. These children needed constant attention and care in order to slowly coax them out of their protective barriers into the full realization of the experience. Some of the children jumped into the project, pushed its boundaries, and tested the limits of where it could go. They thought not of consequence and worry until they felt the retribution for daring to go too far. There were children that pushed us to the limits of our own abilities to maintain order as educators. They would kindly make fun of us, turn every meaningful exercise into a comic attraction, and run a muck as soon as no one was looking. But when they saw our frustration and the limits of our ability to hold back anger, they would smile, bring us flowers, or make a gesture from which no defense could resist the power of forgiveness. In between these two extremes there was every type of childhood personality that one could imagine. It is important that we emphasize that each child contributed to the experience in a unique way, and the absence of any single person would have drastically affected the dynamic that existed. We hope that every child understands that even if he/she is not triumphantly praised for excelling above the rest, his/her contribution was still felt by all.
Looking at pictures taken of and by the children scattered among the neighborhood community with a black camera and case strapped to their belts, it is impossible not to be impressed by the capacity in which the children were able to engage with their surroundings and pull from them something meaningful. Maybe obtaining meaning is not the correct way to conceptualize the children’s abilities, and perhaps creating it is a better way. By viewing their community through the lens of the camera and communicating through dialogue about the photographs, they created their community within themselves and in front of us. The community consisted of homes, schools, neighborhoods, families, pets, and community centers that held special significance to each child that discussed them. These constructions were constantly discussed and negotiated, and refused to be concrete and normalized. Even if it was without a conscious understanding, the children far exceeded our goal for them of active engagement and critical understanding of their community.
Despite being the class clown and ringleader of the boys, Summit is enthusiastic and a hard-worker. He has stretched his interpretation of his photographs beyond what meets the eye. Examining a photograph he took of his father resting on a bed, Summit explained that his father often works overtime as a security guard and is very tired at the end of the day. The student admits that despite his father’s daily agony, he must work to feed his family. We asked Summit, “If food is necessary for human survival, should a person have to work extreme hours just to be able to feed his family? Is the right to food a human right? Should the government provide food to its citizens?” In response to these inquiries, he explained that some members of society cannot work to support themselves or their family, including people with mentally and physically handicaps. He argued, however, that if an individual can work, then he should not rely on the government for assistance. Food is a necessary component in everyone’s life.” Continuing the dialogue, we asked, “What about people who live in slums? What about the individuals who are socially and economically on the lower end of the societal totem pole? Are those individuals in a revolving door of a generational underclass? Should these people be given governmental assistance?” Summit acknowledged that individuals who live in slums often find work cleaning houses, yet in his community, society is designed with deep-seated social and economic classes. Despite any small and temporary work that they may find, the lowest class will remain in poverty. Considering the circumstances, he proclaimed, “the government should provide homes and food for people living in slums, as well as assistance for people with disabilities.”
The Right to Food is an on-going debate among the international community and an important aspect in the fight against poverty. It’s a prominent issue in many countries, including India. Haiti is one of the countries at the center of the Right to Food debate. In rural and urban areas, access to food has become a major humanitarian crisis. With a weak state and the international community’s failure to support agricultural development in the country, poverty has intensified in Haiti. Ironically, the human right to food is discussed in the Haitian constitution.
In India, urban development and slums is a major issue. Nina’s grandfather and uncle are prominent public interest attorneys in India, and have worked on cases in response to the government demolishing massive slums in the Delhi area, where officials have consciously neglected to take into consideration the well being of the former inhabitants. Pressuring the government to provide aid and rights to the lower class is a constant struggle for human rights activists and has become an important discussion point in our class.
July 23, 2008
For our second session, we have 15 children ages 9-12. Along with the students, we have two adults, employed by the foundation, who have joined our class. They are going to be active participants as well as classroom helpers. Despite a few minor adjustments, the curriculum remains consistent for the second group. The students have completed their student profile worksheets and their first photography assignment. The children are currently on the community theme.
Aside from our new session, we have added two new projects to our program. We asked five of the most enthusiastic students from group #1 to continue a special course for the next two weeks. While the second session carries on we will continue to work individually with the five children, intensifying the questioning and elaborating on their storybooks. After a few days of added critical thinking, all five students have begun developing increasingly meaningful and philosophical examinations. Tomorrow, we are taking the five children on a field trip around the city, stopping at a few sites that will become topics for discussion
Additionally, we are in the process of selecting three students from the foundation’s Center for Vocational Training. The facility provides vocational skills to young adults with special needs from ages 18 to 21. These students will offer a unique perspective and we are excited to work with them.