Photovoice initiative teaches Periclean Scholar a valuable lesson

Commentary by Annie Huth
Special to the Times-News

Eight-thousand, three hundred and seven miles span the distance between Burlington and Jamkhed, India.

On the surface, these two communities couldn’t be more different — one an ever-commercial home to locals, professionals, college students, thrift stores and fast-food restaurants; the other a rural town surrounded by villages dependent on agriculture.

The photos and reflections of teens in both places, however, showed me that the similarities in their lives are much more profound than the differences.

In June of 2011 and January of 2012, I was a part of two Photovoice photography initiatives — one with the DreamGirls program at the Burlington Housing Authority and another with teens from a rural slum community inIndia. Photovoice is a community action project that gives cameras to unheard populations and asks them to tell their stories through photography. As a facilitator, I had the opportunity to see the stories of these young women and men unfold as they documented their lives through images.

In our Photovoice projects, youth in India and Burlingtonwere given cameras and asked to share their personalities, individuality and thoughts. The other facilitators and I gave them basic training with the cameras and facilitated group discussions, and the participants blew us away with their pictures and what they wrote about them for the world to see.

While their communities and cultures looked different in their pictures, these groups of teens halfway across the world from each other both spoke of support system their families provided for them, the importance of education for their futures and concern for issues like alcoholism within their communities. In their pictures and reflections, they not only uncovered community assets and issues, but demonstrated and discussed ways to move toward better futures.

Photovoice was a good reminder for me that what teens can teach me with point-and-shoots is as important as what my professors teach me with books and lectures. In just a few weeks, I helped the Photovoice participants view their communities through the lens of a camera for the first time. They, in return, showed me their personalities, their passions and potential to act as change agents in their communities, and together we showed the world.

 Annie Huth is part of the Periclean Scholars Class of 2012.

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