There are lots of international nonprofit organizations out there. But El Porvenir is different. Operating in rural Nicaragua, the organization, whose mission is to "improve the standard of living of rural Nicaraguans through water, sanitation, health education and watershed management projects," does not initiate projects on behalf of the communities. Instead, staff members respond to requests for assistance from rural villages. Through this model of exchange, village residents elect their own project committee, provide all labor on a volunteer basis, and take responsibility for the long-term maintenance of all projects. In turn, El Porvenir encourages the community to include women among the committee members, provides technical expertise and training, lends tools, and funds the materials needed to complete the projects.
Ottawa-based photographer and videographer, Caroline Leal is about to head to Nicaragua to capture the people who give life to El Porvenir’s sustainable work and sanitation projects on a daily basis. PWB sat down with Leal to find out more about her work and inspiration to travel to Nicaragua with Photographers Without Borders.
PWB: What attracted to you El Porvenir and what do you hope to achieve through your journey there?
CL: Travel really opened my eyes at how much water is liquid gold. Growing up in Canada, I definitely took it for granted and benefited from a reality check. Water scarcity is a global issue that has to be addressed. Without clean water comes sickness, with sickness comes school and work absenteeism, with a lack of education and productivity comes economic difficulties. Access to clean water is primordial. El Porvenir is helping build a better future and I’m humbled to be selected to visit them. In Nicaragua, I want to showcase El Porvenir’s trailblazers and the positive change it’s establishing.
PWB: Where do you find inspiration from for your work and art?
CL: People and their environment inspire me. I thrive in rich, cultural settings where human stories take centre stage. What I cherish the most are unique moments spent with locals: the storytelling, the misunderstandings, the silence, the chaos, the cups of tea, the dancing. They are rich memories I try to immortalize with my camera whether it's through photography or video.
PWB: Why did you want to work with Photographers Without Borders?
CL: The same day I found out about Photographers Without Borders, I applied. Its’ clear goal of helping out grassroots initiatives through the gift of photography really struck a chord with me and matched my own values. The team behind PWB clearly understands the value of storytelling. It’s an organization that’s brought together a great number of talented photographers and I must reiterate how humbled I am to now be one of them.
PWB: Photographer or Videographer? Which do you consider yourself first?
CL: This question is no fair, it’s like having to choose a favourite child! Can I cheat and call myself some type of visual storyteller?! While traveling, I am more of a photographer. To me, the power of storytelling through photography is surreal. Some people get a rush from extreme sports whereas I get my adrenaline kick when my shutter clicks away in a new environment. However, my real ‘day-job’ is in the television industry. I work as a segment producer, camera operator and director for various production houses. I have a strong passion for filmmaking but it’s a medium that requires more planning for sequences, etc but the result is riveting! In addition to photographs, I’m looking to produce a 1 minute video while in Nicaragua so stay tuned!
To donate to this project and Caroline's journey, click here