Education opens avenues wide for many North Americans in pursuit of a fulfilling career that possesses the ability to run aligned with their most dazzling of dreams. Lisa Weatherbee travelled to Ghana in May to document one the Thaakat Foundation's most ambitious projects that reaches to widen those avenues for those in the small community of Tanobaose. The Konadu Basic School's founder, Clement Boamah, welcomed her and was her constant guide throughout her visit. “He is the heart and soul of this school, and from the first moments, I felt truly welcomed," Weatherbee said. "Konadu basic school is a joyful place. The kids want to be there. They are so happy to be there. Especially because there are so many small children there, it feels like a safe place, and a place where you are taken care of.”
Boamah, nicknamed Righteous for his ceaseless pursuit of building a school that provides a free education, noticed a rush of families arriving into the community of Tanobaose, Ghana — most of whose children were not attending school at all. He began to chase down the avenues of his own dream and achieved it with 105 students now being taught a range of subjects from mathematics, science, creative arts, and the English and Ghanian languages. Boamah says he believes that it is with an education that the children can realize their dreams and begin crafting their own individual road toward attaining them.
Weatherbee says she was happy to act as an observer and emphasizes the crucial element of natural occurrences. Her style does not rely on snapping a photo every few seconds out of fear of missing a moment but on being adaptable and have her presence with the camera hanging around her neck blend into interaction.
She found this approach to flow smoothly when connecting with the children. “I prefer to let people forget the camera, to some extent," she said. "So despite always having my camera on me, sometimes in the beginning of the story, I leave it at my side, I watch and I listen and I try to make people comfortable with my presence. The kids I met were super-psyched to see this stranger with a big camera in their school, but they're also just kids, and I think with time, they can forget about the camera more quickly than adults. This wasn't always the case but it was the goal.”
The essence of the moment was felt when Weatherbee began feeling homesick during her stay during the first few mornings of her visit to Ghana. A warm memory rose and she describes a scene of simple tranquillity and comfort through observing the daily ritual of Boamah's one year old daughter splash and laugh during bath time. “Seeing Liz laugh and splash in the water, was to witness pure joy, and it never failed to take me out of my head and into the moment that was right in front of me. I'll never forget it.”
Weatherbee's passion shines through in inquiry of future documentation of humanitarian efforts. She confesses a fear of overexposure: the cycling through of Instagram feeds, the upsurge of Snapchat, the obsessive desire to capture every single moment with little consideration for the images relevance. This perpetual sharing of images entices Weatherbee to hold to the ones that mean something more than gaining likes on a social media app. “When I can take a photograph of someone and they see it and think, Wow, that really is who I am, when I can give someone a photograph and know that they will treasure it always for their own reasons, that's really powerful. I want to continue to document more humanitarian efforts in my future, in hopes that those pictures will carry emotional power, because I think these kind of photographs most definitely do mean something — to an individual, to an organization and consequently will inspire compassion, will inspire action.”
Lisa and Thaakat Foundation will be featured in the next issue of our magazine that launches Aug. 1, 2016