A passion for social work empowered these women in India to speak up

A passion for social work empowered these women in India to speak up

India is a country rich in culture and traditions. However, factors like ethnic, gender and caste can influence people's access to education, opportunities, and health.

According to an article from Devesh Saksena, from the Faculty of Law of University of Allahabad in India, more than 260 million people worldwide are affected by caste-based marginalization, most of them residing in India. The Scheduled Caste system marginalizes those that belong to a lower caste, breaching essential human rights such as economic, social, political, civil and cultural boundaries. Individuals assigned to a lower caste have high numbers of illiteracy, and physical segregation results in unhygienic and inhabitable living conditions.

The Scheduled Tribes are other groups that face structural discrimination in the country. With a population of around 84.3 million, this group suffers from ethnic marginalization, which results in reduced access to healthcare services, intense poverty and low levels of education.

Anima Baa, founder and chief functionary of Ashray South Vihar Welfare Society for Tribal, says that the existing caste system is filled with diversity, rich culture and traditional practices and everyone has great respect for each other’s traditions. As Amina explained, each caste system has its own traditional system. Those residing within the system practice the challenge of fighting against injustice and social discrimination, but they also practice finding a solution, using what she describes as the 'we feeling' of togetherness.  "There are traditional social leaders in every particular group and they take a lead with the support of others to fight against injustice and social discrimination if any situation arises," Baa said. "However, if the situation gets out of control then the help from Indian law enforcement has been accepted. Otherwise, community-related problems have a solution within the community itself."

Ashray is a non-profit social organization located in Jharkhand, India. Since 1998, it advocates for the rights of tribals and vulnerable communities, with special concern focusing on combating human trafficking, child and women rights, women empowerment, education, health and nutrition, food insecurity, agricultural development, capacity building, natural resource management and tribal rights and also tribal identity and culture. Baa explains that the Hindi word ashray means a type of supportive shelter home that works to provide an opportunity along with the basic necessities required to live a dignified life. "The word has been chosen because ashray speaks to each of our activities, such as sensitization, community mobilization, capacity building through education and skill enhancement, life coping skills, vocational training, rescue, and rehabilitation," Baa said.

Everything started with a group of young professionals. Armed with a passion for social work, and the realization that injustice, social discrimination, and economic inequality did in fact exist, the group got together to address the tough life struggle of these groups in order to help. Ashray has many programs that address all of its concerns, through community mobilization, skills enhancement, networking and collaboration, lobby advocacy and research work. They encourage women and children to build the skill sets necessary for playing a role that removes inequality and injustice from society. The organization has accomplished many great achievements since its foundation, including more than 500,000 people sensitized on human trafficking through meetings, seminars, conferences, and other programs. 

Baa says that Ashray works as a facilitator within the community, with its work adding value to the existing system. "We do believe that people's participation is equally important for high social impact," Baa said. "Neither we nor society stands alone to face the challenges." The most popular projects are the ones that support sensitization and mobilize the community. They also have two new projects coming soon, Education and Skill Enhancement for Urban Livelihood and Shelter for Homeless in Urban supported by Government of Jharkhand.

The biggest challenge that the organization faces is to collect donations as well as fundraising for social causes, and often require support to continue their work. To learn more about Ashray's current and upcoming projects, please click here

This fashion enterprise transforms old plastic into wearable, sustainable products

This fashion enterprise transforms old plastic into wearable, sustainable products

Most people are aware that plastic pollution is a huge problem for the global community. While countries such as Germany and Belgium have developed successful recycling programs in efforts to minimize the amount of waste disposal, Ghana suffers from serious plastic waste management problems. Thousands of plastic bags bottles can be found in the streets and drain pipes; polluting and clogging drainage sewers.

Urban poverty is another significant problem in Ghana. According to a Unicef report, slightly over 10 percent of households in Ghana’ s urban areas experience poverty. Where education and health care are limited, a lot of people from slum communities lack the skillset to take on jobs and earn a living wage. Even worse, women and children are more likely to experience poverty at a higher intensity than men.

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Concerned with the growing number of children and plastic waste on the streets of Ghana, Kwaku Kyei took a bold step in 2011 to form RECNOWA Initiative, a non-profit social enterprise based in Kumasi, Ghana. The organization sells high-quality fashion-driven goods ranging from raincoats to bags; to furniture made from recycled plastic waste. Any and all plastic is taken out of landfills, neighbourhood streets, and anywhere else that its existence causes serious environmental havoc in the city.

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“Every product sold by RECNOWA reduces land pollution, keeps people employed and serves as a very visible reminder that plastic waste can often be put to good use long after its initial purpose has expired,” Kyei said. “People get excited [about our products] and wonder how we have been so creative to make our products from plastic waste.”

Since their establishment, over 20 million of plastic sachets and other material waste have been removed from the waste stream and up-cycled into useful products. 270,000 plastic water bags were manufactured into 2,000 solar powered backpacks for school children without electricity. Theses backpacks are designed to provide cheap energy sources to help children study at night. They also work to reduce the use of kerosene used at home, which can cause accidents and illness.

While the concept of turning waste into pieces of art is not new, it can be a life-changing opportunity for some street youth in Kumasi, Ghana. As one of Ghana's largest metropolitan cities, Kumasi has a competitive street market scene. Apart from solving plastic waste problems, RECNOWA also focuses on the rehabilitation and vocational training of street children and local artisans. RECNOWA trains and employs people with physical limitations, as well as street youth from disadvantaged communities, in the hope that this opportunity could help build up their future lives and lift them out of poverty.

Photographing a fashion component of the Recnowa Project in Ghana was a task that could easily have been shot in a park amongst some buildings at the university, or in a lush forest of palms. In fact, this was the idea being pushed on photographer and founder of PWB Danielle Da Silva  during discussions of the project, but in fashion, we've all seen something to that effect before. "I wanted the setting to be as interesting as the clothing and designers that we were showcasing, all the while emphasizing the beauty and history behind the traditional Kente fabrics, from the Ashanti region, Da Silva said. "Once I had the vision, I had to be un-waivering in its execution, or else it would come across as un-original and stale. We had to find a location that was intriguing and surprising to the viewer. I was adamant that we shoot in was a mechanics shop or a junkyard, in order to have a stark contrast between the subjects and my background. Lucky enough we found such a place, just one hour before the intended shoot. Talk about down to the wire."

RECNOWA has created employment opportunities for more than 130 people who are representing a household with an average of five family members. The domino affect sees approximately 650 people benefiting directly from the profits. In addition, the organization is also teaching people that plastic waste can have an inherent value of its own and should be saved rather than discarded indiscriminately.

Moving forward, RECNOWA wishes to replicate this model across communities in Ghana to benefit more people. However, financing is a huge obstacle. “We need financing to scale up our activities," Kyei said. "We are also looking at a partnership with business, foundations, corporate bodies, bilateral and multilateral institutions who would be buying our solar backpacks for school children in need.”

In the battle against waste and urban poverty, RECNOWA continues to help improve our living environment and contribute to the welfare of the residents in Ghana.

To learn more about RECNOWA initiative, click here

The Peruvian Hearts uplift girls through education and mentorship

The Peruvian Hearts uplift girls through education and mentorship

Education is an integral part of youth empowerment. Unfortunately, it’s an untapped privilege in many areas of the developing world, making it inaccessible to a large majority.

Students in North America often see schooling as a right, as opposed to a benefit that they have over millions. In the most recent Global Education Report, almost 263 million children worldwide were out of school. Countries in South America face this issue on a day-to-day basis, with Peru racking up the title as one of the countries with the highest ratio of children who are out of the classroom.

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Although school enrollment rates have improved, youth still continue to temporarily, or permanently, leave school to assist their families. Kids aged between six and 14 are forced to work long hours in dangerous circumstances.  

Girls, in particular, have a challenging time stepping foot into the classroom. In rural Peru, only 5 percent of girls attend college and only approximately 36 percent graduate from secondary school. For girls who face disparity in education and lack empowerment, the Peruvian Hearts are here to help.

In 2003, what originally started as a trip back to her birth home, founder Ana Dodson encountered several life-changing experiences that paved the way for the ongoing work of the organization. During her stay, Dodson visited orphanages with books and teddy bears as gifts for the children. After creating a connection with one of the girl’s and saying goodbye, Dodson realized her bigger purpose in life.

“I wanted these same advantages for the girls in Peru," Dodson said. "They needed more than books and bears, and I believed that if I tried, I might be able to really help them.” Born in Cusco, Peru and adopted as a baby, Dodson strives to empower young women and girls through various programs. Working out of Colorado, USA, the Peruvian Hearts works to end poverty and gender disparity by educating young women and creating leaders in Peru.

Not only are millions affected by the extreme poverty within Peru, but machismo is also a highly prevalent existing idea that affects women in their day-to-day lives. Machismo is the belief that males are more powerful than their female counterparts, resulting in an aggressive masculine pride that is prominent throughout South and Central America. the concept of machismo consistently reinforces the idea that women's rights are less valid in society.

Peruvian Hearts currently supports a local orphanage called Hogar Mercedes. Home to about 15 girls, each suffering from archaic circumstances, malnourished and limited to education, the Peruvian Hearts supports the emotional and socio-economical needs of each girl so that she can dare to dream. The organization continues to support the Hogar Mercedes by sending groups of volunteer visitors and in-kind donations.  

In Peru, girls are also facing many medical challenges. Too often, they’re walking two to three hours to school, receiving little food throughout the day. The Peruvian Hearts participate in the Nutrition for Change, which helps the children get the food that they need for the success they deserve. By providing a nutritious lunch, Peruvian Hearts ensures that young children are channeling their thoughts towards education happening in the classroom, and not focusing on thinking about the next time they will have access to a meal.

Danny Dodson, the Executive Director of the Peruvian Hearts, is inspired by not only the scholars that come through - but by the organization and how far they’ve come. “The successes that I have seen thus far, after almost six years of running the empowerment program have been dramatic,” Dodson said. “The personal development of our girls has been by far our greatest success and the transformation within their families has also been dramatic.”

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Girls who faced sexism and inequality are being seen as their own individual. “Fathers, who were at one time not supportive of their daughter's education, now ask for their daughter's opinions and respect their daughters," Dodson said. "The families of our girls now understand that their daughters are the key to breaking the cycle of poverty for the entire family.” 

Peruvian Heart’s first group of scholars graduated in April 2017.

To learn more about the Peruvian Hearts and to donate, click here

Amazon's indigenous communities sustained by planting seeds

Amazon's indigenous communities sustained by planting seeds

The Amazon covers over seven million square kilometres, touches nine South American countries, and represents half of Earth's rainforests. It's also home to an estimated 390 billion trees. 

Despite concerns spanning decades,  fears of the impacts of deforestation, illegal mining, and droughts on the Amazon are resurfacing. Around 60% of the rainforest is in Brazil, 13% in Peru and 10% in Colombia; the remainder lies in smaller neighbouring countries.  

Unbeknownst to many, deforestation in the Amazon affects climate in other regions of the world. However, those affected most are the indigenous tribes that have called the forest home for centuries and still do.

Fortunately, one organization is working to reduce the impact of deforestation and its effects on the communities and the ecosystem.

Founded by Jorge Hirofumi Shigematsu in 2007, Green Hope is a Colombian non-profit that operates by recovering damaged forest land in Colombia. The organization was featured in Photographers Without Borders' debut print magazine, with coverage by photographers Sienna Clough and Artem Nazarov. Having worked with different indigenous communities, Green Hope helps rebuild deforested land by reforestation. This is achieved by facilitating conservation projects and sharing knowledge.

“After Photographers Without Borders visited us, the media and video coverage we gained has been very important in showing the world what we do," Shigematsu said. "Making people want to help us get, get involved and get closer to what is happening in the Amazon is crucial. People feel that the Amazon is closer to them.”

The organization’s work has been impactful and continues with plans to spread their message in different regions across the Americas. “We are expecting to open Green Hope in the United States and get support from companies interested in supporting us," Shigematsu said. "Also, this year we are expecting to open Green Hope Mexico and begin a reforestation project."

Though Green Hope has been successful, common political barriers like a lack of government support make paths a little harder to cross. “Nowadays, it is still difficult because a lot of corruption exists and often governors, mayors, and politics in general always want to support us if we follow their party," Shigematsu said. "However, Green Hope doesn’t accept help because we are not a political party and we do not get involved with specific political parties.”

Improved quality of life can be as simple as access to safe and clean water

Improved quality of life can be as simple as access to safe and clean water

PHOTO: Kate Buechner

PHOTO: Kate Buechner

In Thailand, water purification issues plague both local residents and visitors. When the water is not treated it can cause serious illness because of bacterias, parasites, and viruses. Many people living in rural areas and hill tribes rely on scarce water sources. In comes the Rain Tree Foundation is an organization that provides Bio Sand Filters (BSF), a water treatment system that removes pathogens and solids from water, as well as hydraulic ram pumps, that provide a steady water supply for households, farms, and irrigation systems. 

PHOTO: Kate Buechner

PHOTO: Kate Buechner

PHOTO: Kate Buechner

PHOTO: Kate Buechner

Thomas Singer, Technical Advisor at The Rain Tree Foundation, explains that a single household BSF delivers up to 80 litres of drinking water which is an ideal amount for schools. Some families also share it with their neighbors. "The idea is that each family is taking care of their own drinking water needs instead of having a centralized system which, once dirty, all of the people in the village are affected," he said. The pumps are mostly used to support a whole village and in rare cases, for irrigation on farmland. In the past 7 to 8 years, the organization installed about 1.800 BSF and 30 Hydraulic Ram Pumps. Now they install around 300 to 400 BSF per year.

PHOTO: Kate Buechner

PHOTO: Kate Buechner

PHOTO: Kate Buechner

PHOTO: Kate Buechner

Singer explains that if any family member gets sick from drinking contaminated water, there is a chain effect that affects the entire household. "The child is sick and can't attend school, and the mother or father need to take care of them, while buying medicine which means high costs," Singer said. "If the mother is sick, then who takes care of the kids, the food, the firewood and the household? Plus the additional cost of medicine. Same happens if the father is sick, he can't work on the farm, therefore no time for planting, harvesting or taking care of crops." If the medicine from the village is not enough, the family has to visit the next hospital, thus adding extra costs of transportation, accommodation, food and finally hospital bills.

PHOTO: Kate Buechner

PHOTO: Kate Buechner

The organization was founded in 1992 as Program Thai Care, and was committed to helping children in need. Presently, the organization has offices in Thailand and in Germany, running projects that support children, initiatives for local coffee farmers, and even organizations that distribute eyeglasses for those who cannot afford them. Singer says that one of the secrets of handling so many different programs is to have a strong, committed team. "Projects being newly implemented rely on the community and their willingness to continue if they see a benefit and need for it," Singer said. "It will be useless if we try to implement something we think is good but doesn't fit in the people culture, environment or idea of life."

PHOTO: Kate Buechner

PHOTO: Kate Buechner

PHOTO: Kate Buechner

PHOTO: Kate Buechner

PhotographersWithoutBorders

Australian photographer Kate Buechner went to Thailand to photograph the work of The Rain Tree Foundation and replays that the limitation of services caught her attention. "The area of the Children's Home project, that is run by Rain Tree Foundation, is very isolated.," Buechner said. "It was a difficult 3-hour drive via four-wheel drive to get there, and a long way from a hospital. The support the Rain Tree Foundation is giving them is life changing for the families. The water filters mean they no longer have to boil their water for drinking, cooking, and even brushing their teeth (...) I really enjoyed meeting the kids, and how positive and happy they were, despite living under difficult conditions. They were all so excited to have the opportunity to go to school and learn."

PHOTO: Kate Buechner

PHOTO: Kate Buechner

To see all The Rain Tree Foundation projects and help the institution, please click here.

Training for Ghana's midwives leads to more than 50,000 healthy births

Training for Ghana's midwives leads to more than 50,000 healthy births

PHOTO: Amber Kissner

PHOTO: Amber Kissner

"The still night was pierced by a shrill cry; a person rushed out of her home to see what was happening. Sadly, a 24-year-old woman had died giving birth to her first child. I grew up with these screams in the Akpafu mountainous region of Ghana," reported Pewudie Emmanuel, Programmes Coordinator at Akpafu Traditional Birth Attendants Women’s Association (ATBAWA). He comes from a district that spans about 870 miles and is comprised of 171 villages with a population of over 260,000 people. However, they have only 15 qualified midwives there.

PHOTO: Amber Kissner

PHOTO: Amber Kissner

PHOTO: Amber Kissner

PHOTO: Amber Kissner

PHOTO: Amber Kissner

PHOTO: Amber Kissner

According to the Ghana Health Service (GHS), the Greater Accra Region has registered the highest number of maternal deaths in the country, mainly because of bleeding and hypertension. 197 maternal deaths were recorded in 2016, and 100 of them were associated with bleeding. Women in childbirth can loose enormous amounts of blood, and the regional blood banks sometimes cannot supply the demand.

PHOTO: Amber Kissner

PHOTO: Amber Kissner

Emmanuel explains that there are some vital factors that lead to the high maternal deaths in the country: the lack of trained or skilled attendants at birth in the mostly rural areas of the Greater Accra Region; the scarcity of emergency transportation for pregnant women, and the paucity of timely referrals to the hospitals/health centers in the region, are only some of them.

PHOTO: Amber Kissner

PHOTO: Amber Kissner

PhotographersWithoutBorders

After Emmanuel became a registered nurse and midwife, he decided to do something about this issue and realized that the problem could have been avoided if the Traditional Birth Attendants (TBAs) could receive a proper education and training. "When the Ghanaian government dubbed our high maternal and infant mortality rate a 'national menace', I knew I had to do something," Emmanuel said. "Thus, ATBAWA was born." That year in 1992 in Hohoe, Volta Region, Ghana, ATBAWA rose with the objective of diminishing maternal and infant mortality rates and to improve the health situation of pregnant women and children in the area.

PHOTO: Amber Kissner

PHOTO: Amber Kissner

PhotographersWithoutBorders
PhotographersWithoutBorders

The organization targets untrained midwives and gives them the necessary training and equipment to lower pregnancy complications. The TBAs are then able to provide instructions about family planning, contraception and the prevention of HIV/AIDS, pregnancy, birth, hygiene, among other information. Their work is a voluntary contribution. There are no charges for their services, but the families that are not so impoverished are asked to make a small contribution. "But everyone is entitled to their support, whether they can pay or not," Emmanuel said.

PHOTO: Amber Kissner

PHOTO: Amber Kissner

Atapani Paulina and her daughter Adeh Philomena are mother and daughter and are both TBAs with ATBAWA. Paulina has been a respected TBA for over 55 years. Her daughter Philomena received her training in 2010. According to Philomena, when she started to work they only knew what their mothers had taught them. "Now we understand even about where malaria comes from. We tell mothers about keeping water covered and not having loose water around for the mosquitos to breed in. We give out mosquito nets and when we visit the homes we can make sure that the mother and baby are both sleeping under the net, not just the husband. Not so many young babies die of malaria this way," she explained.

PHOTO: Amber Kissner

PHOTO: Amber Kissner

The importance of the organization can be observed by its numbers. “About 50,000 and above women and children were reached by the training programs of ATBAWA; each TBA assists 25 to 120 births every year. Moreover, 118,000 people in the communities were reached by awareness raising events about sexual and reproductive health provided by TBAs,” Emmanuel reported. ATBAWA also has a dialogue with the locals to know about their priorities. "Without the organization, the people in the communities may be denied access to even government programs because of political and or ethnic reasons," explained Emmanuel.

PHOTO: Amber Kissner

PHOTO: Amber Kissner

PhotographersWithoutBorders
PHOTO: Amber Kissner

PHOTO: Amber Kissner

Despite its huge support to the local community, the institution is facing some big challenges. Emmanuel shares that the organization is lacking office equipment and materials such as computers, printers, photocopiers, laptops, a digital video camera, a projector, and office supplies. They also have scarce of potential funders for the maternal and child health care programs. "Lack of funding makes us not been able to organize programs periodically for community-based midwives," he stated.

PHOTO: Amber Kissner

PHOTO: Amber Kissner

Another obstacle is that the organization does not have its own transportation, which prevents them from visiting the trained midwives monthly to collect report on their work. "As an institution, we don’t have even one motorbike to use for our work. All attempt to get a pick-up vehicle over the years has proved futile. We have to rely on public transportation and hiring of vehicles/motorbikes before we are able to do monitoring and supervision," said Emmanuel. "The motivational aspect for ATBAWA is like a passion that we have developed for the women and children in our communities."

PHOTO: Amber Kissner

PHOTO: Amber Kissner

Photographer Amber Kissner photographed the work of ATBAWA and believes that they are filling a gap in the country. "They are providing information down to the basics of 'how to wash hands properly," Kissner explained.  She believes that creating a human connection is important while photographing people in such delicate conditions. "I didn't take out my camera until I developed a comfortable level of interaction with the women. It's important to have a friendly demeanor and to know when to also not take photos." 

To have more information and to support this amazing work, please click here.

From working in a biomedical lab to helping children in Cambodia

From working in a biomedical lab to helping children in Cambodia

Photo: Gina Orlando

Photo: Gina Orlando

Gina Orlando found her calling in Cambodia. From Santa Cruz, California, and passionate about photography, she jumped at the opportunity to a part of a Photographers Without Borders School workshop, which would take place in the kingdom of Cambodia. "Once I saw the workshop I knew I had to go," Gina explained. 

Sisters. Photo: Gina Orlando

Sisters. Photo: Gina Orlando

On the last day of the trip, Gina and her workshop colleagues decided to explore the city of Sihanoukville. On their way to a temple, it started to rain so hard that the roads flooded and the tuk tuk transporting them could not move. "We stopped and were surrounded by children (...) On my side was a half-clothed, trembling girl", Gina said. "When I got home and looked at my pictures I was so taken by her expression. She looked so tired and fragile. It haunted me. It was a joyful time but it saddened me to know how little they had."

Once back in California, Gina decided to contact the tour guide to learn more about the children. He put her in contact with Sok Mong, a young man that founded The Sihanoukville Family English School in 2013, where he teaches English and provides food to the children for the rainy season. "The more I learned about these kids the more I wanted them to have a chance or even the choice to just be a kid," Orlando said. 

Teaching cleanup at the beach. Photo: Gina Orlando

Teaching cleanup at the beach. Photo: Gina Orlando

According to Gina, the village is isolated, what makes travelling for schooling difficult. "It's outside of town and without a car or a scooter, and many are stuck there," Orlando said. "With the school in the village, they can walk over. The kids that don't attend any kind of schooling at all have no understanding of things like basic hygiene (brushing their teeth or washing their hands). This is a good opportunity for them to learn more than just English. It might be the only opportunity for them to learn anything." 

Photo: Gina Orlando

Photo: Gina Orlando

Last February Gina returned to Cambodia and spent a week with Mong and the children, founding an activity called "Kids with Cameras." The project is run by Gloria Upchurch, who also attended the PWB School Cambodia workshop. "She had mentioned her program and when I decided to go back she offered me some of her cameras to take with me. The idea behind the program is to give the kids a new skill and a tangible item (photos) to print and sell to raise money," Orlando explained.

A student in her family's kitchen. Photo: Gina Orlando

A student in her family's kitchen. Photo: Gina Orlando

"It was so great. I didn't really know what to expect but I showed up and all these kids are holding a welcome sign and I just wanted to cry," Orlando said. She states that the experience demonstrated the solidarity that exists amongst the children, acting as a prudent team-building exercise. "We would have a basic lesson of how to use the camera, go out for a couple of hours, then have a review of all the work on my laptop. It was fun to see how much their work changed over a couple of days from blurry selfies to thought out, composed images. We gave lots of compliments and everyone would clap." 

The kids love to play soccer. Mong coaches a boys team in a different town but wants to start a girls team in the village. Photo: Gina Orlando

The kids love to play soccer. Mong coaches a boys team in a different town but wants to start a girls team in the village. Photo: Gina Orlando

Gina is organizing an exhibit on July 7th in her hometown featuring the work that she produced with the children in Cambodia. She also launched a website where people can donate money to help the community with immediate needs and to contribute to long-term goals. Gina will do as much as she can as long as they want her help. "For now, I would love to raise enough to have two functioning classrooms with computers and a bathroom. I want Mong and any other teachers that come on board to get some pay for their hard work. I want to find solutions for the trash and water pollution problems."

Group shot of the students and Mong in front of the Family English School. Photo: Gina Orlando

Group shot of the students and Mong in front of the Family English School. Photo: Gina Orlando

According to Gina, the workshop in Cambodia helped her to make the final decision to open up a photography business in 2017. "It's a good feeling to finally have that confidence in my work and I got a lot of it from that trip," Orlando said. "The experience was definitely eye opening. I had never heard the term 'responsible tourism' before and traveling and supporting NGO's, giving back to those who need it the most, is definitely the way I will try to travel from now on. I will also try and be an advocate for this. About the workshop itself, I felt like I was such an amateur when I got there but I left feeling like a photographer."

To know more about Gina's work and support the children, please click here.

To sign up for a PWB School workshop this fall, please click here.

Second chances for Bolivia's animal trafficking survivors

Second chances for Bolivia's animal trafficking survivors

PHOTO: TRACEY BUYCE

PHOTO: TRACEY BUYCE

The biggest threats to Bolivian wildlife are deforestation and their commercial value (estimated at $10 billion annually) in the animal trafficking market. Bolivia and other Latin American countries are vulnerable to the trade because they are rich in biodiversity, so as a byproduct of this worsening issue, animal refuges are necessary. Nestled in a corner of the Yungas forest in Bolivia, La Senda Verde or "Green Path" is a conservation project intent on making a difference. Providing care for animals who are the survivors of illegal trafficking, the team at La Senda Verde combine a natural habitat with education and sustainable eco-tourism. The animals in their care range from parrots to endangered spider monkeys, and even Andean bears. All creatures great and small are welcomed, treated, and cared for with the best quality care possible. Each of these creatures has a story, and many of them are moving and heartbreaking.

PHOTO: TRACEY BUYCE Howler monkeys.

PHOTO: TRACEY BUYCE Howler monkeys.

PHOTO: TRACEY BUYCE   Baby Spider monkey in nursing care.

PHOTO: TRACEY BUYCE   Baby Spider monkey in nursing care.

Technically it’s a wildlife refuge...but it’s much more than that. It’s not only a refuge for animals but for people too.
— Ivan Rodriguez, La Senda Verde Veterinarian

Animal trafficking is a major problem in Northern Bolivia, especially in the region of Yungas. There is an adventure tourism industry that promotes trips down "the world's most dangerous road" from La Paz to Yungas, which also means that many outsiders come in contact with precious habitats day in and day out, but it also means that vulnerable species are easily accessible. As of 2008, La Senda Verde is obligated by the Environmental Department of Affairs and the La Paz Government to accept any animal that has been intercepted by the government via illegal trafficking and the law forbids rescued animals to be returned to the wild. Within the last four years alone, animal trafficking has sky-rocketed in Bolivia, which means the population at La Senda Verde has quadrupled, and appropriate accommodations is a major concern. As of January 2017, the organization houses 701 rescues and receives new animals on a weekly basis.

PHOTO: TRACEY BUYCE   A capuchin monkey undergoing a procedure.

PHOTO: TRACEY BUYCE   A capuchin monkey undergoing a procedure.

"At La Senda Verde, we want to concentrate our efforts on education," said Vicky Ossio, Founder at La Senda Verde. "If we do not educate on animal trafficking, then it is very difficult for it to stop." In February 2017, The New York Times reported that 865,000 acres of land are being deforested annually in Bolivia. This is driven by farmers who want to grow the soy plant, which produces high yields and large profits. Every acre of land gained by agriculture, is an acre of land stripped away from nature, depleting natural resources, destroying delicate ecosystems. But where do we draw the line between what is good for the economy, for the local people, and what is good for the earth around us?

PHOTO: TRACEY BUYCE Birds, and especially parrots, are the most highly trafficked animals in the world, with over 4,000 species being traded worldwide.

PHOTO: TRACEY BUYCE Birds, and especially parrots, are the most highly trafficked animals in the world, with over 4,000 species being traded worldwide.

PHOTO: TRACEY BUYCE

PHOTO: TRACEY BUYCE

There is no simple answer or quick solution to addressing the problem of animal trafficking, which is why the work at La Senda Verde is so important. Humans want to engage with the wild and see the wonders of the natural world, but in doing so, we sometimes have a tendency to damage it. By setting up operations amidst a popular tourism route in Bolivia, La Senda Verde is able to protect the animals who call the Yungas forests home, and also allows visitors to enjoy the beauty of Bolivia. "La Senda Verde just kind of happened; we didn't plan anything," said Marcelo Levy, founder of La Senda Verde. "The objective when we started was a kind of eco-tourist destination. After two years working on that, I rescued a capuchin monkey, and some months later another monkey was rescued in Curacao, and from there, we decided to make a sanctuary for wildlife."

PHOTO: TRACEY BUYCE Marcelo Levy, Co-Founder of La Senda Verde, has a special bond with the creatures of La Senda Verde.*

PHOTO: TRACEY BUYCE Marcelo Levy, Co-Founder of La Senda Verde, has a special bond with the creatures of La Senda Verde.*

Animals as well as humans...we all belong to this world. And we have to understand that we have to share and we have to live together.
— Marcelo Levy, La Senda Verde Co-Founder
PHOTO: KRISTI ODOM Ocelot.

PHOTO: KRISTI ODOM Ocelot.

They do deserve a second chance, and so we are here to give them the second chance...
— Vicki Ossio, La Senda Verde Co-Founder
PHOTO: KRISTI ODOM Andean bear.

PHOTO: KRISTI ODOM Andean bear.

PHOTO: KRISTI ODOM

PHOTO: KRISTI ODOM

La Senda Verde's eco-friendly approach has allowed the organization to succeed in its conservation efforts, and also educate the masses on the importance of conservation and protecting the environment. The people that travel to La Senda Verde come from all over the globe, and carry the message about their positive work back home. Once an animal has been rescued, the staff at La Senda Verde guarantee that optimal scientific and technical handling conditions are in order. "[Animal trafficking] is a big business, and that's why it's so difficult to fight against," Ossio said. Each species is different, and their programs are different than a "one-size-fits-all" approach that commodified sanctuaries and zoos take. To date, there are four major projects in progress at La Senda Verde: the Tapir and Deer Enclosure, the Ocelot Enclosure, the Toucan Aviary, and the Nursery Cage where baby monkeys find refuge.

PHOTO: TRACEY BUYCE

PHOTO: TRACEY BUYCE

La Senda Verde partners with local schools and colleges to promote a program for conservation and the mitigation of illegal animal trafficking. Through tours, students have the ability to get up close and personal with the rescued animals and learn more about how they came to be here, and where they originally came from. Schools from La Paz can also take part in a special camping trip that allows attendees to learn local conservation efforts while enjoying nature. "[Animal trafficking] is a big business, and that's why it's so difficult to fight against," Ossio said. Because La Senda Verde is privately owned and operated, they always welcome the aid of volunteers, and those who wish to attend can stay for weeks, or even months. Speaking from experience, photographer Tracey Buyce recounts the time she spent at La Senda Verde. "Animal trafficking and poaching is a huge epidemic and problem, and I think that it's something that gets shelved," Buyce said. "I knew I could bring awareness to my area, and possibly help to raise funds and awareness for the animals of Bolivia." As of today, La Senda Verde's  Rotational Program, Care Bear Program, Services Exchange Program and Ambassador Program are all open to individuals from all over the world.

PHOTO: KRISTI ODOM Vicki Ossio, co-founder of La Senda Verda talks to school children about conservation and wildlife. 

PHOTO: KRISTI ODOM Vicki Ossio, co-founder of La Senda Verda talks to school children about conservation and wildlife. 

To support the efforts of La Senda Verde, or to learn more about the organization, click here 

Watch PWB TV Season 1 Episode 4: La Senda Verde:

*Note: The staff at La Senda Verde do not encourage human-animal contact, and PWB does not endorse human-animal contact or selfies with endangered wildlife. We decided to run this image to emphasise the profound and unique relationship between the founders of La Senda Verde and some of the creatures they have rescued.


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The quest for equal education is a shared responsibility

The quest for equal education is a shared responsibility

PHOTO: JOSH HOBSON

PHOTO: JOSH HOBSON

Regardless of social differences or fiscal status, the standardized provision of equal education should reach every corner of every nation. Unfortunately, this is not the reality for every child.

PHOTO: JOSH HOBSON

PHOTO: JOSH HOBSON

A shortfall of national government educational funding in Tanzania, East Africa has directly affected the country's young people. Currently, schooling in Tanzania is available in both the public and private sector. Tuition fees were abolished in 2002, however, families must still pay for school supplies like writing materials and textbooks. For families who cannot afford such materials, their children miss out on the opportunities that other children might receive.

PHOTO: JOSH HOBSON

PHOTO: JOSH HOBSON

United Planet Tanzania is an organization that works to foster cultural understanding in support of global citizenship for a more cohesive world. They offer voluntary opportunities for people to take part in different international programs, ranging from education to social care. Quests, as they are called, can last from one week to up to a year, and are a great opportunity for anyone wishing to add some element of social advocacy to their travels.

PHOTO: JOSH HOBSON

PHOTO: JOSH HOBSON

United Planet Tanzania focuses on education and rehabilitation through their youth and community centres. Volunteers have the opportunity to care for children in an orphanage, teach English and computer skills, or promote youth events in the area. 

PHOTO: JOSH HOBSON

PHOTO: JOSH HOBSON

PHOTO: JOSH HOBSON

PHOTO: JOSH HOBSON

Thanks to the work of organizations like United Planet Tanzania, the country's literacy rates have increased dramatically. As of 2007, children in Tanzania had the highest achievement level than that of any other East African country. There are many external factors that influence the availability of education, especially economic disruptions like drought, low food prices, and war. A lack of qualified teachers, overcrowded classrooms, and a lack of mentorship to help students pass critical examinations is also a disrupter.

PHOTO: JOSH HOBSON

PHOTO: JOSH HOBSON

PHOTO: JOSH HOBSON

PHOTO: JOSH HOBSON

PHOTO: JOSH HOBSON

PHOTO: JOSH HOBSON

PHOTO: JOSH HOBSON

PHOTO: JOSH HOBSON

PHOTO: JOSH HOBSON

PHOTO: JOSH HOBSON

Across the globe, North America also faces its fair share of educational shortcomings. In Canada, a country renowned for its equality and excellent education system, there is a rumbling undercurrent of dissent. Indigenous communities, most notably northern First Nations and Inuit communities, are not being offered the same funding or provision of resources as other communities. In a report by the Aboriginal Multi-Media Authority, the Assembly of First Nations listed 219 Indigenous communities in Canada as needing a new school. Of the schools on that list, about 70 percent claim to have waited more than five years with unanswered requests and 13 per cent have waited more than 20 years. These statistics illustrate a picture of intense inequality and demand immediate attention. Last year the was underscored in April after a reserve in northern Ontario, Attawapiskat, declared a state of emergency. While there were other issues at play, it can be argued that the lack of adequate education and opportunity for the community's young people was an underlying contributing factor.

PHOTO: JOSH HOBSON

PHOTO: JOSH HOBSON

While inequality exists on an international scale, the work that organizations like United Planet Tanzania are helping to address some of those shortfalls across the globe. With continued support, they can succeed in their efforts to bring people to the front lines of allyship and activism.

To learn more about United Planet Tanzania, click here

PHOTO: JOSH HOBSON

PHOTO: JOSH HOBSON

These business-minded students are lifting Nicaraguans out of poverty

These business-minded students are lifting Nicaraguans out of poverty

The yearly World Happiness Report ranks the overall social attitudes of a country's citizens with regards to freedom, generosity, honesty, health, income, and good governance. 

While a position closest to the top is an uphill battle for a majority of countries, Nicaragua has shown notable progress in its quality of life, making 2017 one of the country's best years yet.

Years of poverty and economic downturn have taken a toll on the country's livelihood, especially in regards to the current education system. To date, Nicaragua has the largest youth demographic in Latin America, with more than two million school-aged children. Of those two million, half of them live in poverty, and an estimated 500,000 children aged three to 17 are not even registered in the school system. The mentorship and support needed in a classroom setting has not always been readily available for Nicaraguan youth.

PHOTO: NIURKA BARROSO

PHOTO: NIURKA BARROSO

Poverty is the leading cause of absence in the classroom in Nicaragua. Children will often skip the books in order to find work to support their families. Forced to choose between paying for textbooks with limited funds in exchange for free schooling, or hustling goods and services on the streets and in the markets for profit, most youngsters choose the latter. Under Nicaraguan law, youth can begin working at the age of 14.  Despite the law, leaders believe that anywhere from 250,000 to 320,000 child workers under the age of 14 are still employed. 

Registered in London in 2006, an English organization called Teach A Man To Fish works tirelessly alongside global businesses in order to provide tailored support to youth in need in a classroom setting.  The goal is to instill a set of ethical and sustainable values in the students that encourage them to begin thinking like businesspersons in order to prepare them for a career outside of school. Currently, TAMTF has more than 5,500 members in over 130 countries and Nicaragua is a part of that network. 

PHOTO: NIURKA BARROSO

PHOTO: NIURKA BARROSO

One of the non-profit's most notable achievements is the "School Enterprise Challenge". Open to all countries, the School Enterprise Challenge is a business startup competition that aims to pair teachers with students in an attempt to launch a profitable business that creates genuine, positive results on a social and environmental level. With guidance, support, and hands-on training from teachers, students are taught how to open up a real-life business that turns a genuine profit. Up to $50,000 in cash prizes are up for grabs for the students and teachers who show the most entrepreneurial spirit and promise. In 2016 alone, 5,265 schools from 106 different countries signed up for the challenge. To enter, students and teachers work together to brainstorm and develop a business plan. Once the legwork is done, the business is then launched within the school. The awards go to the students whose ideas are innovative, unique, and sustainable. 

PHOTO: NIURKA BARROSO

PHOTO: NIURKA BARROSO

PHOTO: ANA O'BYRNE

PHOTO: ANA O'BYRNE

PHOTO: NIURKA BARROSO

PHOTO: NIURKA BARROSO

La Bastilla Technical Agricultural School in Los Colinas, Nicaragua, is directly associated with Teach A Man To Fish and it operates by creating possibilities through youth education. In a district where roughly only 20% of youth attend secondary school, La Bastilla Technical Agricultural School is able to educate its young attendees through sustainable farming practices and profitable business methods. The school teaches youth the basic principles of farming like dairy, egg and coffee production.

PHOTO: NIURKA BARROSO

PHOTO: NIURKA BARROSO

PHOTO: NIURKA BARROSO ANA O'BYRNE IN ACTION

PHOTO: NIURKA BARROSO ANA O'BYRNE IN ACTION

PHOTO: NIURKA BARROSO

PHOTO: NIURKA BARROSO

Photographers Ana O’Byrne and Niurka Barroso have provided detailed recollections of their time and experiences in Los Colinas. “The Ecolodge has several buildings. They’ve got a dining hall, a recreational hall and they’ve got all these different cottages and bunks. Down the hill is the technical school and also their farm,” recounted O’Byrne. “We were a little taken aback at how rural it was, and you can only get up to the Ecolodge by a four-wheel drive vehicle. There’s a dairy farm, there’s a small bakery, and in the midst of it all, they teach the kids how to sustain themselves." Under Nicaragua law, youth can begin working at the age of 14.  Despite the law, leaders believe that anywhere from 250,000 to 320,000 child workers under the age of 14 are employed. 

PHOTO: NIURKA BARROSO

PHOTO: NIURKA BARROSO

Poverty is the leading cause of absence in the classroom in Nicaragua. Children will often skip the books in order to find work to support their families. Forced to choose between paying for textbooks with limited funds in exchange for free schooling, or hustling goods and services on the streets and in the markets for profit, most youngsters choose the latter. Educational initiatives like Teach A Man To Fish are creating noticeable impact given the ways in which they blend business with education. According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, Nicaragua has climbed out of poverty, with an impressive decrease by 30% between 2005 and 2014. The initiatives put in place by Teach A Man To Fish allow Nicaragua's young people to turn a profit, while still pursuing and enjoying an education.

You can visit Teach A Man To Fish's website here


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Photographing responsible voluntourism as a tool to unite the planet

Photographing responsible voluntourism as a tool to unite the planet

PHOTO: BARBARA DELGADO

PHOTO: BARBARA DELGADO

Combining volunteering with tourism became a trend over the past few years. The result is an act referred to as "voluntourism". Instead of spending time visiting touristic spots or relaxing at fancy resorts, many people around the world are considering going to other countries in order to learn about different cultures in a deeper way.  At the same time, they can engage and assist with local issues. These individuals are willing to step out of their comfort zone and experience the world in a more raw form. Around 10 million volunteers spend more than $2 billion per year on volunteering trips, according to Nancy Gard McGehee, an expert on sustainable tourism at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.

PHOTO: BARBARA DELGADO

PHOTO: BARBARA DELGADO

PHOTO: BARBARA DELGADO

PHOTO: BARBARA DELGADO

Working with local NGOs around the globe, United Planet Peru is an organization that offers volunteer abroad opportunities in 27 countries. Peru is one destination bustling with opportunities. Located in the capital of Cusco, since 2005, United Planet Peru offers programs relating to health, children and education, and environmental sustainability. Their work strives to support the country by increasing the quality of basic services and closing infrastructure gaps. The volunteers can live with host families and learn Spanish while doing their volunteer work. United Planet Peru believes that creating a global community and building relationships between people of diverse backgrounds are the basic building blocks for increased cultural understanding. 

PHOTO: BARBARA DELGADO

PHOTO: BARBARA DELGADO

PHOTO: BARBARA DELGADO

PHOTO: BARBARA DELGADO

PHOTO: BARBARA DELGADO

PHOTO: BARBARA DELGADO

Despite its obvious good intentions, voluntourism has also been criticized by some who claim that volunteers often lack the capacity required to work in the programs that they apply for. Foreign labour is another complaint by locals who see these individuals as a source for cheap employment, instead of hiring local staff. One example that illustrates the criticism is the Instagram account Barbie Saviour. With more than 120,000 followers, it pokes fun of the "white savior complex", a term used to describe Caucasian individuals who aim to fix problems in less favorable nations, without really understanding their culture and real needs. United Planet is unique in the sense that the volunteer projects in question are run by local people, for local people. Volunteers who participate in these projects come in to help facilitate, not dictate, and money is never the end goal. All volunteers are carefully screened and selected, to be sure that both the organization and the volunteer are an amicable match, and that skills are enriched, not lost, on either side.

PHOTO: BARBARA DELGADO

PHOTO: BARBARA DELGADO

Photographer Barbara Delgado travelled to Cusco, Peru to document the everyday work of United Planet. From her experience, she reinforces that the organization does not fit the description of the stereotypes associated with volunteerism. "The volunteers working with United Planet not only seem to enjoy their work but seem to benefit from it," Delgado said. "These volunteers are really changing the lives of so many people, especially children and though some of the things they experience may be tough in return, I feel they are ultimately more appreciative of their own lives." Delgado especially loved witnessing the difference that the volunteers made in the everyday lives of so many people. "The little things are what seemed to make a world of a difference," Delgado said. "Seeing the reaction on the children's faces when these volunteers would show up was priceless."

PHOTO: BARBARA DELGADO

PHOTO: BARBARA DELGADO

Theresa Higgs, United Planet’s Vice President of Global Operations, emphasizes the benefit of having international people work with civilians to address local issues. “Local NGOs serve the local communities in important ways and our volunteers offer their time, work and expertise to support the local staff," Higgins said. "United Planet volunteers also bring a diverse perspective, new resources and access to the world outside of the local community to children and other community members who may not otherwise have that kind of interaction and access."

To know more about United Planet Peru click here.

PHOTO: BARBARA DELGADO

PHOTO: BARBARA DELGADO


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Raising Voices sounds the alarm on violence against women

Raising Voices sounds the alarm on violence against women

Photo: Henry Vanderspek

Photo: Henry Vanderspek

Preventing and eradicating violence against women and children remains a global challenge. In North America alone, the Canadian Women’s Foundation estimates that around 3,500 women and 2,700 children sleep in shelters across Canada on any given night, because it isn’t safe in their own homes. As if those numbers weren't alarming enough, an estimated 300 women and children are turned away because shelters are at their capacity. 

Photo: Henry Vanderspek

Photo: Henry Vanderspek

Photo: Henry Vanderspek

Photo: Henry Vanderspek

Photo: Henry Vanderspek

Photo: Henry Vanderspek

On the other side of the globe, a study by the South African Medical Research Council, illustrates the intense level of violence experienced by women in South Africa. The SAMRC estimate that 40% of men have, at some point, been violent to their female partner, and in turn, 40-50% of women have at some point been the victim of violence from their male partner. The report also concluded that 15% of children report times in their lives when one or both parents were too drunk to care for them, and one in two children experience emotional abuse, parental neglect, or witness violence against their mothers at home. 

Photo: Henry Vanderspek

Photo: Henry Vanderspek

Recognizing the urgency of the situation, Raising Voices was founded in 1999 as a non-profit that strives to catalyze social change in vulnerable communities where violence against women runs high. Based in Kampala, Uganda, the organization works closely with their partners on the ground throughout East and Southern Africa to build lasting and trusting relationships, in an effort to stem the tide of violence. This organization focuses on moving away from the focus of gender, and encouraging active thought surrounding human rights and activism in order to engage people from all levels of society so that dignity and respect are recognized.  

Photo: Henry Vanderspek

Photo: Henry Vanderspek

As part of this, Raising Voices attempts to influence policy, so that community drivers can flourish in their attempts for successful and affirmative action. Such action also involves a global advocacy initiative where Raising Voices has constructed five steps to help prevent violence against women and children. These include showing leadership, creating equality, changing norms, challenging sectors, and investing in research and programming. Peter Bahemuka, Senior Program Officer with Raising Voices said, “Raising Voices undertakes evidence-based policy influencing by innovating methodologies for prevention of violence against women and children, testing their efficacy in partnership with other actors through rigorous research, investing in learning from what we do, and disseminating knowledge and evidence through advocacy and communications.”

photographersWithoutBorders

One innovative methodology that has taken off at Raising Voices is the Good School Toolkit. Composed of four interrelated objectives, the Good School Toolkit aims to establish a collective vision for the school, create a nurturing learning environment, implement progressive learning strategies, and strengthen overall school governance. An in-house study conducted in 2005 by Raising Voices found that just over 60% of its children experienced violence at school--add this to the everyday violence found at home, and children had very little in terms of a safe space. The Good Toolkit is a child-friendly approach that works to eliminate violence in the classroom. Its proactive approach influences educators and enables key stakeholders to create change in a natural way.

Photo: Henry Vanderspek

Photo: Henry Vanderspek

Though the actions of organizations like Raising Voices are on the right track to eradicating violence against women, the issue continues to plague countries around the world, and not just as a result of direct, physical violence. The Wisconsin State Journal reported on March 21, 2017, that President Trump’s proposed budget would axe funding to sexual assault and domestic violence victims, the services such victims would require and also funding needed by officials to prosecute the perpetrators. Such proposed cuts would diminish any hope of curbing the tide of violence against women and children in the States, President Trump has also spoken out against the services provided by Planned Parenthood, and has vowed to withdraw funding for that organization, negatively affecting women and children around the globe. 

Photo: Henry Vanderspek

Photo: Henry Vanderspek

Photo: Henry Vanderspek

Photo: Henry Vanderspek

The work of organizations like Raising Voices is now more pertinent than ever. It is up to everyone to work together in unison. “For our part, Raising Voices mobilizes communities to create everyday activists and empowers people through reflection, skill-building, education, and dialogue to promote long-term sustainable prevention," Bahemuka said. Violence should be a forgotten chapter in our history, not the daily reality for millions of women and children across the globe.

For more ways to help, click here.

photographersWithoutBorders

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