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.”

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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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Recycling bikes to increase social mobility

Recycling bikes to increase social mobility

PHOTO: MICHELE WEISZ

PHOTO: MICHELE WEISZ

If you live in an urban city, chances are you know what it feels like to take on the daily commute. Our cities today are dirty, polluted, congested, and the costs of transit increase year after year. The social gap grows greater because of this. Neighbourhoods on the periphery become under-developed, and their residents become isolated. This problem is exacerbated in cities which welcome new arrivals regularly. Many of these newcomers come from under-developed regions or may lack adequate language skills, strangling already stretched resources in these fringe neighbourhoods. The question arises, how do we welcome and integrate newcomers into our society, without adding to traffic congestion? 

PHOTO: MICHELE WEISZ

PHOTO: MICHELE WEISZ

PhotographersWithoutBorders
PHOTO: MICHELE WEISZ

PHOTO: MICHELE WEISZ

Bikes Without Borders has a simple solution, to what seems like a complex problem. When subway plans are costing billions of dollars, and existing streetcars are packed to the brim, it seems like any palpable thinker would consider an alternative mode of transport. The Great Bike Recycle is a program developed by Bikes Without Borders to support vulnerable individuals in Toronto, giving them independence and promoting personal and social well-being.

Photo: Michele Weisz Tanya Smith, Founder of BWB.

Photo: Michele Weisz Tanya Smith, Founder of BWB.

Anyone can donate a bike, which will be refurbished by Bikes Without Borders, and given to someone in need. This not only makes a positive impact on the life of the individual, but also has the possibility to reduce the strain of the public transit system, congestion on the streets, and is far more environmentally friendly. It's also an initiative that is supported city-wide. 

Photo: Michele Weisz

Photo: Michele Weisz

According to a report by the Torontoist in October 2016, a Forum Research poll recorded that 70% of Torontonians were in favour of bike lanes. This new wave of pro-bike sentiment is most evident on Bloor Street, where the bike lane serves 6,000 bikes each day, and counting. An initiative that is so widely welcomed city-wide, is surely the smartest way to integrate struggling residents. 

Photo: Michele Wiesz

Photo: Michele Wiesz

This is an idea which is being adopted globally. The European Commission has funded studies in an effort to better develop cities to embrace the new cycling culture. Already, cities like Amsterdam, Barcelona and Copenhagen are renowned for their bicycle friendly culture. Bike sharing programs are also on the rise, with Beijing and Shanghai hosting the world’s biggest programs, and more are opening in countries like Morocco and Argentina. 

Photo: Michele Wiesz

Photo: Michele Wiesz

In a world where the divide seems to widen between the rich and poor, perhaps bikes are the bridge to connect the two. Bikes Without Borders is proof that such possibilities exist. A cheaper alternative to public transport and a positive impact on the environment, it is hard to see why there would not be increased future investment and interest in cycling and bicycle programs. To read more about Bikes Without Borders, click here.  


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Japanese shelter HEART conquers euthanization with love

Japanese shelter HEART conquers euthanization with love

Montréal’s move to repeal its ban on one of North America's most controversial canines marked the onset of progress for animal welfare activists and the dogs themselves.

A revision of laws surrounding "dangerous" dogs, like the pit bull breed, was in legislation and is set to be reviewed by 2018 with the general public's safety in mind.

Despite these strides, the recent, tragic mauling of a Montréal woman led to an abrupt decision that would have resulted in the mass euthanization of approximately 7,000 pit bulls, including those belonging to pet owners.

Photo: Pam Forster

Photo: Pam Forster

Defending animal welfare continues to plague animal rights activists around the world, who believe there is another method to mitigating violence against breeds who have been categorized as unfit for domestic companionship. The sad reality is that for most "ill-behaved" dogs, the sharp tip of a needle is the final leg of their journey. 

Photo: Pam Forster

Photo: Pam Forster

Animal rights shelter HEART, based in Tokushima, Japan is one non-profit that is committed to giving unwanted, or misguided domestic animals a second chance at life and love. For this animal welfare group, euthanasia is taboo. Instead, alternative measures are taken to ensure that as many unwanted dogs as possible get re-homed, while they endure compassion and behavioural training along the way. 

Founders of HEART. Photo: Pam Forster

Founders of HEART.

Photo: Pam Forster

HEART has garnered attention for advocating animal rights and welfare in Japan, and their anti-euthanasia stance on unadopted animals is making waves. HEART's euthanasia ban has made the non-profit the only organization to implement this policy in their vicinity. Taking into consideration the fact that many Japanese shelters put down a staggering rate of 90% of their unadopted animals, HEART is truly an important organization to the individuals and animals who face limited options. More often than not, irresponsible human behaviours, like questionable training methods or a disregard of spaying and neutering is to blame for the rise in unwanted animals.  

Photo: Pam Forster

Photo: Pam Forster

Co-founded in 2006 by Susan Mercer and Hitoshi Tojo, the duo truly put their backs into their work. With full-time hours, sometimes clocking in over twelve-hour days, Mercer and Tojo rely on the help from a few paid employees, as well as a steadfast team of passionate weekend volunteers.

Photo: Lais Viera

Photo: Lais Viera

With a tremendous percentage of Japan’s unwanted animals being scheduled for euthanasia, more methods of implementing harm-reduction strategies are required. This is attained in several ways. Through educating the public on animal rights issues, advocating for the spaying and neutering of animals, and even rolling up their own sleeves and helping spay animals themselves, HEART’s team has become the gleam of hope for many animals who's fate would have otherwise ended on an operating table. To date, the organization has rehomed hundreds of formerly rejected animals and helped them become members of loving families.  

Photo: Pam Forster

Photo: Pam Forster

Mercer credits the assistance of PWB photographers Pam Forster and Lais Vieira and the attention their images helped to advocate. “Since Photographers Without Borders has been here, we have built new, more spacious kennels to replace some of our older housing," Mercer said. "We have also achieved this through grants from companies and crowdfunding efforts.” 

HEART's main goal has been the improvement of its internal operations, and the organization plans to expand its outreach to help even more animals. Mercer has since been certified as a professional dog trainer, and is in the midst of implementing a shelter training and enrichment programs to improve the animals' quality of life.

Adopted. Photo: Pam Forster

Adopted.

Photo: Pam Forster

Mercer explains that the organization shows no signs of slowing down. “We will continue with our rescue and re-homing efforts, but hope to expand our community outreach programs through children's humane education lessons and various other events and seminars,” Mercer said.

Photo: Lais Viera

Photo: Lais Viera

You can visit HEART's website here.

 

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Sisters photographing sisters and raising voices

Sisters photographing sisters and raising voices

In recognition of their ongoing efforts, we'd like to introduce you to some of the women behind the lenses here at PWB, who have brought attention to efforts surrounding human rights, wildlife and conservation, education, gender equality, and sustainability. 

KRISTIN LAU for SunFarmer

MAGGIE SVOBODA for Seeds of Peace

ANGELA CONNERS for South Vihar Welfare Society

AIMI DUONG for Mufindi Orphans

TALIA RICCI for Avanti Ecuador

LISA XING for Shiksha Alok

RACHEL NAFT for Colombia Festiva

SIENNA CLOUGH for Green Hope Colombia

CLAUDIA QUIGUA for Grace House


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Orangutan heroes of Sumatra

Orangutan heroes of Sumatra

"Mekar" had been trapped in this tiny patch of forest for over seven days. 

"Mekar" had been trapped in this tiny patch of forest for over seven days. 

This week 30-year-old female orangutan "Mekar" (lovingly named after the village in which she was found, which means "blooming") was found trapped, skinny and bullet-ridden in a small patch of forest inside a palm oil plantation for over seven days. Arboreal creatures sharing 97% of human DNA, orangutans are not able to thrive in palm oil plantations due to lack of food and tree cover, but the reality is that palm oil plantations are both a norm and a way of life in Sumatra, posing a great threat to wildlife and conservation efforts.

When critically endangered orangutans are in trouble in Sumatra, people know who to call: "HOCRU," or the "Human-Orangutan Conflict Response Unit," which operates as a part of Sumatra's leading orangutan and habitat conservation organization, "Orangutan Information Centre (OIC)."

DanielleDaSilva_PhotographersWithoutBorders

Mekar was safely tranquilized using a dart gun. It took three tries to hit the orangutan in a tree 15 metres above ground and after she was sedated, she fell into a net held taught by the HOCRU team and the help of locals. 

Local people from "Mekar Sari" watch and assist in the rescue. 

Local people from "Mekar Sari" watch and assist in the rescue. 

Kriezna, the HOCRU Coordinator, tries to coax the orangutan into a better position for tranquilization.

Kriezna, the HOCRU Coordinator, tries to coax the orangutan into a better position for tranquilization.

A different kind of White Helmet team waiting for the sedative to take effect.

A different kind of White Helmet team waiting for the sedative to take effect.

OIC's vet, Ricko al Husein, and the HOCRU coordinator Kriezna Ketapel did a check on her vitals and found that she was malnourished with over 30 air rifle bullets riddled throughout her body and face. One eye had a bullet lodged inside, impairing her vision. 

DanielleDaSilva_PhotographersWithoutBorders
DanielleDaSilva_PhotographersWithoutBorders
DanielleDaSilva_PhotographersWithoutBorders

Fortunately Mekar was healthy enough to be translocated to the national park on the same day, so the team made preparations to drive two hours to the nearest release site at the national park entrance.

Releasing Mekar to the national park forest.

Releasing Mekar to the national park forest.

Orangutans viewed as pests on plantation sites and in villages are often shot, killed, and even sometimes consumed or kept illegally as pets. Poachers are also notorious for killing mother orangutans so they can capture and sell their babies as pets to foreigners and locals where they are seen as status symbols. HOCRU evacuated or confiscated 28 isolated or illegally kept orangutans in 2016. However by educating local communities and building partnerships with local people, OIC is getting more and more calls so that these magnificent beings can have a second chance. 

DanielleDaSilva_PhotographersWithoutBorders

Sumatra is the only place in the world where critically endangered orangutan, elephant, rhino, and tiger exist in the same ecosystem. And the largest culprit causing the need for rescues and pushing these animals towards extinction is habitat loss due to deforestation. Unsung heroes, the staff at OIC are not only the sole organization performing rescues and translocations, but they have reclaimed and reforested almost 1500 hectares of illegal palm oil plantations that encroach on conservation land, and are creating buffer zones between the national park boundaries using coffee and orange farms. Right now one of their key aims is purchasing land to create a conservation area called the "Sumatran Wildlife Sanctuary" that will act as a migratory corridor and safe haven for wildlife that can not be returned to the wild. They key to their success? Involving and working with local people, government and NGOs.

If you would like to assist with OIC's "Sumatran Wildlife Sanctuary" effort, you can donate here: grouprev.com/sumatranwildlifesanctuary

Images © 2017 Danielle Da Silva.


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From amateur photographer to working with a National Geographic legend

From amateur photographer to working with a National Geographic legend

PHOTO: Paul Esposti

PHOTO: Paul Esposti

Paul Esposti has led a very colourful life, to say the least. 

After originally studying biology and working in an etymology lab for several years, he moved to Honduras to pursue a career in scuba diving. Armed with the technical skill required, Esposti became a certified commercial diver.

A few years down the road, yet another field sparked his interest, and Esposti decided to try his hand at boat building.

In 2015, Esposti had just finished up 7 years in the field as an R&D consultant. Once again, he decided it was time for a change and started looking for opportunities that linked back to his love of conservation and the outdoors. 

A random Google search led Esposti to stumble across an advertisement for Photographers Without Borders' very first workshop in Costa Rica. As outlined in the itinerary, the team would spend some time volunteering for the ASVO turtle conservation project at Matapalo Beach, the oldest community marine turtle conservation program on the Pacific Coast.

A baby sea turtle makes its way across the beach in Costa Rica. PHOTO: Paul Esposti 

A baby sea turtle makes its way across the beach in Costa Rica. PHOTO: Paul Esposti 

Esposti liked the work PWB did, and although he had never heard of the organization before, he signed up. And then, he quit his job of 7 years.

Armed with his digital camera, to which he admits he had working knowledge of, Esposti packed his bags and flew out to Costa Rica in September 2015. In Costa Rica, he teamed up with fellow PWB Founder Danielle Da Silva and former Curator Tallie Garey in order to document the work of ASVO, an NGO committed to preserving the habitats of sea turtles. Due to their breeding habits, every year, thousands of sea turtles die or are at risk of death due to interactions with tourists on Costa Rica's bustling beaches.

Once the workshop ended, Esposti found himself back in Canada, no longer in beautiful Costa Rica, and without the security of his former job. Tallie Garey advised Esposti to enroll in the Environmental Visual Communications program at Fleming College. The program is a joint effort with the Royal Ontario Museum, where it is taught. "Part of the program is to do a placement for two months with an environmental organization," Esposti said. "The entire course prepares you for the placement - photography, videography, social media, and communications."

It was in his program that Esposti learned of an organization called SeaLegacy--a marine and conservation organization devoted to protecting marine life and the oceans. SeaLegacy also happens to be run by famous photographer, conservationist, and Executive Director Cristina Mittermeier, as well as her partner Paul Nicklen, the only Canadian photographer for National Geographic. "Some people go to an organization and sit in an office handling their social media feed but I wanted to be out in the field, and luckily I had the skill set as a diver and boat builder to be of use to Nicklen and Mittermeier," Esposti said.

Whales surface in northern British Columbia during Esposti's trip with Nicklen and Mittermeier. PHOTO: Paul Esposti 

Whales surface in northern British Columbia during Esposti's trip with Nicklen and Mittermeier. PHOTO: Paul Esposti 

With a little bit of luck and a whole lot of newfound skills (and some strong encouragement from Tallie), Esposti approached the famous duo. "They [Mittermeier and Nicklen] were planning a trip up the coast of Northern B.C as SeaLegacy's first official expedition just at the time I was to be on placement," Esposti said.

To make a very long and very inspiring story short, Esposti was accepted to SeaLegacy and embarked on an epic journey with Paul Nicklen and Cristina Mitetrmeier as they explored the extreme beauty of British Columbia's Great Bear Rainforest, which is brimming with biodiversity and endangered species. 

For the first leg of the journey, Nicklen put Esposti's boat building skills to good use to make sure that their tiny motor boat would hold up for the entire trip. Over the course of four incredible weeks, Esposti was able to follow the lead of Nicklen and Mittermeier and assist with some incredible shots that have since been published by National Geographic online and through their social media channels.

On board the Martin Sheen. Left to right: Paul Esposti, Paul Nicklen, Alexandra Morton, Cristina Mittermeier, Simon Ager, Tamo Campos.

On board the Martin Sheen. Left to right: Paul Esposti, Paul Nicklen, Alexandra Morton, Cristina Mittermeier, Simon Ager, Tamo Campos.

 

When you sign up with a workshop from PWB, you really have no idea what to expect. So many of us have likely weighed the odds of our futures at some point or another--do we stay at the job we aren't in love with in order to make ends meet, or do we abandon all of it in support of a life-changing opportunity we've fallen in love with a very long time ago?

You don't have to scroll through the rich travel-inspired social media feeds of strangers or friends and wish for that to be you. Way too often, we consider people who get to travel to new places "lucky", when in reality, they've chosen to make a sacrifice in order to make their dreams more than wishful thinking. You'll never know what the future holds if you don't take the risk. At PWB, all of our workshops are led by certified professionals who hold degrees in everything from Journalism and Videography to Conservation and major sciences. We're always along for the ride and are excited to help others accomplish their dreams. Whether your camera strap rests around your neck like your best fashion accessory, or it's your very first time shooting, we work with you one-on-one to sharpen your photography skills, while instilling in you the values of story-telling, ethical journalism, and wildlife conservation.

Our next workshop is in Uganda where we are working with a children's empowerment organization.

To read Paul Esposti's full story, click here


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