Photographer's portraits of Mexico's natural disaster are making a difference

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Photographer's portraits of Mexico's natural disaster are making a difference

On September 19, 2017, at 1:14pm, a 7.1 magnitude earthquake hit central Mexico killing more than 300 people and injuring more than 2800. The small state of Morelos has become the one of the epicenters, was the second most impacted area with 97 fatalities and more than 350 injured. While there are not yet available statistics of the extend of property damage, many people partially or completely lost their homes and businesses. 

From September 23 to September 26, PWB photographer Francisco Alcala Torreslanda documented the work the Mexican Red Cross is doing to support the people impacted by this deadly disaster that has left so many homeless. Torreslanda followed crews to the areas of Hueyapan, Tecomalco, Chinameca, Olintepec, where they delivered food and other provisions. During this process, he spoke to some of the families they encountered and has set up a GoFundMe page to help support these families

These are their stories:

This is what is left of Sergio Barreda Flores’ home. The total loss is crushing, and the three inhabitants are trying to figure out what they will do. PHOTO: Francisco Alcala Torreslanda

This is what is left of Sergio Barreda Flores’ home. The total loss is crushing, and the three inhabitants are trying to figure out what they will do. PHOTO: Francisco Alcala Torreslanda

The earthquake in Jojutla, Morelos destroyed homes and businesses. People are not only left without a place to live but without a source of income. PHOTO: Francisco Alcala Torreslanda

The earthquake in Jojutla, Morelos destroyed homes and businesses. People are not only left without a place to live but without a source of income. PHOTO: Francisco Alcala Torreslanda

Álvaro Jaimes was able to get out of his small flat that he shares with his uncle Jesús Jaime. Now the place is completely uninhabitable. PHOTO: Francisco Alcala Torreslanda

Álvaro Jaimes was able to get out of his small flat that he shares with his uncle Jesús Jaime. Now the place is completely uninhabitable. PHOTO: Francisco Alcala Torreslanda

Verónica Bravo Santamaria looking at her home as it is being demolished. Six people lived in the house including her husband, her children Francisco Antonio and Mari José, and her in-laws. They are currently sleeping in their truck. PHOTO: Francisco Alcala Torreslanda

Verónica Bravo Santamaria looking at her home as it is being demolished. Six people lived in the house including her husband, her children Francisco Antonio and Mari José, and her in-laws. They are currently sleeping in their truck. PHOTO: Francisco Alcala Torreslanda

Jatziri Ramírez and husband Daniel Salgado’s home was severely damaged; Meanwhile they need to take care of their three children whose names are Abigail, Ismael, and Aurora. PHOTO: Francisco Alcala Torreslanda

Jatziri Ramírez and husband Daniel Salgado’s home was severely damaged; Meanwhile they need to take care of their three children whose names are Abigail, Ismael, and Aurora. PHOTO: Francisco Alcala Torreslanda

Virginia Hernández is a mother of six and is currently expecting another one. Her home was damaged and categorized uninhabitable by the authorities. PHOTO: Francisco Alcala Torreslanda

Virginia Hernández is a mother of six and is currently expecting another one. Her home was damaged and categorized uninhabitable by the authorities. PHOTO: Francisco Alcala Torreslanda

Jorge Martínez Aponte, 7 years old, went from living in a cosy home one day to living with his family and other 8 families in a makeshift tent refuge the next. PHOTO: Francisco Alcala Torreslanda

Jorge Martínez Aponte, 7 years old, went from living in a cosy home one day to living with his family and other 8 families in a makeshift tent refuge the next. PHOTO: Francisco Alcala Torreslanda

Scores of people waiting to receive provisions from the Red Cross in near Moyotepec Morelos. PHOTO: Francisco Alcala Torreslanda

Scores of people waiting to receive provisions from the Red Cross in near Moyotepec Morelos. PHOTO: Francisco Alcala Torreslanda

Consuelo Hernández was in her bedroom when the earthquake hit. She was able to get out alive but everything was destroyed. PHOTO: Francisco Alcala Torreslanda

Consuelo Hernández was in her bedroom when the earthquake hit. She was able to get out alive but everything was destroyed. PHOTO: Francisco Alcala Torreslanda

Red Cross brigades and volunteers deliver provisions to impacted households in Hueyapan Morelos. PHOTO: Francisco Alcala Torreslanda

Red Cross brigades and volunteers deliver provisions to impacted households in Hueyapan Morelos. PHOTO: Francisco Alcala Torreslanda

Volunteers take a break after many hours of removing rubble from impacted households in Hueyapan Morelos. PHOTO: Francisco Alcala Torreslanda

Volunteers take a break after many hours of removing rubble from impacted households in Hueyapan Morelos. PHOTO: Francisco Alcala Torreslanda

Rogelio Escobar and wife Ernestina Bravo had some parts of his home completely destroyed. Other areas are significantly damaged. They are already assisting with reconstruction. PHOTO: Francisco Alcala Torreslanda

Rogelio Escobar and wife Ernestina Bravo had some parts of his home completely destroyed. Other areas are significantly damaged. They are already assisting with reconstruction. PHOTO: Francisco Alcala Torreslanda

Mexican Red Cross and volunteers oading provisions to distribute to impacted communities at the Red Cross headquarters in Cuautla Morelos. PHOTO: Francisco Alcala Torreslanda

Mexican Red Cross and volunteers oading provisions to distribute to impacted communities at the Red Cross headquarters in Cuautla Morelos. PHOTO: Francisco Alcala Torreslanda

The earthquake in Jojutla, Morelos destroyed the lives, homes and businesses of many. People are not only left without a place to live but without a source of income. PHOTO: Francisco Alcala Torreslanda

The earthquake in Jojutla, Morelos destroyed the lives, homes and businesses of many. People are not only left without a place to live but without a source of income. PHOTO: Francisco Alcala Torreslanda

In the middle of the deep crisis, people still believe in their beloved nation, Mexico. PHOTO: Francisco Alcala Torreslanda

In the middle of the deep crisis, people still believe in their beloved nation, Mexico. PHOTO: Francisco Alcala Torreslanda

The people of Mexico have massive needs right now. Many families have seen their livelihoods completely disappear and have been forced to live in the streets. They need our help. 

The money received through this effort will be divided between 14 impacted families, including the ones pictured here.

We can all give Mexico a hand by donating here: https://www.gofundme.com/MexicoEarthquakeVictims

 

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HOOP is improving the lives of many in Peru

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HOOP is improving the lives of many in Peru

PHOTO: Daniel Korzeniewski

PHOTO: Daniel Korzeniewski

In a world where international connectivity is on the rise, it is striking to think that there are still systematic barriers hindering any group or nations development. “A quarter-century of impressive human development progress continues to leave many people behind, with systemic, often unmeasured, barriers to catching up.” These are the findings of the Human Development Report 2016, released on the 21 March 2017 by the United Nations. The factors to be considered in this report include equality and access to education.

PHOTO: Daniel Korzeniewski

PHOTO: Daniel Korzeniewski

In an effort to break such barriers, Helping Overcome Obstacles Peru (HOOP) was founded in 2012, inhabiting the already existing Flora Tristan English School. Its mission: to break the cycle of poverty through enhancing the education of their participants. HOOP offers many programs which vary from teaching English, offering medical help and providing a social care service.

PHOTO: Daniel Korzeniewski

PHOTO: Daniel Korzeniewski

It comes as no surprise that inequality is rampant throughout the world. But it is encouraging to find out that statistics are beginning to illustrate an increasingly positive image, even if the gains are minimal. The African Library Project wrote a report on how the situation was improving across many regions. They analyzed statistics from the UNESCO Institute for Statistics and found that a number of countries had made progress. 

Botswana, for example, an under-developed, sub-Saharan nation, increased its adult literacy rate from 69% in 1991 to 87% in 2008. If we compare this to economic growth in Botswana, we can see how this has made a difference. The World Bank has stated in its overview on Botswana, that the country has had sustained and high levels of growth. While this can be attributed to many factors, it should be noted that around 65% of the country’s workforce work in the tertiary industry, educated by Botswana’s free schooling system. In fact, Botswana spends 9% of GDP on education, among the highest in the world.

PHOTO: Daniel Korzeniewski

PHOTO: Daniel Korzeniewski

So why then is it important to consider the effort on small NGO’s who work on the ground? Well, HOOP offers the services that the community needs without being a burden on the government. In struggling under-developed nations, robust education systems are not viable at this point in time. By supporting an organization like HOOP, you are supporting a small community, helping them to get educated and avail of medical treatment. This type of work sets the foundation for even greater achievements.

PHOTO: Daniel Korzeniewski

PHOTO: Daniel Korzeniewski

Using the skills acquired through this process, communities can move forward to become self-sufficient and outward looking. Dreambuilder is the entrepreneurial leg of HOOP’s organization which has supported a number of women to create their own enterprises.

PHOTO: Daniel Korzeniewski

PHOTO: Daniel Korzeniewski

Perhaps the question is now, how will we induce greater and faster growth so that those who are suffering the confines of poverty do not have to undergo another 25 years of it? The countries who have relished in the successes of the past 25 years might consider an increase in their third world educational investment funds. With increased investment and support, organizations like HOOP could multiply and flourish, easing the burden of poverty across many nations and regions.

PHOTO: Daniel Korzeniewski

PHOTO: Daniel Korzeniewski

 

 

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Entire communities benefit from women's empowerment programs in Mexico

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Entire communities benefit from women's empowerment programs in Mexico

Women's empowerment and gender equality are issues that have been gaining more attention in the recent years by many sectors such as media, government divisions and society in general. The buzz around these topics is very positive since discussions are always a constructive and crucial part for their progress and implementation worldwide.

PHOTO: Siddhi Jatania

PHOTO: Siddhi Jatania

However, discrimination and violence are still current problems faced by many girls and women. Mexico is one example of a country where the challenges are still on. According to the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women), the country has made important improvements in what concerns to these issues, but still, faces a divergence between what is stated in the law and the actual practical implementation of it among its society. 

PHOTO: Siddhi Jatania

PHOTO: Siddhi Jatania

Where the government cannot support all society and the law still needs to be more appreciated by the citizens, organizations like Mariposas - Mujeres Cambiando El Mundo plays a fundamental role. Founded in 2012, the organization is located in central Mexico and has programs in the states of Puebla and Tlaxcala. An expansion is also on their plans, as soon as they have more capability of it.

PHOTO: Siddhi Jatania

PHOTO: Siddhi Jatania

Mariposa, in Spanish, means butterfly - a symbol of transformation because of its metamorphosis from being a caterpillar until becoming a gracious winged animal. This metaphor perfectly summarizes the work of Mariposas: to offer educational programs for women from diminished communities in order to enable them to break the cycle of poverty caused by a restricted access to educational services and the inadequacy of educational opportunities.

PHOTO: Siddhi Jatania

PHOTO: Siddhi Jatania

Many girls in the rural parts of the country are not able to finish middle or high school, and attending college is commonly a distant dream. To change this reality, the organization works with four distinct types of programs in order to assist their communities. Their method supports their public but also keep the girls engaged with society, so they can give back what they learn from the organization's programs or from formal education.

PHOTO: Siddhi Jatania

PHOTO: Siddhi Jatania

First, the young women participate in a week camp, that consists of empowerment activities. After that, they join a club that allows them to put into practice the skills learned at the camp at their neighborhood. The girls that receive scholarships must also be a positive role model for others by planning and implementing a project that is in accordance with Mariposas principles. Additionally to that, the Environmental Service Adventures program - for former camp and club participants that are active in their communities - allows them to comprehend environmental issues outside of their hometown.

PHOTO: Siddhi Jatania

PHOTO: Siddhi Jatania

Canadian-based photographer Siddhi Jatania recently traveled to Mexico to capture the work of Mariposas. She joined one of their programs and says that the best part of it was the organization's connection with the locals. "They organized a beach clean up drive collaborating with people in Sayulita (at the Pacific coast). Mariposas also volunteered at Entre Amigos in San Pancho (at the central Pacific coast) by teaching kids about environmental awareness and responsibility through arts and crafts and other different activities", she stated. 

PHOTO: Siddhi Jatania

PHOTO: Siddhi Jatania

Jatania explains that breaking the cycle of both perspective and perception about themselves in terms of their role and importance to uplift the society is a big challenge but also an enormous reward. "Their relationship with themselves and the world around to pursue higher education, being aware of all the possible difficulties a woman could face on daily basis and to acquire tools and skills to overcome and go beyond them", are some of the factors that the photographer pointed out. "They are the real change makers and their own super heroes. This journey of being aware of their true potential was very well done through conducting different kinds of activities and seminars during the trip. The result of this is that when you educate a woman, you educate an entire family!"

PHOTO: Siddhi Jatania

PHOTO: Siddhi Jatania

To learn more about Mariposas work and to support them, please click here.

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The importance of co-existing with the vervet monkey

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The importance of co-existing with the vervet monkey

The Vervet Monkey Foundation as founded by Dave Du Toit on 1993 as a response to a situation in 1989 where a baby Vervet monkey was found orphaned and abandoned. Du Toit learned that their were no facilities available to aid the young monkey, and due to the locals perception of the monkeys as “vermin,” it was suggested that the monkey be euthanized. This led to the development of The Vervet Monkey Foundation which saw that the solution to this problem did not lie in euthanizing these orphaned primates, but rather in developing a sanctuary, learning more about this species and eliminating the stigma which has been given them.

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PWB photographer duo Kevin and Sheryl Minnett have always had a strong interest in wildlife, the environment as well as its sustainability; they also have a passion for environmental concerns, animal welfare, wildlife preservation, and community-driven projects, which lead to sustainable change. This drive has inspired them to travel to South Africa to document the Vervet Monkey Foundation (VMF). An organization which embodies their zeal for wildlife and environmental sustainability.

Upon arriving at the Vervet Monkey Foundation, they were struck by the complexity of the work that is done by the VMF. These efforts include caring for the health and daily needs of over 550 monkeys, as well as understanding monkey behaviour and the social hierarchy within the troop, This has allowed these rescue monkeys an opportunity to live as they should with the other monkeys. 

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“The level of commitment and integrity toward the welfare of the monkeys at VMF is remarkable,” Kevin and Sheryl states recounting their experience. “We were highly impressed with the hard work and dedication of everyone involved … None of this would happen without the tireless efforts of Dave and Josie, and the more than 100 volunteers who come through the foundation each year from all parts of the world.”

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At VMF, the welfare of the monkeys is of highest priority.  The VMF provides refuge and rehabilitation for orphaned Vervet monkeys who otherwise would not survived alone.  As they arrive, monkeys are slowly integrated into one of several troops which may have between 40 and 80 monkeys. The orphaned Vervets live with these troops in the most natural environment possible, with the long-term goal of releasing them into the wild. 

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Releasing an entirely integrated troop into the wild is a massive undertaking; one which VMF is currently working toward. VMF successfully rehabilitates and releases numerous monkeys into the wild each year. 

The VMF also invests their time and resources into educating others about the important roles the Vervet monkeys have within the ecosystem. Teaching locals how to live along side Vervet’s as their neighbours, as well as investigating and studying the Vervet monkeys behaviour to dispel any myths that have become unsubstantiated beliefs.

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Currently the VMF is raising funds to purchase a natural bush area that can be put into a trust of the monkeys within their care. Giving the animals a permanent place that they can call home, feel safe and enjoy the real freedom which they should have always had. This protected area of land will provide whole ecosystems not just for monkeys but many other animals and vegetation and will also create more local jobs. 

If you would like to be involved in helping the Vervet Monkey Foundation achieve these goals please contact them at info@vervet.org.za or feel free to donate on their website http://www.vervet.za.org/donate.asp    

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These volunteers are changing Indonesia's social and environmental landscape

These volunteers are changing Indonesia's social and environmental landscape

Making new friends, learning about new cultures, acquiring new skills, expanding and sharing knowledge, and supporting people in need. These are only some of the many benefits that people usually gain when volunteering for a charity or non-profit organization. There are many places around the world that require extra assistance, and sometimes, even the smallest act of kindness can help make a difference. Indonesia is a country famous for its beautiful natural landscapes and rich culture. Founded in 2005 in Semarang City, Indonesian non-profit Dejavato opened its doors to local residents and overseas travellers in the hopes of sharing its vision of a peaceful, economically-sustainable, and unified Indonesia.

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Everything started with a weekend camp in the Karimunjawa Islands, when high school, university students, and some expatriates who lived in nearby Semarang City were the first attendees. At the end of the same year, Dejavato received their first international volunteers, who came from Japan and the Netherlands. Nowadays, they have partnerships with many international organizations, hosting international volunteers and sending Indonesian volunteers overseas in countries located in Asia, Europe, and America. Annually, around 12 work camp projects and 22 projects for Mid/Long Term Volunteer are open. The organization hosts between 100 to 200 international volunteers and sends 10 to 50 Indonesian volunteers abroad every year.

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Dejavato was founded with the purpose of filling an existing gap in the areas of education and social welfare in Indonesia. After almost 12 years in business, Ketut Purwantoro, President of Dejavato, explains that this is not an easy duty due to variations in culture and personal character, but the organization carries on in the best way it knows how.

"We have been promoting the spirit of volunteering and increasing the awareness of volunteering in Indonesia through various voluntary activities which involved many local partners and youth and we will keep on going with this challenging work," Purwantoro said. "We do believe that the youth is our future generation. When they can do an exchange and learn different cultures, it will increase their common understanding about each other's differences, and hopefully they will respect each other and make the world more peaceful."

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The organization works with six different types of projects, ranging from work camps, volunteering services, student exchanges, internships, and also the opportunity for local families to host foreigner volunteers through a host family program. Dejavato also works with contributions in order to support underprivileged locals with financial support, medical service, and a better education. The programs are built to suit a wide range of people. Some require a background from the participant and a minimum age of 18. Others have a minimum age of 12 years old. 

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The volunteer programs have different lengths and areas of work like agriculture, environmental, orphanage assistance and construction, among others. However, the group work camp with elephants and the cultural work camp on Bali Island are among the most popular programs. "These two are very popular because these programs offer unique and different experiences to the volunteers which they cannot get in their home country," explains Purwantoro.

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Dejavato works as a host organization in Indonesia, so foreigners are required to apply to the programs through an organization from their own countries. However, Indonesians can apply directly with them, as well as foreigners that wish to be a Dejavato volunteer. 

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Changing people's perceptions and respecting different cultures are usually some of the benefits of volunteering, and Dejavato witnessed the latter. In the early stages of the organization' growth, Dejavato House had some difficulty in finding local partners to host their international volunteers, because Indonesian people had the idea that hosting foreign people was hard. "After some years, the perception of our local people have now changed, because they feel that hosting volunteers is interesting, and gives new experiences and challenges," Purwantoro said. "Currently most of the new organizations come to us and request volunteers. Surely we do select new local organizations as we set up our standard. We still keep on maintaining our old same organizations, as well as accepting new partners."

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Canadian photographer Megan Wilson visited Indonesia to register the work of Dejavato House and took several incredible photos outlining the organization's mission. "It was wonderful to have Megan in Indonesia," Purwantoro said. "She was the first volunteer from PWB and we learned a lot from her, as well as about photography. We now realize that promoting volunteering through photos, video and social media is very useful and effective."

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For the future, Dejavato is developing some new projects that combine volunteering culture, adventure, and education, alongside a high school student exchange program and a special Japanese teaching and culture program. 

If you are curious about their work and also willing to help, please click here.

This photographer gives a face to international displaced persons

This photographer gives a face to international displaced persons

For many of us, photographs of refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) are a common daily occurrence on our laptop screens and news feeds. Thinking of refugees, one conjures up images of families fleeing conflict overseas, in backyards nothing like our own. We read article after article about the atrocities, highlighted by the impending urgency of these situations. However, forgotten are the refugees and IDPs in countries whose conflicts have been become outdated and no longer make headlines in Western media.

Peter Schön is an award-winning photographer from Germany. His passion for photography is fused with his lust for travel and adventure, resulting in a portfolio of images stretching from Norway to Georgia, Canada to Japan. Schön has experienced first-hand the effects of the forced migration of people due to conflict while travelling in the South Caucasus. This region, in the crossroads of Europe and Asia, straddling the Caucasus mountain range, has a colourful and rich history, influenced by the clash of cultures and wild terrain. The nations of Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Armenia have been shaped by religious conflict, ideological and political differences and the aspirations of larger, more powerful neighbours such as Turkey and Russia. Marred by separatist movements, highly combustible nationalist sentiments and ethnic identities, there are many reasons as to why this region suffers such high levels of refugees and IDP’s.

Marred by separatist movements, highly combustible nationalist sentiments and ethnic identities, there are many reasons as to why this region suffers such high levels of refugees and IDP’s. “I was first introduced to displaced people during a ski mountaineering/climbing trip to Svaneti, a mountain region of Georgia, South Caucasus," Schön said. "Svaneti borders Abkhazia, a separatist region from Georgia. Abkhazia declared independence from Georgia after the 1992-93 War in Abkhazia”, explains Schön. “During and after the short, but violent and complex conflict, almost the entire ethnic Georgian population left Abkhazia. Thousands went over the mountains into Svaneti, in desperate conditions, terrain and weather.”

Schön talks about the driving forces behind his work. “In 2008 a conflict erupted between Georgia and Russia over the break-away region of South Ossetia," Schön said "The war had been over for more than three years, but there were still traces of it everywhere – not only on the houses and infrastructure but also in the minds of the people living here. One scene struck me in particular: a lonely, elderly woman walks down a muddy street as winter arrives in Ergneti, a town almost completely destroyed during the war. The losers of this political power game are the people living on either side of the buffer zone – people who lost wives, husbands, sons or daughters, who lost their homes and livelihoods amidst the shelling, burning and bombing of villages.”

The collapse of the USSR left a vacuum, according to Schön, which made the eruption of conflict and violence inevitable as nations attempted to forge their borders. “Under Soviet rule Armenians and Azerbaijanis lived peacefully together until 1988 when the USSR lost strength and national sentiments built up in the Soviet Republics," Schön said. "Clashes between Armenians and Azerbaijanis turned into pogroms. Azerbaijanis started to flee from Armenia and Nagorny Karabakh, Armenians began to leave Azerbaijan. In Baku, Azerbaijani refugees that fled Armenia and Nagorny Karabakh mixed with the remaining Armenians in Baku, which proved to be a volatile mix and more violence followed. This was the context under which, in 1991, the conflict turns into a full war between two countries that had just gained independence.”

This mammoth movement of people was unprecedented and has had a lasting effect on the population of the region. Ruined villages and dilapidated infrastructure, dot the landscapes of border regions, reminding people of the horrendous nature of war. Schön confesses that it was his curiosity which encouraged him to investigate further and fully immerse himself in this region. And despite the pain and hardship that he has photographed here, Schön stresses the resilience and kindness of the people of the South Caucasus.

“So much hospitality and warmth in the cold Armenian winter," Schön said. "Of all things, the hospitality stood out. Armenians and Georgians make you feel at home quickly. Everywhere I went, I would be invited to a house for food, drink, and shelter. Later that was even the case working with the refugees – they hosted me with whatever little they had.”

Schön hopes to return to the South Caucasus once his project in Norway is complete. He wishes to continue to document and photograph the journey of IDP’s and refugees in the region, so that these people are not forgotten.

For more of Peter's work, click here

Powerful portraits from a pow wow in unceded territory

Powerful portraits from a pow wow in unceded territory

PHOTO: Danielle Da Silva 

PHOTO: Danielle Da Silva 

Sacred One,
Teach us love, compassion and honour
That we may heal the earth
And heal each other.
— Ojibway prayer
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Believe it or not, the last federally-funded residential school in Canada was shut down as recently as 1996. Funded by the Canadian government's Department of Indian Affairs and administered by Christian churches, Canada's residential school system was a network of far-flung boarding schools intended to remove First Nations children from their parents/communities and thus the influence of their own culture. Well in place before Confederation in 1867, the system became official after the Indian Act passed in 1876, and in 1884 an amendment to the Indian Act made attendance at these schools compulsory for First Nations children. Many now describe this as a "cultural genocide," whereby First Nations cultures were systematically exterminated by depriving children of their ancestral languages, beliefs, and their rights as humans. More than 6,000 children died while reports/stories of sexual abuse are rife. The end result has been mass transgenerational trauma that manifests in various ways including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), suicide and substance abuse.

It was in 1961 that band member Rosemary Odjig raised the tradition of the "pow wow" in her hometown of Wikwemikong after witnessing a pow wow in another community and realizing the importance of practicing and remembering the teachings of her community's ancestors. What started as the "Wikwemikong Indian Days" gathering almost 60 years ago is now known as the "Wikwemikong Annual Cultural  Festival" and is revered as one of the largest and longest-running pow wows in North America. 

Chief Duke is smudged with sage before the "Grand Entry," a ceremonial procession that honours and acknowledges the community elders, service people and mother earth.

Chief Duke is smudged with sage before the "Grand Entry," a ceremonial procession that honours and acknowledges the community elders, service people and mother earth.

Wikwemikong is "unceded territory" on Manitoulin Island in Ontario, Canada, which means that the land has never been surrendered in a treaty or otherwise. It also means the land is entirely governed by the First Nations community. "Manitoulin" means "spirit island" in Anishinaabemowin (Ojibway language)and it is the world's largest freshwater island, making it an ideal location for First Nations communities to settle away from the encroaching colonisers more than a century ago. 

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Rosemary Odjig's vision of an annual pow wow in the spirit of reviving teachings, stories, language and traditions seems to have become a success. Today the Wikwemikong Annual Culture Festival pow wow is a fun way for families and friends to get together, to dance and sing to the hypnotic beat of the drum in the Sacred Circle, eat local food, and share stories, language, knowledge and crafts with each other. Talented drum groups and dancers partake in friendly competition for cash prizes, offering mesmerizing and educational entertainment for spectators. Everyone from all walks of life are welcome to watch, support and participate.

These powerful portraits and images taken just a few days ago at the 2017 Wikwemikong Annual Cultural Festival honour the Wikwemikong Heritage Association, which "is a non-profit organization committed to the preservation and enhancement of Anishinaabe culture through education and the participatory cultural opportunities with both Native and Non-Native people." 

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Warriors are not what you think of as warriors. The warrior is not someone who fights, because no one has the right to take another life. The warrior, for us, is one who sacrifices himself for the good of others.
— Sitting Bull
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The only thing necessary for tranquility in the world is that every child grows up happy.
— Chief Dan George
Mother and daughter.

Mother and daughter.

Father and son.

Father and son.

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Tell me and I will forget. Show me and I may not remember. Involve me and I’ll understand.
— Indigenous proverb
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The Circle has healing power. In the Circle we are all equal. When in the Circle, no one is in front of you. No one is behind you. No one is above you. No one is below you. The Sacred Circle is designed to create unity. The Hoop of Life is also a circle. On this hoop there is a space for every species, every race, every tree and every plant. It is this completeness of Life that must be respected in order to bring about health on this planet.
— Dave Chief, Oglala Lakota
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Sometimes I go about pitying myself, and all the while I am being carried across the sky by beautiful clouds.
— Ojibway proverb
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The 2017 "Iron Man" champion. To win this category a dancer must outlast their fellow dancers without stopping or missing a beat of the drum.

The 2017 "Iron Man" champion. To win this category a dancer must outlast their fellow dancers without stopping or missing a beat of the drum.

When the flesh is gone, the spirit forever remains. Their voices speak to those who know how to listen. Wisdom is born in the heart, and then spoken.
— Wolf Clan Song
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Images and story by Danielle Da Silva.

To find out more about the Wikwemikong Heritage Organisation, visit: wikwemikongheritage.org

HIV education through soccer has reduced the risk of this disease in Africa

HIV education through soccer has reduced the risk of this disease in Africa

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Soccer is a sport loved by many around the world. In Africa, it is the most popular game on the continent, with the passion shared amongst all of its countries. But, what if, besides being a contributor of entertainment and active lifestyle, it could also help to deliver HIV, sexual and reproductive health rights and empowerment education to young people? Through the work of TackleAfrica, this very such notion has been happening in many African countries since 2002.

According to Aids.gov, at the end of 2015, around 36.7 million people were living with HIV/AIDS worldwide. Of those alarming numbers, 1.8 million were children under the age of 15 years old, and the majority living in low to middle-income countries, most notably in Sub-Saharan-Africa.

TackleAfrica is a UK-based non-governmental organization founded by a group of young British entrepreneurs that all lived in Africa during a certain period of their lives. TackleAfrica currently has projects in Ghana, Kenya, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia. Their partnerships with local organizations utilize the love and popularity of soccer in the continent to spread health messages, that are given by trained African football coaches, peer educators, and schoolteachers.

The coaches receive regular training and total support, which enables their educational messaging to be accurate and up to date. Since HIV continues to be the biggest killer of adolescents in Africa, the focus is on the disease, but the coaches also teach a range of related sexual reproductive health rights messages such as contraception, family planning, relationships and gender-based violence, including female genital mutilation and child marriage. "The idea is to provide all the skills, support, access and understanding required for young people to increase their resilience to risk, and make safer, more informed decisions," said Tom Colborne, Head of Business Development for TackleAfrica.

Often, kids and teenagers feel uncomfortable talking about sensitive issues with their family or teachers. For these reasons, the coach's character is so important. The selected individual works as a role model and mentor, offering a safe space for discussion. "A good football coach can develop this kind of relationship with young people by developing their football skills and providing fun and interesting sessions," Colborne said. "We use that platform to train coaches on how to include interactive information about HIV and sexual health into football drills, and lead discussions about key issues."