Friday, January 29, 2010

Feverish event for Refugees in Phoenix

A night for dancin' fools, refugees from the late 70's and those who just love how the Welcome to America Project and its scores of volunteers makes a difference for newly-arrived refugees from all over the world, is approaching faster than disco fell out of style at the end of the 70's.

Every Saturday, WTAP welcomes another three families to our country, providing them with some decent furniture and much needed household goods and making them feel welcome in their new country.

Imagine giving up everything and making sometimes harrowing treks across inhospitable deserts in west Africa or swamp and jungle in southeast Asia only to find yourself spending years in limbo in crowded squalid camps, not knowing what's next. I can't imagine it and I have seen some of these places with my own eyes.

Finally you have the opportunity to immigrate to America, a place so different from your own that you have to learn not only how to get around and how to prepare meals with modern technology (a stove), but how to communicate so that you can find a job to pay the rent and feed your family. Imagine having to figure out how to function in a culture so far and away different that up is down and down is up. You don't even know where to begin.

WTAP partners with the resettlement agency International Rescue Committee, to soften the blow of such life-altering changes and make people feel welcome. They help with some of the basic needs so that the refugees can focus their energies on other important things like finding a job and learning English.

On Feb 20, you can relive your youth, dress silly (although it wasn't silly back then), act silly if you like, an have a great time while helping WTAP continue to fulfill their important mission by attending the annual WTAP Prom fundraiser. The Saturday Night Fever-themed event runs 6:30-10 p.m. at the banquet hall at St. Patrick Church 10815 N. 84th Street in Scottsdale.

As usual I'll be stepping out of my usual role as a documentary photojournalist to set up the traditional Prom portrait studio. For more information on this cool fundraiser please go to WTAP's site. 

                          Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Haiti: a brief view from 2007.

         If you are like me, you are watching daily the incredible images happy and disheartening of all that is happening in the aftermath of the 7.0 earthquake in Haiti over the course of the last week. Most of us can't even begin to comprehend the scale of the death and destruction.

          Catholic Relief Services, one of my clients, sent me to Haiti in December of 2007 in a whirlwind tour of points north of Port Au Prince and the locations where the NGO's AIDSRelief programs were saving lives. We moved hospital to clinic to hospital documenting the programs with little time in between to document daily life. We, nevertheless could see a country struggling with poverty and struggling from the beating dished out by conflict and hurricanes just in the previous three years.

          We rolled into Port Au Prince on the last day as the sun was fading and the traffic was thick. As we made our way toward the center of town, I caught a glimpse of a shanty that clung to a riverbank, and was impressed by its size, and not surprised by the makeshift nature that was obvious even in the quick glimpse.

          Of all of the shanties and poorly constructed slums I've seen all over the world, I'm not sure why I noticed it, I didn't even have an opportunity to get a frame off. The next morning, after checking in at CRS's main office in PAP, we headed to the airport.

          Again, no real time to stop and explore a neighborhood, and so I did what I could, trying to make images from a moving vehicle. When I do this, every once in a while, I get something good. And then I was homeward bound.

          In the first news of the earthquake, it was that image that first popped into my mind. It was only one example of how poorly-constructed are the homes, even the more officially-built structures in Port Au Prince. My heart sank. I knew just how horrible this was going to be before the first pictures emerged. If you can imagine the entirety of your city collapsing. I mean ALL of it, with people trapped in every single structure, you begin to see. I just can't get my head around it. I wonder how many of the people in my few PAP photographs how many for the people I met are alive.

          So, I wanted to share just a few of my more favorite images from that brief time in 2007 when I first met Haiti, perhaps just as a short break from all of the much more difficult images we're seeing from the disaster.