Project Istwa coordinates photography workshops throughout Haiti to help young people’s increase self-empowerment, awareness and self-expression. Coordinated and managed by Project Istwa staff and volunteers, the workshops are held in different towns in Haiti and last for two weeks.
The focus is on employing photovoice techniques – the use of photography as part of a narrative or story – to encourage the young people to communicate and express their ideas and feelings. In addition there are social & personal development activities to help with teamwork and other soft skills.
Project Istwa was founded by Linda D. Thélémaque and Fiona Korwin-Pawlowski in 2011, who were inspired by their experiences working together on several medical missions in Haiti in the aftermath of the January 2010 earthquake.
There is a large youth population in Haiti and the founders of Project Istwa believe that supporting and enabling youth now will be a positive influence for Haiti’s future. The workshops enable young people to express what they think and feel, to communicate more clearly, to share their experiences of their local communities, and to engage more closely with their peers, local community and country. Each workshop is tailored as specifically as possible to the individual group of participants in order to most closely reflect the community’s context.
First and foremost Project Istwa hopes that the participants simply have fun and that they find the workshop fulfilling. There are also desired consequences regarding community building and empowerment of young people as part of their communities.
Project Istwa plans to conduct at least one workshop in each of the ten departments (regions) of Haiti, as well as the bateyes (impoverished areas where Haitian migrant workers reside) in the Dominican Republic, with the goal of giving Haitian youth all across the island an opportunity to express themselves in a new way.
To ensure that the scope and purpose of Project Istwa extends beyond each workshop, initiatives are in progress to maintain a long-term relationship between Project Istwa and Project Istwa alumni. One of these initiatives will focus on connecting the youth who participate in Project Istwa so that they can see how others their age live and view their lives in Haiti. As far as possible Project Istwa will meet with participants after their completion of the workshop to hear about what they want and need in their communities.
What you can do
Volunteers work on all photovoice aspects of the workshops:
•Teaching participants about their cameras (each participant receives a camera at the start of the workshop)
•Teaching participants about photography and how to photograph their surroundings
•Facilitating group and individual work
•Leading walks to explore creativity in photography
•Facilitating discussions about photos the participants have taken
•Facilitating conversation about the significance of individual photographs, the story they tell, the purpose the participant has for the photographs
•Helping to write captions
Throughout the week, there are also additional activities to also stimulate and educate the young people. Volunteers organise and facilitate all of these. Activities include:
•Drawing and writing exercises
•Preparing photography displays
•Preparing photo albums
•Presentations to local officials and leaders
Each volunteer is asked to raise $500 in order to participate in a Project Istwa workshop. There are additional costs for accommodation and living (meals, local travel etc). Project Istwa advises that living costs usually amount to $200-$300 per week.
Project Istwa workshops take place in Haiti. Each workshop goes to a different location in this tiny country. New volunteers should check with the Project Istwa website to see which exact destinations are coming up.
The volunteering group all stay together in a local hotel. Volunteers normally share rooms and go out to eat together. Project Istwa advises that living costs usually amount to $200-$300 per week.
“My month in Haiti with Project Istwa was deeply rewarding. I had long wanted to go to Haiti, a country that has so much need but also beauty and I feared it was being greatly mis-represented in the media. The concept of PhotoVoice also interested me and I had been looking for the right kind of opportunity to get involved with this style of workshop. This was a creative, grass-roots level style of project, which is what makes it so fun and offers a genuine glimpse into the ‘real’ Haiti.
This style of project enables us, the rest of the world, to ask such questions as; What does a Haitian child think is beautiful and important? What is a Haitian childhood like in 2013? What stories would they share if somebody took the time to ask them? Learning the answers to these questions was what made my Haitian adventure so rewarding. I’m thrilled to be part of Project Istwa, by sharing their stories with the world and reminding these children that their voice is worthy of being heard.”
Olivia, volunteer, from Australia
Interested to volunteer with this programme? Get in touch using the little form a the top of the page, through our social networks or on firstname.lastname@example.org.
We can provide you with further information about the programme, put you in touch with previous volunteers, help you plan your trip and answer all your questions - big and small.
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