Our Diversity is Our Strength – gallery exhibit and virtual slideshow telling immigrant stories from our communities

I am really excited to be able to share with everyone the final selected images for our 3rd annual curated photography exhibit, Our Diversity is Our Strength! Never has it felt more important to share photographs and stories of people who have come to this country for the opportunity to make a better life for themselves and their families and who have given so much to our country and communities. 

With the increasing hate speech we are experiencing, often against immigrants, and which dehumanizes entire groups of people, we are grateful to get to share these stories as an antidote.  When we allow ourselves to stop and really see each other, to be willing to hear someone’s story, to see our common humanity, we understand we are not so different. It opens the door to mutual understanding and empathy. 

We must find a way to first, always see the humanity in each other. It is the only way we will start to heal the deep wounds and divisions in this country.

All of the 37 selected prints can be seen now at Blue Sky Gallery in Portland, Oregon. Some images will be up on the community wall through February 27th, and all of the images will be available in the gallery’s community viewing drawings through December 2021. Blue Sky Gallery visits are by appointment only right now, please check here for availability, calendly.com/blueskyappointments/visit. We will also be sharing all of the images on our IG account, Our Diversity is Our Strength.

https://www.instagram.com/ourdiversityisourstrength/?hl=en

  • Rediet is originally from Ethiopia. She moved to the United States with her family when she was very young. Her first language is Amharic. The text on this image says, “I am an immigrant.”

  • Heading for America 1952. , l Leaving a displaced persons’ camp in Hanover, Germany, Esther, father Max and brother Ben depart from the train station. In the early 1950s the family left Poland illegally, traveling over-land to Israel with a paid guide. Traumatized by the fighting in Israel, Max and family headed back to Germany, again traveling illegally. In Germanywe lived in a displaced- persons camp until the U.S. immigration barrier for Jewish refugees was lifted in 1952 . Heading for America from Germany, final destination Portland ,Oregon.
  • A vineyard worker takes a break during grape harvest in Dundee, Oregon. Almost 100% of the farm working population in Oregon’s wine industry is from Mexico

Given the challenges from the pandemic in having our usual large format exhibit and opening event at Pro Photo Supply we also created these two videos, a slideshow/virtual exhibit, and a video conversation with several of our participating photographers.

Slideshow of the 3rd annual “Our Diversity is our Strength” photography exhibit

I really wanted to delve a little deeper with some of our contributing photographers, both those who are professional artists and those who submitted family photos, to have them share why these images and being a part of this project was so important to them. I hope you enjoy their interviews as much as I did. It was incredibly moving and impactful for me to get to hear their stories firsthand and be able to connect with them in this way, especially at a time where we are unable to gather and talk in person.

I couldn’t have done this project with my amazing partners including the following members of the Portland photography and arts community. With special thanks also to my co-curator, the very talented Jim Lommasson and to Lori Carruthers and the team at Pro Photo Supply who do so much to support projects in our community.

  • Martin Gomez was born and raised in the Yucatan, and as the eldest of five children, felt a strong desire to provide more for his family.

He was 20 years old when he came to the U.S. in 2001, to Portland, Oregon because he had an uncle who lived there. Martin struggled because he spoke no English and was uncomfortable with his lack of cultural knowledge.

Martin began studying English at Portland Community College and got a job as a dishwasher, working his way up to prep-cook and in 2003 he was given the opportunity to become at line cook at the newly opened Mingo restaurant.

He spent many long days and nights learning how to become a chef, often on his own without pay and in 2005 he advanced to Sous Chef and began to feel a sense of purpose and vision for a path toward realizing his dream. Then, In 2008 Martin was named the Head Chef at Mingo Restaurant in Beaverton and says he gets a lot of joy from sharing his food with people and from travelling and continuing to learn about different cultures and cuisines.

  • Immigrants throughout history have been silenced for being different. Have been killed because of others having a skewed understanding of them. We as immigrants try to use our voices to educate but have a hard time communicating facts and reasons.
  • Pidyon haBen is an ancient Jewish ceremony. This male child, Jonah Wald, is the first natural issue of his mother’s womb. When he was thirty days old he was redeemed through the transfer of silver coins from his father, Daniel, to a descendant of the priests of old.

Call For Entries – Our Diversity is our Strength

I am grateful to once again have the opportunity to oversee this amazing project and curated photography exhibit telling immigrant stories, past and present, from our community and from communities around the United States.

Call for Entries: 3rd Annual, Our Diversity is our Strength Photo Exhibit- telling the stories of Immigrants in our communities 

We are accepting submissions for our curated exhibit Our Diversity is our Strength now through August 31st.  Those whose images are selected will be notified by September 12th and the large format show will open at Pro Photo Supply in October 2020, and will be shown online as well.  Blue Sky gallery will also exhibit these images on their community wall and will have them available for gallery visitors to view in their community drawers through August 2021. 

During this challenging time we are reminded more than ever about the need to find ways to listen and learn about each other’s stories and that photographs hold a unique ability to help us really see each other, to look into someone’s eyes as you read their story, and to create a connection and foster more understanding and empathy towards each other.  

Our collective stories of immigration to the United States, including the many commonalities of struggle these stories share, help to bridge many generations of the American story. We felt compelled to start this project as we witnessed a growing effort to dehumanize immigrants in the United States and were also struck by the fact that most people who were vilifying immigrants were in fact in this country because their own families immigrated here.

We are also very aware and have been since we started this particular project to counter the discrimination and hatred towards immigrants, that telling these important and varied stories of immigrants in no way was meant to negate the vital stories of those that did not immigrate here and who continue to face systemic discrimination, members of the Tribal Nations within this country, and those that were brought here during slavery. 

It is great to see the important and sometimes difficult conversations that we seem more willing to have now around these issues. I have had people reach out and ask if we consider people who are black immigrants, mostly in reference to images from our past exhibits. Everyone’s story of course is different and while I respect being asked that question because I can tell it comes from a place of people wanting to make sure we are not negating the experiences of those who are not immigrants, I think it does reveal a biased tendency we still sometimes have. A close friend of mine who I often go to for wisdom and feedback on my projects pointed out to me that question inherently assumes that the black community is a monolith, a common problem he experiences. The answer is yes that everyone in the photos from our exhibits tells stories of immigration to the U.S., but no we do not in any way feel this is everyone’s story, especially around the experience of being black in this country. As always I welcome the opportunity to have these conversations so that we all can continue to further understand each other’s stories and experiences.

Our strength and resilience as a country is rooted in our diversity and in the hard work and sheer determination of our citizens, including the many immigrants who come to our shores. The same qualities of hard-work and determination that propel people to undertake the often long and challenging journey many immigrants and refugees take just to get here, are reflected in the powerful stories and photos people share with us. That desire to want to build a better life for yourself and your family is at the core of our country’s identity.

I will be curating this exhibit again with the very talented Jim Lommasson and we are both looking forward to the privilege of seeing these powerful photos and stories.  We invite and encourage photographers of all levels to submit images, including snapshots from your family archives. Our previous exhibits have been powerful in large part because of the wide range of stories, countries of origin and because we have seen these stories through the lens of internationally known photographers, student and amateur photographers, as well as people’s personal photographs and family narratives. 

Over the past two years, we have witnessed the power of these photos and stories to impact people and to open meaningful conversations.  During exhibits of this project at both Blue Sky Gallery and at Pro Photo Supply it has prompted many people to want to talk and share their family’s or their own immigration stories. We look forward to again being able to share these powerful images and stories with our community in an exhibit that Pro Photo Supply has said generated more impact and interaction with people than any previous shows they had ever had.  

While current public health situations require us to be flexible regarding public events, this exhibit at the Pro Photo Supply Store in Portland, OR, will open in October 2020, but any date or ability to host an opening reception and community talk will be decided as we get closer.  

  • Many thanks to Pro Photo Supply for it’s incredible support of this project 3 years running!  
  • We are grateful to have this project recognized and supported this year by the Regional Arts and Culture Council 
  • With additional support from Blue Sky, the Oregon Center for the Photographic Arts – an internationally renowned photography gallery 

https://prophotosupply.com/blogs/contests/our-diversity-is-our-strength-2020

Images from the 2018 and 2019 exhibitions of “Our Diversity is our Strength”, are available at – 

The power of students reflecting on and telling each other’s immigration stories


This fall we started an exciting program with our local high school, taking the work of The Immigrant Story (TIS) into the classroom to get students researching and thinking about their own family immigration history and the immigration stories of their fellow students. 

I was really impressed with the powerful stories that they have written and the portraits they have created to tell the stories of their classmates, to create a dialogue and to remind us all that this is our community and these are all of our stories in one way or another.

There were many people involved in making this project happen starting with some of the Sunset English and photography teachers who took the time and initiative to incorporate this into their curriculum, and our amazing TIS editors who worked on the students’ stories.  A special shout out to Elizabeth Mehren for coming into the classroom to share her editing and writing expertise with the students, and to Pro Photo Supply for generously printing all of the portraits for the exhibit.

Finally a special thanks to Jean Paul Gafuta Mugisha for coming out to speak to these students at the beginning of this project.   His example of the power of storytelling, sharing his own journey from growing up in a refugee camp in Rwanda, working relentlessly to get an education, and now living here in Oregon working at Intel, had a deep impact on all of us.   His story set the stage for the students understanding that our community is made up of countless immigration stories and that by taking the time to ask and to listen you will better understand the difficult journeys that so many have taken over the years to come to this country.

I saw firsthand when I gave a presentation to the yearbook/photography class that this project resonated in a very personal way with some students, including one who told me her grandparents had immigrated here after surviving the Holocaust.

The culmination of this project will be an exhibit at their school created by these students and teachers to share these impactful stories and portraits of each other’s personal immigration paths.    

We have had interest from other schools and plan to eventually have the printed materials and resources online for other teachers to utilize.   In the meantime if you are a teacher or student who would like to duplicate this project at your school contact us at https://theimmigrantstory.org/contact-us/  and we can share the materials created by the teachers, students, and TIS staff.

To read the weekly stories published on The Immigrant Story website go to https://theimmigrantstory.org/immigrant-story/

 

I’m excited to announce “Our Diversity is our strength” – photo contest

I am thrilled to be helping to spearhead this photo contest with Sankar Raman and “The Immigrant Story” in Portland.  Our intent is for this to be a community project, to tell the story of immigrants and how for many generations they have helped to define and strengthen our country and our communities.

Immigrants are under attack in our country, as is the idea of diverse immigration as a essential part of the American story.  It is important to push back against a false narrative that somehow this country belongs to one race or religion.  This project aims to show support to immigrant communities, and remind us all that the diversity and hard work contributed by immigrants continues to make us stronger.

My own family story is one of immigration, many generations ago, coming here seeking a better life, willing to take a chance and risk their lives for new opportunities and freedoms.   Those coming here today do so with the same hopes and dreams for themselves and their families.

 

Map Immigrant Story FB

We encourage photographers from all communities and of different skill levels, including photo students, to submit images!  For more information go to:

http://theimmigrantstory.org/our-strength/

A big thank you to Pro Photo Supply for their support and sponsorship of this contest including hosting an exhibition of the selected prints in June.

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I will be at BlueSky gallery this Saturday showing my prints from Rwanda

Join me this Saturday March 14th from 1-1:45 at BlueSky Gallery.  It’s the last chance to see and purchase these prints from my project in Rwanda, which I was honored to have selected by jurors for the 2014 photography viewing drawers.

For more information: Portfolio Walk
2014 Pacific Northwest Photography Viewing Drawers

Saturday, March 14, 12:00–2:00 PM
Last chance to view work and meet several artists juried into the 2014 Drawers.

blueskygallery.org

Gallery Exhibition at the University of San Diego showcasing my photos from Rwanda, to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Genocide.

I was truly honored to be asked to be part of this exhibition at the University of San Diego  to mark the 20th anniversary of the Genocide, a milestone on the path of reconciliation in Rwanda.   Images from 7 photographers including myself, Fazal Sheikh, Robert Lyons and others, span two decades showing both what unfolded during that dark April in 1994 as well as the road that Rwanda has since taken to move forward, to develop their country,  and to try to live in peace with their fellow Rwandans, many of whom played some role in the mass killings.

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Radio Girls, Kigali, Rwanda, 2012

 

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Musical artist on red carpet at Salax Awards, Kigali, Rwanda, 2012

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Mural outside Ivuka Arts Center, Kigali, Rwanda, 2012

 

http://www.sandiego.edu/about/news_center/events/events_detail.php?_focus=47525

The gallery opening is Thursday April 24th at 5, followed by a panel discussion: Preventing Mass Atrocities:Lessons Learned from Rwanda

Joining me on the trip will be my dear friend Dida, who is a genocide survivor, though that is a small part of who she is and if you know her you know what I mean because she radiates a light, an energy and is a bright spot of love and compassion in this world.  Though I know what she has been through and often wonder how any person can be asked to bear as much grief as Rwandans have been handed, she has never once seemed like a victim to me, but instead is on a mission to do her part to help propel Rwanda forward to a brighter future.  She has been generous enough to join the panel to speak about her own experiences as well as what she and other young people want for Rwanda now and what they are working so hard to achieve, a peaceful future for the country they dearly love.

It was quite humbling to be asked to speak on the panel as well, since compared to Dida and others such as Philip Lancaster, an aide to General Romeo Dallaire in Rwanda during the genocide, I do not consider myself an expert on Rwanda.  But what I can speak to, in addition to representing the photographers’ work in the show, is my experience living and working in Rwanda and what I took away from that in terms of where things are now as they continue to try and move forward from their painful past.  Particularly because the focus of my teaching and of my personal photography work there was on young people, and the ways in which they are learning to use the arts to communicate with each other and express themselves.

I no longer look at the Rwandan genocide as a far off, distant human crisis, like we often do with the many humanitarian crisis around the world, understanding only so much as the media tells us about them, and usually having very little context for the country or for the people who are going through such massive traumas.   To me now the genocide is personal because I know people, I love people, who lived through it, who lost those closest to them and who saw their country fractured into a million pieces.   And I love Rwanda and feel a deep desire for it to be able to continue on it’s path of healing, something that I feel like this younger generation is very much capable of helping to bring about.  My friends deserve that, all Rwandans deserve that.

 

 

 

 

 

I am excited to share some of the amazing photography coming from our photojournalists at the Global Press Journal

I am honored and excited to share some of the powerful photography being created by the photojournalists at the Global Press Journal.   It is such a pleasure to get to be their editor and to work with their wonderful images every day, getting to see their communities through the eyes of those who know and understand them best.   I will continue to share some of their images and photo essays as we publish them, so you can enjoy their amazing work as well.

You can see all of the work of our journalists and photojournalists on the Global Press Journal website.  http://www.globalpressjournal.com/   It is a great site to visit as part of your daily news consumption, because you will get direct access to the unique GPJ stories and content that show a side of many communities and countries that are not traditionally covered in the media.  Since our content is also syndicated by many of the world’s top newswires and publications, such as Reuters and UPI, you may sometimes see our stories being re-published by any number of international news outlets as well.

This beautiful photo essay is about a remote village in Nepal that is being forced to relocate due to lack of water.  by Nepalese photojournalist Shilu Manandhar.

http://www.globalpressjournal.com/asia/nepal/desperate-water-all-residents-remote-nepalese

Here are just some of the wonderful images from her essay.  All images copyright GPJ

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Mountains and cliffs surround Samzong, which is located close to Nepal’s border with Tibet.

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Dolker Gurung, 3, embraces her mother while she prepares lunch for the family. Food shortages are now common here

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Dolker Gurung’s mother, who declined to be interviewed, weaves a carpet in her yard.

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There are no roads, just rough lanes, to Samzong. People can access the village only by foot or on horse.

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The Samzong Khola, the only river that flows through the village, depends mostly on snowfall. Because of climate change, the river is no longer sufficient for residents to irrigate their fields.

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Tsedhup Gurung keeps his cattle in the shed after rearing them. Stockbreeding is becoming residents’ other source of livelihood.

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There are 17 households in Samzong. All families are planning to leave by summer 2014 because water has become scarce.

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“Finding Beauty in Breast Cancer”, video on Huffington Post

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/11/12/kimberli-ransom-breast-cancer-photography_n_4256728.html?utm_hp_ref=fb&src=sp&comm_ref=false

Kimberli’s fabulous project, “Finding Beauty in Cancer” was featured on the Huffington Post and I am so proud of the impact she is having on so many people.  We have all been touched by cancer one way or another, and the way in which she has decided to deal with her diagnosis by collaborating with other photographers to create these expressive and beautiful scenes, reminds us all that even when so much is out of our control in these situations, you can still seek out joy, laughter and beauty in your struggle.

I am continuing to document her journey and she and I will be showing more of the images from that part of the project soon.  I will be accompanying her during her surgery tomorrow in what was yet another very brave decision on her part that if we were going to show the reality of her situation, that her mastectomy needed to be part of that.

Kimberli has a huge circle of friends, a new fan base online and a great photography community here in Portland that I know will be sending her lots of love and good wishes tomorrow.

Documenting a friend’s battle with Breast Cancer

I am honored by the opportunity to work with my friend and fellow photographer Kimberli Ransom, to help her document the day-to-day experience of her fight with breast cancer.

It is an act of trust to be allowed into these very real and difficult moments of her life and a show of her bravery to be willing to open up this way to the world.

I think we sometimes feel we have to protect people from the really difficult stuff, the reality of battling cancer, of being sick.  What it does to our spirit, our bodies, and our view of ourselves and our world.  We strive to put on a happy face for everyone, to show how tough we are.   Certainly Kimberli is one tough lady, and she has decided to use her art to help process her journey, with her project “Finding beauty in Cancer”.

She has partnered with many of her photographer friends here in Portland to create these fabulous fantastical photo shoots, playing with some of her dreams, fantasies and ways in which she can create narratives with them that speak to her search to find beauty even in her difficult battle with breast cancer.  www.findingbeautyincancer.com

But being strong and brave doesn’t mean you don’t also feel vulnerable, scared and overwhelmed.   The face you put on even for your close friends, often belies the truth of your daily reality, the moments behind the scenes, when you are alone with yourself, your daily challenges and thoughts, the constant doctor appointments and medication schedules.    The range of emotions that accompany a battle like this are staggering and unpredictable, changing from moment to moment.   Kimberli and I agreed that it would be an important piece of her project to also document the “real” moments, both good and bad, the daily reality that is her life battling breast cancer.

I understand some of these moments first hand from having walked this path with my Mom during her battle with Leukemia.  That has allowed me to have a connection with Kimberli about her journey, and though everyone experiences illness differently, to have at least some idea of what this is like for her.

Shooting this project has really taken me back to moments with my Mom, being in the hospital with her for chemo and being in her house surrounded by the towering piles of medical paperwork that make an already overwhelming situation even more daunting.

It is rewarding to know that while I will sometimes take a certain shot based on my own experiences with illness, when I show the image to Kimberli, it often resonates with her as well.   That’s why Kimberli’s project is so important, because so many cancer patients and survivors will be able to relate to her moments.

Our first shoot was during one of her chemo treatments, which began with walking down one those many cold and sterile hallways Kimberli finds herself in often these days.

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I took the shot below because it reminded me of the feeling of being in the hospital for hours and days on end, where your life has largely come to a grinding halt and most things you do now revolve around this battle you are in.   Your world looks completely different now, but outside things go on as usual, the drumbeat of day-to-day life.  I distinctly remember during my Mom’s illness and before I went in for a surgery myself for a brain aneurysm a few years ago, looking out the window and feeling a disconnect from the world that was moving along outside.  Realizing that everyone else was going about their life as they always had, but you were inside this hospital, with everything riding on this surgery or this treatment.   We all go about our lives as if we are invincible and you just never know when your life will change in a moment.

The flip side to that is that when you come out the other side and are able to go on with your life, you will probably never take the day-to-day routine for granted in the same way again.

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This photo is about the way you look at each treatment and the people who are caring for you.  You wonder will this drug do the trick, is this the one that is going help me win this war?   And how is going to make me feel, what will my body do with this drug in it, will I have a bad reaction to it?  You look to treatments with such hope and dread all at the same time.

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You develop special relationships with the people who administer the drugs and help you navigate the medical maze, and your doctors who see you week in and week out, because you literally are putting your life in their hands.

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Shared moments of humor help you get through it.

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This one speaks to me about Kimberli and who she is.  At the end of the day here she is looking right at us, showing us her both her strength and vulnerability, that she doesn’t intend to hide away but is facing this head on and asking us to come along on the journey with her.

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As an artist I suppose there is a willingness and even a need, to explore these difficult and complicated aspects of our lives and our experiences, for Kimberli and I this is an opportunity to do this together.

I hope in our collaboration I am able to capture some moments that will help her to tell her story.

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I will continue to post pictures of Kimberli’s journey and updates about how she is doing.  So many of us have been touched by cancer, and so her battle is also our battle.

Please check out her project, and follow her blog.  http://www.findingbeautyincancer.com/ You can also donate to help with her medical expenses, since as a self-employed photographer she has limited insurance benefits and has only been able to work limited hours since her treatments began.

Thanks for joining me in sending Kimberli lots of great energy and support!

Help support photojournalism at one of the very few truly independent journalism organizations!

For those of you who are already readers of the Global Press Institute’s news wire, or who have read our reporters’ stories on outlets who syndicate our work like the BBC, Reuters or on NPR, you know that the women reporters of GPI, highly trained local reporters in 26 developing countries around the world, are doing nothing less than changing the face of the news that is coming out of their communities and their countries.

As I wrote in my last post, GPI is committed to being a platform for independent, community-based journalism created by highly trained reporters, but as a non-profit, that isn’t always easy and has meant at times turning down money from companies that expressed interest in having a say over the content of our reporting, something we won’t allow.

Now we are hard at work bringing photojournalism training and cameras to our news desks so we can provide our more than 5 million readers a month high level photography to accompany our reporters powerful stories, and we need your help.

Aliya Bashir, one of our reporters in Kashmir, did an in-depth story on the high rate of infant deaths at a local hospital, over 500 infant fatalities during a 6 month period.  Her story, in part due to her powerful photography, moved many to action included those who stepped up within days to donate new incubators and equipment to the hospital, and it spurred a government investigation.

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by Aliya Bashir, Mother and Grandmother mourning an infant who died at the local hospital

http://www.globalpressinstitute.org/asia/indian-administered-kashmir/2012-infant-death-toll-passes-500-kashmir-hospital-asphyxiation-and

Sri Lankan GPI reporter Anuradha Gunarathne completed the photojournalism training with me just last month and took her new skills down to cover the deaths of 50 fisherman and the impact on their families from a powerful storm on the southwest coast of Sri Lanka.

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by Anuradha Gunarathne – A death notice hangs on a wall, a Sri Lankan tradition to inform the community of a death.

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by Anuradha Gunarathne – Sriyani Fonseka, 35, sits with her three children in front of their rented house in Dehiwala, a village on the southwest coast of Sri Lanka. Her husband died while fishing during the June 8 storm.

http://www.globalpressinstitute.org/asia/sri-lanka/sri-lanka%E2%80%99s-fishing-community-mourns-storm-casualties

Your support of our Kickstarter campaign, to provide this photojournalism training and bring cameras to reporters at 10 more GPI news desks will enable dozens more women photojournalists to be able to cover important stories like these.    Their words and now their pictures are doing no less than changing the balance and the quality of the news that the world gets from these countries.

http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1477211729/through-our-eyes-photojournalism-for-women-around?ref=dyqwtd

Please join us today!   We are down to the last 5 days of our Kickstarter campaign and very much appreciate your support, both donating and sharing this campaign with your friends and on your social media networks. $100 will provide the photojournalism class and a year of visual mentorship to one of our journalists!  $1000 pays for all reporters at one of our news desks to receive the photo training and mentorship, and makes the donor a sponsor of that desk’s photo program!   Every donation helps towards these goals!

Together we can train and support these 135 women photojournalists around the world.   We will also be creating a photography book telling the story of GPI,  as well as a portrait exhibit of all of our reporters so that people can see the powerful network of women journalists who make the Global Press Institute what it is and who work fearlessly and tirelessly everyday to bring the world stories from their communities that would otherwise go untold.