Teaching Photography in Kenya Curriculum Distance Learning Critique

A contact sheet of Violet's photographs from a home visit - April 2015.

Starting a Photography Program in Kenya, Part 9 – Distance Learning

There are very few “new” things in life, and I’ve been told that starting this photography program in Kenya is one of them. I don’t know if that’s totally true but in my life, and what little I know of what is going on in Africa as a whole, it makes sense to me. I have been busy with the balance of maintaining my commercial and event photography with developing training for the photography program and a long shot application for a grant to better support growing the program. Writing specific curriculum for a broader photography program that includes more students is at the top of my to do list, no small task for sure. Thankfully I have one educator friend who is willing to help with that challenge, and I’m anxious to get started, realizing I have probably a naive underestimation of what is required to complete that task. There are times this seems impossibly ambitious, but at the same time, it’s a reality, and in one way or another, this is working.

The past couple of weeks have also included meeting with Dorothy and Elina on multiple occasions as Elina prepares to travel to Alendu in continued supporting the program. Because of Violet’s drive, dedication, and broad language skills, she has become the primary focus of the program, with the goal of having her become a mentor as we train additional students. I have been reviewing Violet’s images and progress as both have been coming back in a wild array of forms, from What’s App messages to emails, phone calls, CDs, and thumb drives. Elina has been gracious enough to bring a few books, photojournalism examples, letters, and updated curriculum materials to the village. I’ve created a list of simple questions to regularly track progress and see what topics need reinforcement, to learn the local mindset so we know better how to provide support now, as well as in the future. I’m eager to follow the trip and get more feedback from Elina first hand, as well as Violet. It’s a learning process for all of us, myself (especially) included but I know they are both going to do especially well!

Teaching Photography in Kenya Curriculum Distance Learning Critique

A contact sheet of Violet’s photographs from a home visit – April 2015.

Teaching Photography in Kenya Curriculum Distance Learning

Teaching materials, letters and progress reports for the program.

 

 

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Dorothy & Elina meet in Lancaster, PA, before Elina’s trip to Alendu, Kenya in July 2015 to support the photography program.

 

 

 

Elina is getting ready to depart for her trip, and if you’re interested in learning more about her project, you can follow her at Elina Hope Photography on Facebook. Part Eight – Meet Elina in this series also talks more about her work. Good luck Elina, thank you for joining us in this project and we all look forward to sharing in your journey!

 

As the photography project has come to life in Kenya, check out:

Building a Photography Curriculum in Kenya with Rafiki Africa – Part One.

Building a Photography Program in Kenya – Part Two.

Part Three – Staying the Course.

Part Four – The Journey Begins.

Part Five – Teaching Photography in Kenya, The First Week: The African Experience

Part Six – Teaching Photography in Kenya – Meet Violet

Part Seven – Living a Legacy: Daniel Mast & the Rafiki Africa Photography Program

Part Eight – A New Instructor Goes to Kenya! Meet Elina!

Part Ten – Visiting Benta’s Home with the Photography Students in Kenya – Coming Soon!

Meet Elina – A New Instructor Goes to Kenya – Building a Photography Program in Africa – Part 8

I’m very excited for the next development in the photography program in Kenya. An education team will be traveling to Alendu to work with LightHouse Academy students in July, and one of the travelers will be working with the photography students! Elina is a remarkable young lady, and while this will be her first trip to Kenya, it will not be her first international trip. She was adopted from the Ukraine, where she later spent some time living there with her family, and is herself a growing photographer. Elina possesses working knowledge that will be of great benefit to the students, from photography, business, social skills, English as a second/third language, and beyond. She will turn sixteen years young the day before her departure, and will spend just over a week working with the students.

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From conversing Elina with Dorothy together, I realized how far we’ve come in a very short period of time. All of the lessons we could share with her were entirely foreign just a few months ago, and often came with a great deal of hard work, even struggle, but also success. Like anything new and ambitious, this time will not be without challenge. I know from personal experience that the cultural changes alone are enough to emotionally and mentally drain visitors. Elina has the fantastic advantage of working with Violet & Daisy with a foundation already built, and I cannot wait to see the cultivation of her trip bear fruit. Throughout Elina’s trip, some of her objectives are as follows:

-Find out where the students are at with what topics they feel confident about, are challenged by, enjoy, and what they want to learn more about.
-Build on their foundation, using the two new Intro to Digital Photography books when possible to answer their questions. This will help them learn how to research using the materials they have to answer their own questions. Independence is key.
-Document what is surprising about the project, opportunities for support/growth, challenges.
-Discuss with other team members which traits for future students in the program should be identified, and how.
-Take as many photographs as possible.
-Have fun!

I am especially interested to hear how the students take to working with Elina. As the girls are very close in age, I’m hoping they connect on a more personal level, helping the students develop beyond the photography component. From language skills to personal growth, Elina is in a unique position to connect and walk with them on their journey. My connection with the students has been that of a professor to student, quite formal, serious and focused. It is important that they understand the gravity of the opportunity they have, but also to develop passion for the craft as something they can enjoy, express themselves and create. There is a delicate balance between pouring out creatively on a project, and being fulfilled through the same means. I’ve balanced personal projects with my professional work and find center is a moving target. Often, when I feel technically at my best, I’m also the most drained creatively on account of focusing more on skill than passion As art programs are a truly foreign idea to these students, it will be intriguing to watch the students flourish and expand their ability to communicate. Choosing students who have the right combination of focus, skills and creativity is also a challenge, a point of interest we are keeping in mind for new applicants.

Elina is working on raising funds for her travel, and if you’re interested in learning more about her project, you can follow her at Elina Hope Photography on Facebook. Good luck Elina, thank you for joining us in this project and we all look forward to sharing in your journey!

As the photography project has come to life in Kenya, check out:

Building a Photography Curriculum in Kenya with Rafiki Africa – Part One.

Building a Photography Program in Kenya – Part Two.

Part Three – Staying the Course.

Part Four – The Journey Begins.

Part Five – Teaching Photography in Kenya, The First Week: The African Experience

Part Six – Teaching Photography in Kenya – Meet Violet

Part Seven – Living a Legacy: Daniel Mast & the Rafiki Africa Photography Program

Part Eight – A New Instructor Goes to Kenya! Meet Elina!

Part Nine – Distance Learning

Part Ten – Visiting Benta’s Home with the Photography Students in Kenya – Coming Soon!

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1972 Toyota Land Cruiser FJ40. © Daniel Mast 2009.

Living a Legacy: Daniel Mast & the Rafiki Africa Photography Program – Part 7

One of the most personal aspects of starting the photography program has been the involvement of Daniel Mast and his wife Rebecca. May 21st, 2015, unbelievably marks two years since his passing, and the Masts are foundational in helping this program succeed in overcoming many early challenges. His fingerprints are all over this project, down to the green Toyota Land Cruiser that drove us around Kenya. Daniel had a nearly identical vehicle, a 1972 Toyota Land Cruiser FJ40, that he restored and loved to take off road with Rebecca.

**Updated Thursday, May 21 @ 4:45 PM**

Daniel​ was always the first one I’d talk to about all things photography and often times, just life. Whether it was a tough day on the job, one of us learned something cool, if there was a new Nikon or Apple update, without a doubt we were talking about it. He cared about the integrity of the craft of photography, something I’ve struggled with a lot and especially since his passing.

The hardest days I’ve had with a camera were either in his absence or photographing challenging subjects in Kenya or India like poverty, leprosy, family loss, and they’ve all come after his passing, when I know he’d be there to push me forward because he was strong enough to. I’ve found a new level of empathy and solidarity with those who have lost a close one, but I’d give it back to not have to miss him. People mention him to me at a job when I’m in the middle of photographing or packing up, and it still catches me off guard. Some know we were close, others wonder if we knew each other.

I didn’t want to spill my guts on the blog and take away from Rebecca Mast​’s words, but I find myself with a lot to say and even more on my mind today. It was a sunny day when he died, and by the way I found out, I came to understand he was just injured quite seriously, which wasn’t the case. Zack B Arias​ called me and I thought it was about another project, but even he heard about Daniel’s passing and realized we were friends.

There have been many hard days when I miss his friendship, and because everything we did was so similar, our approach, cameras, equipment, I’m reminded of him in everything I do. That’s one of his many gifts to me. I know I’m not alone in saying this, but I have felt very alone on my very atypical path since his passing. For the first year at least, I could just barely make it through a shoot without breaking down. It took all I had to keep my composure and then it hit me like a ton of bricks. Some of you saw it and were there to help me through it. Working alone has felt so empty.

For me, this photography project in Kenya is the most significant thing I have participated in in my 30 years, and it is both exciting and naively ambitious. It feels very new in a world where few ideas are truly new. There is no one I’d rather have to help build the photography side of it than Daniel, and thanks in large part to Rebecca, that is still possible. It was remarkably difficult to leave his camera there in Alendu, Kenya, not because it didn’t belong there, but because personally it felt like another step forward, a means of letting go of something literal, something I’ve felt the need to protect. But in reality, it’s a new chapter of his legacy, and it is bringing hope realized in Africa.

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Written by Rebecca Mast, April 3, 2015:

“Leaving a Legacy: It is coming up on two years without Daniel’s presence and love in our lives. The ache and grief of his absence is so different from those first few months, but the loss is no less.

Daniel Mast
These past few weeks I have found purpose and direction in regards to how to continue Dan’s dreams and goals when he set out to become a photographer. I had been struggling with what to do with his photography equipment. It’s never felt right to sell it and I’ve always intended to keep and use some of it – both for the kids down the road and for my own memories of learning that skill beside him – but I have no intention of becoming a wedding photographer and not really any intention of using this equipment for income. So the volume of stuff has haunted me – I don’t need it but I don’t know what I’m supposed to do with it. Jordan had shared with me his plans for the trip to Kenya; but it took me weeks before I actually looked at the blog post and was struck with certainty that I needed to respond. I called him – not really sure of what I was going to do. During the course of the conversation I suddenly had incredible clarity and peace. Dan would have been going with him if he was alive and able to do so. I’m sending a camera, and anything else I can convince Jordan to take with him.

This was Dan’s mission, his dream, his passion – for his work to be more than just putting food on the table and a roof over our heads (though that was important and valuable). He wanted to be successful with photography in a way that enabled him to give back – to use his gifts to tell a story that mattered – to bring hope and light into darkness. We never reached that point while he was here – but I can send what I have, what he left behind, in his stead.

Jordan’s story is in a link in the comments. Follow him with prayer and encouragement. He’s carrying a piece of our dreams and a fulfillment of a purpose and mission that was cut way too short.”

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Toyota Land Cruiser Kenya

 

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1972 Toyota Land Cruiser FJ40. © Daniel Mast 2009.

© Jordan Bush 2015

Violet photographing at LightHouse Academy with Daisy (right) watching.

Teaching Photography in Kenya – Meet Violet – Part Six

There are many updates to report and as life calms down, I can think of none more important to begin with than for you to meet one of the photography students I’ve had the humbling opportunity to work with over the past few weeks.

Violet, 17, has had a journey long full of challenges and successes. She is the third eldest of ten children, and at the age of six she lost her biological mother. Her father remarried and in total, there are twelve in her family. Their household relies on river water for drinking, has a separate kitchen from the main house, and the ten children all share one room. Luxuries such as electricity, transportation, internet access, and even a latrine, are all foreign concepts. I’ve learned that challenges often push people in one of two ways, either towards giving up or towards greater success. Violet is one who has embraced the latter. She is fluent in English, Swahili, and Luo, has strong interpersonal skills, yet has not quite been able to finish high school after three attempts.  One one attempt, she paid her high school fees but her family would not cover her transportation to move to school, so with a bag in one hand and a suitcase balanced on her head, she went on foot without asking for help. She recently enrolled herself in a basic computer class in a nearby town which she has paid for herself, giving her confidence to begin developing skills in the digital world.

© Jordan Bush 2015

Violet photographing at LightHouse Academy with Daisy (right) watching.

© Jordan Bush 2015

Violet’s family at their home, Alendu, Kenya (one brother is absent).

© Jordan Bush 2015

Violet’s Home, Alendu, Kenya.

I don’t know if I’ve ever met someone with an appetite to learn and succeed as much as Violet possesses. Her questions are usually two steps ahead of where we are learning. When I introduced the educational resources we have available to the students, she absolutely begged me to borrow a book. She goes home every night after her classes to help with chores at home, and spends the rest of the night reading by paraffin lamp. She tried to get through a 300+ page book in a night, taking notes diligently, and again begging to read another night, which tells me she either fell asleep reading or ran out of paraffin to burn in her lamp.

© Jordan Bush 2015

Violet & Daisy work on importing & downloading photographs from a recent shoot on their donated MacBooks. Older technology has tremendous value in this program.

Violet is the kind of person who is cut out for photography, and I’ll be as specific as saying she’s cut out for photojournalism. She has an incredible understanding of overcoming challenges, something photojournalism requires and even centers on. She asks meaningful questions relentlessly and isn’t afraid of interacting with others. Her language skills are absolutely enviable. Violet knows that this is her greatest opportunity and she acts on it consistently. Her notes are incredibly thorough, detailed, and full of highlighted questions as well as pointers. In about two weeks she was already cognizant of where light was coming from in every environment. Her favorite subject to photograph has been home visits in the community, to meet people, tell their stories of hardships and successes. Home visits will be their primary responsibility for Rafiki Africa Foundation, to help update and find additional sponsors for other students of LightHouse Academy. As her journey comes full circle, Violet herself was a student at LHA from kindergarten through eighth grade, and then into high school, an opportunity made possible by a sponsor. She worked as an aid at LightHouse Academy which she used to pay for her computer classes. Now that she is in the photography program, her sponsorship that comes to Rafiki will be helping to support Violet.

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Daisy, Violet & Jordan on the last day of teaching in the first course of Rafiki Africa Foundation’s new photography program in Kenya.

 

Violet has on more than one occasion requested to arrive early or stay late, to sneak one more shoot in, to ask just one more question. I am quite sad I only had three weeks in person with the students this trip but we are already planning others. We intend to email regularly and they have assignments each week, as well as books and other resources to study. She understood the magnitude of what was going on as she learned, as she was introduced to the resources many of you helped provide. Old MacBooks and cameras, hard drives, books, have made a tremendous difference. As they continue to grow, so will their needs, but they are already getting a reputation in the area for being able to photograph. I myself have learned a great deal from this experience, from Violet especially. It was hard watching them round the corner on the last day as they headed home, though I know I’ll see them again. Unexpectedly and almost equally as hard was leaving Daniel’s camera behind. To a selfish extent, it felt like I was leaving a piece of him, but I can think of no better community for his legacy to continue on.

Daisy took two motor bikes home at 50 kSh each and transit at 100 since it was late. Usually she walks...

The last day. Class went late, Violet had to cross the river after a raging storm while Daisy took two motor bikes then public transit home for safety, a distance she normally walks.

 

There’s no one better to express that thanks than the students themselves. In the video below, Daisy (left) will speak in Luo, Violet in Swahili, and Roger will speak in English just to mix it up.

Teaching Photography in Kenya, The First Week: The African Experience – Part Five

© Jordan Bush 2015
Jambo from Kisumu, Kenya! There is so much to tell and finding wifi this weekend here in the city was another unexpected joy. Kisumu is a major city about a two hour drive from the village of Alendu (above) where I’ve been teaching and once again photographing with Rafiki Africa Foundation. So far this week, we’ve been woken up at night to the echo of hyenas whooping, reaching out to move a chair at lunch to nearly grab a Battersby’s green snake wrapped around it (and I’m quite thankful it wasn’t a Green Mamba…). There have been heavy rains every evening, with one night finding it’s way through the roof of the mud hut (also thankful for waterproof Pelican cases to store my gear). Believe it or not, I’ve enjoyed all of it so far, minus the sun poisoning on my neck from maybe eight hours in the sun over two days.

© Jordan Bush 2015Today we drove to Kisumu to take care of some errands and connect with Calvince, a 22 year old who was one of the first to grow up attending primary school with LightHouse Academy. He will tell you he has come from nothing and is now a nursing student working diligently to finish his program. Jessica & I personally help sponsor Calvince along with Roger & Dorothy, but with all they have going on, finishing Calvince’s education will be a steep climb. His hope is to finish and specialize in pediatrics. In Kenya, nurses attend a four year program and when finished, can prescribe medication, so functionally they’re doctors. Each year as students finish LHA’s program, more students join, and the older students need a path to continue their education in high school and beyond. It’s always at a financial cost to parents (if alive) or to sponsors, and basic skills can go a long way here in making a career, which is where teaching photography comes in.

© Jordan Bush 2015

© Jordan Bush 2015It has been especially humbling spending every day working personally with Roger & Dorothy. My first trip with them to Kenya in 2012 was in conjunction with a large team of nursing students, and Roger was in the states at that time. This week I’ve spent a great deal of time with two students, Daisy and Violet, who both reached the end of their formal academic careers with no options to move forward. Violet has been paying for her own computer courses and working at the school assisting teachers, I believe at 250 kSh/month, right now a dollar is equal to about 92-96 kSh depending on the bank. Daisy on the other hand had never touched a computer, and neither had ever used a camera. A few days in they understand composition basics with the point & shoot cameras, zoom, and the girls have imported their photographs onto the MacBooks while also selecting their strongest images in Aperture. Teachers at the school are already trying to book photo sessions which is incredibly encouraging, and none of it would have been possible without the donations of books, older MacBook computers, and camera equipment from many of you to help get the program started.

© Jordan Bush 2015

There’s so much more to do, and I am 100% certain I will leave this trip with the feeling of abandon, wishing I could have taught them more. It plagues me hourly and I know there will be so much more work to do in the future. Return trips will require additional time beyond three weeks, permanent solar power for the school, Nikon DSLR cameras and lenses (since it would be compatible with other donations) for the students to develop better skills, financial support and for my business to be stable enough for me to leave for 1-2 months if I am the one who will help continue to teach these and other students. We doubt education like this is happening often in all of Africa, so as I put this out there into cyber space, if you wouldn’t mind sharing our challenges and successes, that would be deeply appreciated. Any questions, drop them in the comments below or shoot me an email via the contact page.

© Jordan Bush 2015

This is totally the short version of this week thus far. I have about 30 pages in a new journal scribbled with events, notes, challenges, lessons and questions, and the depth of the experience is what I expected it to be. I will post more in the coming weeks and hope to include a profile on Calvince. It’s hard for me to think of another young man I’ve been as humbled and impressed with as him. I know when he graduates he will return to his home of Alendu, to give back to his community and to Rafiki with his medical skill. It has been very rewarding getting to see the growth and progress of the students at LightHouse Academy first hand, and to bring back those images to show supporters and those interested in what is truly a beautiful country & community.

© Jordan Bush 2015

© Jordan Bush 2015

All images & MacBook Air use powered by Goal Zero.

© Jordan Bush 2015

The Journey Begins – Kenya 2015 – Part Four

We finally made it to Nairobi! After about a day and a half of travel, we’re almost at the village. There were considerable challenges getting everything out of Dulles due to delays at ticketing and our inability to safely check equipment, but thankfully we got on the plane with fifteen minutes to spare. Smooth fights and customs in Nairobi went relatively well, with only one attempt for a bribe on account of bringing multiple MacBook notebook computers in, but that thankfully was averted in the end. (Tech is often resold and taxes evaded, and any goods of considerable value are a challenge, even years old computers). One Pelican hard case had to be checked with two laptops in it, and while the lock was cut off by security in Nairobi, thankfully everything else was in tact. It took ten minutes longer for that case to make the luggage carousel compared to everything so we knew something was up. Roger met us at the airport in Nairobi and we had a nice stay at a guest house where food, showers, and rest awaited. This place is a new guest house to me but it feels comfortable and familiar to many from the past.

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With a four hour layover in Amsterdam yesterday, Dorothy and I discussed the next few weeks at length and she has a very well thought out plan. It is quickly becoming apparent that this won’t be just teaching photography but will span into social challenges. The students might be too close to some of issues they will end up interacting with. For example, spousal abuse being perceived as normal or even the right thing to do. It will probably get quite deep very quickly. We are going to cover a few home visits and interview students, work on reportage and basic composition skills while providing a detailed framework for bookings, pricing, scheduling staff, estimates and delivery that Dorothy formalized. I picked up a NYT International copy which has the latest on the shooting, and hope to use that to show the students how important images and written story can be.

This morning we are meeting Dorothy’s cousin for breakfast who is a local photographer in Nairobi, in the hopes of learning more about overcoming logistical challenges. After that, a seven hour (hopefully) drive to Alendu awaits us with a few errands along the way. While an added expense, we could have flown to cut some of that time but I’m so glad we are driving, especially after the security challenges. Plus I can photograph along the drive which is awesome. I slept a solid six hours under the mosquito net last night, five on the flight, and say goodbye to wifi, electricity and plumbing for the next few weeks. It might be a while until I can update from here on out, even this was unexpected. Stay tuned for more to follow!
Jordan

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Some of the many contributions you've provided for the photography program with Rafiki Africa Foundation's school in Kenya.

Staying the Course – Part Three

I was trying to not make this a thing, but when friends who work at your favorite coffee shop are even getting concerned and ask questions… Yes, I realize that 147 mostly Christian students were killed in Kenya yesterday. Yes, it breaks my heart. Yes, I am concerned, it will make travel more difficult, and yes I’m still going. No, the shooting is not that close to where I’ll be.

When you know you can help others in a way few are in a position to follow, there’s a sense of responsibility to go. I’ve heard many war photographers say the same even after near death experiences. That’s another level but the principle is the same. The camera is really incidental, though it is my contribution to go do work that can help others. If I were a farmer, I’d be doing a different kind of work to give back.

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Some of the many contributions you’ve provided for the photography program with Rafiki Africa Foundation’s school in Kenya.

When I started photographing full time, much of the reason was because I wanted to be able to use my work to help others without needing to ask permission from a boss or use vacation time. The goal, and it’s worked (ish) so far, was to use the day to day work from the business to support international and domestic photojournalism for advocacy. It’s been far more difficult than I ever imagined, especially in a watered down market. But I feel I’ve been given a gift, and while it is mine to grow and nurture, it is a gift none the less. I feel it would be selfish for me to not use that for good, and I have the liberty to make that choice. That principle is remains foundational as to why I am building JBP.

I generally knew it would be beyond difficult and paradoxically rewarding, both going on this trip and starting out on my own. But it also put the tools in my hand, as well as the time and flexibility, to use what I have regularly to intentionally to help people. It’s not about money, though that’s an important tool. It’s not about doing something that looks glamorous. The resources invested to do this type of work locally and beyond greatly outweighs the apparent (false) romanticism of going somewhere far away.

Many people have reached out in support to us as we start a photography program in with Rafiki Africa’s LightHouse Academy in Kenya. I never expect anyone to step up but many have, contributing computers to cameras, books to memory cards, funds for classroom supplies, a lot has come in. There are a few people in my life that I have known who have always been there in support, and one of whom was Daniel Mast. He was absolutely unfailing in that regard, it wasn’t even a question for him. He knew what it took. He always gave where he could. I haven’t talked about it much online but there’s still not a day that goes by when I don’t think of him. And it’s not really easier, just less crippling. Every hard day with a camera, or not, I still wish I could talk with him. He was dedicated to his family, but if he could, he’d be out here doing the same thing.

When Daniel passed away two years ago next month, a big question remained as to how to continue his legacy. In raising donations for the school program his wife, Rebecca Mast, called me without having settled on anything. As she talked, she decided one of the best ways to honor his legacy is to send one of his cameras along to Kenya to help build the program. I initially protested but soon realized it wasn’t up to me, though it also has to be challenging for her in ways I can’t understand. His camera alone will be like having a super car in a village that needs a moped, but it lays an incredible foundation for this program to grow, for these students to have a real shot. I am humbled that I get to carry his personal camera to an area where so many have never even held a phone. It won’t hit me until we’re there, until I see a student using it hopefully one day to report on issues in Kenya as a photojournalist. That camera earned a living for the Mast family, and now it can continue that now in a place with very few options for work. He is still making a difference. The need is still there. Evil will always continue, so must we to fight it incessantly with transparency and love.

I leave for Kenya on Sunday. Today is Friday, April 3rd. To all those who have contributed to this ambitious but amazing journey, I can’t thank you enough and look forward to bringing back stories of how those contributions have planted a seed in Kenya. Thank you.

-Jordan

Building a Photography Curriculum in Kenya with Rafiki Africa – Part Two

Check out part one of this conversation here.

What Do Your Photographs Mean to You?

Did you grow up looking through family photo albums and sending film out to be developed? What about Facebook: do you post photographs there? How often do you reach for your camera or phone to snap a photo at a meal or on a trip with friends? Can you imagine a life without those those memories? Many families in the community of Alendu, and well beyond throughout Kenya, do not have an archive of personal photographs. They are big on family, on heritage, but visually, there’s usually no visual memory to hold onto.

I have thought often of Benta, a woman whose family I visited in 2012, and how desperately she wanted her printed photograph. She told everyone how big of a deal it was to her, and the message came back to me stateside through multiple people at different times. Her story was so powerful, living in real fear of HIV/AIDS because of her husband’s actions, taking care of her children’s children, living amongst her husband’s other wives and their children. She is first women empowered through Rafiki to become independent and realize her worth. The value she places on her family photographs is like nothing I’ve ever experienced. One of her daughters could potentially be included in the initial photography program, and I look forward to visiting her family again.

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Photography in Kenya
Western standards of technology and data transmission won’t be applicable in Kenya. Cell phones are the sole device for storing images (and not everyone has one) until memory fills up (or the device dies), then space must be made for the new by deleting treasured images. If printed photographs are available, they are typically printed with an ink jet printer on standard paper. For many, that’s a huge deal. Select few can pay significant sums of money for a photographer to show up at an event such as a birthday party or funeral. The latter are truly non-stop, weekend long affairs, where thousands upon thousands gather to attend and hope for a photo with the deceased. I remember how empowering it was to have my first cell phone, which also included a built in .3 megapixel camera. It opened the door to document everything: my friends, food, events at school, my car, you name it. It was a huge deal, and that empowerment is one opportunity I hope to create for these students.

My Thoughts on the Project
Overall, this concept has been in the back of my mind for the last three years; that it’s beginning is difficult for me to fully grasp. My first priority will be in teaching students (photography), a full time role I enjoyed with Apple teaching computer and photography skills before photographing full time. There will be cultural challenges, but these students are also a clean slate. I’ll always have a camera on me and I do hope to be able to connect with some of those whose lives I visited in 2012. The Rafiki Africa Foundation will be able to use those images to communicate with supporters, corporations, and grants, but that’s a secondary objective. Photographers are good at taking, and with my life I believe in it’s power to advocate for good. This is taking it to another level.

I don’t know what the day to day pace looks like but I know where I want to start. Beyond basic photography and computer basics, I hope to introduce students to the power and many different forms of photography to help them communicate, to help them discern what makes a good photograph, to learn how it can be combined with text for a powerful impact or narrative, to gain confidence interacting with others, giving direction, understanding light, and maintaining gear. For these children, the power to photograph will be enormous. What will they want to photograph? What issues are important? What people and places? The stories they tell, how will they be different from the stories a westerner would focus on?

I’ve had to pause more often than not at the thought of it all. The start is just three weeks away, so project, my business, client, and personal needs must be satisfied, and there’s no vacation time to pad it. That this work can immediately and directly impact these students by providing them with a basic skill is incredibly humbling, exciting and at times, overwhelming. Educators know full well the challenges of teaching amidst budget cuts. In this case, there is no budget to cut, only to build. If you have any ideas on how to procure the following, or have any old, unused tech laying around that you can contribute, not only I but a community of students will be immeasurably thankful for a chance at a new career path:

-Guidance developing the day to day, foundational curriculum, from objectives to pace and cultural considerations.
-USB Thumb Drives
-USB Powered Hard Drives
-Portable White Erase Board and markers
-Relevant Photo Textbooks
-Digital Cameras (anything working is great, DSLR bodies, trying to maintain a single brand for simplicity is wise but probably unrealistic)
-Memory Cards + Reader
-Apple Notebook Computers, Potentially iPads
-Apple MagSafe Charger(s)
-Solar Panels

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Once again, I thank you all for your support and interest in this opportunity to empower those who can truly benefit from this work. Again if you have any old technology laying around that might be of use, you would be surprised how much our “outdated” technology could provide to these students. You are certainly welcome to ask in the comments below or contact me directly.

Building a Photography Curriculum in Kenya with Rafiki Africa – Part One

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Teaching Photography in Kenya
About a year ago, Dorothy and Roger of Rafiki Africa Foundation invited me to have a rather serious but exciting discussion with them. The conversation wasn’t new, but it was now formal: “What would it take to start a photography program for students in Alendu, Kenya, and can you help us?”

It’s ambitious for sure, as it needs to be, teaching digital photography in a community without electricity, internet, and barren of computers. Grasping that scenario alone is difficult. In the U.S., we’re inundated with technology. How many old iPods, iPads, cameras, and computers are lying around your house right now, or in a drawer or box because they are a few years old? We rely on our tech devices heavily, an aspect of life unknown to this community. To make this program manageable and to begin overcoming challenges, we plan to start with two or three students with an eventual goal to offer a certificate program to many others. The students will be given opportunities to learn photography basics and photograph for Rafiki’s academy before offering paid services to the community.

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Creating Opportunities and Jobs for Students
Kenya’s education system includes 8 years of primary schooling, 4 years of secondary high school, and 4 years of college (none of which are free, if even available). Rafiki’s LightHouse Academy is a private school offering K-8th grade programs on site, making education available to students through child sponsorship and the proceeds of Rafiki’s Deli at Lancaster Central Market. Families who can afford a very nominal fee for their children are charged simply to place value on education.

A significant challenge in this system is that, after completing 8th grade, the majority of students can’t afford to go to high school, let alone college. That’s also assuming their academic path has overcome of preventable social disparities such poverty, HIV/AIDS, family loss, malaria, malnutrition, teen pregnancy… A technical program can teach them real world skills to provide a living. Skills such as tailoring, jewelry making, sewing together washable women’s sanitary pads (CVS isn’t a thing), and soon photography, will open up doors to help keep these children off the streets. Many young girls and women in the surrounding areas have little options beyond marriage in a historically polygamist culture, while many turn to prostitution. Education is truly life changing.

Immediate Needs to Source (as many as possible) by April 1, 2015
-Portable White Erase Board and markers
-Relevant Photo Textbooks
-Digital Cameras (anything working is great, DSLR bodies, trying to maintain a single brand for simplicity is wise but probably unrealistic)
-Memory Cards + Reader
-Apple Notebook Computers, Potentially iPads
-Apple MagSafe Charger(s)
-USB Powered Hard Drives
-Solar Panels

-Help developing the foundational curriculum, from objectives to pace and cultural considerations.

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How You Can Help
I’ve had a couple of donations of older technology that is in great shape but simply laying around unused because they are “outdated.” One MacBook has been donated, I picked up a new battery for it but no MagSafe charger, and another MacBook is the way. I have robbed my bookshelf to start a photography collection at the school, while adding a few culturally sensitive magazines to help illustrate visuals in place of projectors & screens. The Academy has a solar panel used for one computer in their administrative office, largely for accounting. I’ll have my Goal Zero solar panels, Nikon photography equipment, and MacBook Air for temporary use on the trip.

I don’t expect to get everything together immediately, especially to scale, but if anyone has any connections at schools, with an author, tech company, grant opportunities that may be of aid, or old devices laying around, anything would be appreciated. Logistically, desktop computers are too big, and the machines need to be in good working order for them to be worth the weight in shipping them 8,000 miles across the Atlantic ocean and two continents. But resources will be needed to help the students continue learning and for facilitators on the ground to continue developing their skills.

Thank you all for your support and interest in this opportunity to empower those who can truly benefit from this work. Part two of this conversation will be posted on Tuesday, discussing what photography in Kenya looks like, more about my role, and I dish on my personal thoughts. Feel free to ask in the comments below or contact me directly.

Rafiki Africa Foundation Jordan Bush Photography_4If you’re interested in learning more about the individuals of Alendu, Kenya, and Rafiki’s work there, check out my feature article from Fine Living Lancaster here.

Being a Friend to Kenya Jordan Bush

As the photography project has come to life in Kenya, check out Building a Photography Program in Kenya – Part Two.

Part Three – Staying the Course.

Part Four – The Journey Begins.

Part Five – Teaching Photography in Kenya, The First Week: The African Experience

Part Six – Teaching Photography in Kenya – Meet Violet

Part Seven – Living a Legacy: Daniel Mast & the Rafiki Africa Photography Program

Part Eight – A New Instructor Goes to Kenya! Meet Elina!

Part Nine – Visiting Benta’s Home with the Photography Students in Kenya – Coming Soon!