Kids with Cameras

Lily Shaffer - Ecuador


March 10, 2011

During my first two months at Pastoral Migratoria, I worked on the Refuerzo project, an after school program for Colombian and Ecuadorian students, ages six to twelve. Spending several days a week with them teaching yoga, English, and math, as well as tutoring in what ever subjects they needed helped with, I developed close relationships with many of the students. [slidepress gallery=’kids_with_cameras_revised’] These photos are from the first assignment where the students went out in groups to learn how to use the cameras. Please scroll over the images for titles and captions.

I began to hear stories of watching uncles murdered in Colombia by the FARC just before fleeing the country. I cleaned out playground wounds. I received snippets of what it’s like to be an eleven year old in the first grade because Ecuador was the first place school was available. I had twenty five joyous tour guides bring me to las Incas, a secret hill close to work that has a panoramic view of the entire city.

Pastoral focuses on supporting adults and children under four. Of course, consequently, this supports families, but I started becoming more interested in what the lives of young refugees are like–how they see the world, what they hope to become, how immigrating and the drug war has effected them.

During the Christmas party last December, many of the kids asked to use my camera. Reluctantly, I handed over my baby. Not only were they incredibly respectful–keep the strap around your neck, don’t touch the lens, don’t grab from each other–the photos they were taking were beautiful.

Now, as March begins, Kids with Cameras was born.

Kids with Cameras is a photo philanthropy project I’ve created with young Colombian refugees at my work in Pastoral Migratoria de Ibarra. The project gives ten refugees between the ages of six and twelve a camera for 24 hours. During the 24 hours, the students document their lives through photos and writing, focusing on the parts of their lives that have a large impact on the aspects of their identities that we can’t see. For them, it’s a fun after school program and, for most, the first time they’ve ever used a camera. For me, and for my team at Pastoral, it’s a chance to empower the youth and tell them, in spite of the xenophobia they face daily, their lives are important. It’s a glimpse into the lives of young refugees from their point of view.

Lily Shaffer