In 1994 Fotokids began an alliance with children from the Western Sahara (Polasario refugees) Bangladeshi students from the east end of London, and a small village in Spain to examine the U.N. Rights of the Child as it applied to each of these groups.
The students traveled to London and the Director gave classes in Tinduf, Algiers. The 3 year project, called Spanish Voices and supported by the European Union focused on traditions, culture and the children’s dreams and culminated in a TV series shown on the BBC and a board game based on the rights of the child and free trade designed by the children, and fabricated in London, LocoCoco.
Several years ago, one of our older students who grew up next to the garbage dump, Evelyn Mansilla, now completing her journalism degree at the University of San Carlos, came to us with the dream of giving back to her community in a unique and highly personal way.
Evelyn had decided to start her own project in a small impoverished neighborhood an hour away from Guatemala City (Ciudad Quetzal). Every Saturday Evelyn took time out of her busy schedule to commute to Ciudad Quetzal to teach a group of 9 students between the ages of 6 and 13. The results have been impressive. Evelyn’s students have all been quick studies and their grades in school have skyrocketed since their first day of class.
Children affected by the 36 year conflict
In 1997 just after the Peace Accords were signed, ending Guatemala’s 36-year civil war, Fotokids initiated a project to bring together children from areas that had been strongly affected by the violence. Called, The project to create youth leadership and strengthen democratic values in areas affected by the violence lasted six years and was supported in part by the Soros Foundation and the Reuters Foundation.
The program created links of understanding and compassion, by bringing together children affected by the violence and massacres. Students from the City, Santiago Atitlán y Santa Maria Tzejá Ixcán examined the conflict through extensive interviews with massacre survivors and produced written testimonies of their flight, life in Mexican refugee camps, (or of the 12 years of hiding in the mountains) and subsequent problems on return to Guatemala. The students produced photo illustrations and created videos, leaving a personal powerful legacy for future generations.
Fotokids contracts its successful program to other non-profits. As part of Plan International’s Voice and Expression program we initiated a 6-month project working with poor children in an isolated village on the skirts of the active volcano Fuego. Fotokids uses photography and writing skills to promote creativity, self-expression, self-confidence and encourage leadership skills, in this case to a group of 5th and 6th graders.
Antigua-Children with Disabilities
Fotokids designed a three year photography program as therapy and empowerment for children with spina bifid a and other spinal problems in conjunction with Transitions. The wheelchair bound children from 5 to 12 years old, had one Fotokid from the City as their personal mentor and teacher. For many it was their only outing all week and they zoomed around Antigua Guatemala taking photographs, gaining confidence and learning to see.