Fotokids -Many imitators Only 1 Original since 1991

fotokids insider

christmas dump 91_0002 copy Found..a Christmas bell. the dump Guatemala  ©copyright Rosa Lopez 1991

Letter from the Founder/CEO Fotokids N. McGirr
I love this time of the year in Guatemala. The rainy season has just ended and the flowers are bursting into bloom. The air is crisp,handmade kites of colorful tissue paper soar into the bright blue sky and carpets of pine needles fill the entranceways of the houses, wafting the fragrance that signals the holidays are coming!

I guess most of us let our minds drift to times with loved ones and of Holidays past during this season. In the December newsletters I try to include some notes from my journals and this year I turned like Ebenezer Scrooge to entries on

…Christmas’ Past
 

But Wait …first off I really want to thank you for your support as this project would have never lasted 24 years without it! You have done…

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fotokids insider

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Photo by Daniel age 11 ©copyright Fotokids 2015

Summer is here in Guatemala and the rainy season is upon us. The torrents of water turn the mountains emerald green. Flowers of all colors burst into fragrance. Rain on the tin roof of our one-room school in Tierra Nueva makes it impossible for the teachers to shout loud enough to be heard over the din.

We have been thinking for a while now of expanding that classroom in Tierra Nueva (TN). We were lucky enough when we first began the program five years ago to be offered a one room, cement block building rent free, with the added security that it is located inside the Catholic church’s parish compound. It was so difficult to find a place in a community that suffers from so much violence that would be safe for students, teachers and computers. There are no religious obligations or…

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matra_fotografoSpanish Voices

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.

Ciudad Quetzal

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.

La Lucerna

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.

 

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn March 2013 Fotokids started a new after school program using photography and writing skills as a means of identity and self-expression to support mainstreaming of migrant worker children in the Cutler Orosi school system.

We received a grant from Tulare County to extend this to 4 more elementary schools, in addition to the El Monte middle school, for a total involvement of 60 youth in grades 5-8..

Students work on assignments that promote identity, self-expression, the rights of the child, visual literacy and critical thinking.  Each student will receive three 4×6 prints per week to use for written reflections and keep in their portfolios.  Fotokids groups at each afterschool program work towards exhibits and/or showcases to be held in December and May.

Fotokids’ Central Valley program focuses on first-generation Spanish speaking immigrants. Research and experience has shown that immigrant youth are at high risk of becoming disconnected from school and other positive institutions that would otherwise be able to help support their learning and development.  Schools often struggle to involve recent immigrants in the activities that would provide them with opportunities for meaningful membership in a positively oriented group.

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4. salvandoThe highly successful Save Girls program originated in 2006 as a three-year program whose mission was to provide young women with the confidence, life skills and vocational training needed to effectively insulate them against the violence and poverty that characterize their gang-ridden communities in the capital. The original program was so popular that Fotokids has expanded it to other high-risk barrios in Guatemala City. The girls, ages 14-16, receive intensive training in information technology, graphic design, photography, advertising, writing and client management. We now have offered the technology course to 40 girls and they are working as graphic designers, teachers, and have gone on to study in the university. Pending funding, Fotokids would like to offer it in the future to rural areas where patriarchal traditions prefer to send the boys to school and not the girls.

 

 

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn 2009 two of the original Fotokids students, Marta and Rosario who lived on the edge of Guatemala City’s sprawling garbage dump initiated classes where they now live in Tierra Nueva II, one of the most dangerous gang areas in Central America and work with some of the 37 families of assassinated bus drivers, as well as, with other extremely poor families.

Marta began teaching when she was 12 years old in Santiago Atitlán and went on to get her university degree in education.

Tierra Nueva is one of the most dangerous gang areas in Central America. Extreme poverty, gang extortions and assassinations are daily occurrences.  The teachers have classes with boys and girls 8 to 11 years old and two Save Girls classes, limited enrollment to only girls, and classes are also offered for kids from surrounding neighborhoods in Guatemala City.

 

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©copyrights David Ixbalán/Fotokids 2008

©copyrights David Ixbalán/Fotokids 2008

Santiago Atitlán- 1997 to present

Our program in this poverty stricken Tzutuhil village began in 1997 with grants from Soros, Agostino and Reuters Foundations to support our Under the Shadows project, a six year program that worked with children to examine the effects of the war years on them in rural communities around the country.

Some of the students who took part in the original program now work for the Commission on Human Rights and study journalism and law in university. Others, who received training in photography, digital story development and graphic design, went on to work for the organization’s design studio, Jakaramba!

This program has continued and additional Tzutuhil Fotokids graduates serve as teachers in Santiago Atitlán, training young students from primary school onwards in the basics of photography, Photoshop and graphic design and critical thinking. The students are part of the Fotokids scholarship program.

A Fotokids graduate from Santiago Atitlán works as a social worker visiting student’s families and their schools every month to help resolve problems.

 

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