Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Moving Mountains

For me, Jim Green is and was one of the most important people that I have never interacted with in my life.

Yesterday Jim died.

I’ve never gotten a chance to thank him personally for the work that he did in the community that I grew up in, the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, but I’m pretty sure he knows the impact that he’s had. If it wasn’t for him, there likely would be no Four Sisters housing co-op, which I only lived in briefly but is where I spent most of my childhood.

You would think that growing up in the poorest neighbourhood in all of Canada would make you feel like a second-class citizen or be something that people might hold against you. Not so much at Four Sisters. At Four Sisters we had the best basketball and hockey tournaments, the best summer programs and when the Grizzlies came to town, there were always tickets to games care of Jim.

Growing up in the ghetto was a sense of pride because you were surrounded by people that knew that you weren’t a soon-to-be screw up, or a lost cause. Growing up in Four Sisters, I knew some of the smartest, hardest working welfare moms and dads in town. Gary Jobin, Lore Krill and Kathleen Boyes are just some of the names of people that I will never be able to thank enough for everything they’ve done for the neighbourhood that has made me the person I am today. If I can accomplish a fraction of what those people have done, I will die a happy man.

So here goes my shot:

It might be on the opposite side of the planet, but I see the same determination in the eyes of the youth that we’re working with over here in Kenya. Being back on the ground over here reminds me how fun this work really is, how surrounding yourself with people that inspire you on a daily basis is a feeling that cannot be adequately described.

Seeing people become real change makers in their communities makes the past five years all worth it.

This week we were digging out a pile of fossilized garbage that had been a result of a three month long strike by the municipal garbage collectors. There were six people with pick axes, shovels and hand carts moving what had to be at least three tonnes of diapers, rotten food and all the other niceness that gets thrown out. This dump site will host the only public soccer pitch/basketball court in the Mathare slum (and probably all of Nairobi) within a few weeks.

Kaka, the visionary of all visionaries, looked at the pile of garbage with a smile and said “we are moving mountains”.

Here’s to the mountain movers of the world.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

"At Shitima We Have Lions"

On wednesday the 15th I woke up in Zambia. Kabwe to be specific. In a priests residence to be very specific. The last 6 months have been a bit of a muddy supernova for me so it wasn't really suprising. I have been brought here by an organization called Zamcog. Zamcog runs Shitima school which houses students from grade 1 to 12. The students are either extremely underprivileged or ex street kids. Yesterday they annouced their very first student to graduate high school. I am very priviledged to have been contracted to make a promotional video for the school. Thanks to Cluny Mackenzie, the Director of Shitima who is an old comrad from Canada. We had a good chance to reminisce when we got the truck stuck in a muddy swamp with 3 glozillion mosquitos litterally from 11pm to sunrise. Much love to Mr. Zulu and other farmers who woke up to find us head to toe in mud trying get the truck out and gathered a small army to push us out. "The journey is the destination".

My interactions with the youth of Kabwe has been nothing but inspiring and hilarious. From applying lipstick with chalk to frontflips off a single brick I have never experienced such vibrant and eager to learn kids. Ex street kids who used to linger in the shadows of this remote town are now using every opportunity they have to use their education in hope of one day helping the same kids they once were. They are housed, fed, educated and most importantly, given a sense of purpose. I have been interviewing the students for the video and the answers I am getting are unbelievable. When I asked a bright young girl what she wanted to do later in life she told me "I want to be a doctor and a dancer. And if not that, then a Lawyer and a dancer."

Some are well on their way to becoming engineers or entrepreneurs. The majority I talk to just want to use their education to make the world a better place and help the less fortunate. When I see how serious they take their education I feel guilty. The time I was in school was spent drooling and doodeling (A.D.D diagnosed y'all). I have never seen such a successful and well run institution for the keen young people of Africa who are willing to do anything to get ahead but otherwise would be marinating in the global stew of unemployment.

Here is the Facebook link as well. Please press "like" if you aren't too busy.

Anyways here are some flicks I've snapped since I've been shooting. Hope to have the video up soon.