Volunteering

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A couple days after Tropical Storm Agatha swept across Guatemala on Saturday, a few images of the destruction have started to appear.  Mostly the news is focusing on dramatic photos of the giant sinkhole that appeared in Guatemala City, and on the eruption of the volcano Pacaya that preceded the storm.  But the destruction is far more widespread than a large sinkhole and a blanket of ash delaying tourists’ flights at the airport.  Residents across almost the entire country are affected, as well as people in El Salvador and Honduras.  Sadly, the media doesn’t seem to cover the tens of thousands of people who have been impacted, evacuated, or made homeless.  Agatha dumped 3 feet of rain across Guatemala, and the resulting flooding and landslides have caused over 120 deaths and left 35,000 people homeless.  (edit 6/3/2010: The Boston Globe’s Big Picture now has a great collection of images showing the impact of the destruction of the residents of Guatemala.)

Kids and Dog, San Miguel Duenas, Guatemala
San Miguel Dueñas before Tropical Storm Agatha – Nov. 2009

Last November I traveled to Antigua to document an NGO Open Windows and their after-school learning center in San Miguel Dueñas (see the Open Windows and Guatemala galleries on my website.)  The director of the program has reported that Dueñas is badly affected by Agatha, as well as numerous other small towns around Antigua, including Ciudad Vieja, San Miguelito, San Pedro Las Huertas, Alotenango and Santiago Zamora.  At this point it is only possible to get to some of these places with a four-wheel drive vehicle, so she had yet to see the damage in Dueñas herself, but had received reports that several of the homes have been badly damaged or nearly destroyed, and for some of the residents, their meager possessions have been ruined, buried, or washed away by the rains and mud.  As the Open Windows staff in Dueñas reported, “they have nothing to wear, they lost everything.”  As with the recent earthquake in Haiti and the flooding in Peru, it is again the most vulnerable and impoverished populations that are most badly affected by these natural disasters.

Here is a reposting of my Mother’s Day post from a couple years ago from Peru:


Marilyn at Aldea Yanapay with tarjeta de la Dia de las Madres that reads:
“Happy Mother´s Day
Mommy, you are the prettiest
of all the parents, a flower that blooms
in my garden.
For this I love you
Mom.”

(For related posts, check out other entries in the Humanitarian Photography category which includes post such as choosing your camera and lenses, as well as the follow up to this post, After the Self-Assignment.)

How to Become a Humanitarian Photographer

As with many other photography specialties, there is no set course to becoming a humanitarian photographer. You must make your own path by determining your goals, piecing together the advice and experiences of others, and following your intuition. You can go to school and study photojournalism, you can create your own self-designed curriculum of classes, workshops, and experience, you can intern with an experienced photographer, or you can just strike out into the real world and learn it on your own. Starting out as a humanitarian photographer, or any type of photographer for that matter, involves learning about so many diverse areas beyond the art of making images and the skills of using a camera, a flash, and Photoshop (all of which are full time undertakings in themselves). There is also much to learn about business, copyright, marketing, branding, finances, insurance, client relations…the list goes on and on. But I’d like to go into detail about one important and practical aspect of starting out: the self-assignment.


San Francisco, Peru

In order to discover if travel or humanitarian photography is what you really want to dedicate yourself to, it is vital to get out there and really try it out. Travel to a foreign country, get out in the field, and spend days working at it, as if you were on a real assignment. One can think about it from the comfort of home, drooling over the beautiful photos of those you admire, and imagining the excitement of traveling in exotic places. But you may find that working in the field, spending weeks away from friends, family and soft toilet paper, and suffering days of intestinal distress is not all you hoped for. As any working photographer will tell you, it’s hard. Immensely gratifying and often fun, but none the less hard. I encourage anyone not to invest too much time, thought, and money into this dream until they have undertaken this important test.

Planning and executing a self assignment is challenging, but entirely do-able and realistic for anyone who is dedicated to the idea. Even if you have a full time job and aren’t making that much money, it can be done. Don’t quit your job yet to dive head first into self-employment, but use your vacation time to test the waters.


Cusco, Peru

Money: The first challenge is always money. You have to save up money for the gear, for the time away from work, and for the trip. This is done the old-fashioned way – by scrimping and saving. You’ve read it many times before, and it sometimes seems unrealistic, but it works. Save money anywhere you can – stop eating out, bring your lunch to work, cancel cable, cancel Netflix, get your books and movies from the library, stop buying stuff, use the right ATM and stop paying fees, scour the Internet for the best price on the gear you need. It may take longer than you want, it may even take a year or two, but it works. Remember, each restaurant meal you skip here equals three equivalent restaurant meals in a developing country – or better yet, it equals a week’s worth of groceries when you travel. The recession has already given everyone a head-start into living and thinking more economically, you just have to be dedicated to it a bit more and a lot longer. Also, once you begin traveling to developing countries and seeing how people find great joy in life yet live with so few possessions, your new economic lifestyle will seem that much more appropriate. I’m not just saying all these things because I’ve read them or because they sound like they will work. I’ve done them, all. Also look to Ami Vitale for inspiration. She worked long and hard and saved, then headed off and launched her career exactly this way (see the How You Finance Your Stories video at the bottom of this page: http://digitaljournalist.org/issue0301/av_intro.html). Look into counties that aren’t very expensive to fly to. For someone in the USA, that means look to South and Central America. Depending on the time of year, there are incredibly cheap deals. For example, I recently saw $84 tickets to Guatemala on a major airline. Yes, $84 each way! That’s cheaper than flying home for Christmas. Granted, it is a redeye with a long layover, but it gets you there. Be flexible and use Kayak.com to find the best prices.


Taquile Island on Lake Titicaca, Peru

Gear: You might not yet be able to afford the latest and greatest professional gear. In fact, until you are sure you really want to do this, you probably don’t want to invest in a 5D Mark III and 2 or 3 L-series lenses. Every photo forum you follow, pixel peeper you talk to, and gear review you read is going to convince you that you need the most current, top of the line gear. But you don’t. I do recommend using a dSLR and not just a point and shoot, so something like a Canon Rebel T5i / 700D and a versatile zoom lens like the Canon 18-200mm (or the Nikon equivalent) offers more than enough quality and range to start off with if you can’t afford more. On my first self-assignment all I had was an outdated, 8 megapixel Rebel XT and a single, 28-105mm lens. It didn’t prevent me from getting the shots I wanted, they’ve been exhibited, won awards, been honored by the United Nations, been used on travel guide and textbook covers, and no one has ever told me that the quality of the photos is unacceptable. (And remember that no one, outside the photo world, will ever even think to ask you what camera you used or which lens you chose.) Sometimes, with that early gear, I wasn’t able to zoom as much as I wanted for travel shots, or get wide enough for the close-ups of humanitarian work, so that is why the 18-200mm or 18-135mm (which weren’t available until more recently) would be a pretty ideal single lens solution now. (The secret fact is, I even have a couple great photos in my portfolio, a photo on a travel guidebook cover, and won a dSLR camera using an Olympus SP-320, 7 megapixel point and shoot.) Don’t go overboard with bags and accessories. Get a simple holster bag, like an M-Rock Yellowstone or whichever one fits your body and lens, or a LowePro or Tamrac bag or backpack, a couple filters (UV and polarizing), a lens pen and cloth, a rocket blower, extra batteries and memory cards, and then stop looking. You don’t need anything else. I promise. (Well, also your laptop computer, external hard drive, and some type of insurance coverage for it all. And maybe a Pac Safe 55 to secure it. And perhaps an external flash if you will be working inside. Hey, no one said this was cheap!) For insurance, look into your home-owner’s or renter’s insurance to see if it will cover it, or look at NANPA’s coverage or the discussion here. (If you happen to join NANPA to get their insurance, be sure to mention my name as a referrer, and I get $20 NANPA Bucks and save on my next renewal!) To sum it up, as culture photographer Craig Ferguson stated in a recent interview, “You don’t need to have the most expensive gear or even the newest. A plane ticket and enough money for 3 months living coupled with an entry level body and a 50mm lens will get you further than the latest pro-level body and no time or money to use it.” I discuss additional photography gear and accessories that are useful for working in the field in this post.


Altos de los Mores, Peru

Researching the NGO: Figure out what type of NGO (non-governmental organization) or non-profit organization you’d like to photograph, and which countries interest you, and start doing research. Which subjects most inspire your passion for this work? Disabled children, gender equality, health, faith-based work, community development? In every developing country there are countless NGOs doing each of these types of work and more. As a professional, you might not be able to be this specific in your choices, so take advantage of your self-assignment. Do searches on the Internet, and look on idealist.org. It is hard to imagine that any small, typically struggling organization does not want free, semi-professional quality photos for their website and newsletters, so most all will be welcoming to your offer to volunteer. But it is very important that you are quite clear that your interest and intent is to photograph their work. If you sign up to be a general volunteer, you will be expected and obligated to be doing whatever work they ask of you. Do not think you can be a volunteer and also take photos on the side. You will not do a good job of either that way. Be perfectly clear with them that you are interested in primarily photographing the work they do. That doesn’t mean you can’t spend a few days as a volunteer, and by all means you should (see below), but they should not be expecting you to be a typical volunteer.


Altos de los Mores, Peru

Ask questions and find out as much as you can about the actual work they do. Don’t just trust what you read on their website, but find out exactly what they do and where they work. They may say they work in 4 different communities, but really they might only visit 3 of them once a year for a medical visit or to bring donations. They might say they have a number of different programs, but really they may only be currently focusing on one of them based on financial reasons or staff and volunteers skills. Make sure that your area of interest is really what they are doing now. Explain to them your interests, and see if meeting your goals will be possible with them. NGOs are often run by incredibly generous, helpful, kind, friendly, flexible people, and they will want to help you at your project. But they are also incredibly busy and strapped for resources, so learn to communicate and work with them on their terms. Many organizations require that you pay to be a volunteer. This may sound strange, but you have to understand that they need money in order to keep doing the work they do. Just the fact that you are working for free does not pay the salary for the NGO’s staff. But be wary, there are many placement services that make money by being a middle-man, so make arrangements directly with the NGO. If your volunteer fee includes lodging, or even food, it is often quite reasonable to pay them. However, there are also many excellent organizations which will not charge you anything. If this is the case, be sure and support them by bringing donations (books, toys, art supplies). See my Resources Page for more information on volunteering. Some organizations run restaurants and hostels, so support them by eating and staying with them. Also, if you are thinking of joining a mission type trip, like a medical mission, find one that is being organized from your area so that you can document the planning and the departure of the group at the airport.

**Update 2010-01-28** Here is a website I just discovered which attempts to link up volunteer photographers with humanitarian projects world-wide: http://photophilanthropy.org/


Cusco, Peru

Working in the Field: It seems every photographer I admire always discusses the importance of talking to and getting to know the people you are photographing. Sometimes that means just chatting with them and buying some of their wares before you start to photograph them, other times that means living among them for several days, weeks, or months. As a photographer working with an NGO, this means you should consider being a volunteer for a day, without your camera, without photographing. Yes, that is a painful experience, to see potentially great shots slip by left and right. But this sacrifice will quickly pay off when you start to work. This gives you an opportunity to learn what the organization does and how they work. It also allows you to start to get to know the people they serve, and for them to become comfortable around you. It is obvious that this approach, rather than barging in with your face behind a camera, is going to result in much more genuine photos. Also, stay out of the way of the director and the staff when they are working. Make your arrangements and ask questions before or after the workday. Be flexible to ever-changing, never scheduled situations, but also, always remind the director of what you want to be doing. She might go running off to visit one of the client’s homes or villages, and you want her to know to always grab you and take you along on those types of trips. Take advantage of your time there to do, see, and photograph as many different types of places and situations as you can. Talk to everyone you meet – other volunteers, people at restaurants and hotels. Many other people are doing volunteer work, and they may point you in the direction of a great photographic situation.


Huinchiri, Peru

Develop, learn, and practice a good workflow for saving and backing up your images every day. It is time consuming and easy to want to put off, but if you get behind there will be no catching up. I recommend using David duChemin’s global workflow as a starting point (alternate link here). Always have your camera with you, even if you think you are just being taken to the bakery for some bread and are told you’ll be back in 5 minutes. You will inevitably be taken on a two hour detour through a part of town off the beaten path, with amazing photo opportunities, during the magic hour (best evening light). Always carefully prepare and assemble your gear before you start each day, and have new batteries and memory cards accessible while you shoot. I highly recommend you always remember to “make haste slowly.” What this means is that you will often be in a hurry, but don’t rush and act in a panic during critical moments, in preparation or in shooting. Change lenses carefully and slowly, then rush back to the action. Clean the mysterious glob off your lens carefully and delicately, then get back to shooting. There are countless opportunities to damage your gear, and while it is durable, somewhat waterproof, and stray marks and dings on your tools are not something to fret over, a dropped or scratched lens is. After this, well, I don’t know what to tell you – you’re going to learn a lot. You are going to learn your camera and its settings inside and out, you are going to learn to work under pressure, always being ready, always trying to capture the fleeting shot and changing light. You are going to start to learn what works and what doesn’t as far as compositions, camera settings, perspectives, etc. You are going to begin to learn about life in a developing country. And you are going to very quickly learn if this work is truly your passion and your calling.

Please leave a comment, ask a question. Let me know what has been helpful, and what you’d like to read more about. Let me know if you have planned or undertaken a self-assignment on your way to becoming a humanitarian photographer, and how you are addressing the challenges of this endeavor.

See my follow-up post, Becoming a Humanitarian Photographer-After the Self-Assignment for the next stage of the process.

For related posts, check out other entries in the Humanitarian Photography category.

I haven’t written an update on Clara for awhile, so there is a lot to catch up on!

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As previously discussed, my friend Nienke put me in touch with an American special needs teacher here, Celeste, who then arranged for a young deaf Peruvian women, Karen, to work with Clara.  Finally everyone’s schedules coodinated, and they came to Yanapay to visit.  Clara soon figured out that we were discussing her, and she refused to join us, acting unusually shy and hesitant.  Nevertheless, Celeste explained everything to Yuri, and acted as a multi-communication translator, signing to Karen and telling me in English.  Yuri was thrilled with the idea, as was Karen’s mom, whose support was also important for this to work.  I was beaming with happiness, as it seemed Clara was finally going to get consistent help.  In the process, I obtained my name in sign – a “d” next to my glasses.  Finally Clara was forced down to join us, the idea was explained to her as best as possible, and she agreed to work with Karen.

On the first day of class, Karen and I sat down with Clara, and Clara already didn’t seem very happy.  She kicked me under the table in protest, but we carried on with the lesson.  Karen went through the alphabet in sign, and then seeing that she hadn’t brought any materials, I pulled out my flashcards.  She went through each of those, with Clara learning the signs.  She then quizzed Clara, and she remembered nearly all of them.  Not knowing what to do next, I ran to the storeroom to get some drawing materials.  However, when I returned, Clara had run off, and I had no success in coaxing her back.  “Poco a poco” I told Karen, little by little.

The following day, Clara wouldn’t even sit down with us to start the lesson.  We tried and tried to persuade her to join us, but no luck.  Eventually, however, as Karen and I stood around not knowing what to do, Clara invited Karen up to the games room.  Great!  Clara is warming up to her teacher!  I thought.  Karen was hesitant, but luckily she went up and joined Clara.  I left them alone, with the hope that Karen would turn it into a learning opportunity.  After about 10 minutes, they came down and went into the art room.  I tried to spy a bit, but mostly gave them their space.  They weren’t really working with each other, but working next to each other was a start.

By the following day, Clara would no longer greet me.  I assume it was because I was making her work, and perhaps because she comes to Yanapayto play, to have fun, and to be with other kids.  It is entirely possible that she is in her house all day, as she no longer attends school.  She wouldn’t sit down to work with Karen, and I began to think it all might fall apart.  I was away from Yanapay for a few days, and was afraid the lessons be over when I returned. 

Although Clara still wouldn’t greet me when I returned, she was proudly sounding out, “I am Clara!”  One of the volunteers had somehow taught her that.  She was also showing that she could sign her name.  I joyfully discovered that Karen had brought 2 of her friends, and they all worked with Clara that day.  It turns out, in my absence, the teachers at Yanapay had explained to Clara that if she wants to continue to come to Yanapay, she has to work with Karen.    I was extremely curious what they were all doing in the classroom, but I left them alone, and they worked for well over an hour.

A few weeks later, Karen started a job, but she had started to go to Clara’s house on Sundays for the lessons, which are hopefully continuing.  Last week, again after an absence when I went to Puno and Bolivia, I returned and saw Clara signing with Yuri.  It was not longer gestures and pantomimes, but real signing, which she seemed to be doing it with new found confidence and perhaps even a slight bit more maturity than I had seen before!

Please view additional Yanapay photo essay at www.dojoklo.com

OK, so I’ve been very forgetful.  I forgot to do a special post for Tracie and for Aunt Vickie and Grandma on their donation days.  I will have to make that up to you…  BUT, today is Gail Zimmer’s donation day and birthday!  Her donation was for a doll related art project with the kids.  Since I was supposed to be in the jungle now working in Pilcopata, I was going to do that at this time.  However, since that gig fell through, I am carrying my art materials deep into the jungle to Iquitos next week.  When I hook up with a volunteer organization, hopefully in a secluded indigenous community, I will attempt to do that project.  In the mean time, here are some pictures from an outing with the Aldea Yanapay kids.  We hiked just outside of Cusco, and explored a creek and some woods for the afternoon.  The kids loved playing in the water, and many left quite wet, along with a couple unlucky volunteers.


Heading out


Yuri helping a little one across


Jenni in the water


Marylin


Clara getting ready to cause trouble!


“Mira Profe!” The little ones were amazed by the wonders of nature


Diana playing in the mud


Maria calm and composed as always


Yuri and the kids


Ascending the trecherous hill


Returning from collecting leaves and seeds for future art projects


Descending the trecherous hill


Heading home

I´ve entered myself into another photo/ writing contest, which again turns out to be a popularity-voting contest.  However with this one, there is no signing in or registering…you just click!  AND, you can vote once a day, every day, and keep voting and voting and voting for me!
1. just go here:
www.gadventures.com/‎
2. look for this picture of Clara´s painted face and the blue steps:
3. click and vote daily
This way I can win a new spectacular camera, and won´t have to keep battling with the stray hair I have on my sensor which is ruining my beautiful photos.
Thanks mucho!


Marilyn with tarjeta de la Dia de las Madres:
“Happy Mother´s Day
Mommy, you are the prettiest
of all the parents, a flower that blooms
in my garden.
For this I love you
Mom.”

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Aldea Yanapay – Mi Grupo de Amor:
Arni, Roberto
Iomira, Zakhia, Naysha, Jazmin, Lucero, Me
Claudia, Rosy, Cecilia
(not shown – Cristian)

The presentation of the continents went great!  I contend that Cecilia and my group was the best, most prepared, and most creative!  We had a couple missing kids and a couple new kids, so we rearranged the roles at the last minute, including the lead role, and it still went great.  We concluded with a song:
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Hanging around before the presentations

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Clara as a half-butterfly (marisposa)

See Flickr for more photos, including more stomach-turning market photos, and a photo essay of “Nienke´s Day Out!”

Feliz Cumpleños a mi hermana, Lynn!!

(Photos can be found in this Flickr set: https://www.flickr.com/photos/dojoklo/albums/72157604894550412/page1)


Jazmin y Marita

Lots of news and developments the last few days.  I just found out I will not be going to Pilcopata to volunteer in July and August.  The volunteer coordinator just quit, for many many reasons, mostly based around how the organization is being run and how the money is being spent.  As with so many things in Peru, it always comes down to money, and it seems the woman in charge is not behaving as a professional NGO and a legitimate non-profit.  And the organization is no longer going to be sending volunteers to the jungle but will be focusing on their other project.

I also just learned that I did not win the Travelocity grant for an Amazon scientific cruise, which I had hoped to go on.  But that is OK because it conflicted with the Amazon River Raft Race that I will be going on.  And I plan to reapply for the grant again.  In other Amazon news, it the Amazon has been declared (by the Geographic Society of Lima) to be the longest river in the world.  With the discovery of its true source, it is 4,388 miles in length, and beats out the Nile by 242 miles.

At Yanapay, the one-on-one lessons with Clara are not going as well this week.  One of the volunteers is doing elaborate face painting, so of course Clara wants to do this.  And since a week of face painting is much more important than learning to read, that´s how it goes.  I have been able, after ten minutes of chasing her down and persuasion, to bring her into the classroom and do 15 minutes of work.  I made some worksheets to match the words with the pictures.  She has yet to learn what the words mean so I want to keep this up, but it is difficult to continue making it entertaining and fun.  But Sr. Tigre begged to do Clara´s worksheets.  I couldn´t refuse a kid who WANTS to do homework, so he eagerly did a set of them as well.

I also meet with a special needs teacher, who a Dutch speech therapist friend of mine happens to know, to try to find out what resources or path might be available for Clara.  This teacher, Celeste, is an American who has lived here for four years, and has set up her own school for special needs kids.  She does not work with the deaf, but has a colleague who does, and of course knows more about the system.  Celeste has also worked with a young Peruvian deaf girl who has been well educated but is currently not working.  She is going to try to bring this girl to Yanapay to meet with Clara and with Yuri and see if she can be set up as her teacher.  The problem, of course, may be that there is no money to pay the teacher a small salary.  I hope this works out, as it would be an ideal long term solution, but I´ll wait and see what happens.

Geography lessons at Yanapay have been going well, and I am paired with a wonderful Swedish volunteer this week.  We need to come up with our weekly presentation today, which I can only hope will incorporate the chorus to “We Are the World!”


Davis (El Señor Tigre) reading with wonder and awe about planet Earth!  (this is honestly not posed!)


Davis eagerly does my worksheet


Señor Tigre!!


Cecilia teaches geography with Jasmin and Zakhia

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Bored with making friendship bracelets, one of my art class students grabbed a paper mache mask from the shelf and put it over his face. With the skill of a true comedian, he patiently sat and waited for a reaction. I turned around, saw him in the painted tiger face, and exclaimed, “Hola, Señor Tigre!” The room erupted in laughter and that´s how Davis became Sr. Tigre.

Angeline sponsored April 16 for art projects with the kids, and so her blog entry is long overdue. As head of the art room at Yanapay a few weeks ago, I was able to do my feathers project and then make friendship bracelets. On Flickr you can view the photos that I brought along for inspiration, from an exhibit at the Met of Featherwork in Ancient Peru. I prepared a presentation of the history and significance of these objects, and managed to keep their attention long enough to ask them a few questions. Doing art projects, its difficult to get them to think and work creatively, as they are so used to just copying, copying, copying in school. None the less, the class went pretty well, and we made some nice feather mosaic pictures.

However, they loved making the friendship bracelets, and wanted to do that for days. The girls, for the most part, knew how to do it or else picked it up very quickly. The boys, as a whole, were hopeless, and succeeded in making a series of irregular knots.

In general the boys are rowdy and disruptive for the entire three hours at Yanapay, and make a smooth, organized class impossible. So when Sr. Tigre came into the reading room this week, I wasn´t expecting to get him to concentrate and read. But surprises never cease, and when I wasn´t working with Clara, I had an amazing week reading with Davis. He gasped in awe as he read about killer whales (ballenas asesinos-murderer or assassin whales!) and traced his finger over the beautiful pictures in the book. Since he enjoyed that so much, we drew pictured of killer whales. Then we learned about all the animals besides hens which lay eggs, about polar animals, and about all the different types of trucks. He was quite impressed that I have seen, with my own eyes, el camion de salchicha (the Weiner Mobile!)

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flash cards

At the Yanapay school there is a deaf girl, Clara.  She´s a little older than most of the kids, and no one seems too sure of her situation.  Does she go to school still?  How much can she hear and understand?  How much can she read and write?  I´ve been very concerned about her and her future even since I knew her from last year, and so I told Yuri I would like to work with her one on one, maybe start to teach her sign language.  He was very enthusiastic about the idea, but since I was needed to lead various rooms (art, reading, etc.) and English classes, I didn´t have the opportunity to start.

I wasn´t sure if he remembered or not, but this week Yuri came into the reading room and and said, “You wanted to work with Clara, right?  Here are some books, get started!”  He handed me a couple archaic, baby ABC books and a new spiral notebook, and he gestured to Clara indicating that I´d be  working with her.  She was very pleased with her own new notebook, and we opened it up and got started.  I had to think fast to start a lesson and keep her attention, as she has the habit of running off to get another pen, or an eraser, or a scissors if she is idle for a moment.  What to do?  What to do?  Let´s see, what would Anne Sullivan do?  I saw the movie once…there was a doll, a water spigot, a bad dinner scene…

I wrote the alphabet down the inside margin of the first page, then made lines for her to copy each letter five times.  After we made it through the alphabet, I pointed to drawings from the book and tried to have her write down the words.  It became immediately obvious that she didn´t want to use and be seen using the baby books.  In fact, she was very self-concious of the other kids seeing what she was doing, and covered up the page whenever other kids came near.  So I started doing my own drawings.  I began to see that she sort of knew the alphabet, but mostly seemed to be copying the letters and words.  If I made an accidental dot or line near the letter, she meticulously copied that too.

For the second lesson, I had to be prepared so that there weren´t any lulls.  Since I had no books to use, I spent the afternoon making my own flash cards, with the letters on one side and a picture and word on the other.  We went through the cards, copying the letters and the words.  She recognized and acted out all of my drawings, even the poor ones that I thought I would have to explain.  Then I had her look through magazines to find similar pictures, and cut them out and paste them and write the word again.  That was so successful that we went over our time without her noticing.  What I´m going to do next week, though, I´m not sure!

Here´s a pic from my group´s first big presentation last week.  We were singing a “greetings song” in rounds, and it actually worked!

(Photos can be found in this Flickr set: https://www.flickr.com/photos/dojoklo/albums/72157604214855229)

No time…

Sorry that I´m not doing a good job of keeping this updated.  I have so many stories and pictures from volunteering and weekend trips, but don´t have time to post it all right now…  Hopefully in 2 weeks after Spanish classes are over, I can catch up.


The Yanapay kids – Jenni, Clara, and Maria de Fatima across the top

One of the amusing modes of communication here is the human pay phone.  Women stand on the corners calling out “LAMADAS, LLAMADAS!” (CALLS, CALLS!)  One approaches them and uses their cell phone, paying a half sol per minute, about 20 cents – cheaper than the pay phones on the street.  So this week I was initiated into how to actually use them.  You must first tell them which service you want, Movistar or Claro, as calling from one provider to the other is extremely expensive.  Then they choose the appropriate phone, dial the number, hand you the phone, and time your call on a stopwatch.  So if you have your own cel phone here, and you need to call someone on the other network, it is actually cheaper, and not uncommon, to use the llamadas chicas instead of your own phone!


Llamadas chicas.  Typically they hang out on street corners and not on yellow VW’s.  Notice the long bright phone cords (and stopwatches and 2 phones each) to identify them as llamadas chicas.


Llamadas chicas – twirling her phone strap, notice a phone in each hand – one Claro, one Movistar

Every Friday at Yanapay, the kids are going to put on theatrical performances that they create during the week, revolving around the themes and goals of Yanapay: values, principles, love, non-violence, respect.  This week’s performances included the older kids performing the story of Yuri starting Yanapay – to the surprise of Yuri himself!

A lot of new volunteers are starting next week, and most of us are sorely lacking in Spanish fluency, so it is going to be an interesting challenge.  I’m going to be working with the older kids, in a building next to the original one, with Yuri thankfully acquired as I was leaving last year, because the little kids have simply overrun the original space.  In the past year, he also opened a large hostal where he now lives with the volunteers.

I have requested to work one-on-one with Clara, the deaf girl, and Yuri was thrilled with the idea.  I´m very concerned with what will happen to her as she gets older.  Her parents, unfortunately, won’t let her attend a special school because they need her help around the house.  So I’m going to be starting with sign language, which I will be learning as well!  I’ll probably start this next week when there are more volunteers, as this week I will be running the art room.

I got the full orientation to Yanapay this time, which was very helpful.  I learned a lot more about the kids lives and the general societal problems, which are deep and overwhelming, and more about Yuri´s philosophy and approach to attempting to change the kids lives and break the cycles and attitudes, etc.

Other activities of mine this week included a Peruvian dinner with the Spanish school, a Peruvian dinner with the Explorer’s club, and running around like crazy from one side of Cusco to the other and back several times a day in order to keep up with all my meetings, volunteering, and activites.

There are some new photos posted on Flickr.  Their color looks horrible on this computer, so I´m not sure if they are truly off or not.  I’ve discovered photo management is extremely time consuming, especially with the large files from the new camera.  I’ve been at it for 2.5 hours and still don’t have them up.  So I’m not sure how I’m going to do it.


I wrote in my essay how once outside of Cusco´s center, the buildings start to shed their facades to reaveal the earthen material beneath.  It seems that some are in even more critical condition.

I am getting ready for my departure in a week…consolidating my life into two, probably three suitcases…amazed at how much space stuff occupies…

Please view my “Modest Request” and “Fruits of My Labor” pages above.


Permethrin and Mosquito Net