I always wanted to travel with The Giving Lens photography workshop. I’ve believed for a long time that PHILANTHROPY AND PHOTOGRAPHY go beautifully together. Pictures have the power to change ideas and drive about social change. That’s been proven time and time again. And I finally found an organization that is based on this belief.
I was stoked to join them in Nicaragua.
That being said, I didn’t know what to expect.
The Giving Lens (TGL) group has been pairing up with Empowerment International (EI) for the past few years. Their mission is to break the cycle of poverty in the developing world by building more educated and productive communities. What this translates to is basically keeping kids in schools and off the streets via direct sponsorship and participation in after school programs such as a photography club. TGL partners up with EI for one week in July where the kids get to spend time with the participants of the workshop. They work together to shoot in and around the city of Granada and also in their neighborhoods.
It’s an intense week where the two groups of kids and TGL’ers are basically inseparable.
Bonds are formed. Photos are taken. Friendships are made.
It was more than I could have hoped for J
I would have never had the same opportunities to shoot if I had gone to Granada myself. At least not in some of its poorest, yet most colorful parts.
One thing I’d like to touch on is DOGS.
It’s always about the dogs for me.
I knew I was going to encounter a lot of street dogs and I dreaded to see what condition they would be in. I had flashbacks from Honduras way before I even embarked on this trip and the flashbacks were not pleasant.
On a few occasions though, I was positively surprised!
The dogs on the streets of Granada actually looked healthy and relatively well fed! How could this be? I wondered. Turns out it’s not mere chance. Through Kathy Adams, the founder of Empowerment International I found out that a group of devoted animal lovers called NikaVets are doing wonderful work in Granada and beyond. They sponsor free spay and neuter events, free clinics and provide education to animal owners in the region. Their efforts have certainly paid off and it was wonderful to see such positive fruits of their work. Thank you NikaVets for the wonderful work you are doing!
I wish I could say the same thing about some of the neighboring villages though.
Sadly, I cannot. Here I encountered some of the same animal abuse I have seen in other parts of the developing world. I genuinely do not intend to criticize the people responsible for this, because I completely understand that their lives are incredibly difficult and their priorities lie elsewhere. There is no money for the type of care we provide to our animals in the USA. However, I do wish the general approach to dogs and animals was a bit more kind.
The children should be taught not to kick their dogs. They should not hit them with sticks and rocks to subdue their behaviors. They should be left alone in the least.
But sadly that is not the case and the above happens on daily basis :/
Just writing about it makes me ache.
So what can be done? CAN anything be done? Can we change the culture, the mentality? Or is this a hopeless cause, an impossible task not worth undertaking?
I don’t have an answer to these questions.
But I know that I have to explore them. And I have to try.
And I’m not the only one who is trying.
Melissa Palomo, for example, founded Street Mutts, an organization “dedicated to awareness and education about the plight of street animals around the world.” One of the goals of the organization is to implement various programs teaching youth the humane approach to animals. I agree with this wholeheartedly.
Only through education can we evoke change.
I am obsessed with photographing dogs when I travel…unfortunately most of them break my heart with the condition they are in 🙁
Nicaragua was definitely memorable. I recommend The Giving Lens wholeheartedly. I plan to go back next July.