Lindy & Christi
Education, Violence Against Women
VE Global (Voluntarios de la Esperanza)
Our trip was funded by working beforehand and teaching one on one English to sustain us while living in Chile. Our project was sponsored by the non-profit VE Global, PENTAX, TakeGreatPictures.com, and private donors.
We started a digital photography program called OJOS nuevos (NEW eyes) that put cameras in the hands of at-risk Chilean girls living in hogares (orphanages) explore the creativity, enjoyment, and importance of photography. By letting them be the photographers, they were able to immerse themselves in a rewarding activity and tell stories from their own points of view, capturing what life is like for them and what life is like in their country.
Using digital cameras and computers, 15 girls participated in the workshop for over five months. Classes were organized into slideshows, assignments, editing, and fieldtrips. They watched slideshows exposing them to international photography; they learned about the history of photography and when cameras used to use film; they learned how to protect and hide their cameras in public (the hard way), and they felt the anticipation of waiting for their pictures to come back from the printer. Some girls preferred to shoot in their neighborhood, whereas others only found interesting subject matter in new surroundings. Some would walk right up to strangers and shoot their portraits, and others enjoyed self-portraiture. The grand finale to the workshops was to photograph for a day in Valparaíso, a picturesque coastal town two hours away from Santiago. We then held a final exhibition to showcase the girls' work at an art university in downtown Santiago.
The most rewarding aspect of this experience was the relationships we built with people while we were there. Through our commitments to the children and staff and familiarizing ourselves with the community, people were so kind to embrace us and the project.
OJOS nuevos was first introduced in 2006 to Hogar San Francisco de Regis, a girl’s home in the center of Santiago, with cameras collected through donations by Christine Mladic. She continued the project in Hogar Aldea María Reina in Puente Alto in 2007, while Lindy Drew brought OJOS nuevos to Hogar Nuestra Señora de la Paz, also in Puente Alto. In 2009, OJOS was reintroduced by Jessica Phelps with the help of Ann Schnuer. They modified they original outline created by Christine and Lindy and brought the workshop to two more institutions: Domingo Savio, a community center in La Granja, and Pleyedes, a private hogar more centrally located in Santiago. All the programs were conducted through VE Global, a non-profit organization that connects international volunteers with a network of schools, orphanages, and community centers throughout Santiago.
In a country with a profound income gap between rich and poor, many Chilean families find social services inaccessible, making it difficult for them to provide their children with stable homes and secure futures. Hogares aim to provide children with a safe, temporary home when their families are not able to offer them one. Thousands of children are involved in the hogar system, and unfortunately, many of them may remain in it until they are self-sufficient. In some cases, parents can visit their children and work with the hogar staff, surpassing the struggles they are dealing with and eventually taking their kids back home. These particular hogars have room for 30 to 60 girls between 5 and 19 years old. The institutions vary, as some are bright, clean, and organized, while others have less resources and structure. In either case, Chile’s hogares do their best to provide their children with the necessary tools to prepare them for a healthy adulthood. For many of the children, hogar life is their daily reality and their only possibility of getting out ahead. A volunteer’s presence can provide a profound influence on one child or on an entire hogar.
Photography by the girls’ can be view here: