Left Hand Valley Courier - All Local, All The Time

By Aurelia Pollard

Cameras for Kenya


Courtesy photo Niwot resident Lucy Tuck is collecting digital cameras to send to Kibera, for Carolina for Kibera’s photography program for girls living in Kibera.

Most people live in shacks made of mud with a dirt or concrete floor. Only about 20 percent of the people have electricity, and until recently, people did not have water and were getting their water from the Nairobi dam, which was unclean and often caused typhoid and cholera.

This is life in Kibera, Africa’s largest urban slum that is located in Kenya near Nairobi. Last summer, Niwot resident and photographer Lucy Tuck visited the slum with her family while they were on a trip in Africa.

After seeing the conditions the people of Kibera lived in and where the children grew up, her family was inspired to help. There aren’t many opportunities for young women there, and Tuck’s daughter thought they needed essentials, such as food and medicine.

“There aren’t really any programs for young women [in Kibera],” Tuck explained. “My daughter really wanted to know how to help. She thought it would be food and medicine, and she was surprised when she [heard] they will forgo food and medicine for things to be creative and have escapism. And [the girls] were really interested in photography.”

It surprised Tuck’s family to learn the girls wanted cameras to pursue their creativity rather than food or water, but she was determined to help them achieve what they desperately wanted.

“We decided as a family that we’d come back [to Niwot] and try to get ahold of digital cameras to send out to them,” Tuck said.

The charitable organization, Carolina for Kibera, which exists in Kibera to “develop local leaders, catalyze positive change and alleviate poverty,” has a variety of programs to advance education, health, gender equality, economic empowerment and more.

Carolina for Kibera recently partnered with the Artkids Foundation, an organization that provides cameras and photography classes to adolescents in Kibera, to expand its photography training for young girls. Tuck knew this was how she could get involved to help girls who wanted and needed cameras.

“A lot of the women just live in appalling conditions and having a creative outlet is really helpful,” Tuck explained of why the girls want cameras. “I think they found that being able to document their lives had really helped them. They put together a book, which is comprised entirely of their own photographs and gives a candid look at how they live.”

Tuck said even though the girls endure people saying mean things about them living in Kibera, they’re able to love where they live through photography.

“It’s a wonderful way to reveal to others what’s going on, and their ability to find beauty in the most horrendous conditions,” Tuck said. “It’s just really harrowing looking at their beautiful work and their totally different take on life—those were the conditions they grew up in.”

Carolina for Kibera’s goal through this project is to empower the youth to explore their creativity and build a positive self-image. They hope that by giving young girls these opportunities, they will be encouraged to seek additional opportunities in the future.

“The Artkids Foundation talks about the power of the camera,” Tuck explained, “and what happens when girls are empowered to speak for themselves. That was the underlying premise of the recent collaboration they did to teach photography classes to girls.”

The program already has some cameras to help teach girls about photography, but Tuck has set out to help supply them with even more digital cameras and is asking the community of Niwot to help out.

With the advanced quality of cameras on smartphones and people upgrading to more advanced digital cameras, Tuck hopes people will be willing to donate their old, little digital cameras they no longer use. All she asks is that the cameras be in good working condition, and come with a charger and memory card if possible.

“The Niwot Market has offered to be a collection point, so there will be a box where people can drop off their cameras,” Tuck said of where people can donate cameras.

Tuck is also working with the Longmont Chamber of Commerce where businesses will be able to drop off cameras on Friday, June 10. The Niwot Market will be accepting cameras starting Wednesday, May 11 to Wednesday, May 18.

Tuck’s goal is to collect 100 cameras to send to Kibera, and she’s also working with the Professional Photographers of America who have agreed to support the drive.

“We knew we wanted to help [the girls],” Tuck explained of why they got involved. “We thought it was important to find out what it was they wanted, rather than what we thought they wanted. We were surprised that it was cameras, but the fact that I’m a photographer and my whole family gets things photographic as a result, it seemed a really natural fit.”

Tuck is excited for where this could lead in the future. She’s focused on collecting cameras right now, but feels it could open doors to more programs for the girls in the future.

“We’re starting with cameras,” Tuck said about future plans. “The more people I speak to the more wonderful ideas keep coming up. Now it’s cameras, but it might be training, sponsorship, education in the future.”

Tuck has seen the conditions these people live in firsthand, and knows the cause is real. She hopes that with the people around her, they can make a real difference for the girls in Kibera.

“It’s a very worthy cause that these girls are just so passionate and creative, and really deserving a chance,” Tuck said. “The infrastructure is in place so I feel confident that it’s a genuine opportunity with real outcomes.”

For more information, or to donate a camera, contact Tuck at Lucytuck@mac.com.


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