26 December 2012

Rwanda: Every Person Can Tell Their Story

Two years ago, David Mitali, met Ryan Ansin, the founder and executive director of a non-profit organization called EPHAS (Every Person Has A Story) at one of Kigali's hang-out joints. EPHAS is a program that shares stories and connects people around the world through the power of photography.

That evening as they talked, Ansin explained to Mitali the theory that, "the perspectives of those who are generally in front of the camera are more capable of capturing and delivering the most authentic perspectives on their local happenings". Today, Mitali confirms that EPHAS though it's still in its initial stages is a short but a very well planned journey in transforming people's lives.

David is currently the manager of EPHAS Rwanda programs where his job is to put cameras in the hands of the children and provide teaching and guidance at both the Karambi and the Rwanda Orphans project located in Kanombe.

About the project he now runs, Mitali explains, 'I find it so refreshing to volunteer with EPHAS because of its importance to the kids I teach about photography. When I started working with EPHAS, I told myself that if someone from the USA like Ryan can do such an amazing job for the Orphans or even former street children from all over my own country RWANDA, why not me? Who is a local and a brother in a way or the other to these kids'

EPHAS' main mission is to educate people in developing countries in media arts so they can self-document the life and transformation in their communities. by presenting often difficult or unsightly realities that otherwise go unheard to those fortunate enough to help, these people(EPHAS) want every organization with which they work, to have the resources to educate their clientele in media arts, enabling them to document their own experiences and, in turn, promote the organization offering aid.

'As a leader in this school, I feel EPHAS is helping our children not only to learn a skill but to also express themselves through the lens of a camera, and improve their creativity. We've seen their progress firsthand: In the beginning they took hundreds of ill thought out photos of anything and everything around them, but as they had more time with the camera, as well as more training, they began to become more selective, and hence more artistic in their approach. This change shows that they are not only having fun but actually learning in the process, which is the most important thing an activity can do for a child' explained Sean Jones, Executive Director, Rwandan Orphans Project

You may be asking yourself how these pictures taken by these children help them. Well, every picture taken by the kids at these centers is sent to the NGO's headquarters in Boston, USA where the likes of Ansin and others at EPHAS auction the pictures.

'The good thing about this program is that we learn how to use cameras and get to take photos of our lives, whenever we want' Sam Mugisha, one of the pupils said.

The proceeds from these sold pictures are sent back to the many EPHAS outlets in Rwanda, Haiti, South Sudan, Kenya, Dominican Republic, Cayman Island and the USA.

Mitali adds that, 'the children here, with photography are able to develop their creativity and advocate for the issues important to their communities. Photography gives them a captive audience giving the their voice more power'

'Personally, I also didn't get to grow up without problems. This is what drives me in my daily life whereby every time I go for teachings at the orphanage of nearly 100 young men, I think they can find and capture their problems'

'With the hard work the children seem to put in their education and the good management of the schools in Karambi and Rwanda Orphanage Project and the donors who provide housing, clothing, food, health care, education and many other needs to all these children, one day their lives will be better'

Every Person Has a Story (EPHAS) began in 2003 when its founder Ryan Ansin began creating promotional videos for nonprofits. In 2010, however, Ansin changed his strategy put the cameras in the hands of his former subjects, allowing them to tell their own stories to the world through photography.

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