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Photography As A Tool For Social Change by Bryan Davies

For several years I have been searching for an international humanitarian mission with photography as the focus for social change.

When I signed on with the Rotary sponsored HHART Mission in the Dominican Republic, I knew that I had finally found a way to make a difference in the lives of impoverished and forgotten people. Dedicated volunteers under the direction of Wasaga Beach Rotary Club’s Steve Wallace have been providing the basic humanitarian needs to disenfranchised Haitian villagers living in impoverished bateyes in Dominican Republic for the past six years. The organizaton is called HHART -the Haitian Humanitarian And Relief Team.

Each day I would follow the Relief Teams as they set out to help the villagers. I captured images of the team who installed 68 Solar Lights in village homes without electricity. As I wandered through the villages children would ask me to take a picture of them on my digital camera. After shooting the photo, I showed them their picture on the camera’s screen and they would laugh. One day I followed the Medical Team to a Men’s Rehab Centre and Shelter called Cristo Transforma located at Severet. Once again I captured some interesting photos of our team of four nurses, a naturopath and a local doctor diagnosing and interacting with the men. One of the men who is a professional soccer player received a Soccer Ball donated and signed by my Grandson, Troy. The man was very appreciative and said that he will use the ball to teach young children to play soccer.

Through a financial donation from a family in Ontario, Canada, HHART was able to purchase, ship and deliver an Endoscopy Imaging System to a local hospital in Puerto Plata. I captured photos of the delivery to the hospital and some group presentation shots inside. We put a sign over the door where this system will reside saying “Rotary Club of Wasaga Beach”

When our volunteers began painting homes on the main street in Cangrejo, the village children and adults soon took over the job which made for wonderful human interest images. The entire street, which was named Calle de HHART (HHART Street) is now a multi-coloured and fresh looking street, with a new concrete roadway.

In addition to medical supplies, clothes, toys, crayons, books, glasses and toothbrushes etc, we brought 12 used sewing machines donated from Rotary and Lions Clubs in Canada. The 21 Hockey Bags of stuff from Canada were shipped by Westjet as humanitarian bags at no cost. Our HHART volunteers, translators and local villagers worked very hard to renovate an old building in Cangrejo to  become a Women’s Centre. In Haitian culture, women are still second class citizens and are prevented from joining men’s groups or playing sports with men. Our team installed water, electricity, wall-mounted TV, two ceiling fans, new paint for walls and ceiling and a new steel door. Plus one of the sewing machines was set up. These women will now be able to make and sell their own clothes, while they improve their self-confidence.

More than 40 women were invited to the Dedication of the Cangrejo Women’s Centre. Rotarian Irene Walker of Wasaga Beach presented the centre’s key to a prominent village woman. I was there capturing photos of all these wonderful events.

When I didn’t have my DSLR Camera handy, I was able to get some pictures with my phone of our volunteer David Dai, who was getting a goat ready for delivery to the men at Cristo Transforma, the Men’s Rehab Centre in Severet. They are planning to make Goat Cheese.

Before we came down to the DR, Steve Wallace our coordinator, arranged with Staples, Collingwood, ON to donate a Canon IP 110 Portable Printer along with lots of ink and photo printing paper. We brought the Canon printer and all the supplies on the plane with us. I set up the Canon IP 110 in my room at the Sosua by the Sea Hotel where all the volunteers stayed.  

We got the word out to the Villagers about getting their family portraits photographed on Sunday so they all arrived at the old open air church in their Sunday best.

Our team of five HHART Volunteers set up a temporary portrait studio in the  church in the village of Cangrejo, complete with toy puppets to entertain the kids. We then gathered families from the village of Cangrejo, posed and photographed them all in one day. Sixty family portraits was the largest number of portraits I have ever photographed in one day. Some were single men or women and some had large families with Moms, Dads and kids. It became a challenge to control the flow of villagers in and out of the “studio”and we relied heavily on our 2 local interpreters to help guard the gate.

After arriving back at the hotel, I uploaded and edited all the best portrait images into LightRoom and then transferred them to the hard drive of my notebook computer with a full back up on a memory stick. And, of course, I sent a few images to my facebook site. After dinner, David Foster and I diligently printed out 60 good quality 8×10 glossies until 1 am. We allowed all the prints to dry overnight in the hotel room.

Next day Irene Walker and I placed each print into a plastic sleeve for transport to the village site. We then assembled a team of HHART volunteers to mount each print into simple wooden frames which were made earlier that day by local villagers with help from our HHART carpenter “Grumpy”.  When the Framed Family Portraits were brought to each of the families,  the villagers’ reactions were a joyful surprise and some people cried since they may have never seen a photo of themselves before now. These family portraits will now give the villagers a sense of pride and a legacy for their children. It warmed my heart deeply to see this part of the mission develop.  As a professional photographer, I felt truly blessed to be a vital part of this wonderful humanitarian mission called HHART.


To preview more images from the HHART 9 Mission on May 2-9, 2017 copy and paste the link below into your browser.


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