It’s not everyday that I get to affect someone’s life for the better, but Rick Gerrity and I had an opportunity recently to do just that. My friends at the Leaves & Lizards Retreat in Costa Rica introduced me to Maria Fejervary a few months ago, and everything else fell into place.
Maria is the director of the Salvando Corazones shelter and safe house near Lake Arenal Costa Rica. Maria and her staff take care of young girls who have been victims of sex trafficking in Costa Rica. As a father of two small children, I cannot imagine what these girls have been through or how adults could stand for it. The girls we met were between 12 and 17 years old, but the shelter takes in girls as young as 9.
Maria is constantly looking for ways to help the girls at the shelter deal with what they’ve been through beyond the typical therapy options. She has been working with the equine therapy program at Leaves & Lizards for a few years, and she contacted me about helping her with a photography therapy program.
Many of us don’t think about photography in this way. For some, photography can be a way to find a voice and express emotions in a way that wouldn’t be possible otherwise. Capturing and sharing an image that represents your feelings can be much easier than putting those feelings into words.
After talking to Maria and finding out about the shelter and the program I got right to work. I contacted Tom Curley at Panasonic, and he immediately set about rounding up cameras he could send to the shelter. Between Tom and Dan Unger they donated nineteen cameras to the shelter! I have always enjoyed working with the guys at Panasonic, but their willingness to jump in and help the shelter made me proud to be part of the LUMIX team.
Mini Photo Workshop
The second part of the program was to have a photographer come to the shelter and help get the girls up to speed on the cameras and some basic photography technique. Panasonic stepped up once again and sponsored me and Rick Gerrity to go to Costa Rica for a couple of days and help start the program.
The girls were extremely excited about the cameras and their mini photo workshop! We started at the shelter. The girls were immediately shooting portraits of each other along with the beautiful scenery around the property. After shooting for a couple of hours we looked at everyone’s photos on the TV at the shelter. All of the girls got some great shots and had a lot of fun laughing and commenting on each other’s work.
The next day the girls came to Leaves & Lizards so they could incorporate photography into the regular work they do with the horses. The more they shot the more thoughtful they were about what they were shooting, camera settings and composition. The girls asked Rick and I a lot of questions and were excited to show off the photos they were particularly proud of. One girl in particular was obviously very excited about using the camera. She photographed everything from flowers to landscapes, and she was constantly trying new things and checking out the different features on the camera.
The cameras belong to the shelter, but Rick and I are working on a plan to make sure that the girls who really take to photography have the opportunity to take a camera with them when they leave. We don’t like the idea of taking the camera away from the girls who are truly helped by it.
We aren’t allowed to show you photos of the girls’ faces for reasons I’m sure you can understand. Rick and I had a wonderful time and we can’t wait to go back. We are going to have the girls come to Leaves & Lizards and shoot with our photography workshop group in September. Check out the girls’ photos below, and please click the link and check out Salvando Corazones.
The following images were made by the girls during our mini-workshop.