I am recently home from a wonderful trip to Ometepe Island, Nicaragua. I was fortunate enough to be invited along as part of a special needs delegation of individuals from Bainbridge Island. Bainbridge, where I live, and Ometepe are “sister islands”, how that came to be is a neat story for another time. For now, suffice it to say there has been a decades long relationship between our islanders and theirs. High-school kids travel down from BI and spend two weeks living in homes with host families, BI islanders have helped get a clean water system installed, supported schools and special needs educations. If you want to learn more about it please visit BOSIA website. One of the neat ideas that came from the wonderful people at BOSIA , was a program to teach photography to deaf teens on Ometepe. I was invited along as a guest to help document the program as well as interact with the kids.
One of the things that was the most compelling about this program, and one of the things that was the most touching, was the ability to “give voice” to previously silent community. Sign language is very young on the island, and if you can imagine being deaf in a hearing and speaking community you might begin to have a feel for the deep isolation that can come with having no shared language with your family or community. No way to tell others how you see the world, what delights you, what catches your eye, what makes up the day to day of your life. So much about language we take for granted, until we loose it. Even casual travelers have experienced the frustrations of being in a place where you can not make yourself understood at all. The beauty of the visual arts is that you can share without written or spoken words. Photography is a direct way to say, “hey, look at this, see this… this matters to me!”.
The kids were mostly teens, and as expected delighted to have digital cameras in hand for the first time. As you might also predict, like teens everywhere, most photos were pics of friends and selfies. After some encouragement we got more photo’s of home life, the lush environment that is Ometepe, the details that make up the fabric of their lives. I am quite sure the experience was as powerful for the delegation as it was for them. I will post more images as I weed thru them. I will also post images that the kids took during the workshop. I have a bazillion video clips to sort thru, but for now here are a couple of faces from the trip that I want you to see now.
The front image is David, a young boy with his brother Jonathan. Below is a young man who was formerly living on the streets of Managua, next to that is Riley Deering (great young travel companion to all us older folks) showing a shot to a young girl of her own dance, and lastly – for all of BI to appreciate, a photo of the ferry to Ometepe!