Thursday, 2 August 2012

The Sunday Launch of Photopower Nigeria: Hope For Gishiri

Group photo of PhotoPower volunteers and beneficiaries from the orphanage

The much awaited Photopower Nigeria Project was launched on Sunday 29th July. Dear reader, if you weren’t there you missed out on the beginning of change in our nation. Indeed it was quite the momentous occasion. Never has this writer seen this many young men and women gathered together in Nigeria on their own volition and under no form of duress, obligation or requirement yet determined to work in tandem for a good cause. This august gathering of nubile, upwardly mobile, talented, vivacious and let’s not forget a key word here magnanimous young men had amongst their standing, photographers, engineers, accountants, lawyers, doctors, health care enthusiasts to mention a few. On the D-Day of sorts, the group gathered together at Drumstix in Wuse II Abuja which is but a stone’s throw from Gishiri and provided a well-known gathering point for first time visitors to the orphanage.

One of the boys at the orphanage

Aisha Kuta - Photographer

Taye Balogun - Consultant

Simi Vijay - Photographer

Aisha again

At the meeting while the group waited for a few people, the photographers who were gathered there finalized the schedule for the photo lessons, sessions and the like. As always, where two or more youth are gathered a convivial atmosphere ensued where people mingled and got to know each other. The group sorted out the transportation arrangement from the meeting point to Gishiri which was 10 minutes away before heading towards the orphanage in Gishiri.
The project photographers and filmmaker

The trip was smooth for the most part until one reached the junction that welcomed the visitor to Gishiri. Undulating dirt roads filled with pot holes and crevices, one could be forgiven for mistaking the road for a sea with all the waves that seem to take a life of their own and swallow any unwelcome visitor with anything less than an offroad vehicle. For some, the contrast between the road before the junction to Gishiri and the actually roads that make up Gishiri was a shocker. For others it was the contrasting fortunes and structure of Gishiri as compared to their wealthy Neighbors of Maitama. To phrase an earlier description of Gishiri, it was indeed a beautiful slum. That being said, the group was in an upbeat mood, ready and willing to effect some change in the lives of the orphanage.

On reaching the orphanage, the group proceeded to bring out the gifts that many had brought for the orphanage. Indeed they were visitors bearing gifts to use a common saying. The look of wonderment in the eyes of the young men and women of the orphanage was priceless. The look said, “Where did this large group of men and women come from, hope we are safe. Are we under attack? Someone call the police! They are bearing gifts!” Ok maybe the look did not exactly say that and since this writer is not a mind reader, I shall stick to my interpretation. Did I mention there were about 21 young men and women in total?! Eventually the looks of amazement were replaced with smiles and keen interest much like a movie watcher waiting for the climax of an exciting work of cinematography. Alas the group was there to discuss photography.
Some PhotoPower volunteers

So the group gathered together in the living room of the orphanage. Sweltering as it was because with the group and the residents of the orphanage the number of people could have numbered 50. The group quickly went round and introduced themselves and so did the children and young men and women of the orphanage. The group went ahead to formally introduce the project to the gathering and proceeded outside where the group of 15 young men and women within the ages of 15 to 19 joined them. These were those who would be involved in the project.

More Photopower volunteers
The group together with the 15 young men and women proceeded to go to the courtyard of the school attached to the orphanage called Melchizedek Academy. Ice breakers were used to relate with the young men and women and foster a bond with the group. Photos were taken of each of the 15 young men and women together with their names written on paper as sort of a mugshot to help the volunteers and photographers become conversant with those they would be working with. After that and much fraternization, the group left the orphanage and its residents with smiles and went to rest before coming back the next day to begin the process of teaching these young men and women the art of photography.

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