Volunteer Blog: Teaching Photography at Kibera Girls Soccer Academy

Interested in sharing teaching photography to children for a couple of weeks, Avery Weinman reached out to GO Campaign for suggestions on where he might make the most impact. GO Campaign is connected to Local Heroes around the world who are working hard to address the needs of the most vulnerable children. We matched Avery with our partner, Kibera Girls Soccer Academy (KGSA) a free secondary school in Nairobi, Kenya for underprivileged girls. KGSA had an established journalism club and the students in the program would greatly benefit from Avery’s expertise. Below is Avery’s reflection on his volunteer experience.

As I sit here in my cubicle in Los Angeles, I find myself constantly reflecting on the time I spent in Nairobi this summer. For two weeks, I had the honor of teaching five high school sophomores, at the Girl’s Soccer Academy in the slum of Kibera, the art of photography-how to use a manual 35 shoot with manual settings on a DSLR camera, but more about that later. I have been back in Los Angeles for a few weeks now, and I can honestly say it was one of the greatest experiences of my life.

My first two days at the school were mainly filled with Go Campaign workshops. I took some photos of the workshops, met the girls and did a quick session on shooting portraits. Monday was going to be my first real photography class. Initially, I was teaching about 15 girls, but with only two cameras available, it became clear which girls were really interested in learning all the intricacies of a manual camera. So, I focused my attention on the most eager students. We started with the basics- how to put in a battery and memory card, and how to charge a battery. After they had a basic understanding of the camera, we went straight into learning how to take a manual exposure. With no previous knowledge of shutter speed, aperture, or ISO they were quick to learn what these parameters control and how to take a proper exposure.

A typical day would go something like this. I would wake up and eat some pastries at the hotel, while I waited for Dennis, my boda boda (motorcycle) driver to come pick me up to take me to the school. Richard Teka, who runs Kibera Girls Soccer Academy, recommended I try riding with his “safest” boda boda friend Dennis. It was quick and cheap -only 100 schillings ($1) each way. To my surprise, riding with Dennis quickly became one of the highlights of my day. Once Dennis would drop me off at the school, adorable little children, who lived next to the school, would greet me with laughter and smiling faces as I walked in yelling “How are you!” and “Mzungu” which means white person you every time you walk by. It’s incredible how joyful these kids are, given their situation in life.

Some days we stayed in the classroom and learned about things like composition and the different rules regarding them. They learned about how white balance can affect your image, how shutter speed can freeze motion, and how aperture controls depth of field. The best days were when we took photo walks through the slum. The contrast between how safe and normal everything feels to the girls as opposed to me, a clearly unusual looking American walking around holding some presumably expensive camera equipment. To say the least, I got some weird looks and a few people come running after me if I took their photo. My students, Irene, Mary, Teresia, Maureen and Mary loved to laugh at me for my American nuances. Often more interested in photographing me than the actual assignment, I made friendships with these girls that I will never forget. Knowing these they don’t come from the best home environments, I tried to spoil them as much as I could with chocolate and chips and other treats.

To be honest, I got laughed at a lot, but it usually felt endearing. The teachers would laugh at me when I told them I was eating Dominos Pizza every day, instead of eating local cuisine. The girls would chuckle at me when I wore my hair into a bun. Fair enough, I’m sure man-buns aren’t all the rage in Nairobi. But despite the laughter, I feel so humbled by my experience. I want to continue to give back to the very special Kibera Girls Soccer Academy. To that end, I am working on a photography book about my time there which I will launch on Kickstarter in the coming months. I will donate all profits to GO Campaign to benefit the Kibera Girls Soccer Academy.

If you would like to volunteer and share your skills with one of our partners, please feel free to contact us. Our partners welcome visitors, and we know you have so many talents and skills you could share with them.

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