Journeys to the Edge photography exhibit in Haida Gwaii

Haida-Gwaii.totem.PolesThis spring, Journeys to the Edge co-founder Tallulah travelled to Haida Gwaii in northern British Columbia to mount a photography exhibit. The event showcased photos from around the world that Tallulah has captured in her reporting travels with Roberta Staley to places like Haiti, Colombia, Soweto and Afghanistan.

The trip to Haida Gwaii was undertaken in large part to connect people living in areas like Haida Gwaii — where isolation can preclude access to artistic endeavours, shows and exhibits — with those from areas few have access to, such as Haiti or Afghanistan. As well, the trip was the chance for Tallulah to discover new individuals to photograph to include in her remarkable World People Project photography initiative.

The Haida Gwaii Observer did a write-up on Tallulah, Journeys to the Edge and the World People Project in early March, and we have included it here: Haida Gwaii Observer interviews Tallulah.

 

 

 

 

 

Article wins Amnesty International reporting award

In November 2014, photojournalist Tallulah and I travelled to El Salvador to report upon the work of the Canadian NGO Speroway, which provides dental and medical services and food to the poor. One of the stories appeared in the national magazine Corporate Knights. The story, titled “Cola Kids Need A Fix,” addressed the deleterious impact of soft drinks, specifically Coke and Pepsi, on the health of Salvadoran children. This past December, the story was given an Amnesty International Canada Media Award in the alternative print category (magazines) for addressing the issue of corporate social responsibility in the developing world. The print category (newspapers) Amnesty International award was given to Stephanie Nolen for the feature article “If I send him, he may die. But if I keep him here, he will die” about the attempt to escape from gang violence in El Salvador, published in The Globe and Mail on 29 August 2015. 

The award ceremony will be held this April in Toronto.

Orkney Islands – Travels in Scotland by Tallulah

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Orkney’s Catholic Italian Chapel was built by Italian prisoners of war during WWII. Most of the interior decoration was done by prisoner Domenico Chiocchetti, who stayed behind to finish the church even after the war was over.

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A rainbow following a squall.

This past summer, I travelled to Scotland for my sister’s wedding, then spent some time exploring the countryside. One of my stops was the Orkney Islands, an archipelago located off the northeastern tip of mainland Scotland that is often referred to as the Edge of the World. One way to reach Orkney is to take the passenger ferry from John O’Groats, which crosses the choppy waters of the Pentland Firth, landing at the small village of Burwick on the island of South Ronaldsay.

Orkney is magical. The wind is a constant presence, while sunshine alternates with rain, creating rainbows that arc across the horizon. Its coastlines have sandy beaches and the skies are thick with sea birds. I took lots of photos, which were just published online in Montecristo magazine.

Curiously, the Orkneys have a connection with 19th-century English literature. The islands were the setting for one of author Mary Shelley’s most chilling scenes in Frankenstein – A Modern Prometheus. The scientist Frankenstein secretly goes to the Orkneys to set up a laboratory to create a mate for his first creation The Creature. (It all ends rather badly, for those of you who remember your English Lit studies.)

Back in the realm of non-fiction, the history of the Orkneys dates back to the Neolithic era — the last period of the Stone Age — as evidenced by ancient villages and mysterious standing stones dating back more than 3100 BCE. In the 9th century, the Vikings ruled the Orkneys. By the 15th century, they were a part of Scotland. Today you can see the Stone Age village of Skara Brae, the Neolithic chambered cairn of Maes Howe, and the megaliths of a henge, such as the Ring of Brodgar. There is also a vibrant arts and crafts scene, lots of great local produce, and superb  whiskey.

On a heathery knoll on Orkney’s largest island, called the Mainland, sits the Ring of Brodgar, a Neolithic henge and stone circle. It is part of the UNESCO World Heritage site known as the Heart of Neolithic Orkney.

On a heathery knoll on Orkney’s largest island, called the Mainland, sits the Ring of Brodgar, a Neolithic henge and stone circle. It is part of the UNESCO World Heritage site known as the Heart of Neolithic Orkney.

 

 

Canada brings hope and healing to El Salvador

Tallulah and I have been on numerous international reporting trips together, the most recent being El Salvador, a country in Central America that has long endured civil unrest. The nation is no longer at war, but violence still rages, with 12 murders every day in a country of about six million people.

In El Salvador, a special department of the National Civilian Police called the Politur ensure that foreigners are kept safe from gang violence.

A department of the National Civilian Police keeps foreigners safe from gang violence.

Our purpose was to cover the work of the Canadian NGO Speroway, which was founded by Ken Dick of Ontario. One of the stories, a profile of Ken called “Man on a Mission,” was published in the September issue of CPA Magazine.

At an age when most people would be retired, Dick travelled to El Salvador to help on this medical and dental mission as well as open a Speroway-funded health centre outside the capital city San Salvador.

Ken Dick in a slum in El Salvador.

Ken Dick in a slum in El Salvador.

 

 

 

Every day, the Speroway team of dentists, physicians, nurses, technicians, paramedics and hygienists travelled to a new slum to help the poor with a myriad of health problems. Poverty prevents them from visiting physicians or dentists. Neglect of simple health problems means that things like cavities escalate into painful and sometimes life-threatening conditions.

Another reason for poor health is diet. El Salvadorans eat too much sugar and fat — largely because they have adopted a Western fast-food diet. In San Salvador, food chain outlets sit side by side — cheap and tempting. Most ubiquitous of all is sugary pop like Coca-Cola. The consequences are dire; children’s oral health declines, affecting their ability to eat and grow.

A billboard for Coca-Cola reaches into the sky in the capital of San Salvador.

A billboard for Coca-Cola dominates the skyline in the capital of San Salvador.

 

Here is an excerpt from the story:

This slum, which sits on the city’s former garbage dump, was created by the survivors of El Salvador’s many natural disasters. There is no running water or sewage system. Toilets are holes in the ground; when they overflow, a new hole is dug. Few homes have electricity. There are few jobs. Teenage girls birth a succession of babies whose prospects are as bleak as their mothers’. Come nightfall, the slum becomes a hangout for gang members. This is a place, says Dick, where hope is dim. But something as simple as a visit to the dentist or doctor can reignite hope. “If you do not have your health, you can’t do anything else,” he says.”

And here are just a few of Tallulah’s photos:

Coca-Cola branding is ubiquitous, and has become indoctrinated into holiday celebrations.

Coca-Cola branding is ubiquitous, and indoctrinated into holiday celebrations.

Children suck on cold bags of cola for hours, keeping the teeth awash in acid and sugar.

Children suck on cold bags of cola for hours, keeping the teeth awash in acid and sugar.

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A rotten tooth extracted from the mouth of a young patient.

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Mightier Than the Sword fundraising begins

 

DSC_2519Mightier Than the Sword

A documentary project by Journeys to the Edge

 Journeys to the Edge (J2E) is very pleased to announce a partnership with Entertainment Media Arts Society (EMA). The Canadian charity, under President Jacqueline Feldman of Vancouver, is supporting J2E’s upcoming project: a documentary to be filmed this summer in Afghanistan titled Mightier Than the Sword: The Emergence of Female Afghan Journalists and Filmmakers and their Impact on Gender Perceptions in Afghanistan. J2E will require $30,000 to cover the cost of accommodations, security, equipment, translators, drivers and crew salaries — most of whom are being recruited from the Afghan film and TV community. In support of this initiative, which will explore the advancements made by Afghan women in the media and their impact on profoundly conservative, patriarchal attitudes, EMA has agreed to issue charity receipts for donations that support the production of Mightier Than the Sword. 

Mubareka-Sahar-FetratThe main character in the documentary is 20-year-old Mubareka Sahar Fetrat (“Sahar”) of Kabul. Sahar is an outstanding example of Afghan youth — deeply committed to helping nurture women’s equality. Already a prolific documentarian as well as a scholarship student at Kabul University, Sahar has an impressive list of film credits, including Kabul Cards, which chronicles the lives of three young Afghan girls in Kabul, and Do Not Trust My Silence!, about Afghan women living with ubiquitous street harassment. Mightier Than the Sword will record the extraordinary challenges Sahar faces as she undertakes another documentary this summer, filming in the busy, dusty streets of Kabul. The documentary will also capture the lives of other female journalists and media professionals as well as civil and women’s rights activists and politicians. These include people like Mozhdah Jamalzadah, who has been called the “Oprah of Afghanistan” and whose show, Mozhdah, had a profound and positive impact on Afghan society during its two-year broadcast, addressing some of society’s most taboo and controversial topics.

If you have a question contact J2E Director Roberta Staley at rstaley@shaw.ca or 604.738.9251. Cheques should be made out to Entertainment Media Arts Society and can be mailed c/o Roberta Staley #108 – 975 West 13 Ave. Vancouver, BC V5Z 1P4. A tax receipt will be mailed to you within three weeks.

The documentary is expected to debut in Vancouver in 2016.  All donors will receive, in addition to a tax receipt, copies of the film and in invitation to the preview screening.

 Entertainment Media Arts Society is a registered charity No. 861280428RR0001. 

EMA President Jacqueline Feldman (604) 720-2174  steelnblues@telus.net Website: http://emasociety.blogspot.ca.

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Sahar Fetrat in the U.S. helping young Afghan burn victim

Sahar Fetrat — the focus of the proposed Journeys to the Edge documentary Mightier Than the Sword, to be shot in Kabul in 2015 — has just arrived in Los Angeles as a translator and escort for Arefa, a young Afghan girl who was badly burned last year in Afghanistan. Arefa is receiving medical help in LA through the non-profit organization Solace for the Children, which partners with medical professionals and community leaders as well as Afghans to provide medical, dental and optical care for children in Afghanistan. Solace selects Afghan children aged seven to 12 — most of whom are survivors of hostilities — and matches them with communities in the United States. Arefa is being joined in the U.S. by 10 other Afghan children who need medical care such as prosthetic fittings or surgery for war-related injuries. “I volunteer for this program with all my heart,” says Sahar. “It is a life-changing program.” During her four-week stay in Los Angeles, Sahar will not only help Arefa but assist with fund raising for Solace through public speaking engagements.

Arefa is a young Afghan girl who is receiving treatment in the United States for her burns, thanks to Solace for the Children.

Arefa is a young Afghan girl who is receiving treatment in the United States for her burns, thanks to Solace for the Children.

 

Afghan-Canadians Condemn the Taliban and Celebrate their Nation’s Election

7571Leila, a Langara College student, attended the anti-Taliban rally in Vancouver.

More than 75 Afghan-Canadians gathered in front of the Vancouver Art Gallery on April 6 to condemn Taliban terrorists who—despite threats of violence—were unable to derail Afghanistan’s historic national election, held April 5. “I felt like a kid on Christmas day,” said 22-year-old Hamid, one of Afghanistan’s diaspora who watched the elections on television with his mother. “It’s very, very cool.”
Small children sat on the grey, stone steps of the Vancouver gallery, holding signs directed at the Taliban such as, “Enough! Stop Killing!” while their mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers listened to members of Vancouver’s Afghan community condemn Taliban insurgencies.
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In the run-up to the election, the Taliban stepped up its attacks in Afghanistan, targeting such landmarks as La Taverna du Liban, a famous Lebanese restaurant in the capital of Kabul. Two Canadians died in the attack that killed more than 20 people. Days before the April 5 election, another attack wounded Canadian AP journalist Kathy Gannon and left Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Anja Niedringhaus dead. North Vancouver optometrist Roshan Thomas, who created the Sparks Academy in Afghanistan for girls and boys, was also killed, along with Calgary nurse Zeenab Kassam, in an earlier Taliban attack at Kubul’s luxury Serena Hotel.
“The recent killings were a shock to the world,” Afghan-Canadian Mustafa Delsoz told the Vancouver crowd. “We show solidarity with those who have passed away.”
Lauryn Oates, the projects director for Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan, which has established schools, teacher-training and gender equality programs in the Central Asian nation, also spoke at the rally. The Taliban’s sole “goal is the surplus of violence. They are against modernity, civilization and human rights,” Oates said.
Oates declared the April 5 election “a triumph that is unparalleled.” Twelve million Afghans were eligible to vote, and the turn out was estimated at about 60 percent—double the number who voted in the last national election. Many millions of women cast their ballot, a momentous step forward in a nation where fundamentalist Islamic edicts set forth by the Taliban during their 1996-2001 reign stripped women of any rights. Mr. Parwani, who organized the anti-Taliban protest, added that the increase in women voters communicated a definitive “ ‘no’ to terrorism.”
Leila, a 26-year-old Afghan-Canadian nursing student, was thrilled by the elections. “It’s so exciting, I wish I was there to be a part of it.”
Pundits are saying that a clear winner will be unlikely to emerge from the April 5 elections, thus requiring a runoff election in the near future.
DSC_7584Children in Afghanistan are often the victims of Taliban violence, a tragic legacy that Afghan-Canadian youngsters are acutely aware of.
27634Lauryn Oates, projects director of Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan, says that, for the Taliban, violence is an end in itself.
7619The Taliban are especially brutal towards Afghan women.
DSC_7563Afghan-Canadian children participated in the April 6 rally to protest widespread Taliban violence.
7603Sabit Mirzad (left) and Wali Sarwari are Afghan-Candadian students who have high hopes for Afghanistan’s future following the success of the democratic national elections April 5.

Nurturing a free press key to Afghanistan’s democratic future

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Ariana TV (ATN) transmission towers above Kabul, Afghanistan. ATN, a private television network, was launched in 2005. It focuses on informative, cultural and entertainment programming.

Saad Mohseni, chairman of the Moby Media Group, the largest media organization in Afghanistan, recently penned an article about the importance of the media to the future of democracy in Afghanistan. Within five years of the 2001 fall of the Taliban, Mohseni writes, Afghanistan saw the growth of “the freest media sector in the region,” which allowed “civil society to flourish.” This development of a free press, Mosheni added, was “our greatest accomplishment since 2001.” As a result, gender inequality issues and violence towards women became part of the public discourse and awareness around such things as polio vaccinations and voter registration was disseminated. With the upcoming national election in April, it is vital that a new president and his government extend protections to the media. As a safety net, Mohseni adds, the international community must place conditions on aid to protect press freedoms in the years to come.
Mohseni’s position resonates profoundly with Journeys to the Edge. Nurturing, protecting and respecting a free media is something our organization is actively trying to support in Afghanistan by giving the J2E Emerging Journalist Award to Mubareka Sahar Fetrat of Kabul, Afghanistan’s capital city. Sahar, only 18, but already a prolific documentary filmmaker, has been accepted into Vancouver’s Langara Digital Film Production course, an intensive four-month program that will enhance her filmmaking skills, allowing her to become an even more significant figure in the Afghanistan media when she returns home. It will also help prepare her to realize her dream of running Afghanistan’s first female-headed production company.
Two months into 2014, Journeys to the Edge is still working with Sahar on obtaining a Temporary Resident Visa. She has made the initial trip to Islamabad, Pakistan, which is the closest Canadian visa office to Kabul (something that needs to be changed!) but must return for a second visit with additional documentation. It is a long and challenging process, but we remain highly optimistic that Sahar will be here in time to start the Langara College program this September.
The future of Afghanistan lies with its youth, of which Sahar is an excellent example. Like their counterparts in other parts of the world, they have “an insatiable appetite for entertainment, news, and current affairs,” writes Mosheni. They are the leaders and the peacemakers of tomorrow. It is important for the West to keep this in mind, and continue to support the nation in tangible ways.