Change Yourself…Change The World.

‘I See’ Progress: A Photography Exhibition in Caazapá
September 23, 2012, 9:31 am
Filed under: Paraguay, Pictures Post

One of the great things about being a Peace Corps Volunteer in Paraguay is that we’re one of the largest posts in the world. With about 250 Volunteers (in a country about the size of California, with all of us pretty much crammed into the lower half of Paraguay), we’re super close geographically. Because of this, we’re able to have lots of productive cross-sector events, collaborate together on plenty of cool projects, and high-tail it over to our nearest Volunteer’s house to support them in their initiatives. My nearest fellow Peace Corps Volunteer only lives a half hour bike ride away!

We also have a ton of national committees, conferences, and camps that Volunteers work on together. One of our national committees is a photography  project called Ahecha (‘I See’ in Guaraní). Inspired by the ‘Born Into Brothels’ documentary, Ahecha is dedicated to giving young Paraguayans more access to creativity development, and providing them with a new life perspective through the guided use of cameras. Peace Corps Volunteer can sign up to the project and are given a camera kit with 5 digital cameras for a period of 2 months. During that time, they teach youth in their communities all of the basics in using a camera, taking pictures, and documenting their lives through film. Basically, it’s a really cool way for Paraguayans to show their creativity and uniqueness, which is something I find sorely lacking here. And best of all, it’s a really fun project with super successful results.

I signed up for my Ahecha kit right when I swore in to my service, but because it’s in such high demand with Volunteers, I didn’t get my kit until May. Following in the footsteps of a nearby Peace Corps Volunteer, I decided to teach Ahecha as a free class to members at my cooperative. I ended up teaching mostly employees at the cooperative, but we still had a ton of fun. Every Thursday for five weeks I taught them the basic elements of photography, perspective, self-portraits, movement, and taking color versus black and white photos. The employees took the cameras home during the week and took shots of their family lives, outings with friends, and our community.

At the end of the course my 5 students each got certificates signed by the cooperative (certificates are a big deal in Paraguay), and we put together an exhibition of their best photos to show at my cooperative’s 22nd birthday anniversary bash, where many people in our community attended and were able to see the pictures. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to be there during the actual party (I was at our JEP competition in Asunción), but here are some pictures of our exhibit all put-together and ready for the big day.

Our exhibition on a large blank board

A description of ‘Ahecha Paraguay’ for the attendants of the birthday to read.

I had each of my student’s write a poem and answer a few short questions about what they loved about Caazapá and why they were proud to live there.

The poems went up next to their best pictures, which each had their names printed underneath.

My student’s were so proud to see some of their best photos up!

All of these photos are pictures of our community. 

Whether our famous church, road signs, or even multi-colored recycling bins, my student’s did a great job of showing off Caazapá at the exhibition.

Peace Corps

This trash can picture is one of my favorites. I also sneakily put one in that showed off the logo of our cooperative!

The exhibition overall. We put it in front of the door leading into the birthday event, so that people could look at it when they first arrived. 

One of my students, José, proudly showing off some of his best photos. 

(A huge thanks to the Ahecha committee that makes this incredible initiative happen- and especially because it is almost entirely run by my G-mates! Special props to Joanna, who’s the head of the committee.)

The event was a big success, and the employees still talk about how much they loved the Ahecha course. Ahecha also has a national exhibition all over Paraguay that shows some of the best photos from each community. I’m going to be submitting Caazapá’s photos in hopes that one (or more) of our photos will be shown at the Asunción bus terminal, or the huge shopping center, or various embassies around the capital. Isn’t it incredible that they get the opportunity to have their photos shown in a national exhibition? I’m so proud of them. This has definitely been one of the best projects I’ve done in my community, and I’ve already signed up for Ahecha again to teach it to more youth next April.

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[…] The camp was started by our great Peace Corps initiative, Ahecha (a photography course that I taught in Caazapá). We’re planning to have a 3-day creativity camp in Aregua, a beautiful and culturally rich […]

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