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Thomas Lwebuga
Posted October 3, 2008 from Uganda
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Please join me on PulseWire to give girls of Matale an even louder voice to get their stories, dreams, aspirations heard.

Through these girls voices and work, their school St. Andrews Matale Secondary School in Uganda now has a science laboratory. This is an amazing accomplishment!!

ZoomUganda shares the journey of 12 girls given 12 cameras and 24 hours in which to tell their own stories through their own lenses. A Photovoice project directed by Julie Resnick of Portland, Oregon, ZoomUganda empowered its participants to stand in the centers of their world and show you the view from there.

See what these girls experience as significant, as sacred: chores before and after the two-hour walk to school and back each day, a favorite goat, elderly relatives standing in for dearly departed parents, those parents’ many graves. A bed. A dress. A friend.

As a complement to their photographs, the girls kept journals about what they hope their photos convey. Inevitably, these journals became the repository of the girls’ larger hopes and dreams:

I want to be a nurse, a nun, a film star. I want to teach.

And teach they did. In the 24 hours of their creative assignment, the girls not only learned to use the cameras themselves, but they also taught their friends, their siblings, and their extended families the photography fundamentals they had just learned. The photos reveal this generosity, as the girls themselves are present in the pictures of their world, by turns behind and in front of the camera. Imagine being given so great a gift as a camera and openhandedly sharing its possibilities with others.

ZoomUganda is sponsored by the Harambee Centre, a nonprofit organization based in Portland, Oregon, which connects people and groups in the US with the peoples and cultures of the African continent. Harambee Board member Thomas Lwebuga was raised in Matale, Uganda, site of ZoomUganda, a village in which every family he knows has been touched by the AIDS epidemic. Now living in Portland and working for Nike, Thomas remembers his village, his people, and Uganda through his work with the Centre and, specifically, the development projects he leads on behalf of St. Andrew’s Secondary School, including this collaboration with Julie Resnick on ZoomUganda.

Julie Resnick is a cross-cultural trainer and consultant. ZoomUganda brings together her 23 years of international experience with her background in fine arts and photography. Recalling the first day of the project, Julie says, “I handed out the cameras with their names written on duct tape to each girl. I drew a camera on the blackboard and explained each part: ‘This is the lens. This is the shutter. This is the zoom.’ The girls immediately repeated ‘zoom! zoom! zoom!’ in many voices. They had named their project.”

Julie continues, “On the day I left Oregon, the last phone call I took from a friend ended with her telling me to ‘pay attention.’ How prophetic those words were, as the girls taught me all about paying attention in the ways they held and shared their cameras, the ways they lovingly inhabited the world around them, their openhearted generosity and earnest desires for a bright future.”

Comments 7

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  • sallyreb
    Oct 03, 2008
    Oct 03, 2008

    Dear Thomas,

    Thank you very much for sharing about the work of ZoomUganda!

    This project is so exciting to me. I strongly believe that art, in this case photography and video, can have a profound impact on individual's lives and on the larger community. I watched the YouTube video and could not help but to be touched by the photos taken by the girls. What a wonderful way for the girls of Uganda to begin to tell their story. I also love how the name ZoomUganda was chosen.

    Thank you for posting this to PulseWire! I look forward to hearing more about ZoomUganda.

    Best, Sally

  • Thomas Lwebuga
    Oct 03, 2008
    Oct 03, 2008

    Hi Sally,

    Thank you for your kind comments about ZoomUganda. It has been an amazing journey for all of us.

    Please share the stories of these young women with people in your network.



  • Wendy
    Oct 08, 2008
    Oct 08, 2008

    I love this project! Last winter we had some fliers about it at PSU and I took a few and mailed them to some pre-teen girls I know. Using art to empower young women is amazing, using photographic art, even better! We all know what Anne Frank did for the world with her journal, yet the plight still continues. Thanks for recognizing the voice of young women!

    I also appreciate the information about the Harambee Center, I'm going to look into doing some work with them!

    Thanks for all you are doing,and being an inspiration to me!


  • Thomas Lwebuga
    Oct 13, 2008
    Oct 13, 2008

    Hi Wendy,

    Thank you for looking at ZoomUganda and for the interest in this work. The Harambee Center needs volunteers and help all the time. Please contact Jackie Goldrick the President.



  • Dave Alexander
    Oct 13, 2008
    Oct 13, 2008

    Hello Thomas,

    This is fabulous. My apologies for delaying my post. I read somewhere (either B&W or Aperture Magazine) about a similar effort using photography and stories to reveal the majesty, complexity, and optimism of our youth. I finally found it -- the Beslan Workshop sponsored by UNICEF

    Similar to your own, it included cameras, instruction, free expression, and a professional presentation. Being rather fond of photography, I am greatly moved by its power to heal the photographer, the photographed, and the world. Thank you for sharing the miracle.

    In Friendship, Dave...

    "You must be the change you wish to see in the world." -- Mohandas K. Gandhi

  • Olivia
    Oct 21, 2008
    Oct 21, 2008

    Hullo Ssebo, i passed by zoom Uganda and was impressed by the great work that you are doing in Rakai. Incidentally, iam from Rakai myself(mityebiri) about 5 miles from Kyotera town.I have alot of relatives in Sanje, kiyebe and Mutukula. Last year, we lost Hon. Emmanuel Pinto, a reknown politician in that area.

    Thats the vibe from Rakai for now...

    Keep up the good work you are doing to make a positive change for girls in our community.

    Regards, Olivia

  • Genice Jacobs
    Apr 22, 2009
    Apr 22, 2009

    I just sent you an invitation to join my community.