Getting global exposure

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March 30, 2010

2:10 AM

Cameras follow people everywhere, chronicling both daily occurrences as well as exotic adventures abroad. Not only do pictures ensure that the beautiful, interesting or embarrassing moments of a person’s life are not forgotten, but they also create a way for people to express to others what makes these moments memorable. Recognizing this, the International Relations Club Cares is sponsoring the Developing World Gallery as an outlet for students to share the photographs they’ve taken while traveling in developing countries. Starting Thursday, the Sadler Center will display about 60 student photos that will be auctioned off a month later and donated to a charity of IRC’s choice.

“Through Facebook, we created an outlet for students to submit their pictures, and then we choose the best pictures from hundreds,” IRC Cares director of campus outreach Shannon Beydler ’12 said. “[Then] the Muscarelle Museum [of Art] professionally developed and mounted our selections.”

Johanna Christensen ‘10 is one of the photographers selected to have her work displayed in the IR Club gallery. Her photograph, taken during her study abroad trip to Kenya, was part of a series depicting life in East Africa.

“The picture that I find most fascinating is one of roadside fruit stands in southern Uganda,” Christensen said. “The concept of just how much food is depicted in the picture is astounding — especially fragile and nutritionally valuable food. The idea of boom-and-bust agricultural cycles, and actually being dependent on weather and agricultural output, is an idea that is so foreign to us here in the United States. I may not have gotten the point of the picture across — it’s a kind of crazy juxtaposition in my head — but each of my pictures that I submitted actually has a story or lesson that I associate with it.”

Beyond giving students a chance to share their travels with the College of William and Mary community, part of the club’s mission involves raising money for a nongovernmental organization that is chosen by IRC members from year to year. Past beneficiaries include CARE and Doctors Without Borders. The Developing World Gallery came as an extension of this goal.

“All photos are auctioned off. After about a month-long display in the SC. The winners get their photos, mounted and everything,” Chair of IRC Cares Kelly Danner ’10 said.

Although IRC Cares does a few more fundraisers throughout the year, its main focus is on exposing rich
cultures beyond the United States, as well as some of the problems that they face.

“IRC Cares should really be more focused on raising awareness of issues beyond Williamsburg and beyond Congress, and that’s what the gallery is supposed to do,” Danner said. “It’s a good way to show students how the other half lives, so to speak.”

This year, proceeds from the gallery auction will benefit Practical Small Projects, a small nonprofit organization based in New Town. According to the PSP website, the organization works with Malian communities to ensure sustainable growth by using locally made solar panels.

“It’s a really fantastic organization. I love supporting it,” Danner said. “A lot of organizations have great intentions but are largely misguided about how to make a sustainable difference in developing countries. PSP has this fantastic framework where it teaches community members about solar energy, uses a Malian company to supply solar panels and sets them up in hospitals, schools, maternity wards, even homes.”

The organization has already begun to see the positive effects of their hard work. PSP has noted increased test scores in students who can now go to school with lighted classrooms and families who can now obtain portable water without walking great distances. Danner also added that hospitals wired with solar power electricity can provide better medical care.

“There are little old ladies who sell electricity for blocks of time and make a decent income,” said Danner. “How many people in Williamsburg can say they use solar energy for cooking? That’s a pretty fantastic outcome.”

This unique initiative began as a vision of a college student. The founder of PSP, Mary Graham, was a student at the University of Mary Washington when she started the project.

“One eager college student has made a huge difference,” Danner said. “Now she’s giving talks at the World Bank, and people are listening to her ideas because they’re working. That’s pretty inspiring.”

This same eagerness can certainly be attributed to the work with the Developing World Gallery. Beydler credits the photographers as the reason for the gallery’s inspirational success.

“Photography is something so accessible to anyone who travels and wants to preserve their experiences abroad,” she said. “It is able to capture a moment in time and allows the viewer to connect to the subject matter on a visceral and personal level.”

The photographs are intended to become a medium for travelers to share their experiences with the College.

“We wanted to bring more light to the developing world with this gallery,” Beydler said. “We wanted to provide a window into areas that many people aren’t able to see firsthand. Hopefully it will inspire some to see it for themselves.”

the positive effects of their hard work. PSP has noted increased test scores in students who can now go to school with lighted classrooms and families who can now obtain portable water without walking great distances. Danner also added that hospitals wired with solar power electricity can provide better medical care.

“There are little old ladies who sell electricity for blocks of time and make a decent income,” said Danner. “How many people in Williamsburg can say they use solar energy for cooking? That’s a pretty fantastic outcome.”

This unique initiative began as a vision of a college student. The founder of PSP, Mary Graham, was a student at the University of Mary Washington when she started the project.

“One eager college student has made a huge difference,” Danner said. “Now she’s giving talks at the World Bank, and people are listening to her ideas because they’re working. That’s pretty inspiring.”

This same eagerness can certainly be attributed to the work with the Developing World Gallery. Beydler credits the photographers as the reason for the gallery’s inspirational success.

“Photography is something so accessible to anyone who travels and wants to preserve their experiences abroad,” she said. “It is able to capture a moment in time and allows the viewer to connect to the subject matter on a visceral and personal level.”

The photographs are intended to become a medium for travelers to share their experiences with the College.

“We wanted to bring more light to the developing world with this gallery,” Beydler said. “We wanted to provide a window into areas that many people aren’t able to see firsthand. Hopefully it will inspire some to see it for themselves.”

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