11/18/11

International Education Week Spotlight: Recording to Remember A Community

Brian, a WorldTeach Costa Rica volunteer, used his interest in photography and his love for his community to engage with them and give them something they had never had: a digital history. Through his community project, he immortalized members of his small village and was able to give back to those who had taken him in. 


World Teach provides its participants a unique opportunity to interact with various communities worldwide. I was happy to be part of the Costa Rica 2010 program, living with a host family in the tiny village of Bejuco. Costa Rica is known as one of the "happiest places on Earth", and the people of Bejuco most often fit the bill. I was well received as an English teacher of eleven total students (the population of Bejuco is just over 100), but my interaction with the people of Bejuco went far beyond the classroom. My "Community Project" was probably the best example of such an association.

The Community Project is a staple of the volunteer mission at World Teach, allowing the individual to make an impact outside of the classroom. Some volunteers plant gardens or paint the school, others give adult English lessons or build a fence for cattle. I focused on bringing digital media to my community; my camera shot HD video and professional quality stills, so I aimed to provide a service that would otherwise be unavailable.

Easier said than done, indeed! The people of Bejuco are a busy bunch, so it was rather difficult to arrange a family portrait session in lieu of frequent rain, scheduling conflicts, or special events and holidays. Those few families that did get a session were often shy, but always thankful. Since group scheduling was difficult, I turned to filming and shooting events that were already planned. I filmed the wedding of a young man and woman, whose families were from a neighboring town, Pilas, and Playa Bejuco, respectively. I stood out, but everyone seemed to welcome the presence of a photographer. The film was a hit, and I got more requests for hard copies than I could produce. The next film was a short on an "Acto Civico" (a cultural heritage dedication of sorts) in which another WorldTeach volunteer participated in neighboring Pilas. Again, and surprisingly, no one seemed phased by the camera or by my running around and shooting. I rather expected new technology to be something of a phenomenon to the people of these small farming communities, but most were quite used to and familiar with it already. Finally, I filmed and shot some local cowboys transferring their bulls from a large pen onto a truck. What an undertaking! These gentlemen were a bit more camera shy than the previous two groups. Even with my limited understanding of the language, I gathered that some of them simply wondered, with marked indignation, why I would want to record such a thing. Incluso simples recuerdosson importantes!

Though my project provides the best example of my interaction with the greater community, my day to day life at home with my host family was paramount in experiencing life as a "tico". These people truly took me in, made me their own, cared for me, and treated me like a son. My project, then, was a simple way for me to give back; to reciprocate the kindness that was given so selflessly to me. It was gratifying to use my hobby and and part-time profession to give the men, women, and children of Bejuco lasting memories, and to receive a smile, a handshake, and a sincere "gracias" in return.


Check out all of Brian's films here, and get more information on WorldTeach Costa Rica here!

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