To be free

 

Artist's Statement:

Western culture innately implies a sense of superiority to the developing world. I think it is common to view these places and their people with a sense of apprehension - as if there were a barrier between us. That feeling is typical intensified when technology such as a camera is brought into the scenario. My experiences in Kenya and Uganda; however, proved otherwise. The love and acceptance that I experienced upon being welcomed to these schools in some of the largest slums in the world was overwhelming and unlike anything I have ever seen or experienced. I quickly realized that these people are not so different from myself. The challenges they faced, the relationships that they built, the emotions that they felt were as normal and true as what I feel despite our different circumstances. As simple and ignorant as it seems there was this great realization that children are children no matter where you are in the world, and the adult leaders at work in their lives are encountering the same struggles in raising them that parents and teachers find in the western world. 

Though I came to Africa to teach them, there was just as much for me to learn. At times, there was nothing even to be said, but there was a mutual understanding and acceptance in each other's presence. They trusted. Some with secrets they never dared tell to anyone else. The capacity and power of each relationship was inexplicable, and as I shared my camera with them and we saw through the same lens, the relationships free to be real and authentic in a very short amount of time. These kids felt empowered through a new opportunity, and I felt humbled to be able to share my passion with them. There, halfway around the world, with people I didn't know just days before, I lost sense of all time, and there was a sense of familiarity between one another along with a profound universal freedom. 

Background:

The photos in this series were taken by Kaitlyn Stoddard on trips with Be Free Revolution (BFR), a Memphis based non-profit organization dedicated to full circle empowerment in Kenya and Uganda. They create sustainability, aid needs and equip teams to serve and mentor globally as well as train leaders both here in the United States and in Africa.