Working as members of the non-profit group Students of the World these UNC students will spend four weeks in Albania and Macedonia working on a photography portfolio and video project titled Balkan Youth Empowerment Documentary.
Their focus on the Balkan region stems from a desire to examine "a developing area that has suffered from both economic crisis and violent conflicts in recent past." The crumbling of the former Yugoslavia resulted in a politically divided region fraught with religious and ethnic intolerance. The group believes that "these conditions have crippled opportunities for the youth to improve their lives through employment."
In partnership with the Clinton Global Initiative, they will observe the job placement and training programs of the Balkan Children and Youth Foundation (BCYF). They will examine the struggles and successes of BCYF participants and record their stories in order to "shed light on the economic and social progress of Albanian and Macedonian youth." BCYF participants have started a variety of businesses including coffee distributors, dance studios, and a summer camp for 18- to 25-year-olds that "provides a relaxed forum for discussion and understanding through low-cost entertainment."
Ultimately, Jennifer, Shivani, Emre, Mary, and Amy hope their documentary project will reveal a positive new force in the Balkans: "These BCYF loan programs have not only created livelihoods for loan recipients and their employees," they say, "but they have contributed to an atmosphere . . . in the region in which young people's talents and entrepreneurial spirit are gaining increasing recognition."
Coleman will travel to east Tennessee and across the state border to Monticello, Kentucky, to document the lives, music, and stories of traditional Appalachian musicians Charlie Acuff and Clyde Davenport. Acuff is an 87-year-old, left-handed fiddler who's been playing since he was twelve. Acuff comes from a long line of old-time musicians and is a retired Alcoa Aluminum factory worker. Davenport's musical roots also run deep as his brothers, father, and grandfather were musicians. A tour on the front lines of WWII halted his musical endeavors, but he resumed his fiddle and banjo playing when he returned home and plays for large crowds to this day.
About her subjects, Coleman says, "I want to know what makes them tick. I wonder—what role does music play in their lives? Why did Clyde put down his fiddle for so many years and what motivated him to return to music? Are they worried about the tradition being lost as the older generation of fiddle music fades into the past?"
Coleman's audio portrait will pay homage to the music, but her aim is to dig deeper into the lives of these unheralded artists: "Charlie and Clyde are widely respected as masters of their distinct, old-time traditions. They have both recorded albums of their music that are without a doubt must-haves in any old-time music collection. But aside from a few articles and the sleeve notes from their recordings, Charlie's and Clyde's stories, thoughts, and reflections on music have received much less attention. Music does not spring from disembodied hands. Equally important to the music is the creator himself and his ideas and opinions on what music means to him, on what sounds good and what doesn't, on the role of music in the life of a working man."
Hwang's project begins with a fundamental desire to explore the burdens of women in today's Africa. In this continent plagued by political turmoil and the continued rise of HIV/AIDS, it is the women, Hwang offers, who suffer the most: "It is the women of Africa who contract HIV from unfaithful partners, who must bear domestic violence and social ostracism, and whose families grow ever larger as orphaned relatives come begging for aid. . . . They are also denied the basic tools and rights through which they can empower themselves to overcome these difficulties." Hwang points out that the gender disparity is especially evident at Kenyan universities, where "men outnumber women two to one in total enrollment, four to one in the study of medicine. . . ." University-educated Kenyan women, Hwang reports, usually end up with "dead-end jobs and wages far below their male counterparts." Hwang will travel throughout Kenya documenting "the lives of the few Kenyan-born women who have managed to find success in their own country."
Through work with the Women's Initiative in Secondary Education (WISER), a program established in the village of Muhuru Bay (where no girl has gone on to study at a university in eighteen years), and Dr. Rose Odhiambo, a native of the village, Hwang will "open a dialogue about the hardships faced by [particular Kenyan] women as they overcame a the current of society, and managed to tread against the flow of entrenched discrimination."
Hwang will produce "a series of photo essays, photo-audio flipbooks, as well as raw multimedia resources on each woman and her self-empowerment to be given to WISER as tools through which young female students can . . . come to understand these female role models that are absent in their daily lives." Hwang will also examine a relatively new and ever-expanding social activist movement in Kenya dedicated to women's rights. In essence, Hwang says, he "seeks to divine some deeper understanding of the construct that has originated such gender discrimination and capture the courage of those who dedicate themselves to the rectification of this injustice."
In 1984, monks of the Bangsaikai Temple, area college students, and members of the Saengtean Foundation founded the Bangsaikai School in rural Bangkok. The school serves a lower-income community where often "children are forced to quit school because their parents cannot afford their tuition." In addition to being educationally deprived, children of the Bangsaikai Community may be "vulnerable to being trapped in the vicious cycle of poverty, drug abuse, and other crimes." The school's students range in age from 2- to 22-years-old and are often orphaned, homeless, or mentally ill. The school is located on the Temple grounds; the director is an abbot, and there is a "moral education" curriculum component taught through the principles of dharma by monks who volunteer at the school. Other volunteer teachers include many Bangsaikai School graduates who "have the ability to become professors in prestigious universities, but . . . feel that Bangsaikai is their destiny and their family."
Klinsawat will document, through photographs, the struggles and sacrifices of the students, graduates, and volunteers at Bangsaikai School. The larger goal, says Klinsawat, is to "document the dedication with which they have led their lives and bring about a greater appreciation among the larger community for the fortitude of the human spirit."
Klinsawat will also volunteer at the school as an art teacher and badminton coach. She recognizes the healing power and therapeutic potential of art: "Through the freedom of art, these children can forget their dire surroundings, express themselves and realize that life can still be full of wonder and excitement as they experiment with color." Klinsawat's role as a mentor will inform her role as a documentarian as she also realizes the importance of building honest relationships with those she documents: "Through their artwork, I believe I can see how these children have matured and developed their unique set of experiences. This would enable me to gain a deeper insight into their thoughts and feelings, which would enable me to capture an accurate portrayal of their feelings with my photographs."
Small's decision to document coffee farms in Costa Rica is twofold: She would like to elucidate the human side of coffee production as she records "the work ethic and integrity in a small agricultural community"; she would also like to "construct a lasting testament of the socioeconomic and environmental complexities of coffee production."
Small will visit farms in Agua Buena that practice traditional farming methods. "Traditional" means that coffee is grown and harvested under the shade of fruit tree branches thereby nurturing a "slow-growing coffee plant that yields berries long after a sun-grown plant stops producing." Known as "crop diversification," this farming technique provides income to farmers from more than one resource. However, as Small reports, "Government and international aid have encouraged [a plantation-style farming] transition to raise productivity and promote rural development . . . [which] fosters dependence on an unstable coffee market." Small also reports that "farmers only receive about one percent of what American consumers pay for coffee."
Often, farmers lack the resources to support their children financially and educationally: "When coffee sales cannot finance daily necessities, the children of farmers drop of out school to work. Daughters often relocate to San Jose where they can legally work as prostitutes. Youth who cannot find work in Costa Rica illegally immigrate to the United States. . . ." Small, in documenting the struggles of those attempting to maintain traditional farming methods, hopes to "illuminate the daily efforts of an organic farming community while acknowledging the global effects of coffee production."
Small will partner with the Community Agroecology Network (CAN) as she lives and works alongside members of the Coopabuena, a cooperative of farmers. She will use the media of black-and-white photography and audio to capture the words and work of the farmers while relating "the farmer's passion for the land that sustains him, the dynamic intergenerational relationships, and the community's hopeful outlook on an uncertain future."