More than a million children have been orphaned by HIV/AIDS in Tanzania, according to Columbia University's School of Public Health. The epidemic has left these children vulnerable; those who have lost both parents are often left without shelter and other basic necessities. The country’s fifty-plus orphanages care for just a fraction of these children, providing housing, food and clothing to about 3,000 of them.
One of these orphanages, Hands of Mercy, located in northern Tanzania near Lake Victoria, partnered with Kids Worldwide, an outreach organization that helps connect volunteers with orphanages and other children’s projects. Hands of Mercy was serving around 35 children in 2008, when the photographs for this exhibition were taken in conjunction with a volunteer project to teach photography lessons to some of the orphans. The children at Hands of Mercy, although faced with the loss of their parents, showed fierce resiliency, pushing through their lives, as curious and wide-eyed as the next eager child.
Jamara Knight received her B.A. in Spanish and Art with a
concentration in photography from Guilford College in 2005. In 2006 while serving as an AmeriCorps VISTA member Ms. Knight undertook her first independent photography project. She taught participatory photography classes to children with an incarcerated parent. Inspired by this work she went on to earn her certificate in Documentary Studies from Duke University in 2008. Next, Ms. Knight used a grant from the Clarence and Lilly Pickett Foundation to take the photography workshops to an orphanage in Tanzania. She worked with fifteen children ages 12-16, giving each child
a donated 35mm film camera. Ms. Knight served as a facilitator, using themes to help guide the youth through their own thoughts about what has meaning in their lives. The children used writing
and drawing as a way of visualizing images they wanted to capture. At the end of the workshops Ms. Knight organized an exhibition of the children's work at a local pizzeria and later in the United States. In 2011 she received a Puffin Foundation grant and partnered first with Border Action Network to bring the classes to immigrant women in Tucson, AZ. Her second class partnered with the local International Rescue Committee and she taught Bhutanese refugee women. Ms. Knight plans to continue to utilize
photography to highlight humanitarian issues and to work as an artist collaborating with communities to help bring about social change.
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name: Jamara Sky Knight
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