Hawa Images: Blog https://gallery.hawaimages.com/blog en-us (C) Hawa Images This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported Lic roxanne@hawaimages.com (Hawa Images) Tue, 04 Aug 2020 18:10:00 GMT Tue, 04 Aug 2020 18:10:00 GMT https://gallery.hawaimages.com/img/s/v-12/u351121260-o1004099733-50.jpg Hawa Images: Blog https://gallery.hawaimages.com/blog 120 80 Capturing & Celebrating the Graduates of 2020! https://gallery.hawaimages.com/blog/2020/5/capturing-celebrating-the-graduates-of-2020 Graduates of 2020 WE SEE YOU & We love you.

So much has changed but we want to say congrats & celebrate your accomplishments.  

BOOK NOW for ONE DAY ONLY GRADUATE MINI SESSIONS

My daughter is an 8th grade grad this year & my hope and prayer for all graduates this year is that they know they are loved and that we take the time to pause and celebrate them.  You are learning that life does not always play out the way we hope but we see your resilience and it is awesome! 

I am offering deeply discounted mini sessions to honor the Seniors & 8th Graders Grads of 2020. 

Details:

*15 minute Mini Sessions (Grads: wear your robe &/or something special you feel great in) & bring your family if you want!) 

*Digital downloads included of hand edited images for $50 (normal mini session price $250)

*Optional high quality printing available but not required

*Your safety is a priority!! social distancing guidelines will be followed and I will wear a mask. 

ONE DAY ONLY!!! Friday May 29th!!! 

Snag your Mini Session on Friday May 29th NOW! 
 

 

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roxanne@hawaimages.com (Hawa Images) 2020 class corona graduates Graduating mini of sessions https://gallery.hawaimages.com/blog/2020/5/capturing-celebrating-the-graduates-of-2020 Wed, 20 May 2020 16:55:26 GMT
At home portraits right now https://gallery.hawaimages.com/blog/2020/5/at-home-portraits-right-now Your creativity and the beauty of your right now allow us to hope, laugh, & hold our people tight. Thanks to everyone who donated to organizations making a difference in our world and invited me to capture you from a distance! 




 

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roxanne@hawaimages.com (Hawa Images) 19 charity corona covid lockdown porch portraits https://gallery.hawaimages.com/blog/2020/5/at-home-portraits-right-now Tue, 19 May 2020 01:56:44 GMT
"We are truly a commmunity" https://gallery.hawaimages.com/blog/2020/5/-we-are-truly-a-commmunity
“The need is up by a lot right now, up by around 75%,” Spencer, a volunteer at West Suburban Community Pantry shared that he has been arriving at 5:45am to help with the extra need. He is the only one available from his usual shift group as the other volunteers are over 65 and in a higher risk group for the virus so they are unable to volunteer right now.  They miss volunteering and call him to make sure he and the clients are ok each day he is there. 

There are so many people on the front lines of this Covid-19 crisis and providing food for families affected by job loss and economic stressors is so needed right now.

I captured the hard working staff and volunteers at West Suburban Community Pantry continuing to provide needed assistance.  New volunteers were serving for the first time because they saw a need and responded. Staff members like Pantry Manager Kevin are leading with a steadiness and calm (and his humor keeps everyone smiling despite the difficult times) that is helping them pivot and transition to best serve their clients.

A husband and wife team Mike and Lainie answered a request for help and now serve together as a couple each week at WSCP.  Board members like Kevin Delano are coming in on Saturdays to make sure WSCP can meet the needs in the community the best they can. His children even did a food drive to help gather supplies WSCP needed.  

During one 2 hour period they are seeing 120-135 cars drive up and get food loaded into their trunks for their families. They have pivoted how they serve as clients can no longer come into the pantry to gather what they need so within days they created a no contact system where they package and deliver food to people’s trunks.  WSCP has seen the need increase during this time of crisis but have also had a front seat to see the generosity of people in the community including a community member who spent their stimulus check on the items they were in need of most listed on their website and dropped the donations off.  


 

Executive Director Laura Coyle shares, "Feeding your family is a priority no matter what else is going on in life. When times are especially tough, like during the Covid-19 crisis, we know it is even more important for us to be there for the families we serve. Our top priority is always getting healthy food to our neighbors, so families can focus on other things like finding new employment or caring for their children. We are so grateful to our donors and volunteers who have been by our side through all of this. We truly are a community."


This fight is waged on many fronts and I am grateful for people serving and loving and reminding us being a good neighbor is central.

Learn more about WSCP & get involved here.

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roxanne@hawaimages.com (Hawa Images) 19 community corona covid food front humanitarian line neighbors NGO pantry photography https://gallery.hawaimages.com/blog/2020/5/-we-are-truly-a-commmunity Thu, 07 May 2020 21:28:59 GMT
"We are not here to take. We are here to GIVE." https://gallery.hawaimages.com/blog/2020/4/-we-are-not-here-to-take-we-are-here-to-give

"We are not here to take. We are here to GIVE. I credit World Relief for helping my family in our time of need. I was a vulnerable refugee and I was shown what God's love is all about. I believe there are no limits to how refugees & immigrants can grow."

-Mawi Asgedom

I was scheduled to capture the World Relief Global Gala last night but lots has changed. My daughter Annikah and I tuned in to the first ever virtual Global Gala 2020 online with many other supporters and volunteers.  She had just finished reading Of Beetles & Angels yesterday and being able to hear the author Mawi Asgedom share some of his story and how World Relief had welcomed his family brought her learning to life in a different way.    

Emphraim Bugumba is a gifted singer and songwriter who performed last night. He shared about his story as arriving in the US as a refugee. 

The needs of immigrant and refugee communities (as many communities) are rising due to Covid-19 and World Relief shared stories of immigrants and refugees on the front line including a recently arrived man who is now serving in a nursing home.  

Tim Kustusch and Isoken Aiwerioba were the hosts for the evening. 

Other 4,000 people were served last year through the World Relief immigration services last year. 

Over 1,000 volunteers currently give of their time to walk alongside their new neighbors. For over 40 years World Relief with the help of so many of you have welcomed new immigrants & refugees and helped them adjust to and thrive in their lives in America. 

I am grateful to have images featured from Hawa Images throughout the night. Volunteering and working with World Relief has shaped and changed me so much throughout the years and I am forever grateful for the opportunity to learn from my new neighbors- my life is so much richer for it. Helping share the good work of World Relief with others is work dear to my heart. You can learn more and see the full video of the Global Gala 2020 here.   You can also join the work by giving here

 

 

 

 

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roxanne@hawaimages.com (Hawa Images) 19 Corona Covid Gala Global immigration refugees Relief virtual World https://gallery.hawaimages.com/blog/2020/4/-we-are-not-here-to-take-we-are-here-to-give Fri, 24 Apr 2020 14:41:02 GMT
Tunamshukuru Mungu. We thank God. https://gallery.hawaimages.com/blog/2020/4/tunamshukuru-mungu-we-thank-god

Tunamshukuru Mungu.

We thank God.

A friend messaged me this after sharing with me that her and her family are well.  We do thank God. In the midst- not just on the other side of the HARD.  I was thankful for this reminder today.  I am grateful for technology that enables me to connect with friends from an island across the world that is so deeply important to me.  It is hard to explain to those who cannot immediately call to mind sounds and smells and even a feel of a place that became home after 4 years. And I know people grow tired of hearing memories from a place that have not walked and people they have not loved dearly.  I am grateful they became dear friends to us and invited us into their lives.  I am grateful for how much I learned from our friends there. I am so grateful that this halt in the pace of life has allowed us to reconnect. And I am so grateful to know they are well. So much of our current day to day life is different but the impact of this global pandemic is felt in both places- in different ways. It made me thankful for the global perspectives in my life.  I can be so short sighted and constantly listening to friends with differing experiences and perspectives is vital. 

I am grateful that while some are seeking to cause further divisions along ethnic and political lines many of us are seeing more of our common vulnerability through this. This time of uncertainty and hardship has connected us in new and different ways.  We see just how similar we are in wanting to be with our loved ones, caring about the health and safety of our families and friends & being so grateful for the healthcare workers on the front lines right now, worried about our jobs and livelihood, wanting answers, feel lonely or disconnected, and needing to help in whatever ways we can. We are all feeling anxiety, disruption, and fear about the future in our own ways.  But this PAUSE is also an invitation to reconsider our priorities.   This stop is allowing us to BE instead of DO. We are stopping life because we want to protect our neighbors and love well and at a cost. This type of neighbor-ing is more central than ever. Kindness; with ourselves and others, is necessary. Sharing resources and seeking unity is needed.   

I am praying we seek truth and do not dwell in fear.  I pray we have some collective shifts in how we see one another. I pray that the inequalities that are always present but that those of us with privilege can choose to ignore become central and demand seeking real justice. I pray that we become more united across ethnic and country borders as a common human family and then act in ways that reflect out interconnectedness.  

I am praying we see not just our frailty but the beauty of our common humanity. 

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roxanne@hawaimages.com (Hawa Images) 19 Africa covid humanitarian humanity Pandemic photographer storyteller visual https://gallery.hawaimages.com/blog/2020/4/tunamshukuru-mungu-we-thank-god Tue, 21 Apr 2020 00:01:55 GMT
Capturing your life at home right now: 5 Tips https://gallery.hawaimages.com/blog/2020/4/capturing-your-life-at-home-right-now
If you are like me the last month and a half has been overwhelming, exhausting, and a flood of other emotions.  The days crawl by and at the same time I feel like they go quickly in a haze of my own anxiety about the world & chaos of 4 kids at home ALL THE DANG TIME. The injustices that exist everyday in our world have been even further revealed in this crisis and there is much to do.  Many of us are at home right now left wondering what does helping look like? What does this mean for our neighbors and ourselves and how is the best way to love others right now? What does staying sane look like? I am wrestling with this all as well and while we are all in this together we experience it is very different ways and there needs to be space and grace for that difference.  I have very few answers to the pressing questions right now but what I do know is that RIGHT now is worthy of capturing for this story is messy and beautiful. Maybe you sense the importance of right now too? Maybe you need a distraction right now? Maybe you have always put aside that camera “for the right time” to learn more? Maybe you sense the weight of all that is happening and want to tell your story? Some people write to process, some speak, some paint or draw, and I capture images. I am a storyteller and this lack of connection with my amazing clients has confirmed for me how valuable my work is to me and how capturing stories can help us all gain meaning from what we are experiencing. I want to help you in practical ways so if you are ready to capture your life right now let’s do this:

First treat the ordinary moments throughout your day as beautiful & messy AND worth capturing.  I think this is actually a really healthy practice for mental health as well.   Slowing yourself and focusing on what is happening can help us process and be grateful- or really feel sadness- all of which are good to feel.  Being real with how you are feeling and seeing your right now through a lens can help you make sense of it.

Have your camera (or phone) near you so you can capture the moments of your life right now.  The best camera is the one you have with you right now: use your phone if that is all you have OR grab that DSLR you have not dusted off in a while. I challenge you to get out of Auto mode! Try shooting in P for Program Mode or if you are braver try M for Manual mode and experiment. 

Don’t worry so much about the “perfect” camera settings. To capture personally-meaningful moments and stories choosing the real and raw moment or series of moments is far more important than getting the perfect settings on your camera.

We learn by making mistakes, by falling forward so don’t be afraid if most of your images are not incredible at first (#sameteam) because that is the beauty of digital photography; you can keep capturing and adjusting and learning. You might end up deleting a lot of them but this practice is what helps you train your eye and skill to capture what you deem as worthy of story. The “secret” to becoming better at photography is no secret: just practice, reflect, and practice some more. You will learn what you like to photograph in this process as well. For me I LOVE capturing people, connection, and emotion over landscapes and I learned this just by trying different things. Don’t despise the small starts: just try and learn.  I have also taken several online courses here if you want to dive in more. 

Here are 5 tips to help you tell your sorry right now:

1. Decide what stories are worth telling during this season of lockdown: first, decide it is a story worth telling. Seriously. Stop for a moment and think through your day and ask what is different or unique?  Think through the mundane that you are noticing more in this season. For me this included: cooking with the kids, family game nights, zoom meetings with family, friends, and teachers, “Corona” cuts we are doing at home, Abishai learning to rie his bike, Easter celebration via zoom, remote learning, & planting. I am sure there are things you are doing right now that are different from your norm: capture those.  Make a list of a few moments from the last week that made you laugh, cry, feel surprised, frustrated, or be grateful. Add to the list. Ask yourself what images will help me tell this story? If I could not explain what was happening with words but only show this image (or series of images) what should I include? What do we want to remember about this day?

2. Find the light: light is the main artistic tool in photography. It determines not only the darkness and lightness but the mood, vibe, and tone. Turn off the lights when possible and find the natural light.  Even ordinary light can illuminate your subject in a beautiful way.  Window light is great! But you can also play with unusual light; incorporate shadows, patterns reflected on the wall, backlight, or other light sources like a candle. 

3. Focus on your people: Especially focus on capturing their real expressions and emotions. For me this usually means shooting multiple frames of the same thing and being patient.  Most of us will tense up or "chessy smile" when a camera comes out but if you shoot for a while your kids (or subjects) will relax and be more themselves- that is where the magic happens!  Be patient and wait for it. It you are capturing kids or movement be sure your shutter speed is 250 or above to capture the expressions without motion blur. Quick tutorial on Shutter Speed here. 

4. Change up your angles: Capture a few images then shift YOUR position. This can make a huge difference in your images. I try to rotate in a circle around my subjects for family images to see what different angles do to the images.  Try shooting from a birds eye view, from behind, from below. This can really help your storytelling. If you are capturing your child reading get on their level an you might surprise what a difference it makes in your images.    

5.  Focus on details: the details or our lives are often what we forget later and that is why I love capturing them. Detail images can be part of the larger story or stand alone and just tell part of the entire scene or story. When I look at baby pics of my kids I just cannot get over their chubby hands and feet- it is the details that draw me in to when they were that little. Think: a sprout growing in the garden, little hands holding a pencil, dirty fingernails working in the garden, the unkempt hair blowing in the wind, a favorite toy running across the couch, the position your child sits in on the floor while engrossed in a book. Take images of the smaller details that often go unnoticed because they can be beautiful and help tell the story.

I really hope you find a life giving way to help capture your right now because it is messy AND beautiful and a story worthy of reflection. I am right in this with you and would love to see your images- tag me or send them my way (every time you share this post or tag me you in your images of your right now you will be entered to win $50 off a Family Lifestyle or Creative Portrait Session this summer or fall)!!!  I am so excited to see what your capture and I cannot wait to get back out there and capture you all because your right now is a worthy story friends. 

Grace and peace to you friends in this difficult time. Be well friends.

 

 

 

 

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roxanne@hawaimages.com (Hawa Images) at beginning capture corona home now order photography right stay https://gallery.hawaimages.com/blog/2020/4/capturing-your-life-at-home-right-now Fri, 17 Apr 2020 19:48:41 GMT
Virtual tour of A Wider Family Gallery at the Community House https://gallery.hawaimages.com/blog/2020/3/virtual-tour-of-a-wider-family-at-the-community-house

A Wider Family: Images on Volunteerism contains images very close to my heart because they were captured in partnership with organizations I care deeply about doing good & hard work in our world.  Our new normal due to the global pandemic has meant the Community House that is hosting the gallery has shut down for now so Jimmy McDermott, the Director of the LyArts Program Director made a virtual video tour of the gallery!!!   

More about the gallery:

What if we served or volunteered as if those we engage with were our family? Our dear ones? What if we listened as we desire to be listened to? What is we realized we are fellow travelers not those who have already arrived?

Through my own volunteering and partnering with organizations doing great and hard work across the globe I am again and again reminded that we are a human family and when we break down barriers of those giving and those receiving, we truly open ourselves to the rich experience of allowing ourselves to be changed by volunteering.  This gallery is a collection of images captured that share stories of this volunteering working with organizations I deeply respect and am grateful to partner with to share their stories with dignity and intention.

“The problem with the world is that we draw the circle of our family too small.”

-Moher Theresa

We are a human family and when we serve with that in mind we are profoundly changed. 

Images captured with Foster ProgressStyles 4 Kidz, & World Relief Dupage Aurora are featured.  

The gallery was also featured in the Chicago Tribune. 

The gallery will be coming to Cafe K'Tizo in Wheaton when all this madness is over so look for more details coming soon. 

Be well friends.

 

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roxanne@hawaimages.com (Hawa Images) art for gallery humanitarian non online photo photography profit tour https://gallery.hawaimages.com/blog/2020/3/virtual-tour-of-a-wider-family-at-the-community-house Mon, 23 Mar 2020 01:27:54 GMT
BeYOUtiful Empowerment Portraits https://gallery.hawaimages.com/blog/2020/3/beyoutiful-empowerment-portraits As Ms. Marion called the after school meeting  to order the young women began by grabbing an affirmation from the jar and then reading them outloud,

"I don't give up."

And the group answered, "Ashay."

"I stand strong."

And the group answered, "Ashay."

"I'm a boss."

And the group answered, "Ashay."

"I love myself."

And the group answered, "Ashay."

"I got this."

And the group answered, "Ashay." And Ms. Marion added "you do baby girl."

"I'm beautiful in everyday."

And the group answered, "Ashay."

"I'm going to flood you with affirmations until your are uncomfortable because they are true about you," Ms. Marion, one of the amazing leaders of the Youth Guidance WOW (Working on Womanhood) Program reminded the ladies in the program.  Youth Guidance provides trauma informed individual and group counseling to high school young women. We celebrated their resilience and their identity with a photo session to celebrate their individual personalities and journey.

As I captured the portraits what stood out to me was the encouragement an laughter from the other young women as their friends took a turn capturing their portraits.  This FOR-ness is beautiful.  Celebrating each other as they embrace their strength and resilience.  

These leaders of WOW pour into the young women with vulnerability, wisdom, skill, and passion.  

After sending the gallery of images to Ms. Marion she responded, "These will be a staple in the girls' memories - group sessions today were full of affirmations of self acceptance and self love. Thank you so much for helping document this moment in these ladies' journeys. You are a gift."

THIS project was a gift to ME- EVERYONE needs these affirmations and in their lives and I am grateful for the opportunity to capture these amazing young women on their journey. There is something powerful about witnessing young people believing what is true and innate in them. This session was a powerful reminder of the power of words and celebrating the journey- not just the arrival. 


Alexis wanted to capture her portrait both in and out of her wheel chair because "I'm beautiful and resilient." Amen.  




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roxanne@hawaimages.com (Hawa Images) empowerment humanitarian NGO photography portraits resilient school women WOW young https://gallery.hawaimages.com/blog/2020/3/beyoutiful-empowerment-portraits Wed, 11 Mar 2020 18:06:50 GMT
"We are so proud of these beans because they survived the hurricane. They are strong" https://gallery.hawaimages.com/blog/2020/3/friends-of-puerto-rico

The students gathered outside of an Econo Supermarket just outside of San Juan on a Saturday morning with pencils in hand ready to work in teams to plan a meal within their designated budget.  Mr. Erick Rios is the kind of teacher that draws his students in, as the students arrive they high five and hug him and then chat with the other students.  Mr. Rios explains their task for the next couple hours to work together to stay within a budget and plan dinner for a crowd. His laughter and energy in contagious and he is clearly gifted and passionate about working with young people.  He almost wasn't a teacher though.  He shared that he was training for 4 years to become a doctor when he knew just knew he had a passion for teaching and changed his studies.  He is so animated and fun as he leads the students in this challenge throughout the morning.  He also shares that the students come together in the after school program that offer opportunities for students to work on leadership skills as well as attend field trips. The students have been separated into other schools after an earthquake with a magnitude of 6.3 damaged their local school. This after school program allows the students to get together and see their friends as they wait for their school to be reconstructed.


During their time at Econo Supermarket the students worked together and laughed a lot about what they should cook for the meal- the group of boys had their hearts set on making chimichurri (I approve!!) but had to cut it when they did the math and realized finances would not allow it.  Parents and other school teachers and leaders led them through the store, kept them focused, on task, and asked great questions.  I was shocked at well received the students were at the store. They were welcomed and cheered on by other customers instead of seen as slowing folks down in their errands for the day.  The young people represented their program well and showed how much fun learning can be.              


Friends of Puerto Rico supports the economic development of the people of Puerto Rico through entrepreneurial initiatives, education, and creating opportunities for women and girls. I am so grateful for the opportunity to partner with them to capture their programs for 9-12 year olds in action. 

The students then volunteered at a pop up coffee shop at a local credit union in Hatillo. Cafe Ama is all about social impact.  The students gave out samples of 100% arabica ethically grown in Puerto Rico and sold bags of coffee to patrons at the bank to support the work of Seeds. Seeds was launched in 2019 in 5 different schools and provides 100 students the opportunity to learn and grow in skills and confidence.  Seeds helps develop young leaders today and adult leaders of tomorrow in Puerto Rico and the Cafe Ama program allows them to learn entrepreneurship skills along the way.   

"We are so proud of these beans because they survived the hurricane. They are strong." Marie Rodriguez the SEEDS Coordinator shared about the coffee they sell as part of the program.  Cafe Ama's goal is to develop the first generation in Puerto Rico that will not live in poverty.  The coffee AND the leaders and students are strong.


Thank you Friends of Puerto Rico & many blessings!  More personal images & stories here. 


 

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roxanne@hawaimages.com (Hawa Images) Friends humanitarian NGO of photography Puerto Rico travel https://gallery.hawaimages.com/blog/2020/3/friends-of-puerto-rico Mon, 09 Mar 2020 22:42:13 GMT
create, invent, tinker, explore, & discover with Makerspace https://gallery.hawaimages.com/blog/2020/3/create-invent-tinker-explore-discover-with-makerspace A makerspace is a place where students can gather to create, invent, tinker, explore and discover using a variety of tools,” Mrs. Johnson shared the vision of the Makerspace at J.T. Manning Elementary School surrounded by a green screen, bins of blocks, large wooden tools, and Ipads that are all part of the space.  She has such excitement because of how she has seen it transform learning for her students.  She notices when her students are engaged in learning this way that every class and grade selects to work with tools in different ways and that “I see students collaborate with other students they don't know very well and this type of learning allows students who do not always shine, rise to the top, and always ask to come back again.” She learned so much about creating this type of environment through a workshop provided by the Bureau of Education and Research she attended in order to bring this innovative experience to her library students.  The tools for the Makerspace were funded by the Manning PTO’s “Big Idea” project after Mrs. Billie and Mrs. Johnson wrote a proposal to bring this opportunity to their students. Students rush into the library and their eyes immediately scan the many options that have to explore and create during their library time. Each class looks different and for a group of 2nd Graders they pull out chrome books and eagerly listen to Mrs. Johnson ask “When we want to do research how do we find answers to our questions?” She explains the research project they are about to embark on and allows them to offer feedback on how we find answers online and in books as well as how we stay safe online.  These very same lessons are useful at every age level but it is powerful how Mrs. Johnson is allowing the students to learn by doing Their project was to research space travel and what being an astronaut is all about in honor of the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing and then present their learning by filming an interview with “an astronaut” using the Makerspace green screen. There is a collective gasp of glee in the room when Mrs. Johnson announces that the microphones for their filming arrived.  The students are so excited to dress up and play the role of a newscaster and astronaut in their groups but first they must formulate questions and research their answers using reputable websites and books from the library. “How astronauts go to the bathroom in space” proved to be a popular question and students are drawn into asking many questions about traveling to the moon, what kind of environment astronauts live in, how astronauts eat, and how they learn about space.  Students are put into groups and are soon buzzing with questions, giggles, and celebrating when they find an answer in the library’s books or online.    


The ethos of Makerspace includes:  Everyone is a maker, makers share what they make and help others make what they share, making is an interdisciplinary endeavor, and making requires critical thinking and problem-solving skills. (Andy Mann, leader of a Makerspace workshop).  As Mrs. Johnson moves from group to group she gently challenges them to stay on task, encourages their great questions, and offers guidance without doing their work for them.  A skill amazing educators like Mrs. Johnson know well! She is teaching valuable lessons on rewriting text using their own words and celebrating their curiosity as she checks in with their progress.  This curiosity is more important than the project outcome because this spirit is what Makerspace is all about!  Makerspace is about creating a culture of learning and experimenting and sharing. Mrs. Johnson is passionate about building this culture during Makerspace lessons by embracing several norms (from Diana Rendina) including a culture of acceptance, a willingness to make mistakes, embracing of individuality and creativity along with a spirit that says "why not?", allowing students a space so they're not afraid to get messy, and cultivating an openness to new ideas.  As 3rd Graders work together to build a cart they discover that the wheels will not move because they tightened them too much.  Students work together to suggest ideas and they switch out a few pieces and try something new and soon they are pulling each other through the library cheering that they figured it out together. A student shares, “There is a lot of fun things to make craft .You could also make a car with the rig a jig blocks. You could also go in front the green screen and make a movie or video. You could play on the computer. It`s a great space. There`s a lot of fun things to do."  Another students adds, “It is a magical space!”

During the classroom time Makerspace looks different at different grade levels but as students build towers or a cart that holds 2 students and discuss what works for a strong base it is clear that risking and evaluating is being learned in a team.  Students gets to works with blocks, large wooden building pieces, yarn, beads, and ipads and computers.  Mrs. Johnson is always learning with her students and has been surprised that fewer and fewer students choose a screen when they have a choice.  Many students gravitate towards building or making something tactile.  For 2nd Grader Rayne E. she smiles and shares, “I love this because we get to learn about space and learn what we want to study!”  They are learning to be inquisitive and then investigate what they want to learn and then take charge of their own learning. Charlie G. shared, “I really like that we get to type in our questions and find answers.”

Mrs. Johnson provides encouraging guidance through the Makerspace experience and works with the students over many weeks to research, create questions, fine tune their ideas, beginning to site their sources, and finally write their scripts to be performed in front of the green screen. Having a project to showcase their learning is important and many students are excited to start filming.   “We are nervous but so excited about filming too!” Olivia P. shares that the final project is allowing the students to push their learning to the next level. They are also learning how to edit with a new application on the Ipads and working together adding a background and tweaking their videos to present to one another. During filming Mrs. Johnson encourages one student who really was shining in this activity especially because he has struggled with other activities.  It is so clear how much she loves seeing all her students thrive and that she is grateful for the opportunities students have to gain confidence in their abilities. Students have much to say about their time in Makerspace, “It allows you to use your imagination to make whatever you want without being forced to make something." Another student shared  "I like that you could make whatever craft you want. There is plenty of supplies for everyone. You could do anything with your creativity. That is why I like the makerspace"

Makerspace is a place of learning AND fun and it is hard to tell when one stops and the other begins; which at it’s best is what lifelong learning is about: being curious, risking, failing, and trying again.  Mrs. Johnson sees the overall benefits to makerspace each time she opens the space to her students as they build creativity, develop critical thinking and problems solving skills individually and as they collaborate as a group. They are learning to apply knowledge to practical problems and to stay curious.   

 

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roxanne@hawaimages.com (Hawa Images) humanitarian NGO photography school https://gallery.hawaimages.com/blog/2020/3/create-invent-tinker-explore-discover-with-makerspace Wed, 04 Mar 2020 17:38:50 GMT
Joy & Justice in Chicago: reflections during Black History Month https://gallery.hawaimages.com/blog/2020/2/joy-justice-in-chicago This October I attended the first ever Joy & Justice Conference at the historical Ebenezer Missionary Baptist Church in Chicago. The year was chosen to reflect on 400 years of the Black experience in America. The location was carefully selected too not for it's design but for it's history and legacy. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahalia Jackson had also spoken from the sanctuary and for The Witness BCC it was a careful choice to honor history as well as boldly speak into the future. 

I sought to be a guest and learner in this Black centered space.  I realized that my own baggage and issues with trying to 'prove' to myself and others that I am a "white ally" can prevent others from being truly free in this space where it is necessary that I have a guest and learner posture.  It is not for me to discern whether I am an ally or not.  What is up to me is the posture in which I enter in. I am so thankful for the deep and reaching work of The Witness BCC not only in my life but in the lives of many throughout the years.  The opportunities for listening and growing were overwhelming as theologian and modern prophetic voice to the church Ekemeni Uwan (read this for some of her fire and truth), Black Church apologist Dr. John Fasion, author and leader Dr. Rev. Nicole Massie Martin, and author, podcaster, & historian Jemar Tisby shard insights, reflections, and challenges.  Along with other powerful voices like Tyler Burns, Ally Heeny, Lisa Fields, Natasha Sistrunk Robinson, Earon James, BJ Thompson, and Beau York these leaders spoke hard truths, challenges, and encouragements.   

it was a weekend full of deep teaching, clear calls to justice work, and prophetic lament.   

Jemar Tisby summed up the weekend,

"Intentionally black-centered occasions are not a separation from people of other races or ethnicities. It is cultural appreciation rather than appropriation. It is poised in the midst of plurality. It is diversity with unity.

The Joy and Justice conference was a multi-day answer to pray. It gave us a picture of God’s faithfulness to the Church through people of African descent. It was no less than a demonstration of God’s glory through a celebration of the Black Church and Black Christianity."

Read more on his reflection here.

To mark and remember Black History Month I want to suggest some recommendations for Black History Month from The Witness Black Christian Collective that will- as they should- take you WAY more than 1 short month to engage in. 

"A great debt is owed and for the witness of the Church and the glory of God reparations now."

"Repentance and repair does not have an expiration date. Restoration is the future and now. Sanctification is progressive not linear. Everything that has been stolen will be restored" -Ekemeni Uwan  "The presence of joy in the Black Church in America- that which the world can't take it away (as he sang) is a real and miraculous work of the Spirit."

Too often the price of admission to multi ethnic churches is the erasure of non-white identity."

"I am preaching better than y'all are Amen-ing," Dr. John Faison reminded all present that preaching in the Black Church context is never a monologue. 

"We forget about how GOOD the gospel is- the gospel is about disrupting systems! There are those called to make changes from within a system and those called to change it from the outside- we cannot look down on the other."

"What would your life look like if you were filled with the Holy Spirit to the point of overflowing?" -Dr. Rev Nicole Massie Martin

Jemar Tisby & Tyler Burns recorded a live episode of Pass the Mic during the conference as well. This podcast has been so influential for me personally.


 

Michelle Higgins of Truth's Table and a gifted group led powerful times of worship.  

Jemar Tisby spoke true racial reformation as Biblical reformation.  He challenges us all with the 3 elements that must be present to see this kind of change, 1. reminding/remembering, 2. reckoning, and 3. reforming. 

The conference ended the way it began: with prayer.  You can learn more about The Witness Foundation & support the work they are doing to fund and empower Black Ministries.   Hawa Images supports The Witness foundation because the work they are doing is so needed in our world. 


 

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roxanne@hawaimages.com (Hawa Images) & Black Faith History Joy Justice Mic Month Pass The Witness https://gallery.hawaimages.com/blog/2020/2/joy-justice-in-chicago Wed, 19 Feb 2020 19:33:47 GMT
“What does it really mean to be kind anyway?” https://gallery.hawaimages.com/blog/2020/2/-what-does-it-really-mean-to-be-kind-anyway What does it really mean to be kind anyway?”

This question was part of a read aloud from the book Be Kind by Pat Zietlow Miller during Creating a Compassionate Community Day (C3 Day) at J.T. Manning Elementary School February 5,2020.  In the book when a classmate; Tanisha, felt embarrassed the author’s voice asks us this simple yet complex question.  It is a question that needs to be asked again and again.  We see the need for it in hallways, playgrounds, and lunch rooms across our schools among our youngest.  We also see the need for it in the current political discourse, enemy making, & alliance building that so often happens among adults.   The answer is not always easy to discern and requires more than pen to paper thoughts. It requires action taken in real life.  What does it mean to be kind? And can we arrive at a definition apart of our interactions with actual people in our lives? Manning School leadership is unafraid to start these important conversations.

C3Day was an attempt to continue and expand the Social Emotional Learning at J.T. Manning. The day was a culmination of months of planning by a team of parents; with much teacher input, that wanted to craft meaningful and fun ways for adults in our community to be more involved in the school community.  The goal of the day was not just to have a one-time big event but to continue the good and hard work the teachers and school leaders are doing day in and out.  The idea for C3 Day was birthed from School Improvement Plan meetings over the summer that invited parents, educators, and administrators to dream big and dive deep into how they can improve the school community. One result was this half day experience that implemented a customized and multi-faceted program that included a read aloud, hands on activities, a “Compassion Quest” with scenarios and stops throughout the building, and a celebration assembly to help our students share in learning about compassion and caring for each other.   

The school’s principal Ms. Lindsay Pietrzak was integral to making the day a success and shared, “(C3 Day was) a true example of what it means by "It Takes a Village."  To have over 40 adults support our educators in our mission to develop kindness and compassion in each of our students is a testament to how unique this district is.”  Laura Coyle; a community parent volunteer and school board member praised Manning’s principal Ms. Piertrzak “for championing this creativity and innovation in her school.” Mrs. Roth; a kindergartner teacher led a stop on the Compassion Quest and helped facilitate discussions for not just her students but all grade levels around how students might think creativity about including a new student during lunch.  She shared, “My kindergarten students LOVED their day!” Her students processed the day and responses included, "I love the quest because you can move around.” Another student said “I love the assembly because it was loud and everyone was there.”  C3 Day focused on the entire school community and building on the sense of team and togetherness. 


Students enjoyed doing something different and getting to meet adults in our community as well.  Sophia Edmeier, a 3rd Grader said, “I really like C3 Day. I got to have the Superintendent Mr. Carey as my group leader and before we moved from place to place we had to put our hands in and say ‘Go Manning Meteors!’ It was like we were a team learning about kindness together.” She also referenced a book and activity from the older grades read aloud Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson sharing, “kindness is so important, when you are kind it ripples like a stone in the water.”  A 2nd Grader Brooke Petty commented, “I learned how to be more compassionate and it was just really fun.”  A 4th Grader Evy Engstrom said “I liked that we got to go with other parents and get to know them better.” Making meaningful connection was not just for students but also benefited parents.  A parent new to the Manning community commented, “Being a new family at JT Manning this year, we are always looking for opportunities to get to know the culture and the community of the school. I walked away from the C3 Day, proud of the beautiful minds of the Manning Students.”


C3 Day was a chance for volunteers to share their lives and some of their story with students in the community.  Kbuddha Argue, a parent of a kindergartner expressed his excitement about participating as a volunteer, “To see this school put words into action gave me hope that there are communities working around the clock to ensure kids and parents have a compassionate environment to thrive and grow.” Another parent volunteer Shannon Radi shared about what she observed in her group, “The children were asked to stretch their understanding and open their hearts to compassion. The day was full of opportunities for the children to view experiences from another lenses, to put themselves in someone else’s shoes and to practice being a good citizen.” Jason Engstrom, a parent in the community expressed his appreciation for the opportunity, "C3 Day was not only fun and positive for the students, but a great way for me to meet some new teachers and see them in their element, and interact with new parents as well.  It was all about community building - and what a great way to bring together and interact with so many different voices in the community!  I'd love to see this become an annual or even more often event!"


Practicing compassion in our real lives takes honest conversations and adults modeling and allowing students to wrestle with hard questions.  Volunteers all wore “bling” medallions designed by a 2nd Grader Grace Hajek that read “Kindness Matters and #choosecompassion” and were asked to share vulnerably about how they have and are still learning to be compassionate in their everyday lives.  Parents were intentionally not paired with their children because organizers wanted this day to be about the entire community.  Volunteers included members of the local police force, firefighters, school board members, as well as parents and other community members.  Living out choose compassion is not always easy or black and white and the hope of the day was that students would see compassion through many lenses and start to apply what they see to their lives.   Shannon Radi, a parent volunteer saw this happen in her group, “One of my favorite moments was when my group was enjoying their snacks together. One classmate had a face drawn on her sandwich bag, to which another girl asked “What is that?” She told her that her Mom always draws faces on her sandwich bag. The classmate who was questioning said “Well that face is freaky” and she continues to make fun about the sandwich bag. A third classmate was listening to the interaction and she gently said “You know I think you are hurting her feelings.” The classmate in turn said “I am sorry I did not mean to hurt your feelings.” It was the Ah-hah moment. We had just spent an hour reading and discussing how to treat people, how to stand up for a fellow classmate and how to forgive yourself and ask for forgiveness. Throughout C3 Day the students at JT Manning, were asked to push their boundaries and understanding, to lead with a gentle kind heart not only to their classmate, but also with one another. C3 Day was a wild success.” This real life transfer of compassion is exactly what the team had hoped for and will continue to work for in the future.  Mrs. Billie, an Instructional Coach in the CUSD 201 District summed up her feelings about the day, "I loved seeing teachers, District administration, Manning staff members, community members and parents collaborating with our students in small groups throughout the day.  My favorite part was seeing the smiles on so many faces during our C3 day. I think we all learned a little bit more about being compassionate community members.” 





The team and school hope that C3 Day was just a support and continuation of the good work the educators and community are doing every day in living compassion because it matters that we educate our children not just in math and reading but in how to navigate this world as a kind and compassionate human- that is true education. . Kbuddha Argue, a parent volunteer summed up the vibe of the day, “I have never been the one for school spirit and pride but J.T. Manning- I am a superfan today!”

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roxanne@hawaimages.com (Hawa Images) compassion curriculum kindness ngo photography schools storytelling visual https://gallery.hawaimages.com/blog/2020/2/-what-does-it-really-mean-to-be-kind-anyway Wed, 12 Feb 2020 17:30:40 GMT
A Wider Family Gallery: Images on Volunteerism https://gallery.hawaimages.com/blog/2020/2/a-wider-family-gallery-images-on-volunteerism Friends, I am grateful to have images so close to my heart featured in this gallery at The Community House in Hinesdale. Please stop by all month to view the gallery or tonight for wine, beer, and light appetizers as well as a discussion with me at 7pm. 

 

What if we served or volunteered as if those we engage with were our family? Our dear ones? What if we listened as we desire to be listened to? What is we realized we are fellow travelers not those who have already arrived?

Through my own volunteering and partnering with organizations doing great and hard work across the globe I am again and again reminded that we are a human family and when we break down barriers of those giving and those receiving, we truly open ourselves to the rich experience of allowing ourselves to be changed by volunteering.  This gallery is a collection of images captured that share stories of this volunteering working with organizations I deeply respect and am grateful to partner with to share their stories with dignity and intention.

“The problem with the world is that we draw the circle of our family too small.”

-Moher Theresa

We are a human family and when we serve with that in mind we are profoundly changed. 

Images captured with Foster Progress, Styles 4 Kidz, & World Relief Dupage Aurora will be featured. 

 

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roxanne@hawaimages.com (Hawa Images) art for gallery humanitarian NGO non photographer profits https://gallery.hawaimages.com/blog/2020/2/a-wider-family-gallery-images-on-volunteerism Mon, 03 Feb 2020 19:38:32 GMT
Pursuing her dreams: Ibtisam's Tailor Shop https://gallery.hawaimages.com/blog/2020/1/pursuing-her-dreams-ibtisams-tailor-shop Friends came together to celebrate the ribbon cutting and grand opening of Ibtisam’s Tailor Shop in Lombard.  As many small business openings there is a long story of the dreams, passion, and hard work that have lead up to and will; God willing, continue to sustain this business.

Ibtisam Younis came to the U.S. in 2008 with very limited English and after a difficult journey of fleeing her home country of Iraq with her husband. They both had to leave dear family and friends and kin networks as well as businesses they spent years building and flee to Jordon. Ibtisam had a tailor shop designing and sewing everything from elaborate gowns to home decor such as curtains and employed 6 people in her shop. In Jordan they were undocumented and life was very hard for them those 4 1/2 years as they lived under constant fear they would be sent back or killed. 

They eventually were interviewed by the UN in Jordan as they realized they could not make a life there permanently and returning to Iraq safely was not possible either, "I just knew we cannot make the life here and we cannot go home."  They began the long process of applying for refugee status.  After months of waiting and hearing nothing they gathered outside the UN to await the posting of a list. They described thousands of people waiting and praying their name appeared on this list. They saw their names. At this point as they told their story they both paused, held hands, and teared up.  This one moment held so much hope and at the same time anxiety for what this would mean for them.  

They learned they were assigned to the United States and while they felt relief, they also held in that complicated emotions of panic about starting again in a new country where they did not speak the language or know the cultural norms. They arrived at O’hare in 2008 with 8 other families and with the help of World Relief resettled in this area. Ibtisam recalls that time, Fortunately, we were resettled by World Relief DuPage and assisted by their wonderful staff. They provided emotional support, cultural orientation, English language classes, health care, accommodations and all the basic needs.”   

Just as the many refugee clients that come to the U.S., their stories do not begin when they arrive here with their IOM bag in hand and they also do not end with arriving in their new country of resettlement.  Just to be away from immediate danger is not the end.  There is so much rebuilding, cultural and language learning, healing, and life to live yet. There is such much to be negotiated about embracing new and holding on to old.  

Adjusting to life in the US was full of opportunities for growth and often felt lonely. Ibtisam joined the Re:new Project in 2014. Holly, the Sewing manager at Re:new was at the new shop’s opening celebrating with Ibtisam and remembered when she first joined and shocked everyone with her ability, “From her first day of training at Renew, we could tell that Ibtisam was an extremely talented seamstress. She quickly became one of our most accomplished artisans, not only sewing our products, but designing new products as well. Her Keeto bag design was one of our most popular designs. We are thrilled that Ibtisam has realized her dream of owning her own shop, and gladly send customers her way who would like custom work done.” Being around women with similar stories and losses seemed to really encourage Ibtisam and she thrived there from 2014 until 2016.

Ibtisam then realized she wanted to pursue a college degree in Fashion Design at a local community college since her training mostly has come from her mother in law back home in Iraq and her on the job experience.  “When I was 10 years old, I started developing my talent in sewing, embroidery and knitting,” she said. “I loved designing, following the new fashions, creating complete looks with accessories, working with the wonderful fabrics and textures, and working with customers of all ages.” She studied in the fashion design program and was awarded Most Outstanding Freshman Designer of the year. The instructors are generous with their time and talents. The collaboration with other students made all of us stronger. Even with my prior experience, I learned a number of new techniques, met industry leaders and shared my unique designs with the public through the annual fashion show.”  Ibtisam graduated in May 2018 from College of Dupage and walked across the stage to screams from her friends from World Relief.  I met Ibtisam when she was attending college and she invited me into her home. 

In gratitude of World Relief DuPage, Ibtisam took part in a fundraiser and donated one of her custom designs. It helped raise $2,500 that benefitted other refugees. She has been running Ibtsiam Design with the support and help of her husband out of their apartment so branching out to having a physical location will allow her to focus on expanding her business and offering services and training to more people.  

Ibtisam’s designs bring a modern Arabic flare to Western fashion, I love to include Arabic influences with American styles to make something unique,” she said.  Ibtisam’s Tailor shop offers custom design, alternations, drapery and home design, costume design, purse and bag design, and sewing classes all led by a woman who has tremendous courage and strength to pursue her dreams amidst so much challenge and change.


 

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roxanne@hawaimages.com (Hawa Images) business entrepreneur immigrant local refugee refugees Relief seamstress sewing stories we welcome World https://gallery.hawaimages.com/blog/2020/1/pursuing-her-dreams-ibtisams-tailor-shop Tue, 14 Jan 2020 17:20:38 GMT
Education leads to change: Bilel's Story with World Relief https://gallery.hawaimages.com/blog/2019/12/education-leads-to-change-bilels-story-with-world-relief

I’ve always believed that education is the most powerful weapon which we can use to help the world,” Bilel Dekhili is a talented and passionate leader who believes that education will change the future. He has built his company Engineering DN@ from the ground up and loves helpings children learn through a stimulating play focused environment. “Teaching kids is the next revolution for the future,” he says. “You are giving something to an entire generation. You are investing in kids who are going to invest in other people.”
 

Check out Bilel Dekhili's story is featured over at World Relief. 

It was a joy to capture Bilel in partnership with World Relief Chicago. 
 

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roxanne@hawaimages.com (Hawa Images) Chicago humanitarian photography Relief World https://gallery.hawaimages.com/blog/2019/12/education-leads-to-change-bilels-story-with-world-relief Fri, 20 Dec 2019 19:13:29 GMT
A poet in both words and actions https://gallery.hawaimages.com/blog/2019/12/a-poet-n-both-words-and-actions

Nazish welcomes me to her apartment with a kind smile, a quiet voice, and welcoming hospitality.  Within minutes we are talking about things that really matter in life; culture, education, faith, politics, trauma, and family.  Her reserved and calm demeanor remains even as she shares deeply personal stories from her life and it is clear that her wisdom has been hard fought through living though deep pain and intense joy.  I had heard her poetry months earlier and the words came back to me as she spoke to me on her couch as we both sipped tea.

She is truly a poet even in her second language and she weaves words so deliberately as she shares parts of her story. I was invited to her home through my ongoing work with World Relief Dupage Aurora because Nazish is bravely sharing more about her journey for healing and peace and is ready to speak out.   Our 30 minute session soon turned into 3 hours and sharing stories and building the beginnings of a friendship I hope continues.  My life is richer having been invited into her home and her life.  Learn more of her story over at World Relief including some of her moving poetry.

 

Nazish recently shared some of her with a local 7th Graders who had been reading the book Refugee

"Having Mrs. Koba was very enlightening and was a fun way to learn, though her experiences were quite sad. It wasn't like a normal day at school because we had to plan our questions beforehand. Since we did get to plan, our class got to ask good questions and really have a deep conversation." Dasha S., a 7th grader at Westmont Junior High School shared about a recent day in Literacy Class that brought experiences the students had only read about into their classroom in a very real way.  

7th Graders in Mrs. Poloncsik’s classes at Westmont Junior High School have been immersing themselves in the narratives of refugees from different periods in history through reading the book Refugee by Alan Gratz.  The book follows the narratives of 3 young people who come from different locations in the world but are united in their forced relocation due to violence or persecution, making them refugees. Joseph is a Jewish boy in 1930s Nazi Germany and with the threat of concentration camps looming he and his family board a ship not knowing what the future will hold. Isabel is a Cuban girl in the1990’s and finds herself in danger when riots and unrest plague her country.  She and her family set out on a raft, hoping to find safety and freedom in America. And lastly Mahmoud is a Syrian boy in 2015 with his homeland torn apart by violence and destruction, he and his family begin a long journey toward Europe in hopes of safety.


As the students read the novel, they wrestled through trying to understand the varying historical contexts and what it would mean to leave home. Students learned about the UNHCR and the process for gaining “refugee status” as well as several historical changes to the laws since the Refugee Act of 1980 that allowed for a systemic process by which persons with refugee designations are admitted to a country of resettlement. Mrs. Poloncsik sought to take their learning and research to another level and invited a guest who has herself been forced to flee her homeland of Pakistan as a refugee to share parts of her story.  Explains teacher Mrs. Poloncsik, "Bringing this opportunity to our room was really eye-opening for my students. We enjoyed learning from an expert who truly knew what the characters in our novel had navigated." 

Nazish  came in to share vulnerably some of her experiences as she was forced to flee her homeland and the process of coming to resettle in America.  Nazish is a poet in every sense of the word even in her second language and she weaved words so deliberately as she shared parts of her story with the students. Her reserved and calm demeanor remained even as she shared deeply personal stories from her life and it is clear that her wisdom has been hard fought through living though deep pain and intense joy. Nazish bravely shared more about her journey for healing and peace after being in the United States for less than a year and reflecting on her life. Students had prepared thoughtful questions to ask her about her experiences after reading an article published by World Relief in which Nazish opened up about the mental health challenges she has faced after experiencing so many devastating times in her life.  She discussed the services she has participated in and how she also writes poetry to express herself.  WJHS has a partnership with Hope for Day, an organization that provides mental health education to students and the students made connections around positive mental health and overcoming challenges.  They asked questions like “how were you able to remain positive after experiencing so many hard things?” Their curiosity about how Nazish is liking America was evident as well as they inquired about “what foods do you like in America?” and “Do you want to have a pet here?”  "Blending Mrs. Engstrom (a parent volunteer) and Mrs. Koba into our learning environment really brings our novel and the issues we've been studying to a new level. We are so thankful for the experience to learn and grow with our guests."  said Mrs. Poloncsik. 


 

Each classroom had selected a student to give a welcome statement and this meant a lot to Nazish who shared that she felt appreciated during her time at WJHS.  To end her time with the students Nazish even read the beginnings of a new poem she is working on called “Refugee” in her heart language of Urdu as a parent volunteer translated into English for the students. Some excerpts from the poem included

 “I want to tell you the story of refugees.

They can never truly be youth (in the camps)

There are no kings or queens.

They only get food and water through facing many difficulties.

There are no Muslims, Christians, or Hindus

There is just ONE religion called Humanity and the refugee is the founder.

I want to tell you the story of refugees.

First, they have embraced death and then they meet new life.

I want to tell you the story of refugees.”   

After she read her poem the students applauded and thanked her. Mrs. Poloncsik shared, "While reading and writing together is valuable, having a guest educator brings so much more to light. Mrs. Koba bravely shared her insights, which was so magical for these class periods. We learned about her experiences, and how brave people can be."         

Students even shared their learning at home that opened up new conversations within their families as a result of this educational opportunity, "Before meeting her, I never imagined my dad to be a refugee. Having her in class opened my eyes to how many refugees there really are and what was actually going on with my family before they came to America." Dasha S. shared with her classmates. In our society and schools it can be so difficult to truly teach empathy but these students are learning to listen to someone’s story and be respectfully curious about experiences that are different from their own and that is a lesson that matters. Jeniyah H., 7th grader, shares "My favorite part was her poem, especially the line about humanity." We all can benefit from listening to each other’s stories and these 7th graders are leading the way.

 

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roxanne@hawaimages.com (Hawa Images) health mental Pakistan poet refugee Relief World https://gallery.hawaimages.com/blog/2019/12/a-poet-n-both-words-and-actions Wed, 04 Dec 2019 22:31:56 GMT
Celebrating Hair care with Heart: S4K Gala 2019 https://gallery.hawaimages.com/blog/2019/11/celebrating-hair-care-with-heart-s4k-gala-2019

Styles for Kidz hosted their annual Gala Making a Difference '19 on Saturday November 2nd in Oak Park.  There were more guests this year than any previous year as the organization celebrated so much this year; more hair care workshops, a new salon location that is constantly busy, more families and children served, & nationwide recognition of the good work of S4KStyles 4 Kidz mission is to to provide high-quality, compassionate hair care education and services for African-American kids in foster care and transracial adoptive families.

Many gathered to hear stories of impact from the founder Tamekia Swint as well as stylists, adoptees, and adoptive parents.  The stylists not only do hair but they invest in kids and families. It is about so much more than hair.  Throughout the night there were Facebook live interviews providing updates about the organization and hair care tips to S4K's many followers throughout the U.S.  Supporters received recognition because as Tamekia Swint repeated throughout the night it takes many people to allow S4K to serve and love families and young people so well. There was food catered by Kitchfix and music by DJ Carnell.  The gala attendees also bid on a variety of auction items to benefit S4K directly. You can still get in on the online auction until Black Friday so check it out here

Some of the fabulous moments from the gala....


 

DJ Carnell had the guests dancing and enjoying themselves until the event ended. 






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roxanne@hawaimages.com (Hawa Images) 4 African American Black care hair haircare Kidz NGO photography Styles https://gallery.hawaimages.com/blog/2019/11/celebrating-hair-care-with-heart-s4k-gala-2019 Tue, 12 Nov 2019 17:06:47 GMT
Raising the Banner for Bilingualism and Biliteracy: Bienvenido to Dual Language at Miller School https://gallery.hawaimages.com/blog/2019/11/raising-the-banner-for-bilingualism-and-biliteracy-dual-language-program When you enter Ms. Afre’s 4th grade Dual Language classroom it is abuzz with activity. There is discussion, concentration, quiet reading, sharing, reflection, and- because they are kids- occasional giggling.  Students are at stations working on reading, analyzing text, and answering each other’s questions as well as her animated questions in Spanish.  One student listens to a fellow student read a text in Spanish and then offers feedback, “you read that really well, just one word was pronounced wrong.” Ms. Afre uses her whole body and voice to ask comprehension and opinion questions of her small group.  She fist bumps and high fives her students while still managing to quell a situation arising in another group clear across the room (a sign of any skilled teacher).  It is clear she has a deep passion for teaching and caring for her students. 

From kindergarten to 5th grade each dual language classroom was alive with activity and the walls are adorned with student work in both English and Spanish as well as an American flag next to a picture of Frida Kahlo in one room. Pictures books in English and Spanish fill the book shelves of the younger grades and the students take deep pride in showing off their language skills. Spending time in the Dual Language Program at Miller Elementary in Westmont it is clear the teachers and leaders of the school are engaging their students in much more than just curriculum

Students were eager to share why they love being a part of the Dual Language Program. 3rd grader Maxwell Hoover shared, “I think it is so cool because we go to Mexico for summer break and now I can talk to the people there.” 4th grade student Zohanna Coyle shared “What I like most about dual language is learning to write in Spanish!” Emelia Meza, another 4th grader added, “plus we get to make Spanish projects!” Giovanni Cruz said, “I really like learning to speak more than one language.” Robin Montgomery, a 3rd grader said, “I think it is really important to learn other languages to be able to help someone if they need something then I can help.” Abigail Martinez, a 4th grader added, “I like to translate!”

 

The Dual Language Program goes beyond teaching a second language though. 

Mrs. Gonzalez, a 2nd grade teacher shared, “This program is about open mindedness and acceptance of one another.   We learn together and focus on respecting and appreciating each other’s differences. I love to see them learn! They are like little sponges and it is so amazing to see them understanding.”

Ms. Afre, a 4th grade teacher who believes it is vital to help her student navigate in a global world shared, “For our students having dual language at the forefront of their life they will have the ability to interact and integrate and adapt to each other’s lives without merely accepting preconceptions.” She continued, “from an academic standpoint we are helping them to be globally confident, not just linguistically but also socially, emotionally, and culturally. They will have not only an academic but a social advantage in the workplace. We choose to come together on equal footing to create a platform of understanding.”

Ms. Moller, the Assistant Principal who is also bilingual stated that the Dual Language Program has grown into a program at the forefront of other programs, “we are raising the banner of biliteracy and bilingualism and as a new administrator I am excited to see all that has already happened in 6 years. We are already rolling out programs to the junior high.” As an administrator Ms. Moller hopes to create a vision about the great things students can do with their bilingual education, help teachers grow professionally in the teaching of Spanish, and to help more parents and students see the value and asset of bilingualism. “The district has a goal to graduate students from high school with the ‘seal of biliteracy’ so they can get college credit for language competency as this will set them apart from monolingual students.“  She is clearly proud of the great work in each classrooms and seeks to be involved in the day to day of the Dual Language Program.

A community member and parent of a 1st grader Leesa Lance shared why she feels grateful to be a part of the program at Miller, “Our school in general is a fantastic close-knit learning environment. Yet even more importantly for us, as a transracial family, I’m thrilled that my son’s learning experience is not simply one that teaches children to tolerate difference. But rather, his mind is being formed in a place that is empowering and encouraging him to celebrate diversity! The science behind the academic benefits of children having a dual language teaching experience is undeniable. And honestly that just feels like a bonus to the rich cultural and social emotional aspects of this outstanding program.”

Luke Jimenea, one of Ms. Afre’s students is learning more than just language.  He talked about his cultural heritage from the Philippines and how being a part of the Dual Language Program has helped him appreciate language and culture even more. Luke shared, “I can learn another language because it is important to know more languages and we can even help teach others language like if they are from Mexico and we can learn from them too.”

He along with many other students are learning the importance of being a global citizen as a part of the Dual Language Program at Miller.


Bienvenidos to dual language at Miller. 

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roxanne@hawaimages.com (Hawa Images) bilingual biliteracy dual education English for language non profit school schools Spanish storytelling https://gallery.hawaimages.com/blog/2019/11/raising-the-banner-for-bilingualism-and-biliteracy-dual-language-program Mon, 04 Nov 2019 18:40:19 GMT
Hope & Resilience: Cardenas Institute https://gallery.hawaimages.com/blog/2019/10/hope-resilience-cardenas-institute
When I first spoke with Rita Romero, the founder of Cardenas Institute her passion and knowledge spilled forth from her.  Her gifts and passion connect with deep needs in our world and it is clear she is exactly where she needs to be.  She shared some of personal story including her life in Peru informing her deep love of all people and that the name Cardenas Institute is in honor of two strong woman that she seeks to follow; her grandmother and mother.



Cardenas Institute seeks to provide training, counseling, educational services, and products to help families, couples, children, and individuals heal and find wholeness to thrive as part of a global community.  

Rita spoke of trauma informed therapy as so necessary for healing, "Cardenas Institute looks to be part of the bigger conversation about resilience and hope, and also wants to embark on the journey of bringing more kindness, and respect for others in the world by providing free resources, education about trauma, and making trauma therapy available to children and families at an affordable price.



Rita Romero speaks with conviction and passion, "I love my work and I am thrilled to be a part of the global community that strives to bring an effective blend of experience, expertise, clarity, concern and action to the counseling and educational process in order to maximize outcomes and provide genuine healing and wholeness to children, young adults, adults, marriages, and families."

 


I am grateful to have been invited to be part of capturing Cardenas Institute's story and am so grateful for the ital and compassionate work they are doing in the world. Learn more here.


 

 

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roxanne@hawaimages.com (Hawa Images) Cardenas children citizens EMDR family global informed Institute marriage therapy trauma https://gallery.hawaimages.com/blog/2019/10/hope-resilience-cardenas-institute Tue, 29 Oct 2019 15:59:54 GMT
Trivia Night at Fat Cat for Foster Progress https://gallery.hawaimages.com/blog/2019/10/trivia-night-at-fat-cat-for-foster-progress

Last Wednesday Night Foster Progress hosted a Trivia Night  to benefit their programs and vision.  Foster Progress empowers Illinois youth currently or formerly in foster care to attain a college degree and transition into adulthood successfully by providing mentorship, advocacy, and educational opportunity. 

Trivia Night included a costume context, team trivia, and great food and drinks at Fat Cat Chicago and together they raised for $2,680 for mentoring, scholarships, advocacy, and training for foster youth! Learn more about Foster Progress here. 



 

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roxanne@hawaimages.com (Hawa Images) care Cat Chicago college education Fat for foster humanitarian mentoring NGO non photography profit Progress https://gallery.hawaimages.com/blog/2019/10/trivia-night-at-fat-cat-for-foster-progress Mon, 28 Oct 2019 21:21:18 GMT
Sharing about service & its impact on our mental health: Conversations Summit 2019 https://gallery.hawaimages.com/blog/2019/9/sharing-about-service-its-impact-on-our-mental-health-conversations-summit-2019

Students from the Westmont Junior High School & Westmont High School along with the principal of WJHS Mr. Jonak and staff of CUSD 201 Ms. Bartosz, & Ms. Hillertz traveled to UIC Chicago to share an educational session entitled “Serving Your Way to Resiliency” at the 2019 Conversations Summit hosted by Hope for the Day.

They students worked together to create a presentation highlighting the SLCC learning and service opportunities and how this affects the mental health of students at the Jr. High.  They also shared personal stories of how serving has impacted their mental health and their outlook on the world. Mr. Jonak and Ms. Bartosz led the way in sharing personal and vulnerably about what they have learned through both hardships and service.

Nobody is going to leave this life without struggle,” Mr. Jonak shared part of his story and invited Lori, A Senior Landscape Architect who partner with the Jonak and family and their local school after his daughter Katie passed to create a beautiful memorial to her memory that engage many volunteers from the community. 

Ms. Bartosz discussed her leave of absence from the district in order to pursue travel and service for a year, “we want to show you that we value what we want you to do we value ourselves as well.”

She shared many stories of her time traveling with Hope Travels- and she was quick to point out, “this is not about me bringing hope- but about building relationships. Service is not me coming to save the day- that is too much pressure! People say to me- tell me about all the cool stuff you did and I respond “I didn’t do cool things. I got to see many people, work with many people, and make friends who are doing really cool things. I was abundantly blessed to be a part of this work.”

Students shared throughout the presentation about all they have learned doing service learning.  Pranav Viswanath shared about the importance of making service part of your life in Jr High, High School, and beyond.  He challenged the audience to find needs in their community and act using their passions and gifts. 

Diellza Dalipi explained what the service requirements are for each grade level and Joey Dooley (a freshman) spoke of his experiences in serving using things he loves, like sports to lead a sports camp and teach younger kids.  He also served at an adult day care to earn his service hours.

Emmy, the Westmont Junior High's service dog was there for their presentation and as always offered love and comfort for the students. 

As her fellow students passed out a copy of a note she had written two years ago Margie Anders spoke of a time in her life where she struggled to believe she was ok.


In 6th grade she was; as she described it “in a dark hole” and thought she needed to change everything about herself. She shared, “the service program that the jr high implemented has changed my life. I would still be in the dark hole I was in if it was not for service.  Service can make your life brighter and helped me look at other’s people’s point of view and it can help you see yourself differently. And we when do service it is a snowball effect, we can start it and then it’s a chain and goes on forever”

Another student; Daniel McKay(an 8th grader) spoke about how service can impact each one of us, “it takes your mind off just yourself and all that is going on in your life and really puts your mind on others and positive change out in our world.”

Annikah Engstrom; an 8th grader shared how her view of the world is different because of volunteering with World Relief, “I learned the people we are serving; refugees and immigrants, have so much to teach me. They are so hospitable and kind to us.”

Students and educators from CUSD 201 attended other sessions to learn from others committed to breaking the silence on mental health as well and they boldly shared about the connection between mental health and service and inspired many to think of ways they can make service part of their life- to not only change themselves but their community.


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roxanne@hawaimages.com (Hawa Images) Chicago Day for health Hope humanitarian leadership mental NGO photography students the Westmont https://gallery.hawaimages.com/blog/2019/9/sharing-about-service-its-impact-on-our-mental-health-conversations-summit-2019 Wed, 25 Sep 2019 12:45:50 GMT
Learning to Lead. Jr High Student Council Elections https://gallery.hawaimages.com/blog/2019/9/learning-to-lead-jr-high-student-council-elections On a very warm day at the Westmont Junior High students running for student council were introduced by the social studies teachers and allowed to share their hopes for the year if their fellow students would trust in them and elect them.  I captured their creativity and boldness and I kind of want to be like them- so brave to share their speeches in front of the entire school! 

There was creativity; number cards with each reason the students should vote, humor, promises of changes, and even throwing T-shirts into the crowd. Steve Nero, a local village Trustee and Ron Gunter, the Mayor of Westmont also spoke to the students and encouraged them to participate in making their school a great place.  

The Mayor Ron Gunter and Steve Nero also posed with the students after the assembly and congratulated them on their desire to lead within their school community. 

Mr. John Viano, State Director, presented Principal Jonak, Assistant Principal Quattrone and our teaching staff with the Illinois Horizon Schools To Watch Award and Mr. Jonak congratulated the entire school community as well as recognizing the team of staff at the junior high who led the way in these efforts. 

Local leaders- both students and adults were there helping to improve their community and inspire others to join in local government.  

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roxanne@hawaimages.com (Hawa Images) council high junior leadership local politics student Westmont https://gallery.hawaimages.com/blog/2019/9/learning-to-lead-jr-high-student-council-elections Wed, 18 Sep 2019 21:44:47 GMT
a quick trip to NYC in street scenes https://gallery.hawaimages.com/blog/2019/8/a-quick-trip-to-nyc

On a recent trip to NYC I explored and tried to document our trip with some street photography.  Street photography has always fascinated me; the idea of capturing exactly what is present around you and thus becoming more aware of your surroundings by documenting it. I am not at all confident in this style but I love always learning more and the best way to learn is to pick up your gear and try and fail and try again.    

One of the first photographs ever in 1839 was captured in Paris and included a blurred image of a man on the boulevard so street photography is as old as photography itself.  Street photography seeks to tell the story or what is- to observe and document. Like anything in art it takes time and skill to tell these stories well. I was first intrigued studying the work of Vivian Maier and others and I love seeing their creativity expressed through images. 

"From the moment of its birth, photography had a dual character—as a medium of artistic expression and as a powerful scientific tool." 
Malcolm Daniel
Department of Photographs, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Although I spend the majority of my time with a camera in hand capturing curated moments for clients and organizations I am intrigued by street photography and always want to be stretching and learning. It does not require much planning but it does require practice and curiosity. I spent some time capturing scenes around New York- and can I say Harlem was my absolute favorite place in New York! 

A few tips if you want to try this too:

*Don't rush- it is worth the wait & you learn more if you are patient!  This is true of all types of photography but especially street, travel, or documentary type photography. You have to go and just WAIT- observe and wait for a moment that needs to be told.This helps you capture more candid moments of real life. 

*Respect local customs & rules! Research the ethics of street photography and consent where you hope to capture images.  This varies from culture to culture so respect those norms. For example, in the U.S. people in public spaces do not have a right to privacy, meaning they can be legally photographed. Public places count as parks, shopping malls, sidewalks and roads, common spaces in between buildings.  I still always try to respect those I am able to capture- I sometimes just simply raise the camera from a far and nod or show them the image after & offer to send them a copy (as I did in some of these images).  

*Experiment, fail, & be creative! Try raising the shutter speed or lowering it to freeze or blur motion.  Try the same with ISO since many street images can be in low light (like these at night or in the subway).  Use your creativity and try new things! See how the story shifts slightly using creative aspects of photography. 

You can see more of our personal images of tour NY adventures here. Our itinerary was created by Weekender Pro. 






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roxanne@hawaimages.com (Hawa Images) city Harlem High life Line murals New NYC photography public street transit York https://gallery.hawaimages.com/blog/2019/8/a-quick-trip-to-nyc Mon, 26 Aug 2019 21:18:04 GMT
“We’re just happy to have a safe space to lay our heads every night.” GNP: Part 3 https://gallery.hawaimages.com/blog/2019/8/-we-re-just-happy-to-have-a-safe-space-to-lay-our-heads-every-night-gnp-part-3

I walked into New Life Interim Housing on a frigid February day to warm smiles and kids running around greeting their Moms and friends after they arrived home from school. The families and people I met at New Life defy their current circumstances with amazing grit & hope. 

New Life is a safe haven and chance for a fresh start for many and one resident described how grateful she was for a safe place, "We're (her daughter and herself) just happy to have a safe space to lay our heads every night."  

New Life Interim Housing is a 36-bed shelter that provides a safe, warm environment for women, children, and families for up to 120 days. Residents all contribute to the daily life at New Life through cleaning and cooking and caring for the space. 

Good News Partners is committed to provide the tools needed to break free from homelessness focusing on potential and building on assets of the clients that spend a season at New Life.   Each client is partnered with our case manager to help them establish goals that will be critical in rebuilding their lives and casting a vision of hope for the future.

Good News Partners shares,  "At New Life, we are committed to helping those in need and ensuring that they have the support and tools needed to jump start their lives and transition to more permanent housing. Some seasons in our lives are longer than we think the should be but that does not mean we should throw away the rest of our lives. We help our residents transition into the next season of their lives. " 

They seek to dignify the current season while encouraging their clients to envision a future with new hopes and dreams.  


In addition to case management, GNP also offer referrals to job training programs, assistance in finding medical and legal resources, and once they are ready - access to transitional housing options.

Typically families who stay longer have better outcomes because they are able to save money and work with the resources that GNP provides to help address many of the the needs in their lives. Newly painted blue bunk beds take up half of the space along with a communal kitchen and bathroom, area for dining, a playroom for the children, and a family room with a TV.

One of the distinctives of New Life was that it was difficult to tell which family units came in together because as they lived together there was clearly a community formed.  Kids were greeted by multiple hugs from other residents and staff as they arrived home from school. Staff and residents alike corrected and affirmed the children seamlessly.   

The young people I met bravely shared some of the struggles-changing schools, fearing for their moms among others but they also shared typical teenage life- showed us YouTube videos, bemoaned too much homework, celebrated school success and shared about the clubs and extracurricular activities they love.   

Isaiah attends a local high school and loves playing football. He requested a portrait with his mom- it is clear the deep respect and love he has for her for "never letting me down."  

Miss Daisy was the night staff member doing multiple tasks all while greeting residents and graciously sharing some of her life story with us.  She is originally from Texas but found herself in Chicago and had an addiction issue that haunted her for 30 years. She was actually a resident of the New Life shelter years ago and then moved to the Jonquil. She now lives in the neighborhood and celebrated 8 years of sobriety as well as 8 years of working at New Life. Her loving but stern presence attracted children all night long who know well where she keeps the snacks.  

One of the distinctives of Good News Partners is that many of the staff I had the privilege to meet had been residents or benefited from the programs they offer previously.  This allowed an environment of mutuality and support without the sometimes all too common 'us and them' that can exist in the NGO sphere. Their personal stories and experience inform their compassionate action and this place of empathy is a powerful place to serve fromI learned so much from spending time with them as they quietly & powerfully served. 

The children and moms were preparing for bedtime when I started packing up to head out and Isaiah decided to lead a group hug with the young people and making everyone laugh. He is clearly a leader at New Life and embraces his younger siblings and the other children at New Life with love, humor, & warmth.   

Community matters deeply & can help us have the courage to move from one season to another- learn more about Good News Partners here. 

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roxanne@hawaimages.com (Hawa Images) Chicago dignified homelessness housing NGO photography shelter storytelling transition visual https://gallery.hawaimages.com/blog/2019/8/-we-re-just-happy-to-have-a-safe-space-to-lay-our-heads-every-night-gnp-part-3 Tue, 13 Aug 2019 16:37:35 GMT
If you are willing to work hard you CAN change your life: partnering with GNP Part 2 https://gallery.hawaimages.com/blog/2019/8/if-you-are-willing-to-work-hard-you-can-change-your-life-partnering-with-gnp-part-2
Yvette has been at the Jonquil since last August and the night she got the call from Karen (the manager of the property for Good News Partners) she was sleeping in a park and in her words “out of options.” She met Karen the next morning and moved in. Her gorgeous pink scarf framed her regal and beautiful face as I photographed her going through some of the donations, these (kid’s sneakers) shoes will be good for the mom that lives down the hall from me. I see her every morning getting her kids ready and doing everything that she does and I always think to myself if she can do this so can I.”  She spoke often of the life giving sense of community at the Jonquil. 


She has four grandchildren and loved showing off the pictures she had tucked away of them and we took a couple fun portraits with poses her grand-daughters would love.  Yvette is very grateful for all of the resources that exist in this area, “if you are willing to work hard you can change your life.” She has a beautiful smile that, although she was reluctant to show off at first, is so natural, gorgeous, & speaks of her deep strength.


I was so grateful to hear her story as part of an assignment with Good News Partners. Good News Partner's mission is TO END HOMELESSNESS AND HOPELESSNESS WITH EVERYONE GOD BRINGS US – TO FOSTER JUSTICE, AND BUILD BRIDGES OF RECONCILIATION. GNP seeks to provide desirable and dignified housing for those in transition and over the course of a week I was welcomed in to meet people and capture stories from many residents living in their various properties in Chicago.


One of the distinctives of Good News Partners is that many of the staff I had the privilege to meet had been residents or benefited from the programs they offer previously.  This allowed an environment of mutuality and support without the sometimes all too common 'us and them' that can exist in the NGO sphere. Their personal stories and experience inform their compassionate action and this place of empathy is a powerful place to serve fromI learned so much from spending time with them as they quietly & powerfully served. 


Karen is the manager and also lives at the Jonquil with the residents she manages.  Karen’s name was mentioned by every single resident of the Jonquil as the person that “ knows my situation”, “ helps me so much,” “I would do anything for Karen”, “she is always here to help and understands me.”
At first reluctant to be in the spotlight it is clear that she labors to connect with and empower the residents not from a place of paternalism but from a place of friendship and love.

“I have made lots of mistakes and lived a lot of life before being here. I’ve seen too many things.” -William.

These brothers welcomed me into their SRO room and we immediately connected over the Cubs poster on heir wall. They are about a year apart and are from Puerto Rico originally. William originally came to the US for rehab after a cousin told him he could get clean here. A large and still healing scar across William’s knee means that he is not as mobile as he would like to be and will soon get his own apartment on the first floor. He was in a coma for a month and a half and his brother came to visit three times a week. William said, “I did not know he was there but he helps me and I help him.” They both said that they will do anything for Karen because she knows them and their situation and does everything she can to help them. William often jumps into volunteer with sweeping or cleaning in the building to help Karen.  
His motivation to keep working towards his goals are his family. William said he just wants his mother to be able to sleep at night and know that her son is safe. “It was too long that she didn’t know that.”

He has children in Miami and wants to be present for them. GNP has allowed these brothers to have safety and stability as they work to rebuild their lives. 


I met 2 more of the staff at GNP over at another property just down the street from the Jonquil they were working hard to rehab called the Esperanza. Fidel, originally from Mexico and his brother Marcos (another property manager for GNP) have worked with GNP for years and have also been residents on the affordable housing as well. Fidel loves the Bears (loved his hat!) & has seen the properties change a lot over time.

William was shy but it was clear when I photographed him with Fidel (Fidel called William “The handsome one”) that they have a great working relationship and friendship. They were working hard at painting trim and rehabbing the kitchen that will be home to folks soon.


Sharing more from GNP soon but please check out their newly launched website for more about their good work in Chicago. 

 

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roxanne@hawaimages.com (Hawa Images) Chicago dignified homelessness housing NGO photography shelter storytelling transition visual https://gallery.hawaimages.com/blog/2019/8/if-you-are-willing-to-work-hard-you-can-change-your-life-partnering-with-gnp-part-2 Thu, 01 Aug 2019 15:23:36 GMT
overcoming & accomplishing: recent Grads with Foster Progress https://gallery.hawaimages.com/blog/2019/7/overcoming-accomplishing-recent-grads-with-foster-progress

Foster Progress celebrated their recent high school graduates with a Scholarships Awards Dinner in Chicago.  It was a joy to be there to capture the relationships with mentors and youth and to see the graduates feel so celebrated as they shared from their experiences. Students also received awards and scholarship money to be used for the pursuit of higher education.  They have overcome so much and accomplished so much it it deserves to be celebrated. 

I adore partnering with this organization doing such good work to help the dream of college and higher education become a reality for youth from foster care. Foster Progress empowers Illinois youth currently or formerly in foster care to attain a college degree and transition into adulthood successfully by providing mentorship, advocacy, and educational opportunity. Foster Progress refuses to allow the current narrative and outcomes for youth in care to play out- they are a social disruptor that is already seeing individuals- mentors and youth in care- lives' changed. They are already seeing advocacy work pay off in new laws that are helping to disassemble the unfair and overly harsh guidelines for entering college change so youth in care can access education.  It is always an honor to partner with them to share these stories that matter.... 

Program Manager Jasa basking in the success of the evening and the year

Founder Kate Danielson shares her "secrets of adulthood" including such treasures as "we're all just faking it" & "never be afraid to advocate for yourself and ask questions."  

Each grad received awards & recognition for all they have overcome and all Foster Progress sees in them that will serve them well in college.   

A recent grad shares her experience in the program and how her mentor helped her set goals & fight through when things got tough.  

Mentor Jenn listening to her mentee share her experience in the Mentoring and Scholarship Program.

Mentor AnitaMarie getting some love from her mentee.

Mentor Kira with her mentee, Danielle. These two keep everyone  laughing.

A recent grad with his proud foster Mom

Many of the Foster Progress students get talking to each other and find out they have lived with the same foster parents over their years in care. These two ended up living with the same foster mom, so now they're sisters! They can share their common history- not being alone in this journey makes  huge difference for so many.  
 

Join the Foster Progress movement in changing the story for youth in care.  

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roxanne@hawaimages.com (Hawa Images) care DCFS education foster humanitarian NGO photography Progress https://gallery.hawaimages.com/blog/2019/7/overcoming-accomplishing-recent-grads-with-foster-progress Wed, 24 Jul 2019 00:57:05 GMT
"Learning to sing in the fire" with Nancy: partnering with Good News Partners Part 1 https://gallery.hawaimages.com/blog/2019/7/learningtosinginthefire

“In order to gain something, you have to let go of it. You cannot receive with it clenched fists. Through my journey, I learned about how not to panic. I learned not to force things. I learned to take a step back and let life play out. I learned that mastery is not about doing things perfectly, but about recognizing what is going wrong and being able to sit back and understand we do not see the whole picture - but God sees everything. I learned to be still and trust God.” -Nancy.

Nancy welcomes you into her room at the Jonquil and her presence, vibrant smile, & personality are evident immediately and they openly defy many parts of her story that include layers of pain and loss. She has fought hard for the great resilience and strength that spilled forth from her as she showed us around her home.  I was so grateful to hear her story as part of an assignment with Good News Partners. Good News Partner's mission is  TO END HOMELESSNESS AND HOPELESSNESS WITH EVERYONE GOD BRINGS US – TO FOSTER JUSTICE, AND BUILD BRIDGES OF RECONCILIATION. GNP seeks to provide desirable and dignified housing for those in transition and over the course of a week I was welcomed in to meet people and capture stories from many residents living in their various properties in Chicago.


Finding herself in need of stability and a fresh start after the death of her husband and losing everything, Nancy looked at many SRO’s (Single Resident Occupancy), but found The Jonquil to be the best place for her. She had lived here years before and found herself coming back with a new sense of what God was doing in her life. She feels safe which is something many take for granted but without which humans cannot thrive, "So no matter what happens out there I am in the eye of the storm in here- I feel safe, because where I was living before was not safe.”
 

The transformation she has made in the space is pretty amazing! She clearly has so much pride in the way that she cares for and maintains her room and loved showing us the creative ways she had to make great use of a small space; cutting a shower curtain to put under her kitchen area for storage, pieces of a yoga mat decorating the wall and giving a chair to her vanity area some cushion, a chair cover that matches her décor from Good Will.

I sat in her beautifully decorated apartment with inspirational quotes on the walls ('keep life simple, thankful, well behaved women seldom make history, this girl definitely can, do all things with love, & what feels like the end is often the beginning') and these quotes became more true and real during the 90 minutes of her sharing with such vulnerability & candor her story of as she describes herself as the “prodigal daughter.” She shared about her life in Germany before coming to the US, abuse that crippled her young years, drug and alcohol addiction that haunted her for years, her marriage, getting an amazing job and a beautiful home but also the lack of preparedness she had for that new life.  She has had much and had little and knows money does not solve problems...“I was living a white picket fence life and now I no longer was addicted to drugs but now I became addicted to shopping and material things- I just transferred my addiction around.”

Nancy lost everything again and again discovered that community and God would not allow the voices of her past to speak the loudest,  “I know all things are possible with God- I began to develop gifts because I was put into pressure cookers because life was squeezing my gifts out of me.” Her gifts are clearly evident at the Jonquil.  

She shared a story from her childhood she remembers recalling during a difficult season in her life. "I remembered when I was a little girl and my art teacher told me that the pottery was not done until it hummed- until the fire had finished it."  She said looking back she realized that she needed to learn to “sing in the fire.”  And that is what she is learning through the opportunity for safe housing and community at the Jonquil.  
Many of the staff I met had been through the programs as residence prior and they have real personal experience that help them serve and love those in the programs from a place of empathy. Their personal stories inform the compassion they offer to others at Good News Partners.  

Sharing more from GNP soon but please check out their newly launched website for more about their good work in Chicago. 

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roxanne@hawaimages.com (Hawa Images) Chicago dignified homelessness housing NGO photography shelter storytelling transition visual https://gallery.hawaimages.com/blog/2019/7/learningtosinginthefire Tue, 23 Jul 2019 14:43:47 GMT
Self expression & celebrating each other's stories with students https://gallery.hawaimages.com/blog/2019/6/self-expression-celebrating-others-stories-in-5th-grade Processed with VSCO with f2 preset

"What are your hobbies, interests, passions, fears, & hopes?"

"What do you love about yourself?" 

"What is a part of your story others may not know?"

"What do others say you are great at?"

"What do you hope to add to the world?"

These are just a few of the self-reflective questions the 5th graders were asked to answer as a part of a recent Self Portrait Project.  In partnership with a local elementary school we focused on  lessons on visual storytelling and strong elements in image creation. We learned about consent and responsibility in the visual imagery we create (these are such important lessons in this digital imagery world).  Then in partnership with their teachers we guide them through the process of brainstorming, creative writing, and deciding how they want to share their story through a self portrait. 

Over the next few weeks we captured their images together using professional gear, tripod, remote, etc which is a huge highlight for the students. Next they learn basic editing skills to enhance their story and they write captions. 

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Seeing the students celebrate each others ideas and creativity is my favorite part of this project. They helped each other hone their ideas and joined in on their classmate's images when needed.

The final results was shared during the end of the year awards assembly with parents and community members. Each student took their framed image home to remember this moment in their lives.  We also presented a collage of all the images to the principal to be displayed in the school as their legacy of the class of 2019 now that these students are moving on to Jr High.  

Seeing their unique ideas come to life is a joy to watch! Here are some of their self portraits & captions from the last 2 years of this Self Portrait Project:

I am proud to be Syrian- American. 

The Earth with Art is just "eh"

Believers for Life: Unicorns are real. 


Even though we are different colors and have different cultures and religions, we are FRIENDS.

Beauty isn't always what's on the outside. it's your talents and what matters most to YOU. 

I love football so much that I want to be a football star like Odel Backem if I can be like him I can be like the best football player ever.

When I dance, I want everyone to know that dance is part of who I am. 


Music makes me who I am. 

Without music life would be a mistake. 


In Art, beauty isn't what you see in the mirror or in the artwork, it's what you se IN the person behind it. 

I have always wanted to fly, and throughout my injury I have always been able to do it.

Reading is amazing. It can take you anywhere.

Sometimes life can be messy; you just have to smile through it.

My dog Max, is my best friend & he helps me through tough times. 

Baseball is my passion & gives me confidence. 

Art is what makes me, me. 

Queen of Jazz.

 I can be who i want to be- this girl is on FIRE. 

Brain puzzles give me my power. 

Mrs. Walsh got me into math and now I really like it. 

This is what I was born to do. 

Friends are there for life, but sisters and there for eternity.  

My camera helps me become more creative. 

Joy, competitiveness, and energy. These are things I feel wen I play basketball. 

Cooking is what completes me. 
Nothing better than kickball wit my friends at recess. 

My country is part of who I am & want to be.   My dream comes when I am on the field. 

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These kids are so creative and I love telling them so. It s a privilege and an honor to help them realize their vision. 

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Although I am a visual storyteller these days my training and most of my career was spent teaching middle school and I loved getting the opportunity to be back in the classroom with young people investing in them and celebrating their ideas.  Teaching visual storytelling, self expression, appreciation for others stories matters in our world and I am grateful or the community support and encouragement of this project! 

If you are weary of the current state of the world- spend time with young people- they are full of energy, ideas, and hope.  I love seeing them be excited for each other's stories. One of the greatest skills in life is learning to truly be FOR and celebrate others and a goal of this project is to create an environment of encouragement and mutual appreciation. 

Reach out!! 

 

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roxanne@hawaimages.com (Hawa Images) empathy expression find people portrait project PTO school self storytelling visual voice young your https://gallery.hawaimages.com/blog/2019/6/self-expression-celebrating-others-stories-in-5th-grade Tue, 18 Jun 2019 18:45:16 GMT
Opening day for baseball! https://gallery.hawaimages.com/blog/2019/6/opening-day-for-baseball It is baseball season again! The Westmont Youth Baseball Association (WYBA) was formed in 1983 as a cooperative effort to provide the best possible baseball experience for the children of Westmont and the surrounding areas. The WYBA is an independent non-profit corporation which, through efforts of its many volunteers who manage, coach, help and sponsor teams continues to serve the community and youth to pursue team work & individual skill in baseball. Opening Day 2019 was full of laughter, tradition, excitement, food, family, & community. 


The support from the parents and community makes WYBA a great place for kids and families to be introduced to baseball. I was able to capture Opening Day 2019 for the WYBA. The spirit of community, team work, & encouragement was so evident this day and throughout the season.

Join them here.  Happy baseball season! 

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roxanne@hawaimages.com (Hawa Images) baseball Chicago Chicagoland NGO photographer photography sports Tball youth https://gallery.hawaimages.com/blog/2019/6/opening-day-for-baseball Mon, 17 Jun 2019 15:02:00 GMT
celebrating a legend....& why teachers have my heart forever https://gallery.hawaimages.com/blog/2019/5/celebrating-a-legend-why-teachers-have-my-heart-forever
Mr. Riddle is a legend at Westmont High School and I heard this over and over again from his former students- some of which were not even in the band. He taught and was the band director for 18 years and last Friday many of his former students filled the band room to surprise him to celebrate him and celebrate his retirement. He walked in to a huge cheer and then a silent hand waving cheer (his signature cheer).  There were tears, tons or laughter, so many hugs, & then after a "yearbook group shot" he conducted the band for old times sake.  Mr. Riddle clearly was more than just a teacher or band director as his former students shared what having his leadership meant to them.  It was a special night of people celebrating each other- THIS is why I love this work- I am invited to capture these beautiful moments. And when Mr. Riddle said how grateful he is for his wife Jen and all those who came to thank him you would be correct to assume I teared up from behind my lens. 


 

I will say it again- teachers in my book are the unsung (and under paid) heroes of our world.  Maybe it is because I spent years teaching here in the states in Chicago and overseas in Tanzania, East Africa so I do know how much of your very self you give to your students,  The time & energy good teachers put in t their job should be celebrated!  As I substitute teach these days I get to see the investment many teachers are making everyday in their students- loving them well and calling them in being the young adults and people they CAN be.  I am so glad Mr. Riddle felt the love in that room. May we all take the time to celebrate those who impact our lives in big and small ways. From this band geek for life to all the others- thank for inviting me to capture these moments! 


 

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roxanne@hawaimages.com (Hawa Images) band candid. geeks high lifestyle photography school surprise https://gallery.hawaimages.com/blog/2019/5/celebrating-a-legend-why-teachers-have-my-heart-forever Wed, 29 May 2019 21:01:53 GMT
"I paint what I feel" https://gallery.hawaimages.com/blog/2019/5/an-artist-in-her-gallery

I met the lovely & gifted Monika a few years ago at a Ramadhan celebration.  I was immediately drawn to her warmth and bright smile and as we talked, I learned about her creative spirit & her amazing art work at Canvas by Monika.  She invited me to capture her original and beautiful abstract art at her gallery opening this past Saturday in Chicago & we had so much fun sharing her passion for life & her work.   

Along with her mother and sister’s work (talent clearly runs in the family) her unique and colorful paintings were featured in the gallery. Many friends and family and folks from the community joined the gallery to view the pieces and celebrate their creativity. 

We wanted to capture not just her with her art but the way her art makes her feel.  Many of her pieces are inspired by her faith.  She spoke about naming her pieces and how the names just come to her, “I can never force it, “ she shared. She couldn’t help smiling as she described her piece “Gelato” that was inspired after she was face timing with her cousin in Lithuania and listening to rap music.  The colors and texture spilled out of her from this joyful and happy place and the piece named itself. “I paint what I feel,” she shared.   It is clear that her creativity and kindness are gifts and that it radiates from not just her work by her very self. Thanks Monika- blessings!!  


Congrats ladies- it was a joy to capture you & celebrate your work! 

 

 

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roxanne@hawaimages.com (Hawa Images) artist creative gallery head painting portraits shots https://gallery.hawaimages.com/blog/2019/5/an-artist-in-her-gallery Wed, 15 May 2019 14:15:35 GMT
when they are all our kids https://gallery.hawaimages.com/blog/2019/5/when-they-are-all-our-kids

“We live in a world in we need to share responsibility. It’s easy to say ‘It’s not my child, not my community, not my problem.’ Then there are those who see the need and respond. I consider those people my heroes.”

-Fred Rogers

Chair of the Board of Directors Meegan Dugan Basset opened the Foster Progress Horizon Benefit on Saturday with this quote & it proved to be true over and over again as the night went one and we heard stories from youth in care (or formerly in care), mentors, foster parents, & those working to advocate on behalf of youth in foster care.  The youth and leaders are heroes not because they are extraordinary but because they CHOSE to see kids in care as OUR KIDS. This way of seeing who is our community changes us & allows us to act! 

Within a few short years Foster Progress has seen tremendous growth and impact. They value voices of youth in care and in addition to providing educational opportunities and mentor-ship they have advocated for changes to reduce the burden for youth in care to have access to a college education! 

I have partnered with Foster Progress over the last few years to capture the mentors and youth. As a foster parent myself (you can read more about our journey here and here and here and  here and here) these issues are deeply felt by me and are so central to how I feel we are as a society are meant to love. If we do not care for the children among us that are the most vulnerable we fail. PERIOD. Foster Progress is allowing us ALL to care and show up. 

Saturday night at their Horizon Benefit we heard stories of the good work Foster Progress is doing to advocate & provide mentoring and educational opportunities for youth in foster care, we listened, learned, & had a blast together- because as Kate Danielson, the Executive Director of Foster Progress said, "ain't no party like a  Foster Progress party!"


During the evening their elevated voices of youth in care and allowed them in their own words to share the difference Foster Progress has made in their lives like allowing them to finish high school in the same school, have a mentor that has been key in helping them get financial aid for school, and even funding one amazing young woman's opportunity to study abroad in Tanzania! 


Awards were presented to generous donors and those who have worked to change legislation that continues to place unfair barriers to young people in care applying and succeeding in college. My husband formally joined the board of directors and we can not think of a better way to have spent a Saturday & our time in the future!

A dance party & karaoke ended the night and overall the benefit raised over $55,000 towards the work of Foster Progress!   

If you want to join us please learn more at Foster Progress here or there is still time to give to the benefit here!  These kids are OUR kids.

A few personal images from the night & my daughter and I showing our Foster Progress love..... crazy dancing ones photo credit Frank Gill - so great to work & party with you! 

 

 

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roxanne@hawaimages.com (Hawa Images) benefit care DCFS education event for foster NGO non party photographer photography profit Progress https://gallery.hawaimages.com/blog/2019/5/when-they-are-all-our-kids Tue, 07 May 2019 18:24:44 GMT
a fine day for a courthouse wedding https://gallery.hawaimages.com/blog/2019/3/a-fine-day-for-a-courthouse-wedding The Cook County courthouse building was spilling out onto the street with soon to be newlyweds when I arrived to capture Emma & Vukasin's wedding vows on Saturday morning. While I waited for them to arrive I wandered around and offered congratulations to the many couples who had just gotten married or who were waiting their turn to enter one of the tiny courtrooms as singles and leave as a married couple. The folks gathered were so diverse; some were adorned in full wedding attire, or cultural dresses made of beautiful West African wax print fabric (I am always partial to African fabrics), or Russian traditional wedding clothes sent from their home country just for this day,  and some in everyday street clothes.  Some couples were surrounded by many family members and friends and some came with just their soon to be spouse but they all were about to marry in the small courtrooms just down the escalator right off Lasalle & Randolph in Chicago.  

But seriously can we talk about how cute Emma & Vukasin are!?!?

More from this special and intimate wedding day..... 

Newly married and skyping with the in-laws in Hyderabad, India!  

Waiting for her groom to arrive. 

Emma & Vukasin trusted me to set up a first look right outside the courtroom and it. was. fabulous.

I love the lines of this sculpture and their amazing reactions were just THE BEST.

THIS moment though! 

Emma's Dad arrived just as we got to the courthouse!  

Waiting in line took over an hour but these two were not bored at all.....just loved the joy & fun they have together!  sisters. 

Vukasin is just hilarious- this was totally his idea. The very no nonsense clerk came out into the hallway to collect the marriage licenses & $10 and he loudly declared "WHAT!!! 10 bucks!!!" and had everyone in line cracking up. He also had many of us trying the floss. You would be correct to assume I was one of them. 


That moment your name is called! 


Their laughter is contagious, and in my experience so needed in a successful marriage! 

MARRIED!

After the ceremony we ran around Chicago to capture more of their love story!

This group of tourists handed them their phone and Vukasin assumed they wanted him to take their picture in front of the famous "bean" in Chicago but through some hand signs it was clear they wanted a selfie WITH the bride & groom!

Walking throughout the city was just the best with everyone screaming "Congrats!!" 

Friends from Vukasin's home country of Montenegro brought amazing energy and a reminder of his home culture. He came to the United States when he was 22 & met them here in Chicagoland. I loved hearing them joke and celebrate in Serbian.   The police may have asked these drummers to change locations but when they saw us they quickly found a new spot to play for an unconventional
but fabulous first dance. 

On our way to our last shoot location Emma was getting hangry & she pulled my most favorite bride move EVER & ate some bacon in her wedding dress.

I will forever love this moment.

Emma met Vukasin when we came into Starbucks where she was a barista. She noticed the Diamond Cleaning Service logo on his shirt, along with the fact that he was so cute :), and asked him what he did. He told her that he detailed cars and trucks. Emma, not one to be shy asked if he would clean her car & for how much?" He, not missing a second responded "for you just a free coffee." Emma: "he told me to put my number is his phone so we could schedule the car cleaning, but we ended up scheduling a date instead."  And the rest...as they say.....

We had to include Vukasin's home country in their story to send to his family not in Chicago but back home in Montenegro. 

Congrats again Emma + Vukasin! It was such a privilege and a BLAST to be invited to capture your day! 

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roxanne@hawaimages.com (Hawa Images) adventurous Chicago couples courthouse elopement photographer unconventional wedding https://gallery.hawaimages.com/blog/2019/3/a-fine-day-for-a-courthouse-wedding Wed, 27 Mar 2019 18:52:51 GMT
learning from our children https://gallery.hawaimages.com/blog/2019/3/learning-from-our-children

May we stay curious about people & not assume we have much of anything figured out. May we assume we have more to learn from others than we have to give. May we understand that while complex social issues are complicated & we cannot "fix" them we are still called to love at all times.  May we choose to see & be quick to obey the call to serve & love even when it costs us. 

And may we always seek to be a blessing. 

This was our prayer as Evy and I headed into the city to serve breakfast & spend time with the residents of Breakthrough's Women's center early this week. It was a small thing but for Evy it was her response to God's nudging.  There is something to what Jesus said about becoming like little children. I learn again and again from my children that what my apathy or hard heart has over looked God cares deeply about.  Jason & I volunteered with Breakthrough years ago BK (before kids) every Friday night so it was a blessing to be back and see all that God has done in this organization; a new family center and a men's shelter as well.

This was a long time coming for Evy who really felt God stirring her to enter in to hard parts of our world- and we want to encourage her to go there; not with a simplistic fix but curiosity about what God might be teaching her and what He has to say about people He dearly loves. She was so excited to deliver almost $300 of her birthday party money given by generous friends & family (thank YOU so much!!) and the money that we would have spent on a Christmas gift for her to impact others. She pushed a cart around and served donuts and then asked to sit with some of the residents and asked them about their lives, of course with a little prompting from Mama.  I loved the rich stories and wisdom they shared with her and I had a front row seat to watch my daughter becoming more of who God is calling her to become.  On our car ride back she shared through tears about how grateful for the experience.  I told her I was proud of her and want to celebrate her choosing compassion. It can so often turn to apathy once we listen to the narratives of other-ing in our culture so we need to practice and learn to flex the muscle of compassion spurred on by God's love and not count on our own energy or smarts. I told Evy I think she is pretty awesome for flexing her compassion muscles so young. May she always keep learning & not let her spicy fire to love others go out- I think God loves it.
Just a reminder for you today. 

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roxanne@hawaimages.com (Hawa Images) a breakthrough difference humanitarian kids making ngo photographer photography https://gallery.hawaimages.com/blog/2019/3/learning-from-our-children Wed, 27 Mar 2019 16:11:13 GMT
International Women's Day https://gallery.hawaimages.com/blog/2019/3/international-womens-day

Happy International Women's Day!! I am grateful for all the women who came before & mindful to lift up & encourage all those who will come after us. My girls & I are celebrating International Women’s Day by reminding each other how dearly loved we are & the strength & beauty we were made to embrace and live into. Maybe you need to be reminded too.

You are worthy. You are enough.  Your weakness & vulnerability are beautiful. You are more capable & stronger than you know. Your mess is being transformed. You are made of costly tears and spicy fire- don't let anyone make you feel small. May you occupy space in this world with the knowledge you are deeply loved.

I pray that for all of us we move forward with an appreciation for the diverse and beautiful world. May we learn to love others more and more like God loves us. May we breathe deep & create space for one another without worrying her breathing deep means we will run out of air.  We will not.  We can be for each other and together we are stronger. May we not grow weary until all are able to stand in the sun and in the truth and warmth of their value and dignity as created dear ones. 

A few images of some amazing women that inspire me and I have been blessed to capture. 


 

 



 

 

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roxanne@hawaimages.com (Hawa Images) day international women women's https://gallery.hawaimages.com/blog/2019/3/international-womens-day Fri, 08 Mar 2019 22:58:00 GMT
seeking to make America home https://gallery.hawaimages.com/blog/2019/3/seeking-to-make-america-home
Immigrating to the U.S. means navigating a what can be a confusing and sometimes intimidating process to gain a Green Card and then citizenship.  But for many it is well worth the effort because it means they are guaranteed to be able to stay and live the life they have now made here in America. The social and economic benefits to allowing immigrants to pursue citizenship is real as they can more fully integrate into our national polity.

One of the many important services World Relief Dupage Aurora provides is citizenship clinics where people are able to apply to become citizens of the U.S. On a rainy Saturday morning a couple weeks ago with a bag full of camera gear I arrived to document this stop of the long road to becoming American. I joined the many waiting with well worn documents in folders for what one man from Burma described as "the great privilege" of becoming a citizen.  

At a local church body in Aurora World Relief and volunteers hosted a citizenship clinic and with the help of 16 volunteers from the J. Reuben Clark Law Society assisted 64 immigrants from 18 different countries to apply for U.S. citizenship.

There were English language competency tests, legal screening, identification photos to be taken, fees to be paid, and waiting. Lots of waiting. As I met people in line, entertained kids waiting with the parents, and asked lots of questions, I yet again have more small glimpses into this stop on the process of becoming an American citizen and I am grateful to again be reminded that our nation most fully thrives when we welcome one another.


World Relief provides a network to help launch people into their lives in the U.S and they partner with clients to provide many services such as English language training, legal services, youth programming, and employment services are essential. I was grateful to help capture this day in partnership with World Relief to help them tell the story of so many that are seeking to make America their home.  

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roxanne@hawaimages.com (Hawa Images) America citizenship humanitarian immigrants immigration photography refugee relief world https://gallery.hawaimages.com/blog/2019/3/seeking-to-make-america-home Fri, 08 Mar 2019 00:58:07 GMT
calling us to courage over complicity https://gallery.hawaimages.com/blog/2019/2/calling-us-to-courage-over-complicity

"The most egregious acts of racism occur within a context of compromise." -Jemar Tisby

Jemar Tibsy just dropped his first book The Color of Compromise and stopped in Chicago for a book launch party & live Pass the Mic recording. He opened his remarks by reading the introduction of his book and stating the reason he wrote this book was because he "hates racism and loves the church." It is from that love that he calls us to take a hard look; for some of us for the first time, at the ways the American church was & is complicit in the racism in our country over the last 400 years. We are all made in God's image and any denial of that leads to death and destruction for both the oppressed and the oppressor. Jemar Tisby's work calls us to lament, healing, and action (keep reading for more on this....)

It is hard for me to even begin to express my gratitude for all I have learned from the courageous truth telling of The Witness over the last few years & specifically through Jemar Tisby & Tyler Burns on Pass the Mic. They have helped me; at least in part, dismantle my destructive white savior mentality, my own silence and complicity in racism in its many forms, and helped me understand institutionalized racism in ways that I was blind to because of my privilege and experience.  I truly want to learn to be an ally and that requires a lot of work in the quiet of my soul AND a lot of processing in community AND action allowing those most wronged by racism to lead us to dismantle racist ideologies and systems.  The Witness often reminds us that often in our haste to arrive at reconciliation we often don't take a hard look at the truth of history.  "There can be no reconciliation without repentance and no repentance without confession and there can be no confession without truth"  so Jemar Tisby calls us to more.  You can not heal from that which is not acknowledged and reckoned with. He calls us not to just grieve but to be "grieved into repentance." 

 Jemar Tisby even allowed me to convince him to brave the Chicago in January weather for a few creative portraits before the book launch event. He was also so gracious to allow me to ask him ALL the questions. His humility and willingness to see me as a sister in Christ was a true gift and encouragement to me. 

 

Jasmine Sims performed spoken word to open the night. Her original, vulnerable, and personal work was powerful and moving.

Before Tisby shared about the book and the live recording of Pass the Mic these contributors to the work of The Witness discussed some pop culture including the all consuming question: "should Black Panther win best picture?" There voices were encouraging, funny, and represented differing opinions (I'm team Black Panther FTW). On the panel were Beau York, Aadam Keeley, Ally Henny, & Pastor Earon James

Ally Henny also called us to not be satisfied with less than true unity.  She shared about an initiative called #cancelcompromise and you can sign up via The Witness to join the 28 days of prayer during Black History Month and get updates about the next steps. She contributes to The Armchair Commentary where I recently read, "What I do know is that while our existence is better than that of our ancestors, we still have not experienced the fullness of freedom."  Or as Jemar Tisby states at the end of his book,  we need to "be reminded how far we've come and how far we have left to go."  The night ended with prayer for Jemar Tisby & The Witness in this work;  that is many times not popular and can elicit more than just disagreement or push back, and prayer for our nation to heal and truly experience healing. After the event there was time for a meet and greet and book signing. Folks from Chicago, the suburbs, and even Memphis were there to support this work and encourage dialogue about racial reconciliation in their spheres of influence and beyond.

Tisby asks us to ask tough questions and when it comes to racial equity too often America has "overdosed on the "tranquilizing drug of gradualism" as Dr. King spoke of in August of 1963.  Racism does not go away it simply evolves and it is important for me to learn to listen and allow space for God to make all things right. I know many will be thinking, "ok, I know it is terrible but now what?" Many of us feel burdened by the atrocities of racism but lack the understanding of how to actually affect change.  White folks can simply feel "white guilt" and choose to look away because it is too hard to sit with the pain.  We can feel afraid of getting it wrong. I have been there and probably will be there again.  Approaching this work with humility and a willingness to learn and a knowledge that we will indeed be wrong is imperative to actually creating a diverse group of people working for change. In my own life Jemar Tisby inspires me to risk in this area, "Standing for racial justice involves risk. But effective advocacy is a skill just like any other, and skills can be learned. Ultimately, though, you cannot read your way, or watch your way into skillful advocacy. At some point you must act. Go forth not in fear but in faith that even your mistakes will increase your capacity to disrupt racism." I am trusting his words and "praying while moving me feet." May I; as someone who is no expert and still on this journey of learning and relearning, humbly suggest a few places to start that I have learned from others engaged in this work.

1. Educate yourself- *read more about our history, the history that was not taught to you in school. There are SO MANY great resources available to us now and lack of knowledge is no excuse anymore.  Tisby speaks truth about learning though, "The acquisition of knowledge should not result only in personal enlightenment but also the alleviation of oppression."  Start with The Color of Compromise & From Slavery to Freedom

2.  Start practicing the ARC Awareness-Relationships-Commitment of racial justice- Jemar Tisby lays out a plan he calls ARC for working for justice in his book and he also discusses them in the following articles. How to Fight Racism Part 1 (this includes a really helpful list of resources to continue learning more), How to Fight Racism Part 2 focuses on building relationships and I love the suggestion for "putting yourself in the way of diversity", & How to Fight Racism Part 3 (this includes some practical steps you can get involved in NOW). 

3. Join me & others who believe this narrative of denying the humanity of people made in the image of God can indeed be changed.  Listen first, Pray, Share, & Act with the boldness this problem deserves. Tisby calls us to "undertake courageous and urgent action to correct historic wrongs and their ongoing ramifications." After my trip to EJI's Legacy Museum & Memorial: From Slavery to Mass Incarceration  I have joined with a small group of folks seeking to research and learn more about our local history of racial terrorism. We are currently forming a team to bring the pillar from The National Memorial for Peace & Justice to Chicago through the Community Remembrance Project. If you are interested in joining these efforts please reach out. Find organizations affecting change in your area and go as a learner to support that work.  

There are many ways to fight against the current narrative of racial difference and the injustice present in our country so by no means am I suggesting to have any answers but I want to be found faithful to what I feel called to do in this time & space. I believe the kingdom of God on earth means we affirm the image of God in each person and do not grow weary of the work needed for that to be a reality.  I want to affirm the leadership of many People of Color in leading me and others forward in this work and, while I am sure to make mistakes and need to learn more and more, I will not be idle.

 

Join me & many others? Share helpful links, comments, or resources in the comments. 

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roxanne@hawaimages.com (Hawa Images) Color Compromise justice podcast racial reconciliation Witness https://gallery.hawaimages.com/blog/2019/2/calling-us-to-courage-over-complicity Mon, 04 Feb 2019 02:15:52 GMT
a few things I have learned about my faith from those of different faiths. https://gallery.hawaimages.com/blog/2019/1/learning-about-my-faith-from-those-of-different-faiths

When I capture images I am often trying to remember a feeling, a moment framed in my mind, part of a story that can stand alone, or something that changed me. For me it is about being present in that moment & waiting for the frame that tells that story.

Images are powerful and can craft, reinforce, undo, or influence our thoughts and beliefs about our world, others, & ourselves.  Images have the potential to dissuade us from fear of the unknown or different and move us toward real love. My faith is a complicated, wonderful, challenging, freeing, and defining part of my life and I find myself drawn to others practicing their faith. Being drawn in means spending time with people and really trying to see them & listen to their stories.  We all want to be seen and heard.  And that seeing & hearing evokes in us common human emotions that deeply connect us all and compels me to share our common humanity through visual storytelling.  I recently selected images to display on large canvases in my home because each one illuminated an aspect of faith for me that I hold central or dear.  And I learned more about the expression of faith from people whose geographical location, culture, & faith is different from my own. I am grateful for the invitation in.    

Family & Welcome.  (above image) Jodhpur, India.

Welcome is not for well planned out moments where you only present the best version of yourself but rather a posture of living with openness that allows us to invite others in to experience life with our families. It is about welcoming in others to your right now.  

Bring blessing together. Zanzibar, Tanzania. 

Marking a new marriage we went to visit the bride & bring blessings that were best expressed & had to be experienced together- it mattered that we went together- in our diversity- with a unity of blessing.  

Ladies in red. Holi celebration in Bundi, India.Ladies in red. Holi celebration in Bundi, India.

The discipline & physicality of celebration.  Bundi, India. 

Hours & hours of dancing together using our bodies to celebrate- each one bringing their unique physicality to what seemingly became us all moving as one. Celebration is not overrated and we were created to move our bodies, to dance with joy, & to celebrate together. 

 

Faith like a Child. Hsinchu County, Taiwan. 

Often depths of insight & knowledge is valued over entering into the mystery & unknowns with faith like a child. Small acts of faith offered in love and trust are often met with peace from God.  

Hospitality & sharing food. Bundi, India. 

Life is done together around the table- sharing a meal and food- whether lavish or simple- prepared with hands that invite others in. Eat together and accept and offer hospitality often.  

Connection to creation. Holi Celebration- Bundi, India. 

The created world holds more beauty than I often see in the sterilized world around me. The feeling & the scent of fresh flower petals leaving your hands as you dance and the connection between color, scent, & touch connects us to the Creator and each other.  

Reverence - walking on holy ground. Chiang Mai, Thailand. 

Entering in requires a holy respect & expectation of what God is doing. Too often I miss the Holiness of God & I am thankful for reminders to prepare myself & start with a humble reverence. 

Laughter & presence with children.  Tikkarda, India.

We often overlook children but there is something sacred about laughing, crying, & playing with them. Jesus told us to be WITH them because in the complex world children often offer us an invitation to just be.

 

  I am grateful for these moments and the many I have been invited into over the years that teach me more about others, myself, the world, & faith. 

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roxanne@hawaimages.com (Hawa Images) humanitarian NGO photography story storytelling https://gallery.hawaimages.com/blog/2019/1/learning-about-my-faith-from-those-of-different-faiths Mon, 21 Jan 2019 15:25:00 GMT
2018 was a great year for sharing your story & here is to capturing 2019! https://gallery.hawaimages.com/blog/2019/1/2018-was-a-great-year-for-sharing-your-story-here-is-to-capturing-2019

As I reflect on all the moments captured in 2018 I am exceedingly grateful to have been invited in to YOUR story!! Thank you for allowing me to do what I love & capture your beautiful, messy stories through my lens. It is an absolute privilege. Wish blessings on you all in 2019.

Happy New Year friends!!!
Now booking a limited number of sessions for Spring 2019. Session info here. 

Much love from me to you all, Roxanne

 

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roxanne@hawaimages.com (Hawa Images) lifestyle NGO photography storytelling visual https://gallery.hawaimages.com/blog/2019/1/2018-was-a-great-year-for-sharing-your-story-here-is-to-capturing-2019 Wed, 09 Jan 2019 23:46:30 GMT
When hair care is much more... https://gallery.hawaimages.com/blog/2018/11/when-hair-care-is-much-more

Styles 4 Kidz focuses on hair care but as we all listened to stories of impact last weekend at their 2018 Fall Soiree it is clear the organization does so much more.  Two young women living in a group home; with the support and encouragement of their residential supervisor Felicia Lloyd- Hawkins, shared about how much it means to them each time they have the opportunity to have their hair done. Shavonne Patterson, a stylist with S4K, was moved to tears sharing a letter written from a young girl who expressed her gratitude for Shavonne braiding her hair and spending time investing in a relationship with her. When children look their best they feel valued and loved and they even do better in school! For many children in foster care do not have the opportunity to choose their hair styles and have access to high quality hair and skin care and this work of having women of color intentionally care for them and educate their care givers about their hair goes way beyond hair. The self esteem that comes from S4K involvement has been such an important aspect of their work because it has been a source of pride for the youth and a bridge in building ongoing relationships.

During the event Tamekia Swint, the Styles 4 Kidz founder & executive director, shared about the new space they have in Oak Park dedicated to help educate and provide hair care in a private and safe location. A trans racial adoptive family shared about the impact S4K has had on their life and Tamekia shared about educational videos and classes they offer to help the adoption community. 70% of African American children have white adoptive families so education is really critical. This organization has personally touched me as a foster parent and mother of an African American daughter so I was so excited to partner with them again. During the event Mrs. Pamela Reed received an award for her outstanding dedication, commitment, compassion, and skill as a hair stylist with S4K. Tamekia shared that Pamela stayed to complete hairstyles on 10 children at a group home even after she passed out and an ambulance was called because she knew those children were so eager to have the services of S4K.  It is clear she loves this work, "I knew those children were counting on having their hair done for Easter."

Please check out the good work they are doing to empower families through education for trans- racial adoptive families and build self esteem and cultural pride for young people in foster care.  They are building a diverse community of people that celebrate and work for hair care with heart.


The night was full of fabulous food (sponsored by KitchFix), a silent auction of many great items and experiences, & wonderful live music performed by Felena Bunn. The event was held at the beautiful space at CSS Academy (please check out the good they are doing in Brookfield). S4K also asked everyone to continue to support this work throughout the year. 

I am so grateful to partner with amazing organizations doing good & hard work in our communities! See more organization storytelling images here and contact me if storytelling images would give your organization a vital voice on social media & communicate your vision to others!
 

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roxanne@hawaimages.com (Hawa Images) 4 adoption African American care hair Kidz Styles transracial https://gallery.hawaimages.com/blog/2018/11/when-hair-care-is-much-more Thu, 29 Nov 2018 20:07:34 GMT
Westmont to Taiwan https://gallery.hawaimages.com/blog/2018/10/westmont-to-taiwan

I was grateful to be invited to do visual storytelling for a recent trip that a delegation from Westmont took to visit their sister city in Hsinchu County, Taiwan.  


Our family hosted an exchange student last November so I was eager to visit Taiwan and meet her family! They met me first thing off our 15 hour flight with flowers and an invitation to their home that night. We sampled food together and spoke through the students translating for us (when they could stop giggling long enough).  They insisted I leave their home with a huge bag of gifts and we made promises to visit each other again.  Friendships formed over miles and languages by choosing welcome and showing hospitality are one of the great joys in my life.  

During our delegation’s time we were welcomed warmly and showed tremendous hospitality from so many in Taiwan.  Members of our delegation were sharing at an International Health & Smart City Summit and I traveled with folks in fields of local government, architects who presented on standards of green buildings, health experts with innovative techniques saving people's lives.  We spent the week sharing friendship, speaking, and listening to Taiwanese leaders and touring various locations around Hsinchu County.  Our visits included the County Council office, a local school Liou-Jia Senior High School, the Industrial Technology Research Center, an innovative “Green Skin” building, a local tea manufacturing plant, and were even welcomed to a dinner at the Magistrate’s home. We exchanged ideas, successes, accomplishments, technology opportunities, and more than anything it was an opportunity to continue to build relationships between our 2 communities. Hsinchu County is well known for their Science Park and for being hom to Hakka culture, Hokkien and indigenous people as well as post war Chinese immigrants.  The many folks we met were extremely proud of this culture and reminded us often if a tea, clothing, or food was traditionally Hakka.  Hsinchu County currently attracts more new immigrants to the area than any other county in Taiwan each year.  

Over 70 % of this building is covered in a "Green Skin." It was one of my favorite stops and we heard a presentation from the architect that designed it. 

Ching-Shih Lou is the president of the Formosa Tea Company and graciously gave us a tour and shared the history of his family cultivating and manufacturing tea for generations.  Tracing the world history by when ad where tea was being shipped was fascinating and Mr. Lou was so kind in sharing his story with us. The Tea manufactured here is enjoyed around the world (and now in my dining room).  I was observing in a temple right outside the main marketplace when I noticed this little girl praying and after asking her father's permission I made this image.  It speaks to me about faith amidst chaos and how we are meant to learn from the faith of children.  

Peter Wu shared the story of some older building and homes in Hsinchu County. The history of Taiwan is one marred with struggle and innovation, where many different colonial powers ruled and the roofs in this area told the story of Japanese and Chinese control of Taiwan. 


Stinky Tofu- trust me it is aptly named- you can smell it a block away!
 


Before we headed home we were able to tour a bit of Taipei as well and visit Tapei 101 (acclaimed for it’s anti-earthquake structural features), take public transit everywhere (never have I seen a more clean or quiet public transit system), visit local temples (my favorite as I love seeing faith expressed in different cultures) , shop at a local market (sample street food- and YES I did try the stinky tofu so well known in this part of Taiwan). We ate, toasted together each night, danced (yes a video exists 😊 ), and even performed karaoke together!   I left with a suitcase full of gifts and many memories and hopes to continue to grow this relationship in the future.  

Taipei 101 was awesome to visit with 2 Taiwanese-America architects from Chicago sharing everything about the structure!  

In Taipei you emerge from public transit and spill out onto a modern street and this massive temple called the Lungshan Temple.  People travel from all over Taiwan to visit and I was grateful to be among the pilgrims this day.  Although our faith systems may differ I always love learning and being among those seeking to live out their faith. Many there were visitors as well and were praying to the many gods represented at the temple, reading Buddhist scriptures, seeking guidance and blessing, and making offerings.    


 

Our last meal together before heading home was at the famous Din Tai Feng known for it's amazing home made dumplings, narrow staircases, and kind employees. 

 I asked a lot of question about life and culture to our new friends and awoke early each day to wander into temples and meet people on the street.   I drank A LOT of tea and ate WAY too much (almost every dinner was at least 12 courses), and I captured lot of our time in images.  These are just a few of the moments that made our trip to Taiwan so memorable.  

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roxanne@hawaimages.com (Hawa Images) cultural documentary exchange photography Taiwan Westmont https://gallery.hawaimages.com/blog/2018/10/westmont-to-taiwan Thu, 11 Oct 2018 19:37:59 GMT
friendship celebrated https://gallery.hawaimages.com/blog/2018/9/friendship-celebrated
I read recently that BOTH tears & laughter are essential to create a lasting & deep friendship. Both require vulnerability and allowing yourself to be YOU & then allowing your friend to be themselves. I have watched Annikah & Sylvia navigate a true friendship over the last 4 years and I was excited to capture them this past weekend for a friendship lifestyle session. They are young but have already worked through miscommunication and hurt feelings and walked together toward mutual understanding and peace. They have celebrated each other and with each other AND cried together when life is hard. I learn a lot from them.

I asked them what they loved about each other and Annikah shared, "Sylvia has been such a good friend through all the storms that have been thrown at me and her. We have cried together, smiled a lot, and laughed together. She never gives up on me and is so kind." 
And Sylvia said, "My favorite thing about Anni is I know she is always there for me & I can always tell her anything. I love how much we laugh together."

In a world that tries to convince women there is scarcity & competition I celebrate these young women choosing to celebrate each other.


 

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roxanne@hawaimages.com (Hawa Images) creative friend friendship lifestyle portraits https://gallery.hawaimages.com/blog/2018/9/friendship-celebrated Thu, 06 Sep 2018 18:16:34 GMT
Building the next generation of leaders in conservation: Just one reason I heart The SCA https://gallery.hawaimages.com/blog/2018/8/building-the-next-generation-of-leader-sin-conservation-why-i-love-the-sca The Student Conservation Association has 6 crews working throughout the Chicagoland area & I was able to capture them in action before they wrap up their summer programs. These crews of hard working young people are inspiring, knowledgeable, & passionate about conservation.  They were working on invasive species removal, installing check steps so others can enjoy trails, seed collection, clearing land and planting a tree nursery, & the construction of a nature play center that many children will enjoy soon.  These diverse groups of young people find ways to learn together and laugh often while sweating through real HARD work.  They teach me so much & I am grateful to be able to partner with The SCA & help share their good work in building leaders in conservation.  

As I spent time with each crew one thing was clear- they have formed real friendships with those they are working alongside of and their bond is strengthened by the pride they feel in the impact they see in their daily work in various forest preserves throughout our area.  One student shared, "It is so rewarding to see these projects completed and know WE did that- it is such a sense of accomplishment."  

Special thanks to The SCA crews at Trailside Nature Museum, Ted Stone Woods, River Trail Nature Center, & Harms Woods. The next time I am appreciating one of these beautiful outdoor spaces with my family I will remember these hard working young people that invited me to share stories with them of their good work in conservation. Here are some of the images we captured on one of their last weeks working hard. 

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roxanne@hawaimages.com (Hawa Images) Chicago conservation for non organization profit SCA storyteller storytelling The visual https://gallery.hawaimages.com/blog/2018/8/building-the-next-generation-of-leader-sin-conservation-why-i-love-the-sca Fri, 10 Aug 2018 16:35:51 GMT
Village of Westmont welcomes Hsinchu delegation https://gallery.hawaimages.com/blog/2018/7/village-of-westmont

The delegates from Hsinchu County arrived on a hot summer morning to the Village Hall in Westmont to a waving & welcoming crowd that included the mayor of Westmont Ron Gunter, local politicians, police, fire fighters, & many other workers and folks from the community. They wanted to offer a similar warm welcome some of them received in Taiwan earlier this year when Westmont sent delegates to learn & participate in a cultural exchange as Sister Cities. 

I was able to participate  with my family as a host family for the group of Taiwanese exchange students that came last November and was excited to be invited to capture this week as the delegates learned more about life in Westmont and shared about their culture and lives.   Few things have blessed my life as much as cultural exchange and learning so capturing these moments and spending time eating, laughing, and learning from these new friends from across the world was awesome. 

Magistrate Chiu came on behalf of his community in Hsinchu County, Taiwan and led the group through their week here in Westmont.  His contagious smile spoke so much and through a translator he often spoke of the continued welcome our community has in his home country. 

Mayor Ron Gunter and Magistrate Chiu presented and received many gifts of behalf of their respective communities.  

A huge highlight of the week was The Taste of Taiwan booth at the Taste of Westmont.  The group traveled with a local chef who made Taiwanese inspired small plates so those here could taste some of the street food dishes of Taiwan (I highly recommend the bubble tea & rice noodles!). 

Many local politicians came out to welcome and the delegation from Taiwan always had gifts to go around for everyone.  

The pork buns & the homemade pickles were pretty amazing! 

The chef encouraged everyone to try the spice blend they brought from Taiwan on everything (i highly recommend it!)

Six members of the Ju Meng Dance Troupe came as part of the delegation to perform at the Taste of Westmont as well as a concert Saturday afternoon open to the public.   

A traditional tea dance was performed and members of the troupe presented Taiwanese tea to members of the audience as part of the dance.  

Their performance Saturday afternoon was entitled Hospitable Hakka, Charming Hsinchu and was a beautiful mixture of costume, dance, and visual media artistic presentation focused on culture and traditions of Taiwan.  

I am grateful to continue to partner with the Village of Westmont & Hsinchu County in their ongoing relationship as Sister Cities. 

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roxanne@hawaimages.com (Hawa Images) City cultural culture exchange Sister Taiwan Westmont https://gallery.hawaimages.com/blog/2018/7/village-of-westmont Tue, 24 Jul 2018 18:11:30 GMT
An important trip, many questions, & praying while moving our feet: A trip to EJI in Alabama https://gallery.hawaimages.com/blog/2018/6/an-important-trip-many-questions-praying-while-moving-our-feet-a-trip-to-eji-in-alabama I struggle to even put any words to all the history & questions we engaged with last weekend but I also sense that to not acknowledge the weighty truth I continue to reckon with seems too dismissive. I am so grateful for for the work of Equal Justice Initiative. 

If you ask me about the most important book I have read in the last 10 years I always answer:Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson. I have listened to him tell his story and read his words and been moved to action. Last weekend I road tripped with 4 other ladies to Alabama to visit a museum and a lynching memorial that his organization Equal Justice Initiative founded. the The Legacy Museum & Memorial: From Slavery to Mass Incarceration  is a site every American should visit for as they remind us we cannot heal from that which we do not acknowledge. Through studying African American history in college I was exposed to so much history that is often glossed over or hidden from our nation's narrative and this museum continues that journey of truth telling.  This is not just African American history, it is the history of a nation that has constructed and continues to participate in racist systems. It calls us to lament the deep pain and sin that has caused harm to so many and ask the tough questions about what true reconciliation will mean.  I have to see my own failure to stand and call out lies or false narratives about people created in the image of God.   In so many ways this museum walks us through the human experience of oppression, racial violence, and the curse that we all still carry today.  As one Reverend describes, "I saw things that made my heart bleed" and the historyshould makes us join him. The memorial marks the over 4,000 men, women, and children who were victims of racial terrorist violence through lynchings in the U.S. between 1880-1940. EJI's purpose is to foster an honest conversation of the legacy of slavery, racial bias,  racism, and mass incarceration.  They invite us all to "join us in the conversation so we can move forward to our shared healing."  

The above image was important to capture for me.  This part of the memorial is so heavy. We sat and cried and prayed as we read the names and reasons why people were murdered.  We saw their names and places they lived.  We imagined their lives and their families and we mourned.  And alongside the tears and sweltering Alabama heat there was this sun creeping in through the hanging pillars.  This reminded me to have hope. As it read on the wall, "hopelessness is the enemy of justice."

Our trip was also full of many stops remembering the Civil Rights movement; the Woolworth's counter in Nashville, The bridge in Selma that was the site of "Bloody Sunday, " Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church and parsonage, and other sites around Montgomery.  A highlight was being welcomed to worship at Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church on Sunday with the wonderful folks there.  Over the years, it has served the community through the use of its facilities as meeting place for many civic, educational and religious groups. Much of Montgomery’s early civil rights activity – most famously the 1956 Bus Boycott – was directed by Dr. King from his office in the lower unit of the church. His legacy is alive and well among the people, as we heard and saw that day. 

  I do not have a neat way to wrap this all up...most likely I never will but I am asking a lot of questions. I am researching.  I am listening and reading.  I am praying.  I am learning. I am trying to continue on in the journey of affirming the humanity of people created in God's image.  I am rasing my voice to injustice. The last exhibit in the museum is a gallery of current photographs (that of course I loved) and alongside each photograph was a question and I furiously wrote them down for further reflection, prayer and action.  Here are just a few:
Should we do more to publicly acknowledge and teach our history of racial injustice? If schools still remain racially segregated -why and what does this mean for us? Should we do more as a society to rehabilitate, instead of just punish, imprisoned people? How can we improve police and community relations? Should very young children be prosecuted as adults? Should any child be sentenced to die in prison?  How do we eliminate the presumption of guilt for young people of color? Do churches and people of faith have a special obligation to address the history of racial inequality? In truth and reconciliation will you join in an effort to memorialize and remember your community's history?


I am asking these questions too and praying and as Civil Rights activist John Lewis quoted a very old African proverb, "we pray, but when we pray we move our feet." I am currently asking how my feet should move- join me. I am starting by asking to bring the memorial pillars marking the lynchings here in Illinois home to our state so we can acknowledge and heal (if you want to be a part of this effort let me know). This trip calls me to repent, restore, and to HOPE in the future. Let's pray & move our feet. 

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roxanne@hawaimages.com (Hawa Images) Alabama EJI justice Legacy lynching memorial racial https://gallery.hawaimages.com/blog/2018/6/an-important-trip-many-questions-praying-while-moving-our-feet-a-trip-to-eji-in-alabama Thu, 28 Jun 2018 19:29:02 GMT
Meet Jenny; the amazing Mama & her kids https://gallery.hawaimages.com/blog/2018/6/meet-jenny-the-amazing-mama-her-kids

When I announced the Amazing Mama Giveaway I never anticipated how difficult it would be to choose a winner from the brave & amazing Mamas that many of your nominated! I absolutely LOVE when we encourage one another, maybe that is because I so need that encouragement & reminder that nothing we do to love is ever wasted in my own life so reading these heartfelt and beautiful words about how the mothers around you are inspiring you, loving their kids & families, & facing challenges with grace.  When I read the entry Jessica submitted about Jenny and her children I knew she was the winner of the free sunset session to celebrate and mark this season in their lives!   

Jenny and her family have had so many challenges and a heart breaking journey over the last few years and we we spoke and I asked her to describe her family she said "we are shattered but whole and resilient." As I learned more I just knew these images came at a perfect time.

Jenny and her husband started their family 14 years ago and have 2 children; Colin & Eleanor.  These kids are seriously so.much. fun and they were so joyful, adventurous, & kind during our session, even telling their mom how beautiful she is :) (I know!!).  Eleanor has been bravely battling what Jenny describes as "a beastly chronic illness."  She is fighting a vomiting syndrome that has meant she missed over 40 days of school just in the last year. As a mom it is heart breaking to watch your child struggle so much with sickness and be in and out of the hospital. During this same time her husband Brian's behavior radically changed and she was devastated and confused that their marriage and family was suffering so much.  He was diagnosed with mental health challenges only to find that soon his behavior deteriorated further while living in a nursing home and they learned he was misdiagnosed.  After further testing it was discovered that he has Frontaltemporal Degeneration that most likely started 7-8 years ago and for which there is no cure. He is now is hospice and Jenny has had to process that the love of her life will pass away.  She shared, "each day was a roller coaster of emotions and my heart is broken into 10,000 pieces." She was in one way relived his behavior was not a complete rejection of her and their children but the news is just so devastating and she had to explain to the children "that Daddy's brain was very sick" and he did love them but was unable to be able to show it any more.  

Here is more of Jenny's story in her own words, "This is probably the hardest stuff I have ever been through in my life, but I know there are so many people ready with hugs and memories and laughter. So many people ready to help with Ellie and Colin. Our village is big...I know we will be ok. One day at a time, sometimes one hour, sometimes one breath. We will get through this because of all of you and because of the strong memories of a husband and daddy who passionately loved us while he could. Thank you for loving us."  

I think many people think this joy and these smiles must come from a charmed life but they are found deep within suffering and that makes them even more beautiful.  We had a sunset session at the beach and my goal was to capture their relationship and the kid's personalities. We celebrate you Jenny & pray blessings over your family and thank you for inviting me to capture your beautiful, messy right now!! 

You can learn more about her story in her own words & how to help their family here

 

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roxanne@hawaimages.com (Hawa Images) family Mama mothers photography story telling https://gallery.hawaimages.com/blog/2018/6/meet-jenny-the-amazing-mama-her-kids Tue, 26 Jun 2018 22:10:25 GMT
The Strength of Women gallery https://gallery.hawaimages.com/blog/2018/5/the-strength-of-women-gallery

Listening to stories and meeting women from around the world has given me a new depth of appreciation for the strength of women in our world and this gallery at Cafe K'Tizo is a collection of image created around the world.  Come out during the month of May to view the gallery and join the conversation through an interactive part of the gallery where you share a story of the strength of women; yourself or others in your life. These are not clean or complete stories but messy, beautiful stories of life in process that celebrate the strength of women. 

 

Giveaway:: Tag a strong woman on Hawa Image's Instagram or Facebook you would like to take out for tea at Cafe K'Tizo in the next month & I’ll pick 2 winners by Monday May 7th for a free drink coupon. 

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roxanne@hawaimages.com (Hawa Images) art gallery hawa image k'tizo of strength tea women https://gallery.hawaimages.com/blog/2018/5/the-strength-of-women-gallery Fri, 04 May 2018 20:26:23 GMT
Thank God for Women campaign through World Relief https://gallery.hawaimages.com/blog/2018/3/thank-god-for-women-campaign-through-world-relief

When I was asked by World Relief to capture a portrait of a woman who empowers and advocates for other women for their #ThankGodForWomen campaign immediately this beautiful woman came to mind so I was excited when she agreed to allow me to capture her and ask some questions about her current role as a social worker and her over 20 year journey in standing with vulnerable families.  This is Tyesa. She empowers women and children by advocating for them and walking alongside families through some of the most traumatic times of their lives as they navigate the DCFS system. Her calming presence and amazing smile invites trust the moment you meet her. When I asked her about her calming presence, she said, “It’s easy to be calm in these hard situations, because I put myself in their shoes and think about how I would want to be treated… It’s a hard job, but when you love what you do, it makes it easy.”


Tyesa says the best part of her job is being able to help children achieve permanency, either through adoption or returning home. The most difficult part? When children can’t return home and get stuck in a backlogged court system. Becoming a foster parent myself has opened my eyes to the vulnerability of these children. Without loving, devoted, and caring people like Tyesa, they can get lost in an overwhelming system. Her ability to maintain hope, compassion, and empathy through more than 20 years of service is amazing. She sees hope and points others to it! I thank God for women like Tyesa because she has personally touched our family through her expertise and advocacy on behalf of our foster daughter. She has been a life line for us as we advocate together for our daughter's best interests.

Check out World Relief's instagram feed for the post & to celebrate other strong women like Tyesa and the female photographers capturing these important stories! 

Reposted from World Relief: Over the years, we have worked with so many women who have been called by God to capture and share the stories of others through the lens of a camera. For the next few weeks, we will share the work of four of these photographers + the stories of women they have photographed. Today's photo and story comes from (@hawaimages )

 

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roxanne@hawaimages.com (Hawa Images) advocate care female foster photographers relief social strong women worker world https://gallery.hawaimages.com/blog/2018/3/thank-god-for-women-campaign-through-world-relief Fri, 02 Mar 2018 19:36:25 GMT
Standing with Dreamers https://gallery.hawaimages.com/blog/2018/1/standing-with-dreamers Last night I heard stories from people from different countries bravely share their stories of coming to the United States as children.  They are known as "Dreamers." Their stories are diverse.  Some came to escape poverty, violence, or for a chance to study, a chance at the American Dream they had heard so much about.  Many of them did not know about their status until they wanted to attend college and could not apply for any federal aid and were barred from state universities , or until they were in drivers education and discovered they had no social security number.  Some found themselves "undocumented" because of a mistake of a lawyer.  They all consider America their home.  They found ways to survive, work, attend college, and add to this American experiment and I am grateful they are here. Immigration issues can be controversial, and like all issues,  they are complex and require a lot of sharing, listening, and debating. 

Dreamers are folks that came here as children and have grown up in America.  The median age of entry for those now called Dreamers is 6 years old.  Since 2012, around 800,000 Dreamers have applied for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or what has become known as DACA.  This program allowed Dreamers to secure temporary work authorization and protection from deportation to those who passed background checks and pay fees (among other qualifications).  Last night World Relief Dupage Aurora  hosted a Love in Action Event: A Future for Dreamers and we heard stories from Dreamers from India, China, and Mexico as well as pastors and folks partnering with them. 

I was struck by how varied and diverse their stories are and how much bravery it takes to stand in front of a room full of people and share these pieces of their stories that they had to hide for so long.  A woman I have volunteered alongside at at World Relief named Ruth shared her status and story and I had tears in my eyes knowing about the amazing and important work she is doing here and listening to her fear of being deported.  The first in her family to attend college she now empowers others and advocates on their behalf as a staffer at World Relief.  As she shared, "no one wants to be illegal. We are only asking for a path to citizenship."         

  

Liz, who became undocumented after a lawyer forgot to attach her dependent application to her mother's application shared that for a long time she did not speak up.  She shared, "stories are powerful and deserve to be heard. I had a voice but was afraid to speak up but now it is my turn." She now is on the advisory board of Voices of Christian Dreamers and advocating for a timely and reasonable solution.  

Matthew Sorens (coauthor of Seeking Refuge) and Susan Sperry (executive Director of WRDA) from World Relief helped those in attendance understand the current situation for DACA recipients as well as offer legal advice through the Legal Services team at World Relief.  They also called us to examine our faith and what it means to offer hospitality.  The Greek word used in scripture actually means love of stranger.  God does not call us to love only those when it is convenient but we can offer love and compassion realizing we were once foreigners too. Pastor Obe ended the night with a prayer and a call for us all to help Dreamers be able to pursue a legal path to citizenship so they can pursue their God given gifts and calling.  Even the cost of deporting the Dreamers as a whole would strain our economy and result in the loss of a projected $460.3 billion dollars for the U.S. GDP over the next decade.  Deporting these folks and separating families woudl be a great loss to America.  There has to be a better way forward that involves a process and dignity and Congress has the power to act!  

At the close of the night we were encouraged to Pray, Serve, & Advocate. Praying for our leaders as they try to come to a solution for complex issues, pray for those living in constant fear of their status and being deported (one Dreamer shared that she feels like she lives her life in 2 year increments, afraid for the future), pray for families, and pray for our leaders. Pray for humility to understand for ourselves.  Pray for us to see and hear each other and become aware of what we are being asked to do. There is a prayer guide available here. 

Serve alongside World Relief or other organizations serving folks seeking to gain legal status and become our fellow citizens.  As I have done this their stories and dreams for their families have reminded me why I am grateful for diversity in our country, that our collective voices make us stronger.  Volunteer to welcome a refugee family as they resettle in the US, be a good neighbor to folks already here, make copies & serve alongside the legal team at an upcoming citizenship clinic.

Advocate by using YOUR VOICE- it matters. Congress has the power to act and come to a reasonable solution to this issue. Not all places in the world have this ability to voice their concerns to their representatives- don't take it for granted.  I am challenging myself and YOU to get more informed about this issue, pray, volunteer, and act- join me in the #PowerToAct Challenge. I just used my voice to call my representative and senators with my son sitting on my lap. Click on this link and enter your information and your reps will CALL YOU and simply voice your solidarity with Dreamers!    

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roxanne@hawaimages.com (Hawa Images) act daca dreamers immigration power relief to world https://gallery.hawaimages.com/blog/2018/1/standing-with-dreamers Wed, 31 Jan 2018 16:55:58 GMT
Women's March Chicago Jan 2018 https://gallery.hawaimages.com/blog/2018/1/womens-march-chicago-jan-2018 Yesterday the Women's March in Chicago was estimated to have over 250,000 participants that gathered and marched through downtown on a rare sunny and warm(ish) January day.  They marched for reasons as varied as those in attendance.  I captured the event because awareness of this political climate is important.  Everyone there has a story to share, people are not monolithic and their voices are important to our democracy. There are many voices not present at the march and theirs matter too. And my hope as Americans is that we come together and listen to one another and move forward together.  

For me joining this march was about seeing for MYSELF what it was all about. It was about standing with people who feel left out by much of the current political climate.  Who knows what the history books will say about this time in history when the dust settles but I want to help tell that story through capturing images of what the American experiment looks like right now.  I want to stand for issues that matter to me like the way we dismiss sexual violence against women, immigration reform, DACA recipients being able to have a legal and reasonable way to stay in the country they know as home, refugee resettlement that treats those fleeing their homelands with dignity and respect (to name a few).  I volunteer and work alongside people who have been demonized and marginalized and I can choose to use my voice of privilege to say that is NOT ok, to say that their presence in my life and in our country make us all better.  I can affirm their humanity as dearly loved by God by standing aside and allowing their stories to be shared.  The real test is what happens next- will we show up at the polls? Will we welcome our neighbors in ways that may cost us personally no matter what their faith or where they come from? Will we volunteer as ESL tutors to those on paths to citizenship? Will we insist that until we are all free to be ourselves none of us are really free? Will we suspend judgement and offer to be a part of solutions to complex problems we don't fully understand?  Will we show up?...... not only to march but to stand with and for those whose very humanity is being questioned?  

You could see the intersection of many issues and stories converging through the streets of Chicago yesterday and my hope was to capture some of that through images.

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roxanne@hawaimages.com (Hawa Images) advocate chicago march marginalized privilege rights voices women women's https://gallery.hawaimages.com/blog/2018/1/womens-march-chicago-jan-2018 Sun, 21 Jan 2018 20:50:00 GMT
Happy 2018!! https://gallery.hawaimages.com/blog/2017/12/happy-2018

As I reflect on all the moments captured in 2017 I am exceedingly grateful to have been invited in to YOUR story!! Thank you for allowing me to do what I love & capture your beautiful, messy stories through my lens. It is an absolute privilege. Wish blessings on you all in 2018.

Happy New Year friends!!!
Now booking for 2018!

Much love from our family to yours, Roxanne

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roxanne@hawaimages.com (Hawa Images) https://gallery.hawaimages.com/blog/2017/12/happy-2018 Fri, 29 Dec 2017 20:08:48 GMT
hair care with a lot of heart! https://gallery.hawaimages.com/blog/2017/11/hair-care-with-a-lot-of-heart

Styles 4 Kidz Fall held their Fall Soiree last week and I was able to capture them celebrating the good work this organization does in our community! This organization has personally touched me as a foster parent and mother of an African American daughter so I was so excited to partner with them to share their story.  In the early days of our daughter living with our family I was is search of advice, education, and help with hair care and talked to them on the phone so when they reached out to have me help them tell the story of their big fall event I knew it was a perfect fit!

The night was full of fabulous food (sponsored by KitchFix), a silent auction of many great items and experiences, & wonderful live music. The event was held at the beautiful space at CSS Academy (please check out the good they are doing in Brookfield). Tamekia Swint , the Styles 4 Kidz founder & executive direction revealed their new logo, vision and mission statements, and website as well but the most impactful part of the night was Tamekia and others sharing stories of impact.  We heard from a mother who adopted African American children and found herself overwhelmed with the hair care needs and received friendship and knowledge from S4K and from a director at a group home about the impact S4K has had on the youth in care that reside in the the group home. The pride and self esteem that comes from S4K involvement has been such an important aspect of their work because it has been a source of pride for the youth and a bridge in building ongoing relationships. There were many thanks and an award presented to Jennifer Ridder for her support and encouragement since the founding of S4K. There was lots of hugs and laughter and celebrating as well as a call to action to further support this work! 

One thing was clear to me the entire night: Styles 4 Kidz is not just about hair- it is about so much more! 

Please check out the good work they are doing to empower families through education for trans- racial adoptive families and build self esteem and cultural pride for young people in foster care.   They are building a diverse community of people that celebrate and work for hair care with heart!!! 

I am so grateful to partner with amazing organizations doing good & hard work in our communities! See more organization storytelling images here and contact me if storytelling images would give your organization a vital voice on social media & communicate your vision to others!

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roxanne@hawaimages.com (Hawa Images) adoption african american care chicago for hair kidz ngo organization photography storytelling styles trans-racial visual https://gallery.hawaimages.com/blog/2017/11/hair-care-with-a-lot-of-heart Thu, 30 Nov 2017 15:59:17 GMT
dancing towards his dreams https://gallery.hawaimages.com/blog/2017/11/dancing-towards-dreams  I had the opportunity to meet Nigel and his Grandmother Sonya through Kate Danielson; my dear friend and founder of  Foster Progress in Chicago. Foster Progress is the result of immense need for advocacy, mentorship,  & education and I am always excited to partner with them in their good work.  I was excited to partner with Foster Progress to help Nigel tell part of his story through images.....

Nigel is a hard working high school dedicated to dance and hoping this newly realized dream of dancing & performing professionally becomes a reality through the pursuit of studying performance dance in college! We met early on a rainy Saturday morning at Joel Hall dance studio in my old neighborhood in the city where Nigel has been studying and interning to learn as much as he can.  We had a lot of laughs trying to decide exactly what we wanted to capture and include in his portfolio and other dancers would wander in and out offering their help and support. We captured jumps and bends that I could not do even back in my prime (I was gasping behind my lens numerous times)! 

Nigel's warm smile and his affection, love, and respect for his grandmother made capturing his story a blessing! He shared that she was the one who pushed him to try contemporary and ballet when he didn't consider it an option.  Sonya supported Nigel in many ways in his life and dared him to dream big.  And even though he probably prefers the straight faced head shots his contagious laugh reveals so much about him and are my favorite images. As the sunlight grew stronger and our time in the rented studio neared an end ballet dancers for the first class of the day arrived along with Missy; one of Nigel's dance instructors who immediately embraced him and shared how proud she is of all his progress and hard work.  Nigel also bragged on her for having dances on Facebook that went viral and for always believing in him. 

Thanks Nigel & as I told him the day of our storytelling session: when you make it big I want a shout-out! I love partnering with organizations doing so much good in the world- please check out the work of Foster Progress!!  Your stories make this work so worthwhile and I am grateful to have a glimpse into what the future could hold for Nigel. 

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roxanne@hawaimages.com (Hawa Images) ballet chicago college dance dreams education foster goals mentorship ngo photography portraits progress storyteller visual https://gallery.hawaimages.com/blog/2017/11/dancing-towards-dreams Wed, 08 Nov 2017 21:59:29 GMT
Early Childhood Education & Adoption Preservation: just 2 ways MFS is empowering https://gallery.hawaimages.com/blog/2017/10/2waysMFSisempowering

In August I had the privilege to help create images that tell the important stories of Metropolitan Family Services in Chicago. These stories were shared in Metropolitan Family Service's 2017 annual report here.  Partnering with organizations impacting change and empowering folks in their communities is my favorite work to do and I am grateful to be entrusted with these stories! 

MFS's mission is to provide and mobilize the services needed to strengthen families and communities and I have worked with them to see just how that is occurring through their numerous programs that empower the community. Here are just 2 recent stories:

Meeting the first family at MSF's Midway's center began with 2 giggly little girls.  I immediately adored them and their beautiful Mom; Jazmin.  Jazmin is expecting her third little girl soon and told us about how much the Midway Center has meant to her family. At home they primarily speak Spanish at so she really was searching for an affordable, quality childcare center and preschool for her girls; Jayleen, 5, and Guadalupe, 4. 

These sisters clearly adore each other and were so eager to show me their school!

Both girls now attend Midway Children’s Center, and when Jazmin’s third daughter, due in October, is old enough Jazmin plans to enroll her at Metropolitan’s Learning and Wellness Center. Jazmin told me that she really could not work without the support of MFS and their programs!  

I accompanied them to the girl's classroom and it was easy to see why the girls look forward to coming to the center each day. There was singing, hands on play and much excitement in learning! The Midway Children's Center is just one way MFS is supporting & empowering families! 

Adoption Preservation is an area that does not get enough research, support, and resources and I loved hearing about the difference and impact MSF's programs and resources has made on Katie & her family.   Katie's first family struggled with addiction and the home environment was unstable and unsafe.  Katie and her sister eventually came to live with their Aunt Gloria and her family.  The transition was difficult as the girls dealt with trauma and adjusted to their new home. Gloria shared vulnerably that after the adoption she was at the end of her rope, "I could not find anyone willing to help." 

Even though Katie was in a safe home she struggled day to day and their family reached out repeatedly for help only to discover dead ends and frustration amidst their difficulties. Gloria felt alone, frustrated, & desperate.  

For years Gloria used every resource available to her — from hospitals to local agencies — but could not find the support they needed. After calling every agency in the DCFS handbook, she finally reached Tiaira Robinson, a therapist with Metropolitan’s Adoption Preservation program. Gloria said that it did not take long to see that Tiaira was trustworthy and was here for the long haul to help them!! 

For a year now Katie has received therapy, psychiatric services, anger management classes, therapeutic day camp, and weekly visits with a mentor — and Tiaira has applied to extend services for an additional year.

Gloria says she feels peace now knowing that MSF will not leave them without support. These community empowering programs exist because of the good work of Metropolitan Family Services and I am grateful to get to see the impact and tell stories with MFS! 

 

 

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roxanne@hawaimages.com (Hawa Images) adoption center chicago children's community mfs midway ngo photographer photography preservation services https://gallery.hawaimages.com/blog/2017/10/2waysMFSisempowering Thu, 19 Oct 2017 15:11:47 GMT
Celebrating The Green Mama's newest book! https://gallery.hawaimages.com/blog/2017/10/celebrating-the-green-mamas-newest-book Processed with VSCO with f2 preset

Eek!! A Box from Canada arrived today packed with The Green Mama's newest book: Green Mama-to-be: Creating a Happy, Healthly, & Toxin Free Pregnancy by Manda Aufochs Gillespie. Hawa Images and my beautiful clients are featured throughout the book!!

I was so excited to be a part of this project and want to cheer Manda on as she is living her purpose & encouraging and empowering us to live greener!  I am so excited for this Mama and friend from our Chicago days to see her 2nd book published after years of hard work! She has such a gift to help parents see what is possible in caring for our world & our families well! She helped our family in our journey of cloth diapering (without any judgement) & is such an encouraging & loving member of the mama tribe. She is an inspiration!! Check out her website & learn more. I am cheering you on sister!! 

Also, special thanks to my rock-star clients who were willing to lend their images to help tell the story of this book. I'm so grateful to get to do this work I love with families.  

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roxanne@hawaimages.com (Hawa Images) book bosses green mama photography https://gallery.hawaimages.com/blog/2017/10/celebrating-the-green-mamas-newest-book Wed, 11 Oct 2017 17:29:15 GMT
promoting peace with my camera in hand https://gallery.hawaimages.com/blog/2017/9/promoting-peace-with-my-camera-in-hand Images are powerful and can craft, reinforce, undo, or influence our thoughts and beliefs about others.  Images have the potential to dissuade us from fear of the unknown or different and move us toward real love.

When I was asked to share what visual peacemaking means to me*, I was overwhelmed since I still consider myself a beginner in many ways.  But after prayer and discussion, I realized visual peacemaking is not merely an approach or a tool in our belts.  Rather, it is a process of becoming and we should always be learning.  it is more about who you are than simply what you do and in that way I can share; not from a wealth of knowledge but from a common vision.  A vision that strives to partner, build bridges rather than construct walls, and show the beautiful humanity and dignity in the people we encounter.  We can choose to live life evading failure; only attempting what we are comfortable with or a pretty sure we can accomplish.  I admit I can find myself leaning this direction because to step out is to risk.  But it is always worth the journey.  Photography continues to be a journey of risk for me, one that involves intentionally giving of myself and being stretched and changed.

Women pilgrims in the Ganga River. Varanasi, India.Women pilgrims in the Ganga River. Varanasi, India.

Photography sort of happened to me.  It arose from a deep desire I had to tell the stories of women that became my dear friends.  I moved with my family to a small island in East Africa most people cannot find on a map.  I had plans and those plans seemed to explode upon arrival.  I thought I would have an adventure and help some folks along the way.  We were there working to set up and teach in a vocational school and if I am honest I thought I was there to give more than be personally changed but God had a different agenda.  The emotional pain of role deprivation and starting over in a place where I was now a complete idiot in the ways of daily life was very real and painful.  It was humbling, but as I embraced that more and more it also allowed for a remaking and remolding in my life.  I realized you cannot serve people you don't know and love.  You cannot be trusted with their stories until you invest in their lives.  And I so needed the people there to help me forge this new life.  In the process of allowing others to help me, I realized that I was there to learn more than to teach, There was such joy in the friendships I found there because they were not formed merely because of similar culture backgrounds and shared views of life.  My friendships on our island were forged through difference and a decision to move towards mutual respect and love.

Elimu. A morning at the local nursery school. Chukwani, Zanzibar.Elimu. A morning at the local nursery school. Chukwani, Zanzibar.

For a long time I chose not to photograph my friends unless asked because I really wanted to communicate I loved them more than the image.  To me visual peacemaking means spending time with people and really trying to see them.  We all want to be seen and heard.  And that seeing evokes in us common human emotions that deeply connect us all and compels us to share. This is why I so desperately wanted to participate in sharing their stories through photography and began to study and practice.  I really believe the posture with which we engage people is more important than all the technical skills in the world.  As I was wrecked with my friends' stories, I wanted to capture the mundane and the beautiful, the joy co-mingled with deep pain and suffering because it was a way to really see them and connect our lives as I searched for meaning in it all.  I was not "ready" to live there and learn to love in ways that cost me personally, to start over, to be stretched in the ways required of me, but that is exactly where God wanted me.  And photography became one way I found and continue to find peace even in the midst of chaos.

Preparing the day's catch. Tuk Kae village, Phuket, Thailand.Preparing the day's catch. Tuk Kae village, Phuket, Thailand.

I think sometimes as photographers we can focus on the outcome and capturing "the" image but for me this often leads to me missing precisely the moments that are meant to bring understanding and promote peace.  I think we all need to spend more time sitting on dirt floors eating rice and chapati with our hands and less time thinking about the perfect lighting and setting up tripods. Of course the final product is important and we honor our friends and those that invite us into their lives by striving towards excellence, but we cannot authentically communicate care and love if we do not invest in people.  And maybe we should measure our success more in people with whom we have shared each other's sacred stories rather than just in the number of beautiful images.

I recently heard a speaker say, "The opposite of love is not hate, it is fear," and this really struck me.  It reminded me of the verse in scripture that declares "perfect love expels all fear."  We can fear what we do not understand and with photography I want to intentionally make choices to move from fear of the unknown or different to "perfect love".  Visual peacemaking is first moving yourself in order that we may encourage others to move.  But to do that we have to allow people's stories to burrow deep in our hearts.  We have to have sleepless nights thinking about their challenges and pain.  We have to accompany them as they celebrate and rejoice with them.  We have to eat their food, hold their babies, trust them to hold ours, pray, dance, laugh, and cry together.  Because that is the sacred stuff of life and that grants us permission and bestows upon us the responsibility to share our common humanity. 

lighting offerings  at sunrise. Varanasi, India.lighting offerings at sunrise. Varanasi, India.

Blessings on your journey, Roxanne

*this post has been adapted but was originally published as a guest blog on International Guild of Visual Peacemakers. 

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roxanne@hawaimages.com (Hawa Images) cultural humanitarian motivation peacemaking photography travel visual https://gallery.hawaimages.com/blog/2017/9/promoting-peace-with-my-camera-in-hand Sat, 23 Sep 2017 01:13:55 GMT
Meet Ibtisam https://gallery.hawaimages.com/blog/2017/9/meet-ibtisam

I climbed three flights of stairs stepping over lovely green plants decorating the apartment building to Ibtisam & her husband's home to meet the woman I had heard so much about. I had searched out her designs online long before we had the chance to meet and I just loved the color and detail in her work.  Her designs bring a modern Arabic flare to Western fashion and I was grateful to be asked to help document her business on my photography story telling assignment for World Relief.  More than just view her designs I wanted to sit with and listen to the woman who had the courage and strength to pursue her dreams using her seamstress & design talent after so much challenge and change. Ibtisam & her husband warmly welcomed myself and a World Relief staffer; Tim to their home with sweets already set out for us.  We greeted each other and began sharing and I was immediately struck with, and grateful for, their openness and willingness to share so much of their story.  

They are from Iraq and both had successful businesses in their home country. Ibtisam designed and sewed everything from elaborate gowns to home decor and employed 6 people in her shop.  Her husband started and ran an aquarium deign and installation company.  He ran the only shop of this kind in his hometown and had to learn as he went, even showing us his scares from broken glass the first time he learned to install floor to ceiling fish tanks.  His fondness of these memories is so clear in his telling of them.  They lived among family and friends and built lives they were proud of in Iraq.  

The war changed their daily lives completely.  They fled to Jordan and Ibtisam had to leave behind a business she had spent the last 20 years building.  In Jordan they were undocumented and this meant they had to scrape together money to live and as Ibtisam shared about this time tears welled up.  Life was very hard for them those 4 1/2 years in Jordan as they lived under constant fear they would be sent back or killed. Ibtisam's older and younger brother were both violently killed and her husband was in contact with former neighbors who had heard death threats against them and others. Realizing there was no hope of returning to Iraq in the near future Ibtisam's husband applied to the United Nations in Jordan.  As we listened to him tell us about the process he shared he really took a risk not knowing even what he was applying for, "I just knew we cannot make the life here and we cannot go home."  

They were contacted by the UN and were called to come in- for what they did not know.  They both were separately interviewed by UN representatives from 7am until 7pm about their stories that first time.  Ibtisam's husband said he thought the interviewer was tough and he worried she hated him because of the intensity of the interview.  Ibitisam agreed that retelling everything and being asked specific details apart from her husband was nerve-wracking.  They did not know it then but this and the subsequent 3 interviews that were to come were the beginnings of the refugee screening process. After months of waiting and hearing nothing they gathered outside the UN to await the posting of a list.  They described thousands of people in a crush of humanity waiting and praying their name appeared on this list.  They saw their names.  At this point as they told their story they both paused, held hands, and teared up.  It was clear that looking back this one moment held so much hope and at the same time anxiety for what this would mean for them.  

They had no idea where they would be relocated and what this would entail.  They learned they were assigned to the United States and while they felt relief they also held in that same moment complicated emotions of panic about starting again in a new country where they did not speak the language.  They asked, "How will we do this life in the U.S.?" They arrived at O’hare in 2008 with 8 other families and with the help of World Relief resettled in this area.  Just as the many refugee clients that come to the U.S., their stories do not begin when they arrive here with their IOM bag in hand and they also do not end with arriving in their new country of resettlement.  Just to be away from immediate danger is not the end.  There is so much rebuilding, cultural and language learning, healing, and life to live yet. There is such much to be negotiated about embracing new and holding on to their heritage.  As I sit with refugee clients and listen to their stories I am always impacted by the rich lives they left behind.  The vivid memories they share of lives and loves and hardships and joys that they were forced to leave. Ibitisam and her husband shared many more sacred details of their lives and Tim and I listened, asked questions, and sat as witnesses to the rich unfolding story they have lived and are living.  I apologized to them for having to recount so many painful details but her husband quickly shook his head and said "no, you cannot forget these hard times."  Sharing stories validates the ones sharing and allows the listeners to be stretched to embrace more of our human family and be reminded each of our stories matter too. I have often been told that for many in some of the retelling there is also some healing.      

They both continue to learn English and more about American culture (we had some laughs about this process) and make amazing use of the resources available to them here.  Ibitisam restarted her business here and it quickly began growing.  She realized she wanted to pursue a college degree in at a local community college since her training mostly has come from her mother in law back home in Iraq and her on the job experience.  She currently studies in the fashion design program and has already been awarded Most Outstanding Freshman Designer of the year.  She shared a story at the recent World Relief Spotlight Event that her instructor could not believe the detail work she completed on a wedding dress in only a week. She laughs telling this story because she misunderstood the due date and although she had all semester thought she only had a week to complete it!  She asked her to do it AGAIN during class time just  to see and show the other students her technique.  One of my favorite moments was when Ibtisam was recalled how nervous she was to arrive in the U.S.,  "I had no English so I wore this badge so nothing will happen to me." She wore a badge around her neck that gave information on who to call if she got lost because when she arrived she could not communicate in English.  She produced this badge from a back room in their apartment and showed it off. They laughed at how far they have come since that day; how they can tell their story in English, welcome us to their home in America, and share about running a business here.  

They run her business, Ibtisam Sewing, out of their apartment and her husband helps her with design (including designing and printing her custom labels).  He beams when he talks about Ibtisam and her successes. 

About 3 hours later we left their home with promises to return soon (which I will because I think I am needing a new bag :) and as we made our way back down the stairs and as I edited and culled through images I reflected on how grateful I am to be involved in this work.  This good work of listening to stories, of being present with folks who make our country richer and stronger.  I am grateful to Ibtisam and her husband for welcoming me and graciously sharing their lives and I look forward to watching more of their story unfold.  

Please check out Ibitsam sewing!!!   

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roxanne@hawaimages.com (Hawa Images) america entrepreneurs iraq refugees relief welcome world https://gallery.hawaimages.com/blog/2017/9/meet-ibtisam Fri, 15 Sep 2017 16:12:13 GMT
creating art with sand & light https://gallery.hawaimages.com/blog/2017/8/creating-art-with-sand-light I enjoyed meeting artist Mark Demel in his home and capturing the unique way he uses sand and light to create art.  He taught himself this art form and can create an entire scene so quickly it really is amazing! The images will be used for a publication around Christmas time. 

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roxanne@hawaimages.com (Hawa Images) art artist christmas light sand https://gallery.hawaimages.com/blog/2017/8/creating-art-with-sand-light Mon, 07 Aug 2017 18:18:03 GMT
football, bracelets, & building friendships: Summer Youth Clubs with World Relief https://gallery.hawaimages.com/blog/2017/7/football-bracelets-building-friendships-summer-youth-clubs-with-world-relief

Last Friday was the last day of our Summer Youth Clubs for World Relief Dupage/Aurora. The summer program brought together kids and young adults from Burma, Iran, Sudan, Syria, and several other countries. I was invited to capture the kids learning together, crafting (and I may have tied Many-a-bracelets :), bonding with volunteers, learning to play American football, and making new friends.  These programs are so important as World Relief helps refugee families adjust and feel confident in America. I loved watching the volunteers giving high fives to kids after their first touch down and the kids playing together with other kids from opposite ends of the globe who now share a common experience.   

Local churches host these clubs and these programs are staffed by volunteers committed to World' relief's vision of partnering with local churches and volunteers to provide hope to those whose lives have been disrupted by violence and persecution. Learn more about getting involved here. 

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roxanne@hawaimages.com (Hawa Images) aurora chicago dupage refugees relief volunteer world https://gallery.hawaimages.com/blog/2017/7/football-bracelets-building-friendships-summer-youth-clubs-with-world-relief Tue, 18 Jul 2017 19:03:23 GMT
Anchored in Hope:Volunteer Appreciation with World Relief https://gallery.hawaimages.com/blog/2017/5/anchored-in-hope-volunteer-appreciation-with-world-relief

World Relief Dupage/Aurora thanked the many volunteers that make their work with refugees and immigrants possible Friday night with a celebration that included food & performances from around the world (the food y'all!!). There were food stalls from 9 countries serving small portions of ethnic food, great discussions around the tables, roaring applause as different groups shared their cultural dances with us all, salsa lessons for the brave, henna, & jump houses and face painting for the kids. Seeing so many people gathered who are involved year round with welcoming refugees and immigrants in big and small ways was special. The executive director offered a prayer and thanked everyone present because without volunteers the good work of World Relief is not possible! Seeing folks from so many cultures enjoying and celebrating each other in one place is a beautiful thing. The theme was anchored in hope and it was a night that serves as a great reminder that we work for the good of all people because we have hope in the future. 

I'm grateful to be a part of this important work.

Here is our squad enjoying the night!

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roxanne@hawaimages.com (Hawa Images) Relief World humanitarian immigrants photography refugees volunteer https://gallery.hawaimages.com/blog/2017/5/anchored-in-hope-volunteer-appreciation-with-world-relief Mon, 01 May 2017 18:05:22 GMT
Easter People https://gallery.hawaimages.com/blog/2017/4/easter-people

Easter was so special. Our daughter Evangeline told part of her story which; as we were reminded that morning, is the story God is writing in her, in all of us. She was baptized surrounded by friends and family and friends who are family. She had the most amazing mentor; Katie who poured into her, shared with vulnerability and beauty her own story, loved her, encouraged, and challenged Evy. We all cried so much our heads hurt and smiled so much our faces are sore. It was all blessing & we are so grateful to God for the Good Good work He is doing.

I love capturing events that are part of our story, part of our culture, our beliefs, and who we are.....being behind the camera this time was even harder to hold it together because it was our family and I had ALL the FEELS!! We are Easter people! 

sister love.....and we are criers! Celebrating New Life!!

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roxanne@hawaimages.com (Hawa Images) Easter event family photographer photography special https://gallery.hawaimages.com/blog/2017/4/easter-people Tue, 18 Apr 2017 18:31:44 GMT
brave young women & those standing with them https://gallery.hawaimages.com/blog/2017/4/braveyoungwomenthosestandingwiththem

When I first wrote an email to International Justice Mission about our trip to Thailand and my desire to partner with them I knew it was a long shot but the small voice inside me had become too loud to ignore in the weeks and months that preceded that moment so, with latte in hand sitting at my computer while my son played trains at my feet I wrote an email.  I had heard about IJM's work in rescuing and advocating for young women that had been violently abused and trafficked.  This is an epidemic that we can forget exists in our small corner of the world.  But for our family the issue of sexual abuse and the brokenness of the systems set up to protect victims was becoming all too real.  After I read The Locust Effect I could not shake the stories. I had heard the statistics about this epidemic and while they would momentarily arouse me from my affluent and privileged stupor I would soon fill my lives with the immediate. But the stories of girls the ages of our girls that had been abused, trafficked, and/or raped and then even after rescue had no recourse for true justice left me sleepless and wondering if we really believe ALL people are created in His image because our (and my own) inaction tell a different story.  "Sexual violence is a truly global epidemic that leaves millions around the world terrified in their homes, schools and neighborhoods. Sexual violence can include rape, molestation and other forms of sexual abuse. Although anyone can be a victim of sexual violence, this form of violence most frequently impacts women and girls—and impoverished women and girls are particularly vulnerable." -IJM. After several more "coincidences" of mentions of IJM's work in a podcast or a book a friend recommended that mentioned IJM I decided to see if I could use this passion for photography to help IJM tell these important stories.

When I got the email response that I would be photographing young women who were bravely fighting through the broken systems to seek justice in their cases I just sat at my computer reading and rereading the specifics (that I cannot share here) of their stories. They were now young women I would meet and be trusted to capture part of their story and that felt weighty. I sensed then and experienced even more after traveling to Thailand the importance of the HOPE that can come from people standing together to fight injustices, to use their collective voices to join in to say these young women and their families and their stories MATTER.  It was an amazing privilege to meet the brave men and women who work for IJM; many of whom have to keep their identities a secret because of the potential risk to their lives. The support for their clients in court and through after care is remarkable.  I learned rescue is only a small part of the story.  It was a gift to meet the young women making brave choices in the face of grave evil and injustice to believe and show us all that hope and justice ARE POSSIBLE. The few images here are from one story I covered while in Thailand and these images protect these young women's identities as their cases are ongoing. IJM will share more as the cases progress and hopefully I can share more about the important work of IJM through images and stories soon.  

After spending time with IJM employees and clients in Thailand I was changed. I am still processing and learning and trying to find my way amidst what God is showing me.  Seeking justice is bold and brave in world that seeks to devalue women and girls.  Seeking justice is difficult because systems, families, and in our very selves there is deep brokenness. Seeking justice is powerful because it communicates that we are all human and therefore valuable and precious by our birth right as beings created in the image of our Creator.     Learn more about IJM's good work in preventing, advocating for, and helping victims of sexual violence heal here

"IJM is an international human rights agency that supports the world's largest corps of local, indigenous advocates providing direct service to impoverished victims of violent abuse and oppression in the developing world." Gary Haugen in The Locust Effect. 

This image reminds me that we can choose to be distracted from the issues of justice for all people because there will always be life moving quickly all around us but truly looking and choosing to SEE and Hear the stories can change us. Friends- please join me to pray! Educate yourself! Mourn injustice (but do not stop there)! Pray! Act! Advocate! 

April is sexual assault awareness month so after reading more and seeing Griselda's* story my older girls wanted to get involved in making a difference! The result: Baked Goods for the Good!  If you are local and would like to support Annikah's efforts to Be the Good please reach out!  

 

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roxanne@hawaimages.com (Hawa Images) April IJM Thailand awareness humanitarian photographer photography sexual violence https://gallery.hawaimages.com/blog/2017/4/braveyoungwomenthosestandingwiththem Thu, 06 Apr 2017 22:59:32 GMT
treasures, sun, sand, & waves https://gallery.hawaimages.com/blog/2017/3/treasures-sun-sand-waves Beach life is the good life if you ask me.  I learned to appreciate the healing and calming waves, salty air, & sandy toes on a small island many miles away in East Africa but I will always adore the beach. Anywhere she is found.  The beach is like therapy for me. There is just always something about it vastness and my smallness that makes me remember how big God is and how much we are blessed to get to feel the warm sand beneath our toes as we look out into the blue depths and marvel at creation.  

I wanted to capture some of the details of our day at what many call "Shark Teeth Beach" or Caspersen Beach in Venice, Florida.  This place is pretty amazing and even gets mention in National Geographic for being the "shark tooth capital of the world." My kids left the beach that day with ziplock baggies full of "treasures" and I left with these images that I treasure of a day spent in the wind, waves, and sand. Happy Spring break friends!!

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roxanne@hawaimages.com (Hawa Images) Florida beach break childhood family photography spring vacation https://gallery.hawaimages.com/blog/2017/3/treasures-sun-sand-waves Tue, 28 Mar 2017 20:39:45 GMT
Kids March to say "We Welcome Refugees" in Chicago https://gallery.hawaimages.com/blog/2017/3/kids-march-to-say-we-welcome-refugees-in-chicago

Yesterday my girls and I headed to the "Bean" officially known as Cloud Gate in Chicago to join with kids who organized a march to show our support for refugees and refugee resettlement to our area.  It was a small way we; as World Relief volunteers, can use our voices to say "We Welcome Refugees!" and will continue to do so. I was proud of my girls and it was cool to see the kids who organized the event share and lead us all into activism.  Children exercising their rights as citizens to advocate for vulnerable people is so awesome to see!

Learn more about welcoming refugees here and more about volunteering with World Relief here. 

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roxanne@hawaimages.com (Hawa Images) Chicago kids march refugees relief world https://gallery.hawaimages.com/blog/2017/3/kids-march-to-say-we-welcome-refugees-in-chicago Mon, 27 Mar 2017 16:57:35 GMT
SIVs tell their stories https://gallery.hawaimages.com/blog/2017/3/sivs-tell-their-stories Last week many gathered in Cafe K'Tizo (umm, try the vanilla herbal tea latte!!) to hear some of the stories of those who have come to the United States through the Special Immigrant Visa Program (commonly know as SIVs).   Hearing some of the stories of Afghani and Iraqi translators and military who helped U.S. troops puts a face to the SIVs program.  Ali (far left above) was the first Iraqi to arrive to World Relief Dupage Aurora through the SIVs program.  Since that time 36 Iraqis have arrived through WRDA with SIVs starting in 2009 and 26 Afghans since 2014.  Throughout America's many years of presence in other countries our military relies heavily on upon the support of Afghan and Iraqi nationals.  Many have served as interpreters, engineers, security guards, cultural advisors, and other roles.  Groups like the Taliban and Iraqi death squads have been known to show no mercy to these individuals and often they fear daily for their security.  Many SIVs apply for the program after their lives or their family's lives are threatened for their involvement with aiding our troops overseas.  Many arrive in the U.S. with strong English skills, advanced education, and professional experience. As the current changes to the refugee program are debated this event helped highlight the importance to the SIVs program as these folks have risked their lives to help the United States.    

Wasim shared passionately about his adjustment to life in the United States including profusely thanking his job skills teacher who was sitting in the front row to support him.  He also teared up sharing about his hopes to save enough money to bring his family here in the future. 

Muzghan shared about her life as a woman working on a base in Afghanistan and the struggles she faced there because of her involvement with the U.S. military as a woman.  She is extremely proud that here in the United States she can work freely. 

Ali, who speaks 4 languages and currently works as a electronics consultant ended the night with a plea for mutual understanding and compassion.  "We're all human beings, we're just people. Everyone needs to know that in Iraq, there are good, hard-working people, and many of them right now are suffering."

I am grateful to partner with WRDA to help them tell these important stories! 

The Chicago Tribune also covered the event and some of Hawa Image's photographs of the evening were published (see & read more here.

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roxanne@hawaimages.com (Hawa Images) Chicagoland Immigration Relief SIVs Wheaton World refugees https://gallery.hawaimages.com/blog/2017/3/sivs-tell-their-stories Tue, 07 Mar 2017 18:04:00 GMT
Buddha's view of Phuket https://gallery.hawaimages.com/blog/2017/2/big

We knew that taking the winding road to the top of the Nakkerd Hills would be an adventure when we hopped on our rented scooter to explore the most famous and revered landmark in Phuket, Thailand. The trip up was beautiful with views of Phuket town disappearing and turning to thick forest as we past small villages and shops.  It was also a bit daring when the sharp turns and gravel roads meant some squeals (ok screams...sorry J) from me sitting on the back of the motorbike!  The Big Buddha sits atop the hills and at 45 meters tall the Big Buddha has 360 degrees views of Phuket town, Karon beaches, and Chalong Bay. The construction of Big Buddha is still ongoing with the inside rooms filled with tourists able to purchase tiles that will be a permanent part of the structure. It is said that this construction has already cost 8 million to 11 million Thai Bhat (about 280,000 US dollars).  Many come to see the views, tour the structure, and offer prayers.  This was on of our last days in Thailand and the views and the folks we met were amazing.     

Grateful for the opportunity to explore Phuket, Thailand. I came across a list of unusual travel words and "coddiwomple" so resonated with me.  I am so drawn to travel and exploring and my purpose is always to learn more about the Creator's world, hear people's stories, and discover more about myself, others, and who God is. This travel is purposeful but always seems towards a vague destination, one not even clear to me most times.  A destination that slowly reveals itself more and more I learn and am stretched.  I know that stories matter and the more I learn the more I will not settle for a singular voice but rather are pulled towards the diversity of the world and other's experiences to understand my own story.  I am always seeking more, and hopeful of what He is teaching me in these adventures.

Where do you long to go? What is your purpose when traveling?

Happy travels friends, Roxanne   

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roxanne@hawaimages.com (Hawa Images) Big Buddha Phuket Thailand photography travel https://gallery.hawaimages.com/blog/2017/2/big Mon, 13 Feb 2017 19:37:44 GMT
celebrating in Chinatown! the year of the rooster. https://gallery.hawaimages.com/blog/2017/2/celebrating-in-chinatown-the-year-of-the-rooster

I always love exploring Chicago's Chinatown and one of the busiest and best days to explore and experience Chinatown is on the day of the lunar new year parade.  Chicago is a city of neighborhoods that all have unique history and characteristics that make them special and vibrant and I feel blessed to live so close to an amazing city. This year it was not cold and snowy so it meant many more people than usually lined the streets of S. Wentworth & Cermak.  We had a fabulous lunch after the parade and walked around browsing shops and taking in the sights, smells, & sights of Chinatown.  

Chinese Lunar New Year parade. The year of the rooster 2017. Chinatown, Chicago.Chinese Lunar New Year parade. The year of the rooster 2017. Chinatown, Chicago.

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roxanne@hawaimages.com (Hawa Images) Chicago Chinatown Lunar New Parade Year https://gallery.hawaimages.com/blog/2017/2/celebrating-in-chinatown-the-year-of-the-rooster Tue, 07 Feb 2017 21:33:35 GMT
"...a peaceful life for my family." https://gallery.hawaimages.com/blog/2017/2/-a-peaceful-life-for-my-family Being here in the U.S. is everything for my family,” said Ammar. “It is school for my children, health care for my son, and a peaceful life for my family.

As I approached this family's front door and I could hear the TV inside blaring with Inauguration Day 2017 ceremonies.  We were introduced, talked through a translator and another volunteer with World Relief, drank wonderfully sugary chai, and discussed their first few weeks in America as the TV behind us was showed the motorcades and ceremony to make Trump our next president.  Now, just weeks from that morning the refugee program has been suspended for at least 120 days.  A program that just allowed this family to arrive here in the U.S. to continue their journey towards safety and peace.  As I volunteer with World Relief I learn again and again that people only leave their homes if their home means danger or death.  It is not a choice for refugees to leave, but the last resort or a difficult choice made in hopes of saving their children and lives. This family and their 5 children lived in Aleppo, Syria before their community was bombed, including their daughter's school that she only was able to attend for one day until it became a pile of rubble. After realizing their family was unsafe and in danger they packed a few belongings and headed for Turkey where they have stayed for the past 4 years. Life was difficult for them there and Ammar and his sons had to work 12 hour days at textile factory.  Their children were unable to attend school and as the situation in Syria got worse they realized they need to apply for refugee status if their children were to have an opportunity for a better life and an education.

After over a year of background checks, extensive interviews, and vetting this family was given refugee status and approved to resettle in the U.S.  A local church helped furnish their new rental home and volunteers are welcoming them to our area.  I arrived at their home in time to see their children get off the big bright yellow school bus.  These parents were shocked to learn their son with special needs was able to attend a program at a local public school along with their other children. I watched them proudly unpack his backpack with folders and papers with his name on them. These moments are the reason the refugee program is so important. I am blessed to be a small part of telling these stories because the people behind the political arguments and posturing matter. This family is seeking a peaceful life here in America and they will face many real challenges (limited English, their oldest son is still in Turkey hoping to be reunited with them, & the sometimes daunting adjusting to the culture in America). As they continue their story here I hope and pray they sense they are welcome. And safe.        

Read more on this family's story in the latest World Relief Dupage/Aurora January Newsletter.