Sunday, July 08, 2007

Cameras empower Sierra Leone victims

The story of one man's efforts to heal the people of war-torn Sierra Leone using photography is told through his lens.

Maurice Henri, founder of Cameras for Healing, will show his pictures in London and make two presentations about his project during tomorrow's annual Stan C. Reade photo day from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Through Cameras for Healing, Henri works with a psychologist to help victims of war and violence and ex- child soldiers in Sierra Leone plagued by emotional trauma.

Henri teaches them the basics of photography and gets the participants to take pictures of anything appealing to them.

After five days, he asks them to document a day in their life.

"(Due to) trauma . . . they cannot express themselves. The camera becomes the tool of self-empowerment to give them a voice. It's an emotional response through visuals," he said.

In Henri's first workshop, the soldiers and their victims started out on opposite sides of the room. By the end of the week, they became friends and worked together.

"They were actually forgiving each other and hugging each other and crying together."

One woman, who was held hostage for nine years in a small room with no light and repeatedly sexually assaulted, told Henri his workshop changed her life.

"She had a total fear of men. For two days, she sat and stared at the floor. I've never in my whole career of 20 years seen such sadness in one face," he recalled.

"She gave me a hug and thanked me for allowing her to smile for the first time."

The participants are continuing to do assignments and working together to help others.

Henri, who funds Cameras for Healing himself, will work with those participants again on his next trip to Sierra Leone in November and will also offer the program to new groups.

The Moncton, N.B. native will also make a presentation to the St. Thomas photo club on Tuesday evening while he's in the area.



What: Cameras for Healing presentations

When: Tomorrow, 11:15 a.m. and 2:30 p.m.

Where: Elsie Perrin Williams Estate, 101 Windemere Rd.

Admission: Free

London Free Press - Today - Cameras empower Sierra Leone victims