Since sanctions were lifted to travel to Myanmar (formerly known as Burma) in 2011, tourism is on the rise. However, American’s still make up only about 20% of the foreign travelers to this ancient land. As the founder of Dog Meets World my goal was to see this awakening and unspoiled Myanmar and to connect to local children through photography. Via email from home I explained the project, asking my travel agent in Yangon to describe my interest in visiting schools as well as the historic sites to the local guides. So taking a detour from the temple strewn landscape of Bagan, we visited a village school. All the desks in the bright classroom had been donated by people from around the world. In white paint their names and countries of origin were written.
The children, as do many adults, wear the native face makeup called thanaka. The light yellow paste is made by rubbing the bark of a special tree with water. It’s applied decoratively or seemingly randomly, but is seen ubiquitously in Myanmar. However what was most endearing and charming while with the children was the way each one bowed slightly after I took their photo. It was an honor to share with them their beautiful images. The well-behaved children were polite and patient awaiting their photo to be printed. Taking a few hours from exploring places to interacting with local children is the most delightful way to tour!
Marissa was an experienced PhoDOGrapher when she married Jesse Jachman. For their honeymoon in South Africa and Zimbabwe they decided to take time from their safari adventure and give back to the local community. Marissa said she really wanted to expose Jesse to the Dog Meets World experience. So they took along little Foto the mascot and packed the portable printer. They wanted their new marriage to include a project they could do together to give back. Marissa wrote:
On the last full day of our trip, we went to an elementary school outside of Victoria Falls. The school had more than a hundred orphans enrolled, children whose parents had passed away from HIV/AIDS. After one of the older boys received his photo, he immediately sat down at the table and began folding up a piece of paper. When we got a better look, we realized he was making an envelope for his photo. It was clear the photo meant something to him. To be able to bring this gift to children was very special to us, and we look forward to our next Dog Meets World experience.
What an incredible way to be share their love with the children of Zimbabwe. Congratulations Marissa and
Read the DMW experience of Caitlin Stechschulte, originally from Pittsburgh, PA with a BA in Sociology from Hobart and William Smith Colleges and a MSW from Columbia University.
She is currently serving as a youth development Peace Corps Volunteer in the small town of Talsint, in SE Morocco since March of 2013. She works at a Neddie Neswie (Women’s Center) teaching English, working with the Neddie Preschool, assisting local women on sustainable, income generating projects, teaching aerobics and more.
The Dog Meets World kit had been floating around my region with different Peace Corps Volunteers and I was lucky enough to receive it this past June, just in time to do an end of the year Foto project with my Neddie Preschoolers. I have been working with the Neddie Preschool class for the last year, doing various projects with the 40+ preschoolers (ages 3-5) mostly around art and creative expression. As someone who loves to takes pictures I have many wonderful photographs depicting our time together but did not have a way to share these with the students. This is why I was thrilled to have the opportunity to do the Dog Meets World project with Foto and my preschoolers.
One of the things that I treasure about working with this age group is their curiosity and love of learning. Every student I photographed first wanted to see their picture on my camera and then they were captivated watching the printer generate that exact image into a real, tangible photograph. For many, this was the first picture that they had of themselves and the way they delicately held the picture and couldn’t stop looking at it validated just how special this project was for the children of Talsint. I was grateful to have the help of my new site mate, another volunteer, her enthusiasm and excitement were also a testament to how this project impacts everyone. The joy that Foto brought to Talsint was inspiring, I look forward to following this project and seeing how it touches many around the world.
Meet American Peace Corps Volunteer Rachel Jones. She’s been serving as a Youth Development Volunteer in the Errachidia region of Morocco since March 2012. She is a native of Vienna, VA with a BA from the College of William and Mary. Her favorite part about working in Morocco is the generosity of the people! Here’s Rachel’s Dog Meets World story:
I chose to do the Dog Meets World project in two preschools in the desert Saharan town of Jorf, Morocco. I noticed that while the elementary schools receive support from the government, the preschools receive no such help and are often cramped, dimly lit, and offer little chance for individual attention. I hoped that Dog Meets World would give them a chance to feel special, reflect on their identity now, and what they might want to be in the future. The first preschool had about 35 students and was in the poorest part of town. The students were excited about their new friend, Foto, the stuffed mascot dog, despite the fact that many of them are afraid of real dogs, giving us a chance to talk about being kind to animals. Shortly after, I went to my local mini-mart (called a hanut, it supplies daily needs like oil, bread, and milk), and the owner said “Hey, you took pictures of my kids!” He was thrilled that they got to partake and even had the photos right there with him.
The second school had 130 students. Yes, 130 preschool students in ONE, not very large, classroom. I couldn’t believe it when I met with the teacher the first time about the idea. I said “No really, how many students are in THIS class?” and she repeated the number as I counted the tightly-packed rows. The day of the activity fell on World Read-Aloud Day (March 5th), so my counterpart read the kids a picture book while I snapped their photos, and then we explained all the places that Foto had been to fetch photos for the kids. Despite the overwhelming size of class, they were well behaved and happy. It was a wonderful experience for me and, I hope, for the teachers and students as well. I witnessed how simple acts of generosity and kindness can bring out a lot of joy.
Of the long list of things that Dog Meets World is thankful for….Barbara Gilbert is high on the list. Indefatigable, she’s a three time practicing phoDOGrapher, took Foto and Dog Meets World on a incredibly poignant return to the village in Jamaica that bears her name. Accompanying her again was her 84 year old mother and her son, Steven Walker, on his first visit back to the Caribbean island since having both of his legs and both of his hands amputated due to a rare, awful bacterial infection last spring. YES, imagine your child losing his hands and his legs and you continue to bring comfort to others in Jamaica! Read her recounting of her trip….
On my annual mission trip to visit the poor of Jamaica traveling with Food For the Poor I visited the personal projects I have raised funding for, in addition to working with the poor at other locations. Each year I do the Dog Meets World project at a different location with the children. Foto, the mascot stuffed dog is always an instant hit, as is the actual printing of the pictures. This year was no different.
Foto’s special day was spent in a very poor village, where all the children live in shacks. The day was spent building a house in the village for a single mother with 3 daughters, who had lost her home in another village 2 years ago in a fire. With the help of donors to Food for the Poor, funds were raised to build and furnish her a new home for her family. Foto was a part of the house building project every step of the way. We built the house in one day. All the children from the village and many adults came to watch. The children were all introduced to Foto and were a part of my construction crew. We nailed and painted and Foto supervised and posed for pictures with the children and new home owner. We even put Foto in a plastic glove for painting! Everyone wanted their picture taken with Foto, from kids, to teens, to family pictures. For the new home owner I made her a photo album of pictures from the entire day, all with Foto, as her new home was being built-my gift to her. Many memories were made that day and Foto and DMW were there to record it all as a keepsake for life. The children and families in the village will have their pictures in their shacks, showing their huge smiles on this special day.
Best Foto of the Week!
Praise for DMW
"Participating in Dog Meets World was a truly magical experience, bringing joy and wonderment to all I met."
John Carr, Phodographer across South America
"Dog Meets World unleashes the power of photography as a diplomatic and personal tool in building connections among the people of the world. It embeds a memory in photographer and subject alike."
Prof. Patrick Fleming, Fulbright scholar & Phodographer Cambodia & Kyrgzystan
"You will never know just how important that photo will be long after it is taken and given."
Delores Barr Weaver, co-owner Jacksonville Jaguars
"Dog Meets World went over fabulously in my village. It is a perfect option for Peace Corps volunteers like myself. I like the Foto dog mascot, kids like it, and it is a representation of the peace and the ideas of the project."
Kristen Woodruff, Phodographer Costa Rica
"The kids are absolutely loving Dog Meets World. For a majority, these were the first images of themselves that they have ever owned."
Marti Johnson, Phodographer Uganda