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.
Meet another fabulous young American serving in the Peace Corps….read how Jane Connell experienced photo diplomacy via Dog Meets World! Thanks Jane for being a phoDOGrapher. In her words:
I am currently work as a youth development Peace Corps Volunteer in Morocco. I received a portable printer as a donation from Carolyn Lane, the founder of Dog Meets World, during a very serendipitous meeting in the sand dunes of South Morocco. After our meeting the printer and Foto traveled with myself and a fellow volunteer on a variety of market bus rides out to the Southeast corner of Morocco. The place I currently call home is Bouarfa, a mid-sized desert town that is quite isolated from the rest of Morocco. Bouarfa has a deep Arab culture that is strongly influenced by the large nomad populations surrounding the town. This summer Bouarfa had its first Nomad Festival, which also included a three day camp for children living in Bouarfa. Myself and a few other volunteers from the region helped out at the camp and felt it would be the perfect setting for a Dog Meets World project.
While introducing “Foto” the dog to the campers I asked who had a photo of themselves at their house. Every single camper reported only ever having photos taken on phones and not having any tangible photos. It was very rewarding to see how excited they were to line up and pose for the camera and how fascinated they were with the photo printer. The smiles on the campers faces after they received their photos made me very excited to continue sharing Dog Meets World with other volunteers. Next week the printer and Foto will again make a market bus trip through the desert to a Peace Corps regional meeting where I will present the project and pass on the printer to another volunteer.
Secretary of State John Kerry is doing much to start up stalled peace negotiations in the Middle East. This summer photo diplomacy vis-a-vie Dog Meets World was presented for the third year to the students of a group called New Story Leadership for the Middle East.The nonprofit brings together young professional Israelis and Palestinians who are willing to talk and take action for peace. They were taken by the simple idea of using photography to connect and to validate others. Three of this year’s class will be taking Foto, the mascot and participating as new phoDOGraphers back home and in their travels. We look forward to hearing all the inventive ways they incorporate Dog Meets World. Peace everyone.
Phodographer Anna Khandros in Bouanane, Morocco
Anna Khandros, a native of Brooklyn, New York and a graduate of Brandeis University, began working with the Peace Corps as a Youth Development Volunteer a year ago. She is the first volunteer in Bouanane, which is in the southeast region of Morocco. Anna now finds herself three hours from the nearest city and six hours from the nearest supermarket. “The region is one of the poorest”. Anna recounts:
My town’s recently re-opened Youth Center had it’s first-ever camp, something I’d been working toward for almost a full year. Because of the camp’s importance to me as well as my community, I took hundreds of photos. The problem I’ve found with taking photos is that I rarely get to share them with the people in them. Dog Meets World allowed me to do just that, and the children will now have a tangible memory of their first camp experience. I hope that as they grow up, the photos will remind them of the importance of the Youth Center in the community, and will encourage them to take ownership and make sure it stays open long after I leave.
Bouanane is in one of the poorest regions of Morocco, so I asked the kids I photographed how many of them already had photos of themselves; most did. However, none had photos of just themselves, probably because everything here is so communal and photographs remain expensive. Although I had concerns about the children’s aversion to real dogs as well as smiling in photos, they took a liking to little stuffed Foto dog, and I had some success getting a few to smile!
It was really rewarding distributing the photos, as it will be to share them with people around the world.
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