In just a few days, I’ll be boarding a plane for a trip of a lifetime. All trips are trips of a lifetime I have to admit, because there’s a new experience to just going down to the corner store to buy a gallon of milk. But this trip really feels special because it will be to somewhere many people live but somewhere I’ve never been; Nairobi, Kenya. Best yet, I’m going there with the purpose of photography, videography and audiography. (If  indeed audiography is in fact a word.  But functionally it’s on par with the two other visual components.) 

It’s not fair to actually say that the purpose of my trip is to photo, video and audio record. Those are just the methods of collecting information. The real purpose is to create a hopefully interesting, insightful and perhaps even provocative story or stories. Stories that will help explain for my “client” Friends of Ngong Road. http://ngongroad.org/default.aspx 

Ngong Road is a wonderful organization of whom we have supported for a number of years through sponsoring a couple of children. As described on it’s home page, The mission is, “to provide education and support for Nairobi children living in poverty whose families are affected by HIV/AIDS to they can transform their lives. Friends of Ngong Road pairs each sponsor with a specific child allowing mutually beneficial relationship to develop.”

The reason I refer to Ngong Road as a “client” complete with the quotation marks, is because as much as I am making this trip as a volunteer, donating my time and efforts and expenses to this trip, and my friend Keith Kale who invited me to do this project keeps saying, “Steve, you’ll do great. Whatever you do will be a big improvement over what we have,” I keep trying to explain to him that I have little experience with this kind of thing, and am in fact just picking up the skills behind videotaping and audio interviewing. My class this semester at Minneapolis Community and Technical College has been a heaven sent, at least making me aware of the tools I need to perform some of the video and audio recording side of things. 

But, my advertising and branding background keeps creeping in. As much as I have been fortunate enough have  my camera take me to a new place I’ve never been, I can’t help but keep wanting to give myself some direction on what to seek and look for going into this so foreign land. 

What is the insight behind all the sights? What goes beyond the cliche of poor children who are victims in need? Is the story about making a difference? Is it about hope? What can be said that compels those of us so fortunate to be able to help to do something about this situation? 

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And then I am constantly pressed with my own challenge. Is it simply romantic feel good for us who can, to “save the world” while at the same time we have incredible misfortunes and inequities and human rights issues right in our own cities, perhaps as close as two to five miles from our own homes? It doesn’t need to be one or the other, but there sometimes seems to be a capacity or a saturation point for caring. It just seems worth questioning. 

But the important first step now is to first take my meds, pack my gear and take the first step of the journey. The journey will take me to four schools in Nairobi. It will take me into the streets of Nairobi to see everyday life. It will take me inside the homes of a number of families where the students of Ngong Road live, to visit, to talk, to listen, to hear and to see, with my cameras, audio equipment, ears, eyes and heart. Even with the several books I’ve been reading to become acclimated, I don’t imagine I’m at all prepared for this trip of a lifetime. I try not to read too much into today’s headline, Photographer Grieves-Cook dies a story about a Nairobi photographer who jumped to his death to escape from armed thugs.” Okaaay.
I will do my best to post the progress of this trip on f/go Rambler as it occurs. So you are invited to check back.

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