Out of the waste dump into the classroom
As a photojournalist, you always hope that your images can reach out and help those most in need. I’ve been lucky enough to have this opportunity on a number of assignments for ChildFund Australia.
Most recently, on a trip to PNG, I was asked to capture stories and images of children and families living in the rubbish dump settlements around Port Moresby. This was particularly interesting to me as I’d previously spent over a year photographing and learning about waste pickers in Phnom Penh.
I took this snapshot of three girls from one of Port Moresby’s most notorious dump communities as we drove along a bumpy road from their home to their new school. One week before, the two older girls had joined St Peters Literacy School, where they are finally learning to read, write and count. Previously the girls worked with their parents collecting metal scraps on the old dump and growing vegetables in the decomposed waste.
I was fortunate to also play a part, unknowingly, in encouraging the younger girl in the photo to take a leap and begin her education as well. When we visited her home to meet her sister and their parents, she became intrigued and jealous of the attention given to her sister and pleaded with her mother to let her go to St Peters Literacy School too.
I’ve worked with ChildFund Australia in Africa, Asia and now the Pacific, and we always aim to work in partnership with the children and their families to tell their stories through photographs and video. I thought it was really brave of the girls to volunteer to invite us into their lives and give us a glimpse into their world.
I also witnessed first-hand the passion and generosity of Peter and Matilda, the local couple who established St Peters Literacy School and do their best with available resources to offer children from the dumps an education. Their school, however, urgently needs support to provide medical care, essential nutrition and safe housing for these girls, and hopefully to the hundreds more I saw still living and working at the dumps.
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