Thursday, November 17, 2011

Students document despair and hope at the Cherry St. Mission

Amy, left, uses a digital voice recorder to interview Chantele Henry, chief operations officer. (Photos by Lori King)

Serena and Clay document life at the Men's Ministry at the Cherry St. Mission at 105 17th St. in Toledo, Ohio.
Jessica asks a 37-year guest of the Sparrow's Nest for her name.
Dear PHO245 students:
   I'm proud of you for stepping out your comfort zones to shoot your team photo story project yesterday.
   You witnessed true desperation on the many sad faces of homeless men and women at the Cherry St. Mission. Hard to believe that most everyone you met lost everything they had, for whatever reason, and their only possessions were a few trinkets they keep near their twin bunks.
   While some of the 'guests' refused to let you take their photos, others were happy to share their stories, like the woman who suffered domestic abuse and escaped to the Sparrow's Nest, a shelter for women.
  There's no doubt that documenting down-and-out people is difficult, especially when they give you dirty looks or hide their faces in shame. I know some of you would have preferred to shoot the back of their heads and not ask them for their names. Anonymous is easy. 
   However, the only way to properly illustrate this heart-wrenching story of the poor is to put faces and names on it. Unfortunately, that's the best way to prove there is a problem. Sometimes it takes the media to get the word out so people will respond.
   The Cherry St. Mission is the perfect place to learn about the human condition of poverty. It's the largest organization serving the homeless and the poor. It offers beds, warm meals, free education, medical treatment, and much more.
   You must understand that as scholastic photojournalists you should be learning more than just how to stop action at a football game. It's actually the media's social responsibility to give a voice to the segment of the community that otherwise wouldn't have one, like the Muslim woman at the Sparrow's Nest who claimed she has lived there for 37 years. I would like to know her story, and we should tell it.
   This is the media's civic duty. It's our job to show the haves how the have-nots live. It's also our responsibility to report how the community steps up and reaches out to the poor.
   That's what you did yesterday.
   (The photo story will be produced using Soundslides, and will be available on this blog in a few weeks. To see the the photos from each student, go to their individual blogs the end of next week.)
The PHO245 team prepare to shoot their final photo story project at the Cherry St. Mission. From left: Clay, Serena, Ashley Shaffer, communications director for the Cherry St. Mission, Cathy, Becci, Jessica, Amy and Cheri. (Not pictured: Jocelyn)

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