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15 May 2020 - Inspiration

Highlighting a Photography Volunteer Project in South Africa

Highlighting a Photography Volunteer Project in South Africa

A look back on our photography workshop in Cape Town with Andrea Rees

As travel is unthinkable during the current pandemic, we’re taking the time to celebrate some recent photography workshops. In October, we were excited to host a first photography volunteer project in Cape Town, South Africa. Run by photographer Andrea Rees, this project focused on teaching mobile photography to a group of women in Khayelitsha, one of the city’s largest townships. We were excited to be part of this inspiring initiative. 

Background: eKhaya eKasi

Our photography volunteer project was a collaboration of The Heart of a Woman Project, a passion project founded and run by Canadian photographer Andrea Rees. The root of this photography volunteer project goes back to 2012, Andrea explains. “I joined a community development township tour in Khayelitsha – back then as a participant, not the guide.”

As part of the tour, Andrea visited eKhaya eKasi, a nonprofit community centre run by local women. The purpose of this program is to support the non-profit art and education center in Khayelitsha. The eKhaya eKasi Centre has a community of 400 people and through this program, they want to teach art and educate. “The participants are chosen by the centre; some are from the neighbourhood, others come by taxi. The participants are mostly women: from late teens to grandmothers, many are mothers. They produce handmade goods like beaded jewellery or textiles.”

Andrea immediately felt a connection with this group of women, and their social impact initiative. “I learned about their community, the official isiXhosa greetings, their lives and challenges” Andrea explains. But she also learned about the community, the rich culture and the creativity.

Mobile Photography Workshops

To offer support to eKhaya eKasi and the women who run it, Andrea decided to come back to Khayelitsha the next year to teach them mobile photography workshops. This was the start of her project, The Heart of a Woman. “When I initially started, I earned income with my mobile photography, and I thought, if I could do that, maybe the women at eKhaya eKasi could do it as well.”

During this workshop, Andrea teaches participants how to photograph their products and how to video short clips. Additionally, she explains social media and how to interact with the different platforms. “Combining mobile photography and the technical know-how equips them with the skills to be able to promote their products and to make an income through that.”

“I am grateful for the opportunity to learn how to market my products and to acquire clients myself through social media so I am able to take care of my family,” says 25 -year-old participant Sibongiseni Nontshikiza. Similarly, Phindiwe Qushu mentions it’s been useful to learn about “the different angles, what makes a good picture and how the story of an image completely changes, depending on the setup.”

All phones that are provided to the women are donated. Furthermore, in order to build a self-sustained workshop, Andrea involves two staff members in those workshops so they can keep teaching. Some of the images that were taken during the initial workshop were printed on postcards to be sold to tourists and they’re still selling today, and providing a regular income for the centre.  

Turning The Heart of a Woman into a Volunteer Experience

At the end of last year, we teamed up with Andrea to offer a unique photography volunteer project in South Africa. We opened up the opportunity to help run the mobile photography workshops as part of a photo tour to Cape Town. “I enjoyed the feeling of being in it together,” says Andrea. “To have someone to also share the emotional experience and to support me in educating the group in photography, and getting the phones and social media accounts operating”.

In the long run, Andrea said, she hopes to bring many volunteers for a deeper understanding, for the culture and for the unique experience she had. “I want to show what Khayelitsha is all about and not just what the media show you, because it is so much more than that”.

“I don’t see it as helping the community”. Andrea says, it is a two-way street; she rather sees it as meeting people, experiencing the culture – the real experience. “The true value of this trip  is the shared experience of being there, the true cultural exchange and getting immersed into the culture, sitting down and eating lunch together.”

Exploring Cape Town’s Photographic Highlights

You can’t visit Cape Town without taking in some of its stunning vistas. Therefore, as part of the workshop, our group also spent a few days exploring this vibrant and striking city. Photographic highlights included the far-reaching view from top of Table Mountain, ocean views from Cape Point, and the penguin colony in Simon’s Town.

About Andrea Rees

Andrea Rees is a professional photographer from Toronto, Canada. First, she started her career as a portrait photographer in 2003, and has since expanded her focus to humanitarian, travel, and mobile photography. Her work has been featured in a variety of international print and digital magazines. Then, in 2013, Andrea founded The Heart of a Woman Project. This is a mobile photography and digital literacy initiative partnering with organizations that focus on women’s empowerment and poverty alleviation. Andrea is passionate about cultural and wildlife experiences as well as supporting small businesses, independent artists and responsible tourism.

How to Donate to Heart of a Woman

If you have any old iPhones lying around and you’d like Andrea to put it to good use, you can donate it! As part of the Heart of a Woman program, your phone will be used to give women mobile photography skills and internet access. This can give them the right tools to put their story out and generate an income. 

Current Photography Volunteer Opportunities

You are interested in using your photography skills for a good cause? You can join our Impact Photography Program in beautiful Cape Town. This photography volunteer project gives you the opportunity to document the work of nonprofit organisations doing important social development work, and donate your images to the cause. It’s a wonderful way to improve your skills, learn about humanitarian photography, and make an impact to worthwhile charities.

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