There it was, staring back at me from the computer screen…..Jordan….The Giving Lens…photographers Colby Brown and Ken Kaminesky ….travel, photography workshops, giving back to the community.
Jordan…a place I had always wanted to visit….the realisation of a dream….how could I not go!
The Giving Lens is the creation of photographer extraordinaire Colby Brown to combine travel, photography and giving back to the community. On each trip, time is spent with an organizsation chosen by Colby and part of the cost of the trip is given to the community as a donation. This year Ken Kaminesky joined Colby in leading our group ..
In Jordan, the Iraq Al-Amir Women’s Co-Operative Society, which focuses on empowering women through job skills and training, was the beneficiary.
The Iraq Al-Amir Women’s Co-Operative Society was founded in 1993 by the Noor Al-Hussein Foundation, headed by Queen Noor, who originally saved the building from demolition and under the support of the Swiss Government set about restoring the ten buildings that make up the Co-Operative as well as adding a showroom.
Clever planning by The Giving Lens meant we arrived in time to enjoy a delicious lunch prepared by the women. A tasty chicken and rice dish known as Kabsa arrived and just as quickly disappeared.
Fifty women were originally chosen to learn the skills of weaving, paper work and pottery. Learning these skills took three years and eventually they opened to the public in 1966. The Noor Al Hussein foundation later dissolved and the women had to fund themselves. In 2001, they became the Iraq Al-Amir Women’s Co-Operative Society with the purpose of keeping their culture alive, protecting the environment and supporting the ladies from the village.
The small village of Al Amir suffers from high unemployment as there are no government offices nearby so for some of the women, the wages they earn here are relied upon by their families. Most of the women were in their twenties when they started so they have either retired or are about to retire but their job skills have been learnt by a new group of women eager to work.
Wandering from one room to another, we could see the women working on their handmade crafts.
We visited the Women’s Society twice and each time the children of the village captivated our hearts. They would rush to greet us and were very happy for us to take their photographs. One proud father bought his child over to chat to us in English.
Their beautiful, wide eyed innocence will be the subject of another post!
Our second visit was for the purpose of taking photographs of their products that could be used for further marketing projects.
Chatting to the women (with the help of Mohammed, our guide) provided a few insights.
The women realise that mistakes were initially made. Not many of the women speak english, they did not have any marketing experience and they could have benefited from the input of a designer.
Tourism in Jordan has declined and visitors to the centre have diminished. This has impacted on the group’s budget so much so that they now have a large deficit. Neither their rent nor wages have been paid for over a year. This in turn affects everyone as a lot of families rely on the wage.
The good news is that our donation to the group will be used to help pay this rent arrears. It would be sad to see the Co-Op close as the benefits spread all through the village.
For us, our visit to the Iraq Al Amir Women’s Co-Operative Society certainly provided an insight into life in a small village in Jordan and the difficulties they face.
This year The Giving Lens is offering similar trips to Nicaragua, Peru, Tanzania and a few more places that are yet to be announced. If you are tempted to go on one, all I can say is GO! You will not regret it
What are you waiting for?….Check out their web site: The Giving Lens
Do you like to be able to give something back to the community when you travel?