01/02/2011 by cc_admin

2nd Photography Workshop…

In mid January, with some cameras on loan from PAL project in Syracuse and some donated cameras from Cambio Creatio patrons, I spent two days with Coco Solo youth, many of whom had participated in the last photography workshop, working on some more images. We talked about what they would like to show the outside world, people not from Panama or Coco Solo, about their community. We brainstormed a long list of things about Coco Solo that the kids thought were peritinent to what made their community unique- sharing, the happiness the kids experience while playing together, the chaos, the dancing, and the importance of church. We then came up with ways to show these themes in photography, the kids split up into groups and diligently went their own ways to create these photographs. The next day I returned with printed images and the kids added the photos to their journals, and added a bit of text and collage to the photographs. They are definitely developing photographic eyes as this is their second time at it and they are starting to take it seriously- photographing in the workshop is different than snapshots of their friends- they are taking themselves seriously as artists, its great!

We are now in the midst of mounting a show of their work in the Link Gallery at the Warehouse in Syracuse University, in collaboration with kids from Visual Identidades- the program co-sponsered by the PAL project and Cambio Creativo. We are starting the dialogue between the Coco Solo youth and the Puerto Rican American youth from Syracuse’s Near Westside. We will make a video document of the exhibition opening and will have the Visual Identidades youth on camera talking about the exhibition to the Coco Solo youth.  We will will then bring this video footage back to Coco Solo.  We are very excited from what this exchange could become.

Here are some recent artwork made by Coco Solo youth in the 2 day workshop, enjoy!


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01/02/2011 by cc_admin

Cambio Creativo and Coco Solo Christmas Party

Thank you so much for all your support for our work in Coco Solo! On behalf of my friends and family, and those of Lorena Endara, Keenan Lee, Jessie Rubin, Wendy James and Maya deVries we received over $1,400 in donations and many nice words of encouragement. It was a big group effort this year and it so nice that I had the pleasure of working with all of these people in the fundraising and/or party prep. We received donations from over 40 separate people or families, which I really love because it really shows how if everyone gives a little for a cause, a lot can be accomplished!

Thankfully, this year the gang fighting has subsided in Coco Solo and both sides of Coco Solo could attend the Xmas party.  This however made for an attendance of over 300 children and their parents! There were many activities this year. First we had snacks and then pinatas! 4 of them! The kids went crazy. We hung the Pinatas under our beautifully decorated Xmas tree. This is a tradition that I am really starting to love about the Coco Solo Xmas parties, the decorating time. The kids got super creative this year and we spent the whole day prior to the party decorating the tree, wrapping presents as decoration, blowing up balloons, making a big star and making “Feliz Navidad” signs. Jessie and Wendy spearheaded this operation and the place was really transformed with a new party atmosphere. While some kids were decorating, some were also helping Lorena in the community garden. They finished some major planting and started the compost pile. Its coming along really well and some kids are beginning to feel ownership and pride in the garden, even naming it “La Huerta Familiar”. Next up is the construction of the compost toilets.

So after the snacks and pinatas, everyone gathered in a the newly renovated Church that Pastor Mikey has created. Pastor Mikey is really amazing and he never stops. Besides raising 5 adopted boys, he finds time to start a soup kitchen in the community that is currently serving meals for 90 people, three times a week. He has taken an unused space in a Coco Solo building and has transformed it into a kitchen space, a dining hall, and a church. He has a contact from Colon, a business man, that is donating some food for the kitchen and Pastor Mikey has been collecting kitchen wares and appliance donations over time. A group of people brought a brand new freezer as a donation while we were there! Anyhow we all gathered into the church and did a Grand Premier of the movie made by kids during Cambio Creativo’s video workshop, mentored by Wendy James. It was great, and everyone thought it was hilarious. It was really nice for the kids a chance to show their whole community what they have been up to. Thanks to Wendy for such a successful workshop and for staying up late to get the editing all done for the party the night before!

All in all it was a great success, and another group stopped by who had heard about Pastor Mikey through a news segment that a local Panamanian TV channel did on his soup kitchen and brought a lot of food for the kitchen and toys! So it is great that more people are becoming aware of Mikey’s endeavors. We are still in need for a computer that would live in Mikey’s house and give his boys or others a place where they could type up their homework. If anyone in Panama has an old computer that they are not using we are definitely looking! Just something to keep in mind…Toys were handed out which was as always a little bit chaotic, but we got through it! Then we all ate arroz con pollo (rice with chicken) and had cake. There was also a dance performance by a group of kids that is organized within Coco Solo and kids flew their kites (newly gifted) and/ or played soccer. Oh and some of the young ladies ended the day with a modeling catwalk peformance. Yep we had lots of entertainment…

Without all of you NONE of this could have been possible. So thank you so much again! I think it really means a lot to the kids to have this yearly celebration.  Below is a link to our pictures from the party. Some were taken by Jessie, and some by me, but about half were taken by local kids themselves. Moises Bernal donated to Cambio Creativo 3 brand new digital point and shoots and I had three one loan from my Professor Stephen Mahan. So the kids were shooting and shooting.

Here is a link to some of their photos of the Xmas party:


Xmas photos:


I hope that you all a great holiday season with your friends and family and a happy new year with many blessings! Many many thanks!

Much love,


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28/11/2010 by cc_admin

Community Garden Underway!

Grassroots Gardening in Coco Solo

A large, unused plot of land quietly sits outside of Coco Solo’s community center aka Pastor Mikey’s house. To my delight, there were some edible plants growing there already, amidst grass and weeds of all sizes. We found some sugar cane, culantro, sweet potato, otoe and papaya, a nice start of nutritious roots, herbs, fruits. The first step is to clear out the entire 1200m2 plot of weeds and use this green material to build the soil, both by making raised beds and starting a compost pile. Our first day of work was very sunny and very hot, making it difficult to stay motivated and simultaneously motivate 12 other volunteers (ages 4 – 18). A considerable amount of the land gets flooded, but to our luck, bananas don’t mind the extra moisture and we had 30 banana plants donated (4 different varieties). We built several banana circles with sweet potatoes as ground cover and once the bananas are tall enough, green bean will trellis around them. So much more work to do, but as local kids are currently on break from school, I’m hoping their youthful energy will be well spent in the garden.


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28/11/2010 by cc_admin

Video Workshop: Success!

The week of our film “taller” was the most fun I’ve had since moving to Panama for my Fulbright term three months ago. The kids of Coco Solo are amongst the most joyous and animated I’ve ever met. Each person had their own style of approaching the idea of a story–their personalities shined during our brainstorming sessions. From the ever charismatic Christian to the shy and thoughtful Luis, each child had a wealth of personality and a great spirit that was immediately tangible.

I feared that it would be virtually impossible to get children as young as ten to collaborate as a film crew. They showed me! The group had a very good flow on set, and each kid was greatly committed to their job. When challenged to decide upon the position for a film shot, the children were very astute in their decision making. When our lead actress, Keisha, was encouraged to create a more serious performance by her director, Roberto, she pushed herself towards improvement. And it was all done with a touch of playfulness. Every successful take was greeted by the rejoicing of our co-teacher Jessie Rubin, who’d exclaim: “Whoo-hoo”!

That caught on very quickly. At one point, every five seconds there came a “whoo-hoo” from somebody in the group. It is that effervescent excitement that made the experience so enjoyable for me.


Wendy J.

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22/11/2010 by cc_admin

Cambio Creativo in the News!

Click here to read an article about Cambio Creativo written by Han Cheung, published in the Panama News.

Photographs by Han Cheung

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22/11/2010 by cc_admin

Cambio Creativo Collaborates with PAL Project to create Visual Identidades Program

Cambio Creativo has collaborated with PAL Project to create the Visual Identidades, an after school arts project in Syracuse, New York.  Visual Identidades (Identity through Image and Literacy) is a bilingual after school arts program not limited to, but targeted for the Latino youth from Syracuse’s Near Westside community within the Photography and Literacy Project. Visual Identidades promotes critical thinking, determination and self-expression through the process of learning creative skills. This project encourages students to explore their world as they photograph, film and capture sound recordings from their world and their lives, and then use their documents as prompts for verbal and written expression. Visual Identidades also provides a valuable opportunity for students to bring their home and community lives’ into the classroom. Photographs and videos, in turn, give the teachers who are participating in this project a glimpse into their environment and, in increasingly diverse classrooms, gives students a way to understand each other’s experiences.
The youth currently participating in Visual Identidades are from the Syracuse’s Near Westside community. Their ages are between 14 and 18, and the majority was born either in Puerto Rico or the Dominican Republic, making them proficiently bilingual. With high levels of child poverty, the Near Westside is described as one of America’s poorest neighborhoods by the United Way of Central New York. These youth attend Fowler High School located on the western end of the neighborhood, a high-school plagued with many issues of concern.
Currently, in partnership with Cambio Creativo (Panama), we are creating a pen pal art exchange between the Syracuse youth and youth from Coco Solo, Panama, where a Photography and Literacy project a is facilitated by Cambio Creativo. This exchange will allow the students to have a broader international audience for their creative endeavors as well as giving them a glimpse into a neighborhood and group of youths in another country. We hope that this will deepen their capacity to appreciate the similarities and differences that exist among them. The first interaction of these exchanges will be completed by January and will continue unto the next year.

Here are artworks created by Visual Identidades participants:

Artwork by Josh, Age 14

Artwork by Abdiel, Age 14

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09/10/2010 by cc_admin

And So It Begins: Literacy Through Photography Workshop!

Literacy through Photography August 2010 Workshop!

Despite lack of resources, our August 2010 workshop was a complete success. We worked with what we had, and the kids were more than attentive, lovely, creative and enthusiastic.  The workshop lasted four days. The first days we explained camera basics, and art photography fundamentals; such as composition and point of view. We did a few group exercises relating to these themes and then moved onto the writing prompts for the first assignment: Self-Portraits. After the kids wrote a bit about themselves, they pre-visualized what kind of self portrait they would like to take and set off with tripod and buddies to do it!  They were able to push themselves and think beyond what they had previously thought photographs should or could look like. The next day we brought the photographs they made printed out and they began to paste and collage them into their journals and then completed another writing assignment inspired by their self-portraits.

Over the next two days we completed another photographic and writing assignment, “What I like and what I do not like about Coco Solo”. We wanted the kids to be able to easily visualize their answers to the question we posed.  It did prove easy for them to roam Coco Solo and photograph what they liked and what they do not like. For instance, some photographed their families and the animals for what they did like, and for what they did not like they photographed things like the crumbling state of the buildings, the trash, and their friends acting out arguments.

The students then proceeded to paste these photos into their journals and write about the photographs. It was with this assignment that we convinced them it was “ok” to write on the photographs.  A lot of the youth from Coco Solo have never had an art class before, even in school, and they are taught to always write within the lines in pencil cursive. They have just never been given the encouragement to be creative and think without boundries while making art. We tried to push this idea within them and some of the students really blossomed in this aspect and were quite inspiring with the risks they took.

After four days of workshop it was really hard to leave the students. They seemed sad too that we were not coming back the next day to make more work. They are so eager to be creative and to learn new skills. We really hope to do a second photo workshop sooner than later. But in the meantime we have a possible video workshop planned as well as a community garden in the works….more to come!

Here are a few photographs from the workshop that were taken by Han Cheung, a photojournalist visiting Panama. He was a visiting mentor as well and worked with the kids for two days of the workshop. He has graciously provided us with this great documentation of the workshop. You can see more of this work and learn more about what he does here:


Lorena encouraging some workshop participants on some writing prompts

Rose demonstrating to some workshop participants the concept of composition

Here are a few select artworks made by youth workshop participants:

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