Homeless children given chance to photograph their dreams

Mentor Dan Rohe , a Trenton schoolteacher, is photographed by Logan Reed, 6, at a program that gave cameras to children in North Philadelphia and encouraged them to document their lives. Pictures of Hope is a nationwide effort to empower homeless children and is run locally from the Drueding Center. Story, B2. DAVID SWANSON / Staff Photographer
Mentor Dan Rohe , a Trenton schoolteacher, is photographed by Logan Reed, 6, at a program that gave cameras to children in North Philadelphia and encouraged them to document their lives. Pictures of Hope is a nationwide effort to empower homeless children and is run locally from the Drueding Center. Story, B2. DAVID SWANSON / Staff Photographer
Posted: June 29, 2014

Cameras flashed left and right and lenses zoomed in and out, filling the room with a whir punctuated by satisfactory clicks, as 11 young photographers at the Drueding Center in the Ludlow section of North Philadelphia ran around tables and chairs this week in search of new angles.

The children, ages 5 to 12, had just become proud owners of Kodak PIXPRO AZ251 cameras, and had been given their first assignment: to photograph their hopes and dreams.

"That camera is way more to them than just a camera," said photojournalist Linda Solomon, whose usual focus is celebrities but who in 2006 established Pictures of Hope, a program that aims to empower homeless children by having them visualize their dreams through photographs.

On Thursday, Solomon, who is based in Michigan and will take Pictures of Hope to 14 cities this year, was at Drueding to do just that.

Solomon started by asking the children, some of whom still reside at Drueding, to step forward and share what they had written on the blank sheets of paper that greeted them with these prompts: "I hope to . . ." and "I dream for. . . ."

Tijae Scott, 8, had many dreams. She hopes to help the environment. She hopes to do well in math and science, subjects she has struggled with. She hopes for her mother to find work.

Some had dreams you might expect from children who have lived in a shelter: having a house to call their own; being reunited with family.

Others had dreams spanning far and wide: a trip to Walt Disney World; to become a doctor; to enter third grade; to travel to New York or California.

Logan Reed, a 6-year-old with two missing front teeth, decked out in a blue fedora and suspenders, had dreams of learning to do tricks on a skateboard, having Thanksgiving, and making friends.

Before the children got their cameras, each was matched with a mentor who showed them how to use the equipment, costing about $130, donated by Walgreens. Before long, the young people were putting them to use.

Logan's mentor was Dan Rohe, who teaches elementary school in Trenton. He shared some tips, showing Logan how to hold the camera without blocking the lens with his fingers.

Two children stood at the front of the room, taking pictures of each other with their cameras at the ready, peeking through the viewfinder. Others took pictures of nothing in particular, just reveling in the click made by the shutter.

Before long, they were ready to set off with their mentors to capture their hopes and dreams.

The photos they take will be made into greeting cards. Drueding, which serves homeless women and their children, will sell the cards and keep the proceeds. The children will get to see the cards in October at a party hosted by Chapman Chevrolet, a program sponsor.

Among the volunteer mentors were professional photographers Michael and Melissa McManus, who drove in from Collegeville with their 7-year-old twins, Ava and Bella. The couple organized the 15 mentors, all but one with experience in photography.

The children got a photography lesson out of Thursday's event, but they also got something more: "permission to dream," Michael McManus said.


CFabris@phillynews.com

215-854-5607

@CaseyFabris

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