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Colin Shafer, Artsci’06, believes in hope. The college teacher recently led his class on a project aimed at bringing attention to the experiences of Burmese refugees in Malaysia. A spare-time photographer and writer, Colin currently teaches at Taylor’s College, a Malaysian college located in the town of Subang Jaya. He teaches Ontario high school curriculum, preparing his students for Canadian university.
Currently, Colin teaches Canadian and World Issues, and Challenge and Change in Society. Along his teaching, he is quite involved with the students. “I run the Environmental Club and organize a student-run global issues conference called “Hear Us Out”, where we try and bring together local Non-Governmental Organizations and youth to discuss local solutions to global issues,” he says. “So far, we have contributed over $7,000 CAD to local charities that are creating change!”
After visiting a charity school for Burmese refugees, he had the chance to witness first-hand the conditions under which they live. “Refugees in Malaysia are not given access to public education, and their families live in fear, as they are classified as illegal immigrants,” Colin says. “The experience was eye-opening, and clearly the charity school needed help, so I decided to bring my whole class for a visit.”
The results were inspiring. A student approached Colin about starting a project aimed at teaching refugee children basic photography skills. Colin and his team initiated a program called “See the World Through Our Eyes”, through which they raised money for cameras and equipment and began teaching photography to 17 refugees between the ages of 13-16. “The results were astounding,” Colin says. “The outcome was awesome field trips to the zoo, professional galleries, and guest speakers, lots of learning, smiles and laughs.”
The children started documenting their experiences through photography. “The photographs they took were incredible,” Colin tells us. The photos depict a variety of topics, ranging from capturing a spontaneous soccer game to a “We have already had four successful exhibitions in Malaysia and Canada, and soon we will be exhibiting in Texas.” The program’s name was changed to “Everyone has Hope”, and it continues to grow with each new group of students Colin receives in his class.
Colin is a big believer in art as an effective medium with which to bring attention to social issues. “I believe that art is important for everyone, and I hope to continue raising awareness and money for refugees in Malaysia,” Colin says. “This is a serious issue, and it is important that we don’t forget these marginalized peoples – even when the Malaysian government seems to want to. Hopefully, we can get their photographs into more galleries all around the world.”
Follow the “Everyone Has Hope” project at everyonehashope.tumblr.com, where you will be able to buy prints of the photographs. Colin and the “Everyone Has Hope” team welcome any ideas for spreading their work to more audiences. In addition, they are always looking for donated digital cameras, old and new.
If you would like to donate, please email Colin at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For Colin’s photography and other projects, you can ‘like’ Colin’s Facebook Page, Colinizing Photography, or you can access his website www.colinshafer.com.