The Mighty Me Movement - Guatemala

In July 2014 The Mighty Me Literacy & Photography project (MMLP) founded by Angelina Attwell, set out on a mission to empower orphaned and at-risk youth in Mexico and Guatemala.  MMLP is a unique curriculum, which blends creative writing, movement and photography as a way to empower young people to own their stories, gain confidence, and discover an expressive personal voice. Backed by ninety-eight individuals, organizations, and the Civilitas Foundation we raised $8300 to support and implement the program. 

At Rancho Del Nino Orphanage in Sonora Mexico, Attwell and a team of three volunteers, led thirty children through art making and photography over six days. At Casa Guatemala in the Rio Dulce National Forest of Guatemala, Attwell assembled a new group of educators and facilitators including translators, a film-maker, and Arturo Gonzalez, a twenty year old orphan we met at Rancho Del Nino. Here, we worked with over one hundred fifty children in this remarkable and remote jungle landscape. 

Watch the video to see the Mighty Me Movement come to life. 

The MMLP curriculum incorporates three elements: 1. Movement Exploration, 2. Art Making/Writing Exploration, 3. Photo Making Project. These three components are all geared towards building self-esteem and developing creative self-expression and culminate in a public exhibit of the children’s work. Armed with ten digital cameras, two portable printers, and innumerable technical accessories and support materials, our team led approximately one hundred and eighty youth.

The program begins with the children learning basic photographic skills. For some of these children who have never seen a camera before, let alone held one in their hands, these beginning experiences were revelatory and thrilling. From there we were able to do exercises and games where children used their new knowledge to explore the world around them through photography. This also included movement and dance classes, creative writing exercises, oral presentations and readings. Ultimately, each child left with a handful of their favorite photos and were able to see their work on display in a public exhibit for the whole community.

 A powerful moment at both orphanages was when the children saw their photos coming out of the portable printer.  Literally, crowds of children would hover close around exclaiming words of delight as each picture slowly revealed itself to them.  Seeing their community reflected back into their own eyes brought a sense of pride and connection.

Another pivotal component was the final public exhibit that occurred during lunch time on the final day of the program.  Every child who participated, was able not only to see pictures of themselves represented, but also photos they had taken.   In this way they were able to see and be seen.

The goal of this program is always two fold. One, is to implement this empowering arts program with the children and two, is to advocate for the organizations who are on the front lines of caring for marginalized children.  

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Meeting the kids at Casa Guatemala

Leaders emerge when given the opportunity.  The first time we met the kids at Casa Guatemala they were shy and quiet.  Here's my impromptu dance performance and breakdance lesson that helped to break the ice.  The young man, I later come to know as Luis, volunteered to learn a move called a 'coffee-grinder'.  Throughout the week after this, kids would come up to me and show me the move he taught them.  Planting seeds and watching them grow in real time!