Reflecting on the past 12 months, we realized that 2018 was a year of serious ups and downs.
Professionally, we were lucky enough to work with a number of incredible clients on projects that took us all over the Yukon, Canada, and even to international countries. The result was some of our favourite work to date. Personally, however, we experienced heavy times and suffered the losses of loved ones.
It was a year of learning to adjust, and a reminder to really reflect on what’s important in life – to stay true to the values that we, as a family, and as a company, have tried to always live by.
So it only made sense that the end of 2018 brought one final project that was also filled with ups and downs – a project that has left us reflecting on it ever since Gary returned home,
This November, Gary was lucky enough to be part of a team of Yukoners who travelled to Haiti with Shot in The Dark, a Yukon-based media production company. Shot in the Dark is creating a documentary that features the story of a Yukon woman, Morgan Wienberg, who created an organization in Haiti called Little Footprints Big Steps. It’s a child protection organization that focuses on family reunification and building self-sufficient futures for families in Haiti. Gary’s job was to create the stills for the project, including portraits of the families and people the documentary will feature, and behind-the-scenes shots of the filming process.
Morgan is an incredible person, with a fascinating story (we’ll be sure to let you know when the documentary is released so you can learn more). She has become part of what we now understand is a powerful community of people in Haiti, who have survived unimaginable circumstances, and yet remain some of the most kind, dedicated people Gary has ever met.
We knew the trip itself would come with some challenges, the most obvious simply being the logistics of shooting in a foreign country. Gary had to pack as light as possible (difficult for someone who loves his gear), yet be ready for a variety of situations, as he didn’t really know what exactly he’d be shooting until he got there. Then there’s the heat (hello plus 30 degrees), and the fact he wanted to understand Haiti’s complex history before he visited. Haiti is the poorest country in the western hemisphere. For generations, the country has suffered political unrest and horrific natural disasters. It has had to completely re-build and that process is still on-going.
The whole team, Gary included, did research on the country, got all of the necessary medications and vaccinations, and arranged insurance coverage for both gear and health. We also had some idea, as far as what to expect while they were there, (the risk of theft, and health issues, are just realities you need to be aware of), though we never could have anticipated the politically motivated riots that began just days after the crew arrived.
They suddenly found themselves in a situation where the location they were at was deemed unsafe as the conflict reached them, and they had to be moved to a safe house further away. The one thing that remained constant during that stressful time, was the incredible compassion the Haitian people showed every single member of the crew. They were taken care of, moved to a safe location, and made to feel completely at home with their new ‘family’.
Instead of carrying on with their planned itinerary that week, the team ended up witnessing the real-time actions of the Haitian people in the face of adversity. They witnessed people taking care of each other, people adapting, and people putting others before themselves. What they saw was the REAL Haiti, not just the clips we usually see on the news from our houses in Canada.
During his time there, Gary was able to photograph most of the Little Footprints Big Steps staff, as well as their families. These wonderful people, who are all locals other than Morgan herself, are part of a comprehensive team that cares about the children they work with as if those kids are their own. They help children escape from the horrible conditions that plague many of the orphanages in the country, and help the kids get off the streets and back to their families. Some of them are house mothers, some are doctors and nurses, and some are engineers. All of them work for this organization because they want to help re-build their community and their country. They are proud of their beautiful land and culture, as they should be. It is an incredible place, filled with resilient, compassionate people.
And as I sat here in the Yukon one night in late November, with our two-year old daughter Mabel, feeling a million miles away from Gary, we got to FaceTime with him and two of the children that Little Footprints works with. Even though the kids all spoke a very different language, they communicated through smiles, giggles and by showing each other their toys. The Haitian children even teased Gary the way Mabel herself does, laughing and gathering around his phone. The only difference between them was that they happened to be born in two different countries.
Our little girl is now at the age where she’s starting to better understand the world around her, and I hope that, through the work she sees us do, she continues to grow. I hope she understands why projects like this one are so important to us. Gary was away from home for nearly three weeks, at a time when our family was grieving the loss of loved ones at home, and adjusting to a new normal. This wasn’t easy, but we never questioned whether or not he would go. It is fundamental to us that we, as a family, and as a company, are doing what we can to support others who are making positive changes in this world – in our community here in the Yukon, and in our global community. Because even though there’s a lot of heavy in this world, there’s even more good. You just have to be willing to get out there and experience it.
Huge thanks to the Little Footprints crew for all the love and hospitality you showed us and the rest of the Shot in The Dark crew.
And for some reading on the complexity of Haiti’s history, you can check out the book “The Big Truck That Went By: How the World Came to Save Haiti and Left Behind a Disaster by Jonathan Katz.