Carnaval Latino @ PLNU / Aztec Dancers

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As part of the celebration of Carnaval Latino, we recently had Aztec dancers at Point Loma Nazarene University. Here are a few shots of the dancers from the day. Instead of class that day, my Spanish 310 students got to watch the dancers and even join in a bit. The name of the group is Danza Azteca Calpulli Mexihca. Shot with a Fuji x100s.

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Costa Rica 2013: Spanish Language and Culture

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I had the chance to teach Spanish to a group of university students over nine weeks this summer in San José, Costa Rica. We learned vocabulary and how to communicate in Spanish, and also some interesting aspects of Latin American and Costa Rican culture. As a humanitarian photographer, I am always looking for ways to show cultures in a positive light. It is hard not to appreciate the physical beauty of the country (the green, lush landscapes, the incredible wildlife, bright colors, biodiversity etc.), but I consider even more remarkable the warmth and kindness of the Costa Rican people. ¡Pura vida! Here are a few of my favorite photos from the summer of 2013:

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A New Photo Story @ International Guild of Visual Peacemakers: Challenges and Hope in La Limonada

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La Limonada is a unique neighborhood located in Guatemala City, Guatemala. It is located in a ravine that is 1 mile long and 1/2 mile wide, and is home to over 60,000 people. It is considered one of the largest urban slum communities in Central America. While the neighborhood faces many challenges (such as poverty, lack of job opportunities, prevalent gang culture, sexual abuse and exploitation, social stigmatization, and rampant drug use) there is also much hope and beauty to be found in the area. In recent years, the NGO Lemonade International has come alongside the community of La Limonada in solidarity and has done much positive work by establishing two schools (or “academies”) to help offer youth an alternative to dealing drugs or getting involved in gangs. I recently had a chance to witness the work of Lemonade International first-hand when I participated in the organization’s very first bloggers’ trip as the official group photographer. While I did learn about very difficult situations and people who have suffered tremendously, I also observed a tide of change and a positive vibe that has caused a good impact on the community: a chance for a better education and future for youth in spite of difficulties, and I also witnessed a key meeting between Colonia (or Barrio) leaders that offers reconciliation and understanding in the neighborhood.

Here are a few shots from my photo story:

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For the entire photo story, please visit @IGVP (International Guild of Visual Peacemakers):http://visualpeacemakers.org/index.php?/documentaries/photo_

story/challenges_and_hope_in_la_limonada/

Day 1 in La Limonada, Guatemala City

 

 

LemonadeInternational(Pano)-2Our first day in La Limonada was filled with many moving stories. I was personally moved by a place that is looked down upon by society, but that is quite beautiful. This is one of my favorite shots for the day. There will be many more to come!

Please consider sponsoring a student or even a teacher from the wonderful organization known as Lemonade International.

Don’t forget to follow #LIbloggers on Twitter. We will be here for a few more days!

 

Lemonade International Bloggers Trip

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I am really happy to be heading to Guatemala this April as part of a team of bloggers with Lemonade International, an organization that works in the largest urban slum in Central America called La Limonada. I have the honor to be going as the group’s photographer, and will be documenting the organization’s amazing work at its two schools in the neighborhood and also other vital programs. I feel very blessed to have the chance to go with the group, and I look forward to connecting with people in Guatemala, the bloggers in the group, and also sharing some of the highlights of the program. My goal is to share photos that capture the beauty and culture of Guatemala, while at the same time sharing the need to help with the ongoing work in La Limonada. I was first introduced to this organization when I watched the documentary titled Reparando by director Scott Owen Moore at Athentikos. This moving story shows the hard reality of life in Guatemala, while at the same time offering hope and encouragement concerning the future, with a large dose of God’s grace and love. It is well worth checking out and watching, especially if you are planning a trip to Central America (it gives quite a bit of background and history of the region as well). I have lived in Guatemala for extended periods of time, and I actually met my wonderful wife Veronica there. I have a connection with this country that runs deep, so I am especially interested in learning about the work of Lemonade International and sharing both the hope and concerns that the people at La Limonada face. Would you join me as I start this adventure to learn more about the people of Guatemala and this very special neighborhood, and how you might be a part of this amazing work in the future? We will be posting updates on Twitter using the hashtag #LIbloggers. Feel free to connect with Lemonade International as well @lemonadeintl and with me @scottmbennett Thanks for reading this, and I look forward to hearing from you! May God’s grace, solidarity and peace be with you!

Scott

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La Posada Sin Fronteras 2012: A Photo Story @IGVP

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In early December, I had the chance to attend the Posada Sin Fronteras (Inn Without Borders) celebration at the U.S.-Mexico border between San Diego and Tijuana. I recently added a photo story of my impressions of the day @IGVP (International Guild of Visual Peacemakers). Here are a few shots from the day:

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LaPosada2012(IGVP)-13LaPosada2012(IGVP)-2LaPosada2012(IGVP)LaPosada2012(IGVP)-18LaPosada2012(IGVP)-6For the complete photo story, please visit my post at the International Guild of Visual Peacemakers:

http://visualpeacemakers.org/index.php?/documentaries/photo_story/la_posada_

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If Eyes Could Speak: Portraits of Children from Latin America @IGVP

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I recently posted a photo gallery at the International Guild of Visual Peacemakers website. The photos are a collection of portraits of children from Latin America, more specifically Guatemala, Costa Rica and Brazil. The common humanity found in a child’s glance and smile help remind us that there is hope for the world, in spite of many of the difficult challenges that children like these face as they grow up. I was extremely privileged to spend time volunteering with various NGOs and churches to benefit the kids who are shown here, and I will continue to be involved with similar projects in the future. What a blessing these kids are! To see the entire gallery please go to the following link: If Eyes Could Speak: Portraits of Children from Latin America.

A Reunion In Brazil

My wife Veronica and I had a chance to spend almost a month in Brazil traveling and visiting friends. Here are just a few photos of some of my impressions from the trip. From the quaint cobblestone streets of Paraty to the beaches in Rio, we had a chance to reflect on life and appreciate some time together. During this time, we took four different planes and six different buses between Campinas, São Paulo, Paraty, Rio, and then back to Campinas again. Many thanks are due to my brother David and sister-in-law Anne, as they watched over our two teenage kids, and also our dog Mango while we were gone. A highlight of our trip was seeing Jivanildo Correia, a young man who was just a boy at the City of Youth (where we lived and worked as volunteers for Hope Unlimited for Children many years back). He is now married, and the father of a beautiful ten year old girl. He is in the process of building his own house, and is working two jobs in order to complete the project. It was great seeing him and his wife María. I have included a few photos from our visit, including a few of the house that he is building. It is wonderful to see how God has blessed Jivanildo and his family. I will post some photos later once he finishes building his house. Feel free to check the link to Hope Unlimited for Children if you are interested in helping other children who are at risk in Brazil.

Here are some photos of us with Jivanildo and his family:

Veronica (my wife), Jivanaldo and Jivanildo’s daughter Fernanda.

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Jivanildo’s family:

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Ricardo Teixeira has worked at Hope Unlimited for Children for twenty years. He has helped with many of the older kids by counseling them and helping them find jobs. He has been an inspiration and encouragement to many young adults over the years. He, along with his wife Crislaine and son Heitor took us to see Jivanaldo. Ricardo is also helping Jivanildo with some of the necessary electrical supplies and installation to complete his house.

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And a few more photos from Paraty and Rio de Janeiro:

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And now just a few photos from Rio de Janeiro (volleyball on the beach):

Impressions of Costa Rica / Learning Spanish and Latin American Culture

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I have the wonderful opportunity to teach a group of university students Spanish over nine weeks this summer in San José, Costa Rica. We are not only learning vocabulary and how to communicate in Spanish, but also interesting aspects of Latin American and Costa Rican culture. I am happy to say that the students are not only learning a lot of language, but even more importantly they are finding out how to relate to people from a different culture. As a humanitarian photographer, I am always looking for ways to show cultures in a positive way. During our time here, I have taken a limited amount of photos, but would like to share a few impressions of Costa Rica up to this point from our trip. It is hard not to appreciate the physical beauty of the country (the green, lush landscapes, the incredible wildlife, bright colors, biodiversity etc.), but I consider even more remarkable the warmth and kindness of the Costa Rican people. My hope is that the group would continue to learn Spanish while breaking down stereotypes of what they thought Latin America would be like. So, here are a few photos from our time so far. ¡Pura vida!

La Posada Sin Fronteras 2011

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La Posada Sin Fronteras is a heartfelt celebration based on the Latin American tradition of Las Posadas (inns) in which people gather to commemorate the story of Joseph and Mary’s search for a place of refuge before Jesus’ birth. This was the 18th annual Posada, and was held on December 10, 2011 at Border Field State Park in Imperial Beach on the U.S. side and at Playas de Tijuana on the Mexican side.

Here are a few photos from the day. For the entire photo story, please visit:

http://visualpeacemakers.org/index.php?/documentaries/photo_story/

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Rio De Janeiro: A House in Esqueleto

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I had the opportunity to visit Rio de Janeiro with my son Aaron this past summer. We spent two weeks with wonderful friends from the First Church of the Nazarene in Nilópolis (1ª Igreja Do Nazareno em Nilópolis). Earlier in the summer, a group from Oklahoma City had ministered with the church in Nilópolis to build a home for a family in Esqueleto, one of the poorest neighborhoods in Rio. The Nilópolis church has an ongoing ministry with the people of Esqueleto, and has even started a daughter church in the area. I have had the privilege of visiting this wonderful little town the past two summers, and had the chance to photograph its beauty and uniqueness. This photo is of the young boy who lives in the house that was built. I was glad to have a chance to talk with him and asked permission to take his photo. Like most Brazilians, he was not shy at all, and was happy to pose in front of his new house. May God continue to bless the people of esqueleto, and also the people who work and minister with them, such as Rosana Santiago, a member of the Nilópolis church who has dedicated her life to helping people.

Hope and Life School in Brazil: A Story of Perseverance

The Hope and Life School (Escola Esperança e Vida) is located in Ouro Fino, Minas Gerais, Brazil, about 100 miles north of São Paulo. The project functions as a foster home for abandoned, abused, and at-risk children. The children live in two homes, and get the chance to study, play music, do art projects, learn about computers, eat well-balanced meals, play games and sports, and most importantly, receive the love of caring house parents. Since 1995, the program has been led by David E. Davis, an engineer who studied at Clemson University and worked with NASA. Instead of continuing in the aerospace field, David decided to dedicate his life to helping children in need, and chose Brazil as the place to start a project. He not only developed the site and has taken care of children and trained leaders for the past sixteen years, he has also had a crucial role in fostering positive relations with the local Brazilian government in Ouro Fino.

Please visit the complete photo story at the International Guild of Visual Peacemakers:

http://visualpeacemakers.org/index.php?/documentaries/photo_story/

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For I Know the Plans I Have for You…

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Although we may have dreams and ambitions, only God knows what will truly fulfill us and make us content deep down. For some, a dream could be owning a large house, driving a fancy sports car, or wearing designer clothes. For others, such a dream means being “successful” in life by having a great job, lots of friends, or even the chance to travel around the world. Although material items may make life more comfortable, they do not fulfill us deep down because God has more meaningful plans for us: to appreciate and love the people around us, to marvel in His creation (OK, I live by the beach and see the ocean every day I go to work), and to delve deeper into what His purpose is in our lives and to live that out in a meaningful way.

For many children in Brazil, such dreams (both the world’s and what God offers) are elusive because of poverty, violence, a lack of education, and also the constant risk of abuse and neglect. Even under such circumstances God can offer hope to such children, but it definitely is a hard situation. This is where an organization like Hope Unlimited for Children can make a life-changing difference in the life of a child. Instead of living a vulnerable, dangerous life, a child protected under Hope Unlimited’s wings can begin to flourish, grow, feel safe, receive an education, and most importantly, feel the love of a caring group of people and also the unconditional love of a God who only wants the best for them and their future. Or as the mission statement for Hope Unlimited states:

Transforming the lives of children at mortal risk, providing them and their future generations a productive future and eternal hope.

This statement sounds a lot like one of my favorite verses in the Bible:

Jeremiah 29:11
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

 

Would you consider helping, volunteering or donating your finances to help save the life of a child, and ultimately give him or her a chance to dream and live life to the fullest–not to the fullest in what the world deems as successful, but to the fullest in what God in His plentitude has to offer?

 

A Chance for Hope

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This boy had been at Cidade dos Meninos (City of Youth) for just one day. He already has a glow in his eyes that was unmistakable. May the hope of a better future and God’s unconditional love be lavished upon him as he is blessed by those at Hope Unlimited for Children. Please consider donating to help more children have a chance at life. You can be the one to put a glow in more childrens’ eyes!

New Photo Story: Friendship Park Celebration: The 40th Anniversary of Pat Nixon’s Hope

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After spending a month with my son Aaron in Brazil, I finally have a chance to update my photo blog. I am adding a link to my recently published photo story at the International Guild of Visual Peacemakers. Here is a link to the post:

http://visualpeacemakers.org/index.php?/documentaries/photo_story/friendship_

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My photo story documents the 40th Anniversary celebration of the park with a hope toward reconciliation between Mexico and the U.S., a broader understanding of the inherent fears caused by the immigration debate, and most importantly, to break down stereotypes of the “other” caused by concerns of terrorism since 9/11. At this point in time, both the U.S. and Mexico need more friendship and understanding than ever before: this day was just a small glimpse into what such a reality could turn out to be. I was honored to be able to document this day, and even more content to be a participant in the day’s events. For more detailed information (including a complete history of Friendship Park and a proposal for a redesign of the area) please check out the Friends of Friendship Park website at http://www.friendshippark.org Any feedback or comments are appreciated!

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