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Shooting Haiti: The Rosena's Life Project

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When I went to Haiti for the Streets of the World Project, I basically went there to take a photo of street life in the capital Port au Prince.

I knew about the risks involved so I decided to ask the Dutch Red Cross to help me. They have developed a lot of activities since the Haitian earthquake in several parts of the country. I suggested I could help them with the communication by taking photos of their projects and perhaps doing some writing and interviews about their projects through our network.

In return, they could help me safely take my Streets photo. They agreed. A few weeks later I flew to a devastated country not knowing what to expect. I knew it would be bad, and I was therefore quite surprised by the resilience of the Haitian people and especially of one girl, Rosena.

The idea of meeting Rosena came from Christine, a Red Cross mission leader. She was very impressed by the story of a girl who had broken both her legs and lost most of her left hand when buried under the rubble of her house. She has had several diseases, but is still fighting for her dream to become a nurse.

I thought it would be a good idea to make a short reportage about her as example of the resilience I had already seen in many other places. Of course Rosena had to agree to the plan of an unknown, white photographer to invade her life, family and school. She did, without hesitation, because she wanted to give something back to the Red Cross that had helped her so much.

After I interviewed Rosena we went to the house she was staying. A family had taken her in. But the more time I spent there, the clearer it became that Rosena was a full time maid instead of a full time family member. Later on I heard about the appalling and very big problem of the Restaveks (Creole for 'rester avec') which basically comes down to slavery. This is not the case with Rosena. But seen her condition I certainly thought that this surrounding was not the right one for her. And I decided to try to help her.

I started filming her life, apart from photography, because I thought that this would be a better way to tell her story and hopefully touch people's hearts back home. As it is said in the film, Rosena only needs EUR 200 per year to rent a small place where she can live with her brother.

I've decided to run a special project within Streets of the World called The Rosena's Life Project: Primarily to help Rosena realize her dream. But in second place, to help children like her or in much worse situations. Depending on how much donations will be given I will set up a co-operation with the Belgian Viv Timoun Foundation, helping Restaveks in Haiti, and run by Belgian photographer Alice Smeets.

I will return to Haiti in April to take my Streets photo, but even more so to hopefully be able to tell Rosena she can start looking for her own place. The money donated to her will be put in a special bank account partly controlled by one of my friends in Rosena's hometown Jacmel.
I will be visiting Rosena regularly to check up on her status and see for myself that funds are spent wisely. I will also keep making reports about Rosena's Life and share them with our donors. The Streets of the World project has made the first donation in the Rosena's Life account of EUR 200.

More donations for Rosena can be made to the following bank account: Via del Mondo, 572192347, Amsterdam.