Friday, February 11, 2011

© All photos copyright Fotokids 2007


Fundación de Niños Artistas de Guatemala

December 2010
Letter from the Exec. Director

The rains have stopped. There is a nip in the crisp mountain air and the bougainvillea has burst into bloom. The winter winds pick up and bring the smell of wood smoke. Although 46 degrees isn’t considered cold by most of you, there is no heating here and so at 6 a.m. I’m writing tucked under the covers with Jack the dog curled up next to me and a strong cup of Guatemalan coffee. The volcano Fuego is erupting sending fists of smoke into the blue, blue sky.

Soon it will be Christmas season with pine needles spread on the floor, that will offer up their aroma as you walk over them, tamales, hot fruit punch, processions and the sound of singing as the posadas go from house to house asking to be let in (and given hot chocolate).

The season will be ushered in by Handel’s Messiah in the ruins of an old convent lit by hundreds of votive candles.

You know it’s been a rough year for us but we have forged ahead and have, despite challenges gotten a lot accomplished, and I’m happy. October/ November are grant writing months for me and so I get to take a long lingering look back. This year we have expanded the program and brought in 60 more students ages 5 to 14 in three difficult, dangerous barrios.

Abdias and Werner (18 years old now) both have found they really enjoy teaching and get a kick out of the little kids calling them profie (for professor) and confiding their secrets. There is so much good bonding that

Happy Holidays!!!! goes on as the older Fotokids teach in their own neighborhoods and set an example of what you can do if you stay in school and stay in the program.

The 3-year Save Girls program graduates 10 young women this year (can’t believe its been three years already, but then hey, neither can I get my head around the fact that Fotokids will celebrate it’s 20th anniversary next year) and we are taking on Ana, Gaby and Jessica from the program as interns. They will help us teach a public school class of fourth graders, conduct workshops in our new anti-violence program and work in the design studio Jakaramba. As a side note we are looking for sponsors to fund their university scholarships. Ana has been accepted into the school of architecture and Gaby and Jessica in graphic design at San Carlos University.

Save Girls has been so successful in terms of student participation and motivation that we duplicated it this year with Marta teaching in Tierra Nueva 1 and have plans to expand it again in 2011.

We continue to bring in international professionals to teach students and have been blessed with many good mentors who have given workshops in book design, HDR (high dynamic range) photography, Adobe Lightroom, studio lighting, advanced Photoshop, portraiture and business planning.

I went with Evelyn and Nancy Morales up to California, where former Admin. Director Logan had arranged for us to present the Fotokids model at the California state teachers conference. First time for Evie and Nancy to give an extemporaneous workshop in English. They did quite well and best of all we met a group there that works in video in SF with at-risk kids that we would like to bring down here to teach. In 2011, as I have mentioned in previous newsletters, we are looking at meeting the violence in the neighborhoods head on.

Well as head-on as we can get without losing ours. The extortion by gangs has gotten so bad that I overhear things like, “there are only 2 houses occupied on my block of 12 homes. Everyone else has moved out, they can’t pay the protection money.”

I’ll give you more details on that program in the next newsletter, but it’s kind of exciting and it may at least get people thinking that something can be done, you know if you can’t see there might be a solution, you’ll never find one.

If you want a copy of the 2010 annual report send me an e-mail info@fotokids and I’ll send it along.

Thanks to you all we were able to replace, and I might add upgrade, our computers and cameras! So things are going well. We have our Fotokids graduates, most of them with at least 12 years experience in the project, giving back to their communities and I consider them national treasures. We have many things to be thankful for this year.

What’s New with the Kids

Rosa’s 9-12 year old class are working on advertising copy and using design software to make labels for imaginary products. The slogans (and products) were interesting: Royal Chocolate Cereal, helps make you fatter! Kill Lice Shampoo smells like fruit and is white, Fiesta juice made with lemon, orange and a touch of alcohol, “Life is fresher with Fiesta!”, Vegetable Shampoo, 100% natural ingredients, squash, carrot, tomato and broccoli, Sugar the Original! with orange flavoring, you don’t need kool-aid just add water!

David Ixbalán, after a successful and busy internship with a local cable television studio designing their logo and inauguration campaign, has graduated from design high school! His family came down from Santiago Atitlan and were so proud of his accomplishments. His Dad rents a cornfield to eke out their meager income and his mom sells tomatoes in 3 markets to help the family with oil, soap and the necessities. David has been with us since he was 9 years old and is a talented designer. We are considering setting up a space in central Santiago Atitlán for the Lake version of Jakaramba, where David and Josefa can develop the design studio there. It’s important that the indigenous kids from there have a chance to use the skill they have developed to serve and be reintegrated into their own communities

David with his Mother and Dad photo by Linda Morales

Holy, also from Santiago Atitlán who her father told us last January would not be studying, had obviously changed her mind and graduated from high school this year in pre-med.

Andres and Nancy have photos published in Revista the magazine published by the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies at Harvard along side an article excerpted from our very own Fotokids June newsletter (written by your humble correspondent).

Linda documented a film being made on the Peten by Ana Carlos, a Guatemalan television producer, and also worked for the Paiz Foundation documenting their marimba festival.
Janne works for the newspaper photo by Werner Monterroso

Eleven year old Janne and 13 year old Nestor from Werner and Abdias’s class in Mezquital did a photo assignment for the Guatemalan newspaper Siglo 21 taking pictures of for a supplement on the day of the child.

Those of you who remember Gladiz, one of the original Fotokids from near the dump, will be interested to know I went to her wedding! She’s 29 now, working as a medical receptionist and made a good match I’d say with a rather jolly lawyer who seems very kind. They are every much in love and expecting their first child.

Yamilet brought in her new baby to show us. I don’t know what will happen there, I know Yami is planning on going back to school but with a new baby who knows.
Evelyn, Administrative Director of Fotokids and Nancy of design studio Jakaramba attended staff management workshops in California. I went too and they were good workshops, gave me things to think about. We stayed at my Dad’s place in San Francisco and that’s always fun to show people around, China Town, the Park, taking the ferry etc.

We had a younger kids exhibit as part of Foto30, Guatemala’s month of Photography and we bussed in the kids from Tierra Nueva and Mezquital. Our kids all wore their black Fotokids tee shirts and brought their cameras. It was a little like being surrounded by tiny paparazzi, every time I looked up, or didn’t, or was talking to someone there was a flash going off. People were impressed by the kids work, especially, and no surprise, the ones that depicted violence. Many others though were noted as well. We had a big turn out in terms of audience.

We are working with Colegio Maya, an excellent private school in Guatemala City, and they have taken us on as their outreach project this year. We are doing a small gallery presentation as part of a fundraiser in conjunction with their production of a Mid Summers’ Night Dream. We are photographing dreams.

Alex, Jorge, Kevin and Steven spent the Day of the Dead with me in Antigua. So many things have happened that this year, that although we did cover the families celebrating and flowering the grave-sites in the cemetery, I added some additional activities. We visited a thoroughly enjoyable installation at the Cooperative Española on the synchronization of music in the Americas with sound, video and dance steps painted onto the floor. Steven and Kevin tried the tango and Alex the rumba. Then we went swimming in a friend’s pool just to blow off all the heavy things that have happened recently.

You may have noticed that this newsletter is a bit more upbeat - that’s because the Holiday season is coming and I don’t want to depress you. If you are interested in hearing everything that’s going on, not for the faint of heart, you can subscribe to the private Dump Insider’s Edition blog, at
We are also on FaceBook in two locations, Fotokids and Fotokids Santiago.

Honduras- GUARUMA students and first time travelers Adolfo and David were invited to Missouri gave talks and presentations to Runge Centre and River Bluffs Audubon Assocation-
Order the 2011 Guaruma Calendar on Sale Nov. 26th $12.50 (inclds shipping) U.S.A. on our web site with PayPal or

Don’t forget there is a Design4Kids workshops coming up in Las Mangas January 16-22nd. If you want to use your skills in photography, Photoshop design and love nature this is for you. It is so beautiful (see GUARUMA web site to check out what it looks like) and opportunities for nature photography are endless. Birders from the Smithsonian and white water rafters from all over the world have come here. It’s a special place, and so far, unknown to many. The kids will work for a client and there will be ample time to both mentor and take your own photographs.

How You Can Help

We will need many more educational scholarships! There are two kinds of scholarships Educational which pays for a students traditional education $300 a year, paid in any way you choose, monthly, quarterly annually, and Fotokids Photography scholarship $150 which pays for our teaching and materials expenses. All our programs are free to the participants.

You can use PayPal button on the opening page of our web site… or

Make checks out to: San Carlos Fdn/Fotokids
and send to: Fotokids. P.O. Box 661447, Miami, FL 332

In Memoriam

This Quarterly Newsletter is dedicated to 16 year old Mynor Chavez, a stellar, much loved member of Fotokids for the last 6 years, who was brutally assassinated this month in a neighborhood gang murder.

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Panajachel, Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

Panajachel, Lake Atitlan, Guatemala
View of Lake Atitlan and volcano from my apartment balcony in Panajachel. Taken by Catherine Todd June 2008.