About Amigos Del Mar
So, where do I begin... I guess I'll start with how this project came into my life. Chatting with a friend of mine one night, Angelica Moss (of Catch My Drift Design), she tells me she has this friend back in Colombia, Pedro Salazar, who heads up a foundation to help the kids on the island of Tierra Bomba and teaches them how to surf. She asked if I'd ever want to fly down to Colombia and take some photos to put on their website she's designing. My immediate response... when do we go?! I myself enjoy my time in the ocean and catching some waves so, the thought of flying down to Colombia and donating my time to a kids charity centered around surfing just sounded like an adventure that would be nothing short of awesome. All of this turned out to be so much more than that! Upon organizing the trip, Pedro asks if I could do a photography workshop with the kids while we're there... ummmm, so I've never done anything like this in English let alone Spanish, but what the heck! Not long after, Angie, my buddy Johnny Lynch, and myself hopped on a plane and set off for Colombia. We flew into Cartagena and from there, the island of Tierra Bomba is a quick 10 minutes or so boat ride away.
Now one thing to note about Tierra Bomba is that if you search online, you'll find plenty of travel sites with reviews of beach side resorts, cabanas, and tiki bars, this was not our destination. Outside of the confines of these resorts you'll find island communities with no running water, no paved streets, a lack of waste management services, sub-par living conditions, and problems with violence as well as drug and alcohol abuse starting from a young age. All in all, communities seemingly forgotten and dismissed by nearby Cartagena. Now Pedro's aim for Amigos Del Mar is to help curb some of these problems on the island, teach the kids to recycle, conserve water, encourage education, promote arts and crafts, instill ideas of non violence and respect toward those around us as well as mother nature. As a reward for attending school and workshops at the foundation, Pedro takes the kids surfing and snorkeling.
When we arrived on the island, we were greeted by some local dogs as well as a man with a modified 3 wheeler that took our luggage and equipment, as we walked through the dirt streets and up a stairway to the Amigos Del Mar foundation housed under a giant palm roofed tiki hut. There we met for the first time, Pedro Salazar and Laura Rietschi (who had moved to Colombia from Switzerland to help Pedro out with the foundation). Pedro gave us the rundown on the island as well as the foundation and introduced us to the five volunteers that were staying there at the time. Nathaniel, Emil, Pelle, Shaveen, and Anne who all found themselves there while traveling abroad from different countries. We sat in on one of the workshops that afternoon, where the kids were learning to braid fabric as part of a larger lesson on making bracelets to sell to generate money for the foundation and in turn their families. I couldn't help but notice the playfulness and smiles of all the children there, as well as their admiration and love for Pedro. It was very apparent that he is a huge source of inspiration and guidance for these kids. After the workshop, Pedro gave us a tour of the neighborhood surrounding the foundation. Kids and dogs in tow, we walked the dirt streets of the island, saying hello to some of the other kids and families attending the foundation and making stops at little convenience stores run out of peoples homes that may or may not have bottled water for sale at that moment. The timing of our arrival on the island seemed on point, as later that night was a champeta festival. After enjoying a dinner prepared by the volunteers made of vegetables grown at the foundation, we made our way down to the festival. The giant graffiti covered picó blasting champeta music while what seemed like the whole community was in attendance dancing the night away. It was quite an evening for our first night there.
The following day was our camera workshop. Johnny and I had both brought with us multiple cameras to let the children play with, and Pedro had gathered some camera donations from friends back in Cartagena. After introducing Johnny and myself and what we did for a living, we started going over some of the basics of handling the cameras, composition, and finding angles etc. With Pedro translating, as my spanish is not as good as it could be haha, I wrapped it up talking for a bit about storytelling. Now our audience ranged in age from little kids to teens, so we kept most things pretty basic, set the cameras to either aperture priority or shutter priority and let the kids run wild. With excitement overload at full throttle now that they had the cameras in their hands, we let them fire away and release their wiggles before we started working a little closer with them as individuals. They all seemed to get the hang of things pretty quickly. We showed them how to bounce light to fill shadows and encouraged them to take portraits of their friends. If you have yet to do so, I encourage you to take a look at the “photos taken by the kids” page of my site. There are some fantastic photographs taken by the kids during our workshop. Johnny had brought with him a small Canon Selphy printer, we used this to print out our favorite photos and gave the prints to the kids. All of the kids were ecstatic and mothers overwhelmed as seeing prints of their children is not a typical thing on the island. One thing that really got me… Angie had mentioned to me at one point during the workshop that one of the kids had asked her, “wait, I can be a photographer like them?” I believe Angie’s response was something along the lines of, yes if you stay in school, work hard at it and listen to Pedro. To think that I opened a kids eyes to a path in life they never thought possible, was rather overwhelming.
Now I could go on and on about our time there and what it meant to me, but words are not my area of expertise, I’ll let the photographs of my time there do the rest of the talking. I will however encourage you to visit the Amigos Del Mar website, make a donation, give them a follow on instagram, or even go down and volunteer!