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12 Cameras: Haitian Women Share their Lives
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12 Cameras: Haitian Women Share their Lives
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Life isn't easy for Haitian migrants living in the Dominican Republic. Mostly women and mostly undocumented, they are easy targets for trafficking and exploitation, and face the constant fear of deportation. But, given a digital camera to record their stories of hope and struggle, some of the woman have begun to find a stronger voice for themselves.

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Produced by Deborah Acosta, Irene Herrera, and Alessandra Villaamil.

Originally featured in the ViewChange Online Film Contest.

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Segment 1

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12 cameras.
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12 Haitian migrant women in the Dominican Republic participated in a four-week intensive storytelling workshop. 12 cameras.
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Using cameras and audio recorders, these women documented their lives.
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The Dominican Republic.
ROSE LAURE [Haitian Migrant]
It's not easy. Once you've been away from your country for 13 years, you can't easily return and find a way to live. It's all about finding a way to make a living.
YVALINE [Haitian Migrant]
I traveled far to live life and find a better life for my children, and I feel better here because I have many more things here than over there.
ALPHONSINE [Dominican-born of Haitian descent]
I feel good that I belong to both sides, because I'm from both sides, the Haitian side and the Dominican side. I'm happy with both countries.
YVALINE
I love nature so much, especially when I'm taking photographs. I like how when you view your surroundings, it breathes life into you and gives you warmth. It also gives you encouragement to go on.
ALPHONSINE
Taking a photo and then narrating what you see in the photo is beautiful to me.
ROSE LAURE
I feel very happy taking pictures, very, very happy, because I didn't know how to use a photo camera.
CLAUDETTE [Haitian Migrant]
For me, this project has surpassed my expectations. If I take a picture of my child, I look for a good position and an idea, and it's the idea that makes me want to take the picture.
YVALINE
I got rid of some of the stress from home. Talking, working, cleaning -- you always do those things. But when you go outside and learn something, you feel good.
IMMACULEE [Haitian Migrant]
Everything that you take time to learn, even if you don't profit from it today or tomorrow or even the day after, you hope that you'll benefit from it some day.
CLAUDETTE
I feel like a lot has changed in myself, because I didn't know the value of a picture until I took one. I thought that taking pictures was all about looking pretty and making your children look good, dressing them up for the photo to later look at it from time to time, but I didn't realize the story that lies behind a photograph.
ALPHONSINE
Every photograph has a description, a meaning. At times, we see a plant, and we don't think it is important, but it is important. I learned that all stories matter.
JHONISSE MAURICE [Haitian Student Workshop Mentor]
For me, it's a pleasure to be able to help in some way, especially since they are my fellow countrywomen. I don't know, but I had a desire to be here and to be with these women.
IMMACULEE
It's never too late to learn, because tomorrow you might get to use that knowledge, and then you can teach someone else, and that person can teach another. In this way, our organization functions, and it lasts. That way, people teach each other, and everyone benefits.
JOHN FRITZ [Haitian Student Workshop Mentor]
This project gives a voice to these women, because they tell the stories of their lives. They take pictures of their children, so, yes, they have a voice now.
PHONISE LACOTTE [Women's Community Liaison, JRMS]
This project increases their self-esteem. It makes them value themselves. It helps them realize that they can organize themselves, that they have capabilities, and that they can do more than they thought. This is one amongst various initiatives they've got going on that, little by little, open up new paths for them.
JOHN FRITZ
Now they know they can do something. Before, they didn't believe they could do anything. One of the women even said that now she is more highly regarded in her neighborhood because they see that she is doing something. So it has truly helped them, but it's not enough.