Seeing Things / by David Korchin

One of the goals of Thomas Witherspoon’s not-for-profit Ears to Our World (ETOW) organization is to deliver self-powered world band receivers to schools and communities in developing regions, for education, disaster relief, and lately, to help communities with visually impaired children. These hand-cranked radios let children and families in areas without much infrastructure hear educational programming, news and health information, along with music and the arts.

This summer I had the opportunity to travel with Thomas to Belize City, where he deployed a few dozen such radios to children participating in a summer camp held each year by the Belize Council for the Visually Impaired (BCVI) in coordination with the Belize Ministry of Education. The council hosts children from all across Belize, with educational activities, arts and crafts, computer training, and being a tropical country, plenty of outdoor activities.

Miracle Malaki, a visually impaired student at the BCVI Summer Camp in Belize City, Belize, receives a self-powered radio from Ears to Our World.

As photographers, it is sobering to meet people with visual impairments. Our art begins with seeing; it is the very first step in our workflow, if you will, and without vision how can we produce, much less edit or appreciate, our work? 

What buoyed me throughout was experiencing the relentless optimism of children, their natural ability to look beyond what we could consider impediments, to grow and expand their world, and simply have fun at being kids.