Hawa Images: Blog https://www.hawaimages.com/blog en-us (C) Hawa Images This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported Lic roxanne@hawaimages.com (Hawa Images) Fri, 10 Aug 2018 16:46:00 GMT Fri, 10 Aug 2018 16:46:00 GMT https://www.hawaimages.com/img/s/v-5/u351121260-o1004099733-50.jpg Hawa Images: Blog https://www.hawaimages.com/blog 120 80 Building the next generation of leaders in conservation: Just one reason I heart The SCA https://www.hawaimages.com/blog/2018/8/building-the-next-generation-of-leader-sin-conservation-why-i-love-the-sca The Student Conservation Association has 6 crews working throughout the Chicagoland area & I was able to capture them in action before they wrap up their summer programs. These crews of hard working young people are inspiring, knowledgeable, & passionate about conservation.  They were working on invasive species removal, installing check steps so others can enjoy trails, seed collection, clearing land and planting a tree nursery, & the construction of a nature play center that many children will enjoy soon.  These diverse groups of young people find ways to learn together and laugh often while sweating through real HARD work.  They teach me so much & I am grateful to be able to partner with The SCA & help share their good work in building leaders in conservation.  

As I spent time with each crew one thing was clear- they have formed real friendships with those they are working alongside of and their bond is strengthened by the pride they feel in the impact they see in their daily work in various forest preserves throughout our area.  One student shared, "It is so rewarding to see these projects completed and know WE did that- it is such a sense of accomplishment."  

Special thanks to The SCA crews at Trailside Nature Museum, Ted Stone Woods, River Trail Nature Center, & Harms Woods. The next time I am appreciating one of these beautiful outdoor spaces with my family I will remember these hard working young people that invited me to share stories with them of their good work in conservation. Here are some of the images we captured on one of their last weeks working hard. 

roxanne@hawaimages.com (Hawa Images) Chicago conservation for non organization profit SCA storyteller storytelling The visual https://www.hawaimages.com/blog/2018/8/building-the-next-generation-of-leader-sin-conservation-why-i-love-the-sca Fri, 10 Aug 2018 16:35:51 GMT
Village of Westmont welcomes Hsinchu delegation https://www.hawaimages.com/blog/2018/7/village-of-westmont

The delegates from Hsinchu County arrived on a hot summer morning to the Village Hall in Westmont to a waving & welcoming crowd that included the mayor of Westmont Ron Gunter, local politicians, police, fire fighters, & many other workers and folks from the community. They wanted to offer a similar warm welcome some of them received in Taiwan earlier this year when Westmont sent delegates to learn & participate in a cultural exchange as Sister Cities. 

I was able to participate  with my family as a host family for the group of Taiwanese exchange students that came last November and was excited to be invited to capture this week as the delegates learned more about life in Westmont and shared about their culture and lives.   Few things have blessed my life as much as cultural exchange and learning so capturing these moments and spending time eating, laughing, and learning from these new friends from across the world was awesome. 

Magistrate Chiu came on behalf of his community in Hsinchu County, Taiwan and led the group through their week here in Westmont.  His contagious smile spoke so much and through a translator he often spoke of the continued welcome our community has in his home country. 

Mayor Ron Gunter and Magistrate Chiu presented and received many gifts of behalf of their respective communities.  

A huge highlight of the week was The Taste of Taiwan booth at the Taste of Westmont.  The group traveled with a local chef who made Taiwanese inspired small plates so those here could taste some of the street food dishes of Taiwan (I highly recommend the bubble tea & rice noodles!). 

Many local politicians came out to welcome and the delegation from Taiwan always had gifts to go around for everyone.  

The pork buns & the homemade pickles were pretty amazing! 

The chef encouraged everyone to try the spice blend they brought from Taiwan on everything (i highly recommend it!)

Six members of the Ju Meng Dance Troupe came as part of the delegation to perform at the Taste of Westmont as well as a concert Saturday afternoon open to the public.   

A traditional tea dance was performed and members of the troupe presented Taiwanese tea to members of the audience as part of the dance.  

Their performance Saturday afternoon was entitled Hospitable Hakka, Charming Hsinchu and was a beautiful mixture of costume, dance, and visual media artistic presentation focused on culture and traditions of Taiwan.  

I am grateful to continue to partner with the Village of Westmont & Hsinchu County in their ongoing relationship as Sister Cities. 

roxanne@hawaimages.com (Hawa Images) City cultural culture exchange Sister Taiwan Westmont https://www.hawaimages.com/blog/2018/7/village-of-westmont Tue, 24 Jul 2018 18:11:30 GMT
An important trip, many questions, & praying while moving our feet: A trip to EJI in Alabama https://www.hawaimages.com/blog/2018/6/an-important-trip-many-questions-praying-while-moving-our-feet-a-trip-to-eji-in-alabama I struggle to even put any words to all the history & questions we engaged with last weekend but I also sense that to not acknowledge the weighty truth I continue to reckon with seems too dismissive. I am so grateful for for the work of Equal Justice Initiative. 

If you ask me about the most important book I have read in the last 10 years I always answer:Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson. I have listened to him tell his story and read his words and been moved to action. Last weekend I road tripped with 4 other ladies to Alabama to visit a museum and a lynching memorial that his organization Equal Justice Initiative founded. the The Legacy Museum & Memorial: From Slavery to Mass Incarceration  is a site every American should visit for as they remind us we cannot heal from that which we do not acknowledge. Through studying African American history in college I was exposed to so much history that is often glossed over or hidden from our nation's narrative and this museum continues that journey of truth telling.  This is not just African American history, it is the history of a nation that has constructed and continues to participate in racist systems. It calls us to lament the deep pain and sin that has caused harm to so many and ask the tough questions about what true reconciliation will mean.  I have to see my own failure to stand and call out lies or false narratives about people created in the image of God.   In so many ways this museum walks us through the human experience of oppression, racial violence, and the curse that we all still carry today.  As one Reverend describes, "I saw things that made my heart bleed" and the historyshould makes us join him. The memorial marks the over 4,000 men, women, and children who were victims of racial terrorist violence through lynchings in the U.S. between 1880-1940. EJI's purpose is to foster an honest conversation of the legacy of slavery, racial bias,  racism, and mass incarceration.  They invite us all to "join us in the conversation so we can move forward to our shared healing."  

The above image was important to capture for me.  This part of the memorial is so heavy. We sat and cried and prayed as we read the names and reasons why people were murdered.  We saw their names and places they lived.  We imagined their lives and their families and we mourned.  And alongside the tears and sweltering Alabama heat there was this sun creeping in through the hanging pillars.  This reminded me to have hope. As it read on the wall, "hopelessness is the enemy of justice."

Our trip was also full of many stops remembering the Civil Rights movement; the Woolworth's counter in Nashville, The bridge in Selma that was the site of "Bloody Sunday, " Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church and parsonage, and other sites around Montgomery.  A highlight was being welcomed to worship at Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church on Sunday with the wonderful folks there.  Over the years, it has served the community through the use of its facilities as meeting place for many civic, educational and religious groups. Much of Montgomery’s early civil rights activity – most famously the 1956 Bus Boycott – was directed by Dr. King from his office in the lower unit of the church. His legacy is alive and well among the people, as we heard and saw that day. 

  I do not have a neat way to wrap this all up...most likely I never will but I am asking a lot of questions. I am researching.  I am listening and reading.  I am praying.  I am learning. I am trying to continue on in the journey of affirming the humanity of people created in God's image.  I am rasing my voice to injustice. The last exhibit in the museum is a gallery of current photographs (that of course I loved) and alongside each photograph was a question and I furiously wrote them down for further reflection, prayer and action.  Here are just a few:
Should we do more to publicly acknowledge and teach our history of racial injustice? If schools still remain racially segregated -why and what does this mean for us? Should we do more as a society to rehabilitate, instead of just punish, imprisoned people? How can we improve police and community relations? Should very young children be prosecuted as adults? Should any child be sentenced to die in prison?  How do we eliminate the presumption of guilt for young people of color? Do churches and people of faith have a special obligation to address the history of racial inequality? In truth and reconciliation will you join in an effort to memorialize and remember your community's history?

I am asking these questions too and praying and as Civil Rights activist John Lewis quoted a very old African proverb, "we pray, but when we pray we move our feet." I am currently asking how my feet should move- join me. I am starting by asking to bring the memorial pillars marking the lynchings here in Illinois home to our state so we can acknowledge and heal (if you want to be a part of this effort let me know). This trip calls me to repent, restore, and to HOPE in the future. Let's pray & move our feet. 

roxanne@hawaimages.com (Hawa Images) Alabama EJI justice Legacy lynching memorial racial https://www.hawaimages.com/blog/2018/6/an-important-trip-many-questions-praying-while-moving-our-feet-a-trip-to-eji-in-alabama Thu, 28 Jun 2018 19:29:02 GMT
Meet Jenny; the amazing Mama & her kids https://www.hawaimages.com/blog/2018/6/meet-jenny-the-amazing-mama-her-kids

When I announced the Amazing Mama Giveaway I never anticipated how difficult it would be to choose a winner from the brave & amazing Mamas that many of your nominated! I absolutely LOVE when we encourage one another, maybe that is because I so need that encouragement & reminder that nothing we do to love is ever wasted in my own life so reading these heartfelt and beautiful words about how the mothers around you are inspiring you, loving their kids & families, & facing challenges with grace.  When I read the entry Jessica submitted about Jenny and her children I knew she was the winner of the free sunset session to celebrate and mark this season in their lives!   

Jenny and her family have had so many challenges and a heart breaking journey over the last few years and we we spoke and I asked her to describe her family she said "we are shattered but whole and resilient." As I learned more I just knew these images came at a perfect time.

Jenny and her husband started their family 14 years ago and have 2 children; Colin & Eleanor.  These kids are seriously so.much. fun and they were so joyful, adventurous, & kind during our session, even telling their mom how beautiful she is :) (I know!!).  Eleanor has been bravely battling what Jenny describes as "a beastly chronic illness."  She is fighting a vomiting syndrome that has meant she missed over 40 days of school just in the last year. As a mom it is heart breaking to watch your child struggle so much with sickness and be in and out of the hospital. During this same time her husband Brian's behavior radically changed and she was devastated and confused that their marriage and family was suffering so much.  He was diagnosed with mental health challenges only to find that soon his behavior deteriorated further while living in a nursing home and they learned he was misdiagnosed.  After further testing it was discovered that he has Frontaltemporal Degeneration that most likely started 7-8 years ago and for which there is no cure. He is now is hospice and Jenny has had to process that the love of her life will pass away.  She shared, "each day was a roller coaster of emotions and my heart is broken into 10,000 pieces." She was in one way relived his behavior was not a complete rejection of her and their children but the news is just so devastating and she had to explain to the children "that Daddy's brain was very sick" and he did love them but was unable to be able to show it any more.  

Here is more of Jenny's story in her own words, "This is probably the hardest stuff I have ever been through in my life, but I know there are so many people ready with hugs and memories and laughter. So many people ready to help with Ellie and Colin. Our village is big...I know we will be ok. One day at a time, sometimes one hour, sometimes one breath. We will get through this because of all of you and because of the strong memories of a husband and daddy who passionately loved us while he could. Thank you for loving us."  

I think many people think this joy and these smiles must come from a charmed life but they are found deep within suffering and that makes them even more beautiful.  We had a sunset session at the beach and my goal was to capture their relationship and the kid's personalities. We celebrate you Jenny & pray blessings over your family and thank you for inviting me to capture your beautiful, messy right now!! 

You can learn more about her story in her own words & how to help their family here


roxanne@hawaimages.com (Hawa Images) family Mama mothers photography story telling https://www.hawaimages.com/blog/2018/6/meet-jenny-the-amazing-mama-her-kids Tue, 26 Jun 2018 22:10:25 GMT
The Strength of Women gallery https://www.hawaimages.com/blog/2018/5/the-strength-of-women-gallery

Listening to stories and meeting women from around the world has given me a new depth of appreciation for the strength of women in our world and this gallery at Cafe K'Tizo is a collection of image created around the world.  Come out during the month of May to view the gallery and join the conversation through an interactive part of the gallery where you share a story of the strength of women; yourself or others in your life. These are not clean or complete stories but messy, beautiful stories of life in process that celebrate the strength of women. 


Giveaway:: Tag a strong woman on Hawa Image's Instagram or Facebook you would like to take out for tea at Cafe K'Tizo in the next month & I’ll pick 2 winners by Monday May 7th for a free drink coupon. 

roxanne@hawaimages.com (Hawa Images) art gallery hawa image k'tizo of strength tea women https://www.hawaimages.com/blog/2018/5/the-strength-of-women-gallery Fri, 04 May 2018 20:26:23 GMT
Celebrating Amazing Mamas!!! Mini Session Giveaway https://www.hawaimages.com/blog/2018/4/celebrating-amazing-mamas-mini-session-giveaway It is time to celebrate Mamas with a Mini Session Giveaway!

I LOVE when we encourage & celebrate each other and since our family is finalizing our adoption this spring/summer I am celebrating all the Mamas out there with this giveaway. I am pumped to hear about the amazing Mamas in your lives!!

*Mini Family Lifestyle Session Giveaway: One Amazing Mama & her family will be selected for a FREE 20 minute family lifestyle session (session MUST be used by July 31, 2018, travel beyond 10 miles of Westmont, IL will incur costs). To be entered to win you must complete ALL steps on the form linked below, follow & like Hawa Images on Facebook & Instagram, & share this giveaway on social media.

One entry per person & YOU will also be entered to win $50 off a Family or Portrait Lifestyle Session for YOU! (You can also apply this to an already booked session for my clients already on the schedule). 

I'm so excited to hear about the amazing Mamas in your life!!!

Enter an amazing Mama you know & get all the details here. 

roxanne@hawaimages.com (Hawa Images) family giveaway hawa images mamas motherhood photography https://www.hawaimages.com/blog/2018/4/celebrating-amazing-mamas-mini-session-giveaway Mon, 09 Apr 2018 16:43:59 GMT
Thank God for Women campaign through World Relief https://www.hawaimages.com/blog/2018/3/thank-god-for-women-campaign-through-world-relief

When I was asked by World Relief to capture a portrait of a woman who empowers and advocates for other women for their #ThankGodForWomen campaign immediately this beautiful woman came to mind so I was excited when she agreed to allow me to capture her and ask some questions about her current role as a social worker and her over 20 year journey in standing with vulnerable families.  This is Tyesa. She empowers women and children by advocating for them and walking alongside families through some of the most traumatic times of their lives as they navigate the DCFS system. Her calming presence and amazing smile invites trust the moment you meet her. When I asked her about her calming presence, she said, “It’s easy to be calm in these hard situations, because I put myself in their shoes and think about how I would want to be treated… It’s a hard job, but when you love what you do, it makes it easy.”

Tyesa says the best part of her job is being able to help children achieve permanency, either through adoption or returning home. The most difficult part? When children can’t return home and get stuck in a backlogged court system. Becoming a foster parent myself has opened my eyes to the vulnerability of these children. Without loving, devoted, and caring people like Tyesa, they can get lost in an overwhelming system. Her ability to maintain hope, compassion, and empathy through more than 20 years of service is amazing. She sees hope and points others to it! I thank God for women like Tyesa because she has personally touched our family through her expertise and advocacy on behalf of our foster daughter. She has been a life line for us as we advocate together for our daughter's best interests.

Check out World Relief's instagram feed for the post & to celebrate other strong women like Tyesa and the female photographers capturing these important stories! 

Reposted from World Relief: Over the years, we have worked with so many women who have been called by God to capture and share the stories of others through the lens of a camera. For the next few weeks, we will share the work of four of these photographers + the stories of women they have photographed. Today's photo and story comes from @roxengstrom (@hawaimages )


roxanne@hawaimages.com (Hawa Images) advocate care female foster photographers relief social strong women worker world https://www.hawaimages.com/blog/2018/3/thank-god-for-women-campaign-through-world-relief Fri, 02 Mar 2018 19:36:25 GMT
Standing with Dreamers https://www.hawaimages.com/blog/2018/1/standing-with-dreamers Last night I heard stories from people from different countries bravely share their stories of coming to the United States as children.  They are known as "Dreamers." Their stories are diverse.  Some came to escape poverty, violence, or for a chance to study, a chance at the American Dream they had heard so much about.  Many of them did not know about their status until they wanted to attend college and could not apply for any federal aid and were barred from state universities , or until they were in drivers education and discovered they had no social security number.  Some found themselves "undocumented" because of a mistake of a lawyer.  They all consider America their home.  They found ways to survive, work, attend college, and add to this American experiment and I am grateful they are here. Immigration issues can be controversial, and like all issues,  they are complex and require a lot of sharing, listening, and debating. 

Dreamers are folks that came here as children and have grown up in America.  The median age of entry for those now called Dreamers is 6 years old.  Since 2012, around 800,000 Dreamers have applied for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or what has become known as DACA.  This program allowed Dreamers to secure temporary work authorization and protection from deportation to those who passed background checks and pay fees (among other qualifications).  Last night World Relief Dupage Aurora  hosted a Love in Action Event: A Future for Dreamers and we heard stories from Dreamers from India, China, and Mexico as well as pastors and folks partnering with them. 

I was struck by how varied and diverse their stories are and how much bravery it takes to stand in front of a room full of people and share these pieces of their stories that they had to hide for so long.  A woman I have volunteered alongside at at World Relief named Ruth shared her status and story and I had tears in my eyes knowing about the amazing and important work she is doing here and listening to her fear of being deported.  The first in her family to attend college she now empowers others and advocates on their behalf as a staffer at World Relief.  As she shared, "no one wants to be illegal. We are only asking for a path to citizenship."         


Liz, who became undocumented after a lawyer forgot to attach her dependent application to her mother's application shared that for a long time she did not speak up.  She shared, "stories are powerful and deserve to be heard. I had a voice but was afraid to speak up but now it is my turn." She now is on the advisory board of Voices of Christian Dreamers and advocating for a timely and reasonable solution.  

Matthew Sorens (coauthor of Seeking Refuge) and Susan Sperry (executive Director of WRDA) from World Relief helped those in attendance understand the current situation for DACA recipients as well as offer legal advice through the Legal Services team at World Relief.  They also called us to examine our faith and what it means to offer hospitality.  The Greek word used in scripture actually means love of stranger.  God does not call us to love only those when it is convenient but we can offer love and compassion realizing we were once foreigners too. Pastor Obe ended the night with a prayer and a call for us all to help Dreamers be able to pursue a legal path to citizenship so they can pursue their God given gifts and calling.  Even the cost of deporting the Dreamers as a whole would strain our economy and result in the loss of a projected $460.3 billion dollars for the U.S. GDP over the next decade.  Deporting these folks and separating families woudl be a great loss to America.  There has to be a better way forward that involves a process and dignity and Congress has the power to act!  

At the close of the night we were encouraged to Pray, Serve, & Advocate. Praying for our leaders as they try to come to a solution for complex issues, pray for those living in constant fear of their status and being deported (one Dreamer shared that she feels like she lives her life in 2 year increments, afraid for the future), pray for families, and pray for our leaders. Pray for humility to understand for ourselves.  Pray for us to see and hear each other and become aware of what we are being asked to do. There is a prayer guide available here. 

Serve alongside World Relief or other organizations serving folks seeking to gain legal status and become our fellow citizens.  As I have done this their stories and dreams for their families have reminded me why I am grateful for diversity in our country, that our collective voices make us stronger.  Volunteer to welcome a refugee family as they resettle in the US, be a good neighbor to folks already here, make copies & serve alongside the legal team at an upcoming citizenship clinic.

Advocate by using YOUR VOICE- it matters. Congress has the power to act and come to a reasonable solution to this issue. Not all places in the world have this ability to voice their concerns to their representatives- don't take it for granted.  I am challenging myself and YOU to get more informed about this issue, pray, volunteer, and act- join me in the #PowerToAct Challenge. I just used my voice to call my representative and senators with my son sitting on my lap. Click on this link and enter your information and your reps will CALL YOU and simply voice your solidarity with Dreamers!    

roxanne@hawaimages.com (Hawa Images) act daca dreamers immigration power relief to world https://www.hawaimages.com/blog/2018/1/standing-with-dreamers Wed, 31 Jan 2018 16:55:58 GMT
Women's March Chicago Jan 2018 https://www.hawaimages.com/blog/2018/1/womens-march-chicago-jan-2018 Yesterday the Women's March in Chicago was estimated to have over 250,000 participants that gathered and marched through downtown on a rare sunny and warm(ish) January day.  They marched for reasons as varied as those in attendance.  I captured the event because awareness of this political climate is important.  Everyone there has a story to share, people are not monolithic and their voices are important to our democracy. There are many voices not present at the march and theirs matter too. And my hope as Americans is that we come together and listen to one another and move forward together.  

For me joining this march was about seeing for MYSELF what it was all about. It was about standing with people who feel left out by much of the current political climate.  Who knows what the history books will say about this time in history when the dust settles but I want to help tell that story through capturing images of what the American experiment looks like right now.  I want to stand for issues that matter to me like the way we dismiss sexual violence against women, immigration reform, DACA recipients being able to have a legal and reasonable way to stay in the country they know as home, refugee resettlement that treats those fleeing their homelands with dignity and respect (to name a few).  I volunteer and work alongside people who have been demonized and marginalized and I can choose to use my voice of privilege to say that is NOT ok, to say that their presence in my life and in our country make us all better.  I can affirm their humanity as dearly loved by God by standing aside and allowing their stories to be shared.  The real test is what happens next- will we show up at the polls? Will we welcome our neighbors in ways that may cost us personally no matter what their faith or where they come from? Will we volunteer as ESL tutors to those on paths to citizenship? Will we insist that until we are all free to be ourselves none of us are really free? Will we suspend judgement and offer to be a part of solutions to complex problems we don't fully understand?  Will we show up?...... not only to march but to stand with and for those whose very humanity is being questioned?  

You could see the intersection of many issues and stories converging through the streets of Chicago yesterday and my hope was to capture some of that through images.

roxanne@hawaimages.com (Hawa Images) advocate chicago march marginalized privilege rights voices women women's https://www.hawaimages.com/blog/2018/1/womens-march-chicago-jan-2018 Sun, 21 Jan 2018 20:50:00 GMT
Happy 2018!! https://www.hawaimages.com/blog/2017/12/happy-2018

As I reflect on all the moments captured in 2017 I am exceedingly grateful to have been invited in to YOUR story!! Thank you for allowing me to do what I love & capture your beautiful, messy stories through my lens. It is an absolute privilege. Wish blessings on you all in 2018.

Happy New Year friends!!!
Now booking for 2018!

Much love from our family to yours, Roxanne

roxanne@hawaimages.com (Hawa Images) https://www.hawaimages.com/blog/2017/12/happy-2018 Fri, 29 Dec 2017 20:08:48 GMT
hair care with a lot of heart! https://www.hawaimages.com/blog/2017/11/hair-care-with-a-lot-of-heart

Styles 4 Kidz Fall held their Fall Soiree last week and I was able to capture them celebrating the good work this organization does in our community! This organization has personally touched me as a foster parent and mother of an African American daughter so I was so excited to partner with them to share their story.  In the early days of our daughter living with our family I was is search of advice, education, and help with hair care and talked to them on the phone so when they reached out to have me help them tell the story of their big fall event I knew it was a perfect fit!

The night was full of fabulous food (sponsored by KitchFix), a silent auction of many great items and experiences, & wonderful live music. The event was held at the beautiful space at CSS Academy (please check out the good they are doing in Brookfield). Tamekia Swint , the Styles 4 Kidz founder & executive direction revealed their new logo, vision and mission statements, and website as well but the most impactful part of the night was Tamekia and others sharing stories of impact.  We heard from a mother who adopted African American children and found herself overwhelmed with the hair care needs and received friendship and knowledge from S4K and from a director at a group home about the impact S4K has had on the youth in care that reside in the the group home. The pride and self esteem that comes from S4K involvement has been such an important aspect of their work because it has been a source of pride for the youth and a bridge in building ongoing relationships. There were many thanks and an award presented to Jennifer Ridder for her support and encouragement since the founding of S4K. There was lots of hugs and laughter and celebrating as well as a call to action to further support this work! 

One thing was clear to me the entire night: Styles 4 Kidz is not just about hair- it is about so much more! 

Please check out the good work they are doing to empower families through education for trans- racial adoptive families and build self esteem and cultural pride for young people in foster care.   They are building a diverse community of people that celebrate and work for hair care with heart!!! 

I am so grateful to partner with amazing organizations doing good & hard work in our communities! See more organization storytelling images here and contact me if storytelling images would give your organization a vital voice on social media & communicate your vision to others!

roxanne@hawaimages.com (Hawa Images) adoption african american care chicago for hair kidz ngo organization photography storytelling styles trans-racial visual https://www.hawaimages.com/blog/2017/11/hair-care-with-a-lot-of-heart Thu, 30 Nov 2017 15:59:17 GMT
dancing towards his dreams https://www.hawaimages.com/blog/2017/11/dancing-towards-dreams  I had the opportunity to meet Nigel and his Grandmother Sonya through Kate Danielson; my dear friend and founder of  Foster Progress in Chicago. Foster Progress is the result of immense need for advocacy, mentorship,  & education and I am always excited to partner with them in their good work.  I was excited to partner with Foster Progress to help Nigel tell part of his story through images.....

Nigel is a hard working high school dedicated to dance and hoping this newly realized dream of dancing & performing professionally becomes a reality through the pursuit of studying performance dance in college! We met early on a rainy Saturday morning at Joel Hall dance studio in my old neighborhood in the city where Nigel has been studying and interning to learn as much as he can.  We had a lot of laughs trying to decide exactly what we wanted to capture and include in his portfolio and other dancers would wander in and out offering their help and support. We captured jumps and bends that I could not do even back in my prime (I was gasping behind my lens numerous times)! 

Nigel's warm smile and his affection, love, and respect for his grandmother made capturing his story a blessing! He shared that she was the one who pushed him to try contemporary and ballet when he didn't consider it an option.  Sonya supported Nigel in many ways in his life and dared him to dream big.  And even though he probably prefers the straight faced head shots his contagious laugh reveals so much about him and are my favorite images. As the sunlight grew stronger and our time in the rented studio neared an end ballet dancers for the first class of the day arrived along with Missy; one of Nigel's dance instructors who immediately embraced him and shared how proud she is of all his progress and hard work.  Nigel also bragged on her for having dances on Facebook that went viral and for always believing in him. 

Thanks Nigel & as I told him the day of our storytelling session: when you make it big I want a shout-out! I love partnering with organizations doing so much good in the world- please check out the work of Foster Progress!!  Your stories make this work so worthwhile and I am grateful to have a glimpse into what the future could hold for Nigel. 

roxanne@hawaimages.com (Hawa Images) ballet chicago college dance dreams education foster goals mentorship ngo photography portraits progress storyteller visual https://www.hawaimages.com/blog/2017/11/dancing-towards-dreams Wed, 08 Nov 2017 21:59:29 GMT
Early Childhood Education & Adoption Preservation: just 2 ways MFS is empowering https://www.hawaimages.com/blog/2017/10/2waysMFSisempowering

In August I had the privilege to help create images that tell the important stories of Metropolitan Family Services in Chicago. These stories were shared in Metropolitan Family Service's 2017 annual report here.  Partnering with organizations impacting change and empowering folks in their communities is my favorite work to do and I am grateful to be entrusted with these stories! 

MFS's mission is to provide and mobilize the services needed to strengthen families and communities and I have worked with them to see just how that is occurring through their numerous programs that empower the community. Here are just 2 recent stories:

Meeting the first family at MSF's Midway's center began with 2 giggly little girls.  I immediately adored them and their beautiful Mom; Jazmin.  Jazmin is expecting her third little girl soon and told us about how much the Midway Center has meant to her family. At home they primarily speak Spanish at so she really was searching for an affordable, quality childcare center and preschool for her girls; Jayleen, 5, and Guadalupe, 4. 

These sisters clearly adore each other and were so eager to show me their school!

Both girls now attend Midway Children’s Center, and when Jazmin’s third daughter, due in October, is old enough Jazmin plans to enroll her at Metropolitan’s Learning and Wellness Center. Jazmin told me that she really could not work without the support of MFS and their programs!  

I accompanied them to the girl's classroom and it was easy to see why the girls look forward to coming to the center each day. There was singing, hands on play and much excitement in learning! The Midway Children's Center is just one way MFS is supporting & empowering families! 

Adoption Preservation is an area that does not get enough research, support, and resources and I loved hearing about the difference and impact MSF's programs and resources has made on Katie & her family.   Katie's first family struggled with addiction and the home environment was unstable and unsafe.  Katie and her sister eventually came to live with their Aunt Gloria and her family.  The transition was difficult as the girls dealt with trauma and adjusted to their new home. Gloria shared vulnerably that after the adoption she was at the end of her rope, "I could not find anyone willing to help." 

Even though Katie was in a safe home she struggled day to day and their family reached out repeatedly for help only to discover dead ends and frustration amidst their difficulties. Gloria felt alone, frustrated, & desperate.  

For years Gloria used every resource available to her — from hospitals to local agencies — but could not find the support they needed. After calling every agency in the DCFS handbook, she finally reached Tiaira Robinson, a therapist with Metropolitan’s Adoption Preservation program. Gloria said that it did not take long to see that Tiaira was trustworthy and was here for the long haul to help them!! 

For a year now Katie has received therapy, psychiatric services, anger management classes, therapeutic day camp, and weekly visits with a mentor — and Tiaira has applied to extend services for an additional year.

Gloria says she feels peace now knowing that MSF will not leave them without support. These community empowering programs exist because of the good work of Metropolitan Family Services and I am grateful to get to see the impact and tell stories with MFS! 



roxanne@hawaimages.com (Hawa Images) adoption center chicago children's community mfs midway ngo photographer photography preservation services https://www.hawaimages.com/blog/2017/10/2waysMFSisempowering Thu, 19 Oct 2017 15:11:47 GMT
Celebrating The Green Mama's newest book! https://www.hawaimages.com/blog/2017/10/celebrating-the-green-mamas-newest-book Processed with VSCO with f2 preset

Eek!! A Box from Canada arrived today packed with The Green Mama's newest book: Green Mama-to-be: Creating a Happy, Healthly, & Toxin Free Pregnancy by Manda Aufochs Gillespie. Hawa Images and my beautiful clients are featured throughout the book!!

I was so excited to be a part of this project and want to cheer Manda on as she is living her purpose & encouraging and empowering us to live greener!  I am so excited for this Mama and friend from our Chicago days to see her 2nd book published after years of hard work! She has such a gift to help parents see what is possible in caring for our world & our families well! She helped our family in our journey of cloth diapering (without any judgement) & is such an encouraging & loving member of the mama tribe. She is an inspiration!! Check out her website & learn more. I am cheering you on sister!! 

Also, special thanks to my rock-star clients who were willing to lend their images to help tell the story of this book. I'm so grateful to get to do this work I love with families.  

roxanne@hawaimages.com (Hawa Images) book bosses green mama photography https://www.hawaimages.com/blog/2017/10/celebrating-the-green-mamas-newest-book Wed, 11 Oct 2017 17:29:15 GMT
promoting peace with my camera in hand https://www.hawaimages.com/blog/2017/9/promoting-peace-with-my-camera-in-hand Images are powerful and can craft, reinforce, undo, or influence our thoughts and beliefs about others.  Images have the potential to dissuade us from fear of the unknown or different and move us toward real love.

When I was asked to share what visual peacemaking means to me*, I was overwhelmed since I still consider myself a beginner in many ways.  But after prayer and discussion, I realized visual peacemaking is not merely an approach or a tool in our belts.  Rather, it is a process of becoming and we should always be learning.  it is more about who you are than simply what you do and in that way I can share; not from a wealth of knowledge but from a common vision.  A vision that strives to partner, build bridges rather than construct walls, and show the beautiful humanity and dignity in the people we encounter.  We can choose to live life evading failure; only attempting what we are comfortable with or a pretty sure we can accomplish.  I admit I can find myself leaning this direction because to step out is to risk.  But it is always worth the journey.  Photography continues to be a journey of risk for me, one that involves intentionally giving of myself and being stretched and changed.

Women pilgrims in the Ganga River. Varanasi, India.Women pilgrims in the Ganga River. Varanasi, India.

Photography sort of happened to me.  It arose from a deep desire I had to tell the stories of women that became my dear friends.  I moved with my family to a small island in East Africa most people cannot find on a map.  I had plans and those plans seemed to explode upon arrival.  I thought I would have an adventure and help some folks along the way.  We were there working to set up and teach in a vocational school and if I am honest I thought I was there to give more than be personally changed but God had a different agenda.  The emotional pain of role deprivation and starting over in a place where I was now a complete idiot in the ways of daily life was very real and painful.  It was humbling, but as I embraced that more and more it also allowed for a remaking and remolding in my life.  I realized you cannot serve people you don't know and love.  You cannot be trusted with their stories until you invest in their lives.  And I so needed the people there to help me forge this new life.  In the process of allowing others to help me, I realized that I was there to learn more than to teach, There was such joy in the friendships I found there because they were not formed merely because of similar culture backgrounds and shared views of life.  My friendships on our island were forged through difference and a decision to move towards mutual respect and love.

Elimu. A morning at the local nursery school. Chukwani, Zanzibar.Elimu. A morning at the local nursery school. Chukwani, Zanzibar.

For a long time I chose not to photograph my friends unless asked because I really wanted to communicate I loved them more than the image.  To me visual peacemaking means spending time with people and really trying to see them.  We all want to be seen and heard.  And that seeing evokes in us common human emotions that deeply connect us all and compels us to share. This is why I so desperately wanted to participate in sharing their stories through photography and began to study and practice.  I really believe the posture with which we engage people is more important than all the technical skills in the world.  As I was wrecked with my friends' stories, I wanted to capture the mundane and the beautiful, the joy co-mingled with deep pain and suffering because it was a way to really see them and connect our lives as I searched for meaning in it all.  I was not "ready" to live there and learn to love in ways that cost me personally, to start over, to be stretched in the ways required of me, but that is exactly where God wanted me.  And photography became one way I found and continue to find peace even in the midst of chaos.

Preparing the day's catch. Tuk Kae village, Phuket, Thailand.Preparing the day's catch. Tuk Kae village, Phuket, Thailand.

I think sometimes as photographers we can focus on the outcome and capturing "the" image but for me this often leads to me missing precisely the moments that are meant to bring understanding and promote peace.  I think we all need to spend more time sitting on dirt floors eating rice and chapati with our hands and less time thinking about the perfect lighting and setting up tripods. Of course the final product is important and we honor our friends and those that invite us into their lives by striving towards excellence, but we cannot authentically communicate care and love if we do not invest in people.  And maybe we should measure our success more in people with whom we have shared each other's sacred stories rather than just in the number of beautiful images.

a woman working. Harna, India.a woman working. Harna, India.

I recently heard a speaker say, "The opposite of love is not hate, it is fear," and this really struck me.  It reminded me of the verse in scripture that declares "perfect love expels all fear."  We can fear what we do not understand and with photography I want to intentionally make choices to move from fear of the unknown or different to "perfect love".  Visual peacemaking is first moving yourself in order that we may encourage others to move.  But to do that we have to allow people's stories to burrow deep in our hearts.  We have to have sleepless nights thinking about their challenges and pain.  We have to accompany them as they celebrate and rejoice with them.  We have to eat their food, hold their babies, trust them to hold ours, pray, dance, laugh, and cry together.  Because that is the sacred stuff of life and that grants us permission and bestows upon us the responsibility to share our common humanity. 

lighting offerings  at sunrise. Varanasi, India.lighting offerings at sunrise. Varanasi, India.

Blessings on your journey, Roxanne

*this post has been adapted but was originally published as a guest blog on International Guild of Visual Peacemakers. 

roxanne@hawaimages.com (Hawa Images) cultural humanitarian motivation peacemaking photography travel visual https://www.hawaimages.com/blog/2017/9/promoting-peace-with-my-camera-in-hand Sat, 23 Sep 2017 01:13:55 GMT
Meet Ibtisam https://www.hawaimages.com/blog/2017/9/meet-ibtisam

I climbed three flights of stairs stepping over lovely green plants decorating the apartment building to Ibtisam & her husband's home to meet the woman I had heard so much about. I had searched out her designs online long before we had the chance to meet and I just loved the color and detail in her work.  Her designs bring a modern Arabic flare to Western fashion and I was grateful to be asked to help document her business on my photography story telling assignment for World Relief.  More than just view her designs I wanted to sit with and listen to the woman who had the courage and strength to pursue her dreams using her seamstress & design talent after so much change and difficulty. Ibtisam & her husband warmly welcomed myself and a World Relief staffer; Tim to their home with sweets already set out for us.  We greeted each other and began sharing and I was immediately struck with, and grateful for, their openness and willingness to share so much of their story.  

They are from Iraq and both had successful businesses in their home country. Ibtisam designed and sewed everything from elaborate gowns to home decor such as curtains and employed 6 people in her shop.  Her husband started and ran an aquarium deign and installation company.  He ran the only shop of this kind in his hometown and had to learn as he went, even showing us his scares from broken glass the first time he learned to install floor to ceiling fish tanks.  His fondness of these memories is so clear in his telling of them.  They lived among family and friends and built lives they were proud of in Iraq.  

The war changed their daily lives completely.  They fled to Jordan an Ibtisam had to leave behind a business she had spent the last 20 years building.  In Jordan they were undocumented and this meant they had to scrape together money to live, Ibtisam tearing up telling us that she often had to do so many alternations for the equivalent of 25 cents.  Life was very hard for them those 4 1/2 years in Jordan as they lived under constant fear they would be sent back or killed. Ibtisam's older and younger brother were both violently killed and Ali was in contact with former neighbors who had heard death threats against them and others. Realizing there was no hope of returning to Iraq in the near future Ibtisam's husband applied to the United Nations in Jordan.  As we listened to him tell us about the process he shared he really took a risk not knowing even what he was applying for, "I just knew we cannot make the life here and we cannot go home."  

They were contacted by the UN and were called to come in- for what they did not know.  They both were separately interviewed by UN representatives from 7am until 7pm about their stories that first time.  Ali said he thought the interviewer was tough and he worried she hated him because of the intensity of the interview.  Ibitisam agreed that retelling everything and being asked specific details apart from her husband was nerve-wracking.  They did not know it then but this and the subsequent 3 interviews that were to come were the beginnings of the refugee screening process. After months of waiting and hearing nothing they gathered outside the UN to await the posting of a list.  They described thousands of people in a crush of others waiting and praying their name appeared on this list.  They saw their names.  At this point as they told their story they both paused, held hands, and teared up.  It was clear that looking back this one moment held so much hope and at the same time anxiety for what this would mean for them.  

They had no idea where they would be relocated and what this would mean for them.  They learned they were assigned to the United States and while they felt relief they also held in that complicated emotions of panic about starting again in a new country where they did not speak the language.  Ali asked, "How will I do this life in the U.S.?" They arrived at O’hare in 2008 with 8 other families and with the help of World Relief resettled in this area.  Just as the many refugee clients that come to the U.S., their stories do not begin when they arrive here with their IOM bag in hand and they also do not end with arriving in their new country of resettlement.  Just to be away from immediate danger is not the end.  There is so much rebuilding, cultural and language learning, healing, and life to live yet. There is such much to be negotiated about embracing new and holding on to old.  As I sit with refugee clients and listen to their stories I am always impacted by the rich lives they left behind.  The vivid memories they share of lives and loves and hardships and joys that they were forced to flee. Ibitisam and her husband shared many more sacred details of their lives and Tim and I listened, asked questions, and sat as witnesses to the rich lives they have lived and are living.  I apologized to them for having to recount so many painful details but her husband quickly shook his head and said "no, you cannot forget these hard times."  Sharing stories validates the ones sharing and allows the listeners to be stretched to embrace more of our human family and be reminded each of our stories matter too. We sensed that in some of the retelling there is also some healing.      

They both continue to learn English and more about American culture (we had some laughs about this process) and make amazing use of the resources available to them here.  Ibitisam restarted her business here and it quickly began growing.  She realized she wanted to pursue a college degree in at a local community college since her training mostly has come from her mother in law back home in Iraq and her vast experience.  She currently studies in the fashion design program and has already been awarded Most Outstanding Freshman Designer of the year!  She shared s story at the recent World Relief Spotlight Event that her instructor could not believe the detail work she completed on a wedding dress in only a week. She laughs telling this story because she misunderstood the due date and although she had all semester thought she only had a week to complete it!  She asked her to do it AGAIN during class time just  to see and show the other students her technique!   One of my favorite moments was when Ibtisam was recalled how nervous she was to arrive in the U.S.,  "I had no English so I wore this badge so nothing will happen to me." She wore a badge around her neck that gave information on who to call if she got lost because when she arrived she could not communicate in English.  She produced this badge from a back room in their apartment within 2 minutes and showed it off. We all laughed about how far they have come since that day.  How they can tell their story in English, welcome us to their home in America, and share about running a business here.  

They run her business, Ibtisam Sewing, out of their apartment and her husband helps her with design (including designing and printing her custom labels).  He beams when he talks about Ibtisam and her successes. 

About 3 hours later we left their home with promises to return soon (which I will because I think I am needing a new bag :) and as we made our way back down the stairs and as I edited and culled through images I reflected on how grateful I am to be involved in this work.  This good work of listening to stories, of being present with folks who make our country richer and stronger.  I am grateful to Ibtisam and her husband for welcoming me and graciously sharing their lives and I look forward to watching more of their story unfold.  


Please check out Ibitsam sewing!!!   

roxanne@hawaimages.com (Hawa Images) america entrepreneurs iraq refugees relief welcome world https://www.hawaimages.com/blog/2017/9/meet-ibtisam Fri, 15 Sep 2017 16:12:13 GMT
Meet Peter https://www.hawaimages.com/blog/2017/8/meet-peter

I met Peter last year when I captured images of his father in their home (and met his adorable weeks old baby!) & I had the privilege of visiting him again a few weeks ago in his new office for a story on refugee entrepreneurs for World Relief.

Peter arrived in the US in 2007 and only 10 years later has published a book to empower home buyers in the Burmese community, has a real estate business, & has founded a non-profit organization to help Burmese folks in his country. Learn more about Peter's story here. 

Peter will be one of more than 20 businesses highlighted at World Relief's event on September 7th, Spotlight on Refugee and Immigrant Entrepreneurs. Come join me to hear many more stories of entrepreneurial spirit and community impact. Register here. See you there!


roxanne@hawaimages.com (Hawa Images) immigrant refugees relief welcome world https://www.hawaimages.com/blog/2017/8/meet-peter Wed, 30 Aug 2017 19:52:06 GMT
creating art with sand & light https://www.hawaimages.com/blog/2017/8/creating-art-with-sand-light I enjoyed meeting artist Mark Demel in his home and capturing the unique way he uses sand and light to create art.  He taught himself this art form and can create an entire scene so quickly it really is amazing! The images will be used for a publication around Christmas time. 

roxanne@hawaimages.com (Hawa Images) art artist christmas light sand https://www.hawaimages.com/blog/2017/8/creating-art-with-sand-light Mon, 07 Aug 2017 18:18:03 GMT
football, bracelets, & building friendships: Summer Youth Clubs with World Relief https://www.hawaimages.com/blog/2017/7/football-bracelets-building-friendships-summer-youth-clubs-with-world-relief

Last Friday was the last day of our Summer Youth Clubs for World Relief Dupage/Aurora. The summer program brought together kids and young adults from Burma, Iran, Sudan, Syria, and several other countries. I was invited to capture the kids learning together, crafting (and I may have tied Many-a-bracelets :), bonding with volunteers, learning to play American football, and making new friends.  These programs are so important as World Relief helps refugee families adjust and feel confident in America. I loved watching the volunteers giving high fives to kids after their first touch down and the kids playing together with other kids from opposite ends of the globe who now share a common experience.   

Local churches host these clubs and these programs are staffed by volunteers committed to World' relief's vision of partnering with local churches and volunteers to provide hope to those whose lives have been disrupted by violence and persecution. Learn more about getting involved here. 

roxanne@hawaimages.com (Hawa Images) aurora chicago dupage refugees relief volunteer world https://www.hawaimages.com/blog/2017/7/football-bracelets-building-friendships-summer-youth-clubs-with-world-relief Tue, 18 Jul 2017 19:03:23 GMT
Anchored in Hope:Volunteer Appreciation with World Relief https://www.hawaimages.com/blog/2017/5/anchored-in-hope-volunteer-appreciation-with-world-relief

World Relief Dupage/Aurora thanked the many volunteers that make their work with refugees and immigrants possible Friday night with a celebration that included food & performances from around the world (the food y'all!!). There were food stalls from 9 countries serving small portions of ethnic food, great discussions around the tables, roaring applause as different groups shared their cultural dances with us all, salsa lessons for the brave, henna, & jump houses and face painting for the kids. Seeing so many people gathered who are involved year round with welcoming refugees and immigrants in big and small ways was special. The executive director offered a prayer and thanked everyone present because without volunteers the good work of World Relief is not possible! Seeing folks from so many cultures enjoying and celebrating each other in one place is a beautiful thing. The theme was anchored in hope and it was a night that serves as a great reminder that we work for the good of all people because we have hope in the future. 

I'm grateful to be a part of this important work.

Here is our squad enjoying the night!

roxanne@hawaimages.com (Hawa Images) Relief World humanitarian immigrants photography refugees volunteer https://www.hawaimages.com/blog/2017/5/anchored-in-hope-volunteer-appreciation-with-world-relief Mon, 01 May 2017 18:05:22 GMT