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Emma Murphy

I’m an ice skating teacher which is something I can’t bring to Malawi and don’t really want to, but I started photography as a part time course 4 years ago and it has been my hobby and lease to express myself since then. This is what I wanted to share and teach with others.

September 2014 I went to Malawi for the first time. Not really knowing what to expect, completely out of my comfort zone and by myself. I went with all the intentions on changing the world but after meeting the girls of Tilinanu and the boys of the Foster home realised that they were going to change my world!  I focused working with 2 girls who were in their early teens with basic compact cameras that had been donated by friends from London. The girls were hesitant at first and a bit confused with the whole purpose of the project due to the whole subject being so alien to them. After the 2 weeks I spent in 2014 the 2 girls had managed to take individual portrait pictures of every girl at Tilinanu, printed them and created an album. What at first seemed a small insignificant project of having fun taking pictures became a way for the girls to create a book where they were all included as a family unit through a very hard time. I left last year not being sad, as I knew I would be coming back this year and made sure I told the girls.

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From being back home since my first trip I have been inspired by the girls at Tilinanu to push my education more and become a better person. I’m now 28 and have been accepted in to a degree course starting in a few months, something I never believed I could do. They taught me that I’m lucky to have the opportunity to education and I should not pigeon hole myself in to what I think I’m capable of.

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When I went again in July 2015 I had easily persuaded my sister to come with me. I was so excited to get stuck in with working on the girls photography and wanted to teach them how to load photographs on to the computer so that they could share their work with others and also take photos for the charity when needed. It was great to see that my 2 girls had been taking photos while I had been gone. They had even recreated a wedding, dressing the younger girls up and posing. They had done this so well I had actually believed it was a real wedding they had attended! I spent my time going more in depth with what makes a good photograph, why we take photographs, showing the girls a photography book and tips on taking portraits. I then took the girls to get the photographs printed and ordered frames from Blackey at the wood market (he can pretty much make you anything out of wood and is the guy to ask for when you go!). I spoke to the owner of a beautiful lodge that has international, corporate clients staying regularly if my two girls and I could have a meeting with the intention of her to put a few of their photos on her wall or even just for feedback. The photographs in the handmade frames and hand written tags from the girl who took the photo looked incredible. I was very proud and impressed with the quality of their photos without any cropping, use of Photoshop and the fact that photography is still so new to them. Obviously the owner of the lodge was wowed and now wants to dedicate a wall to the girl’s work and the charity. This means that the girls will be able to earn money doing what they enjoy for Tilinanu, have more confidence in their skill, tell their own story, the list is endless! What was more impressive than anything and took my breath away were their explanations and reasons for each specific photo they had taken and what they hope it says to others. I finally knew they understood the artistic medium of photography!

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I’m looking forward to going back next summer and seeing for myself their photography being shown and exhibited in such a beautiful place. I will be emailing the girls regularly to help them with their photography and hopefully get their work in other places so all can see their talent and story.

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Huge thanks to Emma for coming over and helping the girls to express themselves, not only that but showing them how they could build a career doing something they love. Truly inspiring stuff. We hope you enjoyed reading Emmas story and looking at some of her beautiful photos, we think they really capture what life if like in Malawi and with LSU.

Have you been inspired to think about volunteering? Read about how it could happen in our volunteer section.

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