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Giving voice

Memorial staff member volunteers time and skills with Stella's Circle

By Terri Coles

A recent partnership between Stella’s Circle and the Faculty of Medicine provided clients of the charity an opportunity to develop creative and practical skills.

The results of a photography course, PhotoVoice and led by Ritche Perez of the Faculty of Medicine’s Office of Professional Development (OPED), were exhibited in the faculty’s atrium in October.

“Ritche taught us new skills, and he showed us different ways to take the pictures” said student Robyn McCarthy. “We can use that for future projects or jobs.”

Teaching the classes was a rewarding way to share his photography skills, says Mr. Perez, who is a multimedia specialist at OPED and a well-known local photographer.

He also says it was rewarding to help the participants speak about their own experiences and what an image they created meant to them.

“It was an accomplishment for them to do that, and it’s an accomplishment for me to facilitate and teach it.”

Improving literacy

Stella’s Circle approached Mr. Perez to give learners in the organization’s Adult Basic Literacy Education (ABE) program an opportunity to develop their visual literacy.

“Our main goals are to help our students to improve their literacy and numeracy skills,” said Jessica Lee-Middleman, an ABE instructor at Stella’s Circle.

“So absolutely, pencil and paper are important, but there are other modes of learning.”

‘Deeply rewarding’

Mr. Perez volunteered his time in partnership with OPED to teach workshops and classes based on his own experiences travelling and growing up and living in St. John’s.

“My life is something that I need to protect and work on.” — Robyn McCarthy

Through collaboration with Community Health and Humanities, learners in the Faculty of Medicine also volunteered their time.

“While creating and sharing art can be daunting, doing so is deeply rewarding, and a great way to boost confidence and self-esteem,” said Liam Robbins, a medical student at Memorial.

The program focused on the technical skills required to use a camera and how to take a good photograph.

Students also learned that photography is a way to tell their own story, says Mr. Perez: “Taking a picture for the core reason of how it can evoke your own emotions and your own feelings.”

A framed photograph of two orange road cones hangs on a red room divider. To its right, there is a framed paragraph, also hung on the room divider.
A photograph by Robyn McCarthy with an accompanying artist’s statement
Photo: Submitted

Mr. Perez’s own interest in photography began with a desire to document his children’s lives as they grew up, he says.

It grew into a way for him to explore his identity and culture as someone who grew up in St. John’s and who has a Filipino family and cultural background.

Ms. McCarthy tried to make connections between her personal life and experiences and her photography in her own work, too.

“Those cones are good, they protect people and protect their cars,” she said of her exhibited image.

“I just looked at it and I thought that it reflected me too, and how my life is something that I need to protect and work on.”

Empowering process

Three red room dividers are in a building atrium. There is a windowed wall, and there are photographs hanging on the dividers.
The PhotoVoice exhibit in the Faculty of Medicine building.
Photo: Rich Blenkinsopp

Photographs and stories by the PhotoVoice participants were displayed in Memorial’s Faculty of Medicine during the first week of October.

In remarks he made at the exhibit opening, Mr. Perez spoke about his pride in the students and his hope that they would keep taking pictures.

He says he wants to empower others through photography, because it has empowered him by giving him a new way to connect with his Filipino culture.

“I really love it — empowering the participants, to be able to guide them through to that process of being able to take that picture that reflects their life.”

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