Photos in aid of a rehabilitation centre 

When artistic photographers travel many of them return with an array of interesting stories to tell through their photos, but fewer use their photos to raise money for a worthy cause.

What: Photographic exhibition and fundraiser

Where: Casa Lounge

When: Tuesday, Sept. 28, 7 p.m.

Why: All proceeds go to Centro de Crecimiento; a Physical and Mental Rehabilitation Centre in San Miguel, Mexico

Admission: Free (suggested donation of $15)

Robin O'Neill is the kind of photographer that likes to try and give back to the people in the areas she visits by raising money through photo exhibitions.

Her latest exhibit, this Tuesday, highlights the work of a rehabilitation centre in Mexico which is helping disabled children and their families through a variety of programs.

This is not the first time O'Neill, 31, has held an exhibition in aid of communities in foreign countries.

When O'Neill was 22 she went to Guyana, in South America, for four months with Youth Challenge to help build a community centre and support medical initiatives in a small community bordering Brazil.

"That’s where I first starting taking pictures," said O’Neill.

"I found my dad’s old camera in a drawer and pulled it out. I remember reading the instructions on the plane."

In 1996, she flew to Kenya with the intention of doing volunteer work somewhere in southern Africa.

"I ended up in Zimbabwe and working with a woman named Apollina Chonyera," she said.

"She was a Mother Teresa figure and had started economic diversification in her area and was working with women's groups to provide financial independence and proper housing.

"When I came back from Africa I did a fundraiser and sent that money back for the homestead project, so it’s pretty important for me to give back to the areas I photograph.

"I’m always inspired by people’s work both in community development and art work so I can’t really see myself doing one without the other."

O’Neill indicated she was particularly interested in small, motivated groups of people who found ways to sustain themselves, and the Centro de Crecimiento is definitely one of these organizations.

The centre was founded by physical therapist Maria de la Luz Martinez de Maxwell in 1977 and it offers a variety of services, including early intervention and therapy programs, counselling, arts and crafts and computer training.

"The reason I wanted to do this is one is because they (the Centro) want to become a prototype for all of Mexico in terms of creating these rehabilitation centres," said O’Neill.

"And it’s meant for mostly kids, but also adults, who have mental and physical disabilities and they have a little pool and they offer things like music therapy.

"They have arts and crafts for the kids and those crafts get sold at the market.

"They’ve also initiated their own bus tour of the city and those proceeds go to them as well, so they’re really doing their own work and that’s what I was impressed by, people who take their own initiative.

"It was the same thing with the women’s groups I gave to; it was always people that were in there really making it happen and these people are doing that.

"They also have a food bank so kids during the day can go there if they’re malnourished."

O’Neill said it was the mark of a successful organization when graduates were returning to teach a new generation of students.

"They have a computer lab now and one of the guys who went through the program is now the instructor of it, so he’s disabled himself but now he’s the instructor.

"It’s just great for kids all ages, even little babies, and it’s cool for the moms to get together too because usually in a community like that the moms are just in their houses and their kids are retarded and that’s it."

For more information on work at the Centro De Crecimiento in San Migeul look up: http://www.cdecsma.org.

Jorgenson slide show Saturday

Who: Blake Jorgenson

What: Evidence of a Higher Power

Where: Maurice Young Millennium Place

Whistler photographer Blake Jorgenson presents a slide show and reception at 7:30 and 9 p.m.

The show is an extension of his exhibition at MY Place that has been up for the month of September.

Admission is $5; dress is formal.

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