Givology Staff's Blog

Dreams That Could Be: Interview with Allison Zaucha


Allison Zaucha is a documentary and portrait photographer who uses photography to capture what it means to be human. As part of [url=http://www.dreamsthatcouldbe.com/]Dreams That Could Be[/url], she has partnered with Givology to tell the stories of children all around the world who are getting an education despite the challenges they face. We interviewed Allison Zaucha to find out more about the inspiration and progress of Dreams That Could Be.
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[b]1. Can you tell us a little about yourself? [/b]
a. I am a documentary and portrait photographer who loves telling stories of real people. I also love going to concerts, hanging out with my friends, and cooking. Ever since I was little I always was creating and spending time with my family with organizations such as Habitat for Humanity and things like that. There was one time when I was little and I remember we were rebuilding a house with a family in Philadelphia and all the volunteers stopped for lunch. I was probably 8 or so and I was scrubbing the floors, so focused on finishing the project for this family. My mom kept calling to me to take a break, but I just felt like this family hasnt been able to take a break so why should I? That was a life changing moment for sure.
b. I was the type of kid that had so many interests, ya know? One minute I was skateboarding and the next minute I was cake decorating. The one constant was that I was always creating something. I picked up my first camera in high school, but it wasnt until college that I realized photography was my passion and I needed to go after it full time. That was a magical moment for me.
[b]2. How did you decide to get involved in telling stories of students in poverty?[/b]
a. The idea of Dreams That Could Be came from months of research on figuring out how I could use my eyes to help someone or something. I had a span of time where I could devote my time and energy to something of this magnitude. After much research of storytelling and reflection on what I love to shoot-I realized I love intimate stories and I love focusing on the details that really make up someones life. For me, they tell a lot of the story. I thought-what if people could just meet these students? For me, once you are able to sit down with someone and relate to them-they dont seem so far off or have problems that you dont understand. They seem real and you can relate on some level to their lives. That was the idea with Dreams That Could Be connecting in a real and intimate way. The other focus has be championing the successes of students in poverty who are driven and committed to their education. Poverty is a global issue that every country has to deal with in some form. It is a connection that everyone is tied to. For me, I thought- we need to cheer on the successes and tell those stories. There are so many sad stories out there surrounding poverty and often times people think of the people in that situation as charity cases, and that just isnt true. I wanted the project to connect people on a human to human level so that we can champion on the students using their tool of education to improve their lives as well as advocate for better quality education everywhere.
[b]3. For those who dont know, what is the goal of your current project, Dreams That Could Be? [/b]
a. The actual project, Dreams That Could Be, is a photo and video storytelling project of a select group of students around the world who face really difficult situations, such as poverty, who are so focused and driven on using education as a tool to change their lives. The goal is to connect people worldwide with these students on an intimate, personal level
[b]4. What challenges have you faced throughout the process of this project? [/b]
a. We began talking about this project in February 2015 and for the past 5 months, it has been a lot of coordinating and planning. So far there hasnt been too many challenges and every organization who we have reached out to has been very welcoming and excited to be a part of this project. If I had to choose one challenge, it has to be fundraising. We are raising $16,000 and that is no small amount to raise. We have been focusing on speaking with people directly, on a human to human level, sort of like how we are telling the stories of students. We want everything surrounding this project to be personal, intimate and real.
[b]5. While interviewing and photographing students who Givology has impacted, what stories have touched you the most? Why? [/b]
a. So far we have only been able to meet one student, Sahra Aw Ciise, from Abaarso when she was studying in Virginia for one year. That interview was much shorter than we prefer as her school didnt want distraction from finals. We are funding for the project now so that we can meet students throughout the world next year. Sahras story was definitely inspiring and her passion resonates with everything she does. She is one of 15 in her family and had to go against her family to get secondary education. Her mom wanted her to start a family instead of going to high school because that is more of a cultural norm in Somaliland. She placed first in the country for the test that they take to qualify them to go to secondary school, and Sahra felt that education for girls is so important and pushed through to go to Abaarso. Now she is back at Abaarso working for a year as a leader for girls and plans to apply to universities in the US. She hopes to attend Harvard in 2017.
[b]6. What is the overall message that you believe can be learned from the project? [/b]
a. The overall message that we hope to be received from this project would have to be hope, determination, and definitely that Dreams That Could Be will stand to create more advocacy for better quality education worldwide. We hope that through meeting students in a human to human way, not by hearing of hundreds of students who have this struggle, but rather through meeting individuals like Sahra and a hand full of students, people may see that these students are a select feature of people who actually represent a much larger issue.
[b]7. Bouncing off of the last question, who do you hope receives the message you are trying to get across? [/b]
a. Thats a great question. I think that every single person is effected by education whether it be where I grew up, in the Philadelphia suburbs where education was definitely not a choice and more of an expectation. You went to school, all the way to college and many times continuing after that. But many people in Philadelphia deal with poverty and have many hurdles when it comes to education. Poverty is a problem that exists everywhere and education serves as the largest tool to solve that problem. And I dont want to get into it too much here, but there are many situations where funding is provided and it is not being received, whether the teachers dont care or it is not being delegated in the best way. I fully believe that there are so many students who are pushing past their circumstances whether it be they have a strong family who believes in them, if they had one teacher who fostered their confidence, or what have you. That is not the case with organizations we are working with, they are wonderful and really foster great communities for these students, but on that end I hope we can show DTCB to other students who arent involved with the project and it will give them hope to continue on, to do their homework, and to set goals of higher education in their life. There will be many obstacles that everyone faces, but especially when you are starting from a place of more poverty-it is not easy. This is a message for everyone that there are driven and committed students who are not letting their struggles defeat them and they are committed to their education. I hope that all people from different ages and backgrounds can see this and become part of the solution to end poverty through education.
[b]8. What has been the most memorable experience since starting this project? [/b]
a. The most memorable experience was talking with Sahra for the hour together that we had to talk about her experiences. She is 19 years old and is ready to take on the world. This is her story. This is the story of the students and we are just the vehicle to give these stories to the world.
[b] 9. How has this project changed your outlook on education? [/b]
a. I imagine my outlook will continue to change and form in different ways as we continue on and meet more students, but it hasnt necessarily changed my outlook. If anything, it has set a fire ablaze inside of me to continue the conversation in every circle I am in about these driven students. My viewpoint is that humans throughout the world arent all that different. We are all very similar and if we can connect through conversation and listening than we can all help each other. I dont know if that answers your question.
[b]10. Where do you see this going in the future, 2016 and beyond? [/b]
a. DTCB is officially beginning in 2016 when we are able to raise the money to go and begin traveling. After that when we come home we will begin post production and hopefully will have a gallery planned in the fall of 2016 in NYC. We are going to be making photo books that will be for sale and I can see this spreading to different gallery spaces in the US as well as different schools where we are able to talk with students directly and introduce them to the students who helped us with this project.
[b]11. Any local ways for people to get involved in your project? [/b]
a. The biggest way that people can help be a part of DTCB is by donating directly on our website www.dreamsthatcouldbe.com/join-us. This project is entirely pro-bono with all proceeds going to the students and organizations we are working with. If that is not financially possible, we ask that people help by spreading the word about this project to friends, families, and their entire network.
[b]12. Are there communities in the United States you are trying to target such as inner city youth? [/b]
a. I would like to talk and tell stories of inner city youth in the US after we complete this first phase of the project because this issue is connected in every single country throughout the world, including the US. I have a few ideas about reaching out to these schools, but besides Philly, there hasnt been much planning on that yet.
[url=http://www.dreamsthatcouldbe.com/]Click here[/url] to learn more about Dreams That Could Be!

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