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By Amma Aburam

Catching up with Reza is always a pleasure. The photographer is a humanitarian force, consistently using photo to change the lives of people around the world. With him, there is always something new to discuss. This time he tells us about projects: a recollection of stories and photographic plans, never picked randomly but always made to have an impact on the people who participate in, see and share them.

One of his on-going projects that he brings to life through various initiatives as time goes by is called A Dream of Humanity. The idea is to have an umbrella term for his various humanitarian endeavors that take place in different parts of the world. His most famous initiative is called Exile Voices, which consists of giving cameras to children in refugee camps to take photos of their daily lives, joys and struggles. Exile voices is a project he aims to pursue for the next five years.

"Frozen Shoes" - Photo by Maya Rostam, Exiled Voices project
“Frozen Shoes” – Photo by Maya Rostam, Exile Voices project

Reza is currently working on an interactive book around the theme of Afghanistan Peace Warriors. He believes that the Internet with all its tools is an important vector of connection and knowledge. He reckons its ability to help reach millions of people with an idea is priceless. “The book is a way to link Afghanistan to the modern world, to move it away from its traditional cultural biases and ancient stories”, he explains. The book is a way to reach Afghan as well as global citizens, hence its multilingual and interactive approach designed to allow readers to engage, explore and grow their knowledge.

"Reconstruction" - © Reza
“Reconstruction” – © Reza

Another project seeks to engage the youth on current social issues. “I love Nature, I hate Pollution” is a competition created and launched by Reza in 2012 also titled Children’s Eyes on Earth. It does not only aim to raise children’s awareness of ecological issues but also to teach them about the power of photography. “I believe that 15 years ago, to be a photographer you had to have a reputation and the means to buy the material, as well as the ability to learn techniques. Today’s generation has access to limitless technologies like smartphones and I-pads to take photos” he states. For him, this can make photography trivial at times. His project is to show children that some themes and issues are so important that you can use your smartphone camera for more than just taking selfies. “It is important to have the youth know this, and to train them about it at a young age”, he adds. The competition aspect is simply to make it more exciting for them; kids love its game aspect and engage fully because of that. When I launched the project, kids from 90 countries participated; they all proved their creativity, curiosity and enthusiasm about nature and environmental issues “At the end of the day, adults see these photos and get a unique insight on how kids view their surroundings. From the refugee camp to this competition, it is easy to see that kids have a photographic eye that influences people differently”, he adds.

Reza has travelled the world and his photos have focused on various peoples, in struggles and in joys. One of his series focused on farmers in Morocco and their stories. This was in support of an NGO called AgreSud, which lacked funds while supporting agriculture in various places in the world. Reza’s humanitarian work extends to NGOs such as this one and his photos allow for the stories of these peoples to be told.

"The Frame" - © Reza
“The Frame” – © Reza

Similarly, he photographed women in Rwanda in a series called Words of Rwandan Women, as part of a project on women and their role in shaping the future of humanity. “I believe the world would be a much better place if women where in domains and positions of power and decision-making: in politics, communications, education and more”, he says. “War is the affair of men, just as we see males in various species battle things out. Women are mothers, nurturers, they give life so they don’t want to take it away”, he adds. In Rwanda and Burundi specifically, he was working on a before, during and after the genocide conflicts photo documentation. The women in these series have untold stories, one of them being about those who were raped during these conflicts. These women decided to keep their children despite the circumstances and were rejected by their families, tribes and friends, kicked out of their communities and villages. Once their tragic stories told through this series and in New York Magazine, many NGOs felt called to action and went out there to help them.

With Reza, there is no underestimation of the power of photojournalism and its endless impact on communities and lives. He has a real heart for helping others and using his talent to bring positivity to the world.

Rachel_Hutchisson

Rachel Hutchisson is a corporate responsibility & philanthropy guru. 24 years at Blackbaud led her to grow a passion and true talent for developing and implementing strategic philanthropy and corporate social responsibility in her company. Then she took all that knowledge and experience to create “Business doing Good”, a website she started in order to give advice to businesses that wanted to build a give back function. Rachel believes that “good is for everyone” and that the public discourse and mindsets are being changed thanks to the growth of social good campaigns, initiatives and talks by leaders in many industries. Horyou got to ask her key questions about her career, growing a sustainable business culture and how she sees the future.

Have you always wanted to be an advocate for Corporate Citizenship & Philanthropy? How did it come about?

When I joined the workforce with a master’s degree in journalism, I thought I was headed to a career in communications, perhaps for a college or a healthcare center (which is interesting because these are some of the kinds of organizations my company serves). I ended up meeting some interesting people from Blackbaud, a then 130-person technology company providing software to nonprofit organizations, and was offered a job which I thought would be an interesting challenge for a few years. Over the past 24 years, the company has grown tremendously, and I with it, taking on a series of newly formed roles and ultimately formally establishing our strategic philanthropy and corporate social responsibility function. I describe my role as working at the intersection of nonprofits and corporate good, which is especially meaningful for a company where we power the business of philanthropy through the solutions we offer. I walked in the door so many years ago not realizing the incredible power and reach of the philanthropic sector. Now, I look back realizing that my parents raised me to be a part of this world of social good, modeling volunteerism and compassion through their own work in the community, work that I didn’t realize could lead to a profession. Now, my life and my work are intertwined.

How did the idea for Business doing good come about and what is its purpose?

Business Doing Good, the website I launched on #GivingTuesday 2013 to offer advice to small businesses interested in building a give back function into their firms, was born out of my own experiences. When I took on the challenge of building the philanthropy and corporate social responsibility function at Blackbaud, I looked to the broader business world to learn the best practices. However, the examples and resources I found were mainly for very large corporates with operations around the world. So I pieced together my own plans and learned along the way. With a really good operation now in place, I thought it was important to give back by sharing insights and experience, making it easier for those who followed. It’s also important to know that I have a fundamental belief that “good is for everyone,” (individuals, nonprofits, government, small businesses or corporates). So I was seeking, by making the advice on the site clear and easy to understand, to empower anyone in business who wanted to give back.

What are your best/favorite success stories from creating and building give back programs?

My favorite success stories over the years are always about people, whether they are our employees who are engaging in the community or the people we are serving through our philanthropy. I am hugely proud of Camp Blackbaud, a STEM-focused camp where staff from our Products team introduce disadvantaged middle school kids to programming and careers in tech. They walk in the door thinking technology is something unreachable to them and leave saying they’ll be back to work for us after they graduate from college. That’s the goal, to help Charleston Promise Neighborhood (our nonprofit partner) open these kids’ eyes to education and the role it can play in changing their lives. The kids are great, smart, lively and so enthusiastic. Our people love leading the camp, especially how they can share their skills (programmers, usability designers, quality assurance, etc., not being skills nonprofits typically ask for in volunteers).

Camp Blackbaud
]7 Camp Blackbaud

What in your opinion are the three building blocks for a company to establish solid corporate citizenship and philanthropic practice?

1) Vocal CEO Support – Having vocal support from the very top of the company is essential to building a solid corporate social responsibility practice. There is absolutely nothing that compares to a CEO’s ability to make citizenship, service and giving a priority from a corporate level, across the management team and with individual employees. Your CEO needs to be your strongest advocate and be willing to open doors or ensure you are involved in the conversations where your work can truly make a difference.

2) Partnerships with key leaders in the company – corporate social responsibility teams are traditionally small but span across entire operations and locations. For this reason, you will need strong partnerships with people who understand how your collective work will deepen their success. Key leaders should include those leading talent acquisition, HR, culture, corporate marketing, business units or company sites. Working together to determine how what you can offer will help them succeed is at the heart of corporate social responsibility.

3) Engaging employees as advocates and a key audience – corporate social responsibility is important inside and outside the company, and employees are both key agents of telling the story and a key audience to engage. Design your program to be one that helps bring good people to the company who want to engage and who, by engaging, are more likely to stay and thrive, telling their own stories. Make your giving and service a differentiator that makes you an employer of choice, one your people are proud to speak about.

We live in a culture of consumerism as opposed to a giving back culture, how do we slowly change that mindset? Is it really possible to combine the two?

goodtakesover_in-article

Yes, I not only believe but see every day at Blackbaud that it is possible to combine a culture of doing good with doing well. We can change those with a purely consumer mindset by what we do as people, how we give back and the priorities we set, and how we lead the organizations where we pursue our careers. Also, there are many positive messages in the world about how to advance good. I like to say that my kids are hearing from their president, their priest, their teachers and their parents that they should give back, and these messages are sinking in. The number of degrees available in nonprofit management, philanthropy and social innovation are a sign of this positive shift, as is the growing understanding that you can bring socially minded philosophies into the business world.

Where do you see yourself in the next 5 to 10 years? Any ideals?

In five to ten years, I see myself working in the middle of a cause and an organization that I’m proud to champion and feel driven to help succeed. There is so much more to do, and the idea of how social good can help drive positive change brings much promise.

You joined Horyou, what does our mantra Dream, Act and Inspire mean to you personally and professionally?

I never dared to dream that I would end up with such a wonderful, fulfilling career focused on good. But now that I am here and looking at how else I can add value, I see this mantra as a responsibility, a charge to make sure I do dream, I continue to act, and I always take the time to inspire. Finally, I would say that it reminds me of my personal commitment to mentor as many women in my community as I can. There are a few people who helped me immeasurably on my own journey, and I strongly believe it is my duty to pay that forward.

By Amma Aburam

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