Photo courtesy the School Sessions.

Photography charity takes a step of faith

Charity unites hundreds of photographers around the world for Haiti school

VANCOUVER, BC—A young couple’s bold step of faith is galvanizing hundreds of photographers to make a change in Haiti. Jamie and Randy Watson are behind an ambitious fundraising project uniting more than 500 photographers from across Canada and around the world for one cause.

Participating photographers hold photo shoots in their hometowns and cities, pledging to donate their fees to build a school in Mellier, Haiti. So far, The School Sessions have helped raise more than $43,000 for the town still devastated by the 2010 earthquake. The money will go towards purchasing the land where the school will be built. Organizers hope to raise another $150,000 to build the school in a follow-up event in 2016.

For the Watsons the experience has become a testament to what faith can do if you’re willing to take the step, and having the faith to press on when you don’t reach your goal as soon as you’d hoped.

“There was so much fear of failure,” Jamie explains, at the outset of launching such a big project. “But ultimately it’s not our project.”

The realization that they could only trust God with the dream they were given was comforting, Jamie says.

“Without faith you just look at tangible things, but by faith we’re seeing how many people have been encouraged,” she says. “So many negatives can turn into positives with faith.”

The couple hopes to raise the remaining $150,000 by holding another School Sessions event next April to complete the school building project. The couple is encouraged they will reach their goal after the tremendous support they received this year.

“When we started the initiative earlier this year, we could only hope that it would take off like it did,” says Jamie, a photographer in Vancouver. Jamie put out a call to her friends and peers, asking if they would sign up and donate 100 per cent of their profits from a portrait session to the cause.

“We are so touched to have had such an amazing response from photographers willing to support this program,” Jamie says.

The couple is excited for what the project will mean for children in E.C.C.A School in Mellier and the lasting impact it will make in their lives.

It all began when Randy travelled to Haiti after the 2010 earthquake rocked the country. As a carpenter, Randy was helping with disaster relief building projects and saw first-hand the need for a new school after visiting teachers in Mellier. An estimated 5,000 schools were destroyed, including E.C.C.A School, leaving students without an adequate facility to learn. Today, students in Mellier gather in make-shift shelter to be taught by teachers who volunteer their time.

In 2014, convinced they needed to take action, the Watsons decided to combine their two passions: Jamie’s photography and Randy’s carpentry, for a single project, and the School Sessions were born.

“If I can make my business about other people and not just about myself, that would be a game-changer,” Jamie says. “We are super excited for what this means for the children at the E.C.C.A. School.”

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