Amanda Koster

thoughts and experiences of an international documentarian

Posts Tagged ‘salaamgarage

Can you give her 5 minutes?

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Here is a typical moment during a SalaamGarage trip.

This is Sarah Henderson: http://sirenapictures.com  She lives in Portland, OR and came with us on the SalaamGarage Ethiopia trip 2010. She is awesome. We were working with the Hamlin Fistula Hospital, an absolutely amazing organization.

What is happening here? Fuji donated polaroid-esque cameras to SalaamGarage so that we could give photos back to the women rather than just taking them. Sarah Henderson is photographing patients at the hospital.

Most of Hamlin’s patients are from a remote village in Ethiopia.  We found a woman in physical therapy learning how to walk again.

She had a double fistula, double meaning both her vaginal canal and the rectum lining were torn during labor. These linings are commonly torn during labor because the women are married and pregnant before they are fully developed. Much of this is due to child marriages.

Her baby died in utero. While delivering the dead baby these linings tore. As a result she leaked urine and feces uncontrollably. Her family was ashamed of the way that made her smell and built her a hut in the back of her families hut and she lived in it  for 7 years before making to the hospital. During those years her leg and foot muscles atrophied until she could no longer walk, eventually resorting to a fetal position. Her family threw food out to her as she lay on the dirt floor of her mud hut for those 7 years. She said she ate like a dog, dragging herself up to the pile of food, eating while lying there in the dirt, leaking.

She made it to Hamlin, they performed surgery on her and we are all praying it will heal properly. Currently she has catheters connected to her for drainage.

Sarah was photographing patients at physical therapy and I walked up to see what she was doing. We had extreme restrictions around photography at the hospital, so I opted to walk around and check in with people rather than work on a story.

Sarah had completed photographing women with her regular camera and pulled out the Fuji camera so that she could give her a photo of herself.

She walks with a walker, and slowly made it up against the banister where Sarah was photographing women for their turn with the Fuji.  Her feet were completely crooked. Maybe a toe or a heel touched the ground as she walked. Mangled, I had never seen anything like it. She leaned very hard on the walker avoiding any weight bearing on her atrophied feet and legs to make it up to the banister. Once up against it she motioned for us to take the walker out of the photograph. From there she did her best to slowly stand up on those feet somehow and motioned for Sarah to take the photo, now. Sarah went to take a photo and wouldn’t you know it, the camera was out of film so she had to walk away and reload.  It was sort of a photo time-out and everyone took their eyes off her, except me. I watched her lean back onto the banister with an expression of sheer agony that sent shivers down my spine.  She was in so much pain standing there for us, so that we could take a damn picture.

Sarah came back with a loaded camera. The woman stood up and I knew she was hiding the pain this time. She motioned for us to get the walker out of the way again and then lifted her chin so amazingly high… more shivers down my spine… and Sarah took a few photos.

When Sarah was done the woman took the walker back, leaned up on it again and waited in agony for the photo to develop. Once it did Sarah handed it to her and she slowly, quietly smiled. She looked up at Sarah and whispered ‘amasiganalo’, ‘thank you’ in Amharic. Her language.

She  got back on her walker and slowly limped back, dragging her completely disabled legs and feet back into physical therapy so that she could finish up her session which we interrupted.


SalaamGarage is an absolute privilage. We find ourselves in these situations and get to tell you about it. I ask you, reading this, would you help her? Would you donate a few bucks to Hamlin? It will take 5 minutes. Here is how you do it:

You WILL change a women’s life forever. I know, because I met her. And now so did you.

And to us, the SalaamGarage team. We are NOT too busy. We are not at all too damn busy to get these stories out and help this woman, help the hospital. I don’t care how crazy our schedule is. We weren’t too busy to spend 2 weeks in Ethiopia. We weren’t too busy to take her photo. This woman stood there for us, in sheer agony so that we could take a photo. And then what? They weren’t too busy to tell us their story, share their lives with us. We have no excuse not to help. Get those stories out there and not for our own glory. Do it for hers.

You can start with a 5 minute presentation about  your experience at a Ignite in your town:

5 Minutes. Can you give her 5 minutes?


Written by amandakoster

January 7, 2011 at 6:40 pm

poptech day 1

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Picture 2

andrew gives me a big bear hug.

i’ll back up.

yesterday i woke up at 4am finished packing, had my usual pot of green tea and enjoyed a very early morning breath of fresh air.

becky picked me up at 5.30am on the dot, she helped me decide on which bag to take with me (ah- still on the research for that perfect laptop bag).

flew to dc, then to portland. about 12 hours of travel with only an open faced sandwich and liter of water in my belly. ooops. at my lay over in dc i poked around online as to how to get from Portland to Camden, my old stomping grounds.

15 years ago i worked as a teacher’s assistant at the maine film and photo workshops. started my career up there, decided one summer photography is what i am doing, period and never looked back. in dc yesterday i was trying to figure out how to get back up there ghetto style as i was spending salaamgarage’s precious pennies.

found a bus that departed from Portland to camden 18 minutes after i landed. i landed, ran straight to the cab who took me to the bus. made it. on the bus wondered how was i going to get from the bus stop to my hotel? ah. sat back and decided to let the universe figure it out. i’m getting tired of figuring this kind of thing out. reminds me when i pissed off my probability and statistics teacher in high school. he called on me for an answer. i shook my head when i stood up and looked at the chalkboard covered in numbers and squiggled, “dr. pearson, its always 50/50: either it happens or it doesn’t.” he shook his head too and hid a very secretive grin. i approached transpiration the same way last night.

get off the bus and there was a car waiting there to drive us around. ‘im your poptech call-me-whenever-you-need-me guy’ steve says as he hands me is card: “needful things and services inc”… no kidding. steve cheerfully drives me to my hotel. huh.

check in, rooms fine enough, read some more, hit the sack.

wake up, skpye my friend punya. we have a in-depth conversation about resistance. that humans create resistance. he disagreed with my use of resistance and said life tests us. i said man creates ‘test’, there is no test at all. life is about flow. we agreed to disagree.

off skpye, out the door, walked into camden. it was absolutely one of the most beautiful days ever. beautiful fall day in new england. i forgot about these leaves and this absolutely majestic palette. i walked down route 1 with my gaze straight up the whole time, in absolute awe of the autumn leaves.

i arrive, met some great people. a nice man took me for tea, we chatted. i jetted for a seminar on storytelling. we split up in groups and gave a 3-5 min preso to the entire audience. my group volunteered me cuz somehow i pulled a funny story out of thin air. so, i spoke, my teammate showed our ‘slides’ (quick sketches). total improv. it was fun. ‘do you think it was good’ she asked. ‘ who cares, we had fun.’ i shrugged with a grin. giggled.

back to the poptech newbie session where i met andrew. ‘hi andrew, i am amanda koster of salamgarage.’ his face lit up and he gave me a huge bear hug. ‘you made it’ andrew personally invited me to poptech, comped my ticket saying he gives a handful of tickets out to a select few, etc. i felt special and also honored. i thanked him and said that was very kind cuz it was.

so then off to the opening night, appetizers, wine, connecting. this is a cool conference, one person after the next i was in awe of what they were up to. i mean, ‘are you serious?’  kept going thru my mind. wow. i’ve found my people. there is tech here where at times i start to go in circles but this is very much tied to changing the world, having an impact, i.e. A: giving a shit and B: doing something about it. my kind of place.

digging it. and really hungry. not much food intake in the last 48 hours. head for the apps, (appetizers, not applications) and dig in.

so i am inspired. it is slowly seeping in after i head home early so that i am not so tired tomorrow and have some time to unwind in my room. journal a bit, read some more ‘a new earth’ for the 2nd time, check out a few websites from earlier today and end up here on my blog.

was tempted to email my friend vanessa demanding how exactly did poptech change her life. didn’t feel any life changes on the walk home. felt cold, and again in awe of the sky. this time it was the stars that brought tears to my eyes.

you know, demanding change is not the way. forcing never works. forcing  in a way is creating resistance. in order to force there must be resistance. and where does it come from? so i looked at where could i be resisting, noticing i was trying to force an answer. force a reason for me to be here. force change into my life after 1/2 a day at a conference. i looked at it i and saw i was resisting the flow of today. the flow i’ve experienced the whole way. you see, life is subtle. period. once we embrace the beautiful subtlety of what life is showing us, peace oozes in. i thought about how happy andrews hug made me feel.

andrew gives me a big bear hug. ‘sorry, you may not have been ready for a huge hug from a stranger.’ i looked at him gently. ‘not at all, that was the most warm welcome. thank you.’

oh, and when i registered they gave me the coolest Timbuktu messenger bag. perfect.

Written by amandakoster

October 22, 2009 at 3:55 am