Stories From The Eyes Of Children

Alana Folen
Wednesday - January 09, 2008
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Shannon Hussey looks into the camera for Kids Hurt Too and ProjectFocus. Photo from Lisa Uesugi.
Shannon Hussey looks into the camera for Kids Hurt Too and ProjectFocus. Photo from Lisa Uesugi.

A photograph says a thousand words, especially for the children of Kids Hurt Too.

The non-profit program provides support for children impacted by divorce, death of a parent or placement in foster care. Last year, Kids Hurt Too teamed up with ProjectFocus Hawaii to enrich the lives of these children through photography.

“Kids communicate their grief through behavior, not so much through talking like adults do. So sometimes adults don’t realize the grief that a child is going through,” said Cynthia White, executive director of Kids Hurt Too.

Laurie Callies and Lisa Uesugi, co-founders of ProjectFocus, use photography to help the children deal with their grief while also enhancing their self-esteem, self-reflection and self-awareness.

ProjectFocus and Kids Hurt Too will present the exhibit Lost & Found Jan. 14-30 at Honolulu Hale. The display, available for viewing weekdays, will feature a portfolio of portraits of and by the children of the organization.

The photos were taken during the children’s 12-week internship with Callies and Uesugi, who are both professional photographers. The children were taught the basics of photography and took on the role of photographer as well as subject. As photographers, the children took portraits of someone who has made a difference in their lives.

“It gave them a chance to focus on a special person in their life,” explained White. “Grief tends to make people feel isolated, alone and separated from those with parents, and photography allows them to see what’s in front of them. It was an opportunity for the kids to communicate that a person in their lives is important and special to them.”

ProjectFocus works with nonprofit organizations that provide critical services to at-risk children.

“We chose Kids Hurt Too (for last year’s project) because Lisa and I were deeply moved by their mission to provide services to children who have lost one or both parents,” said Callies, who believes that organizations such as Kids Hurt Too and creative outlets like photography can help these children realize that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.“The numbers of such children in our state are staggering, and we wanted to let our community know about the efforts of this organization.

“We realized the losses these children experienced were far beyond our comprehension. (Through the photography program) they begin to trust again. They can begin to dream about their futures again. They can begin to remember the bonds with others again. Through their devastating losses, they can find hope again.”

The internship involved 11 children from the organization, ranging in age from 7 to 18 and representing all socio-economic levels throughout Oahu - Waipahu, Ewa Beach and Aiea included.

“They were a terrific group of children, and we enjoyed working with all of them,“Callies admitted. “They seemed to really enjoy the process.”

However, she added, getting some of them to initially open up was no easy feat. Loss of a parent, whether through death, incarceration or abandonment, leaves a void in the child that has to be filled and a barrier that has to be broken.

“When Lisa and I first met the group, they were very withdrawn and fairly unresponsive,” Callies recalled. “You could tell they had been through some tough times. All I had to do was look in their eyes and see the sadness.

“One boy didn’t say a word until the sixth week into the program. Once the children became comfortable with us, they began to open up.”

Through the narrative process of photography, each child was given the necessary tools to help find his or her way back into a safe, loving and trusting environment for continued healing.

“Our goals were to give these children a voice through photography; to provide a unique experience for expression and creativity that enhances their confidence levels, that teaches them that beauty is within all, regardless of race, gender, special needs or social status; and to promote photography as a viable career or hobby,“said Callies. Most satisfying, she noted, was seeing the transformations within each child, however big or small.

Fore more information on ProjectFocus Hawaii, visit

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