Broken World, Personal Stories — May 29, 2013 at 11:57 am

“Poor”-nography in the Facebook Age

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poornography“How long does it take to poop out intestinal worms?” I asked looking down at a toddler standing in front of his family’s mud hut, as Kenyan desert flies buzzed through the air. His belly was so full of intestinal worms he looked nine months pregnant.

“It usually takes two hours for the medicine to kill the intestinal worms and then he poops them out for the rest of the afternoon.” our Kenyan Director Michael Kimpur said. He grew up out here and had passed his fair share of worms.

Fellow Recovering Evangelical contributor Andrew Ulasich and I watched the boy drinking porridge mixed with the de-worming medicine we brought. We were in Kenya visiting Daylight Center and School, an organization we started with Michael to educate children from Michael’s nomadic desert tribe. We were handing out lots of medicine because all the village children needed to be de-wormed before they could come to school.

“We should take a picture of him drinking the porridge and send it back to our supporters.” I said to Andrew. We upload a lot of pictures to our website, Youtube, and Facebook for our US supporters to see Daylight’s work.

“Sure, then this kids can grow up and use that picture as his Facebook profile pic.” Andrew said sarcastically.

We have a rule at Daylight. We assume that every child in the world is eventually going to be on Facebook, so we don’t post any images that a child could later be embarrassed of. We call these images “Poor”-nography.

Michael and I see lots of kids who come to our school in rough shape. Some have festering untreated wounds. Others are depressed from the death of a parent. It is a continual discussion when to photograph a child and how to use that media. Because the reality is that images and video are one of the primary ways that international supporters connect with our ministry, and that connection results in financial support. But posting these images comes at a cost.

At Daylight we want our students to be computer literate by the time they graduate. In fact, many of our teachers and older students have already found the Daylight Center Facebook page. It is a top priority for Daylight that they feel good about the content they find posted there. We want our Kenyan staff and students to see pictures they can feel proud of, and stories that show them with their best foot forward.

This doesn’t mean sacrificing the truth. These kids know the harsh realities of life. They live it. But we strive to tell their stories in a way that honors their pain, rather than exploiting.

Andrew was right. In thirty minutes this boy was going to pass worms. If I had posted his picture to Facebook, he would have had to live with that image for the rest of his life. When he grows up and finds the Daylight Facebook Page we want him to click the “like” button.

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