The Camera Project: Getting to Know Our Philippines Partners

by Susan Grieger and Carol Cook; photos by Ulay families  
We all know about the ongoing challenge of enticing more members of our congregations to get involved, visit, learn, experience, go deeper into partnership. In San Mateo this year we were lucky to find two people who didn’t need any prodding —as soon as they learned we were going, our friends Reeba Lynn and Ann Mason said, “Can we come too?” Needless to say, we were overjoyed!

Ann was here on her first visit, and Reeba on her second. The camera project was their idea—proof that new eyes, minds, and hearts bring new creativity and fresh perspectives to partnerships! Reeba and Ann participate in UUSM’s Education Partner program. They send a modest annual stipend to help their student pay for school uniforms and supplies. In the past, that expense has been a barrier to families wanting to send their children to school. Now 31 Ulay elementary and high school students have Education Partners at UUSM.

Our Ulay partners live in a mountainous area northwest of San Carlos City on Negros Island in the central Philippines. Most of them live on scattered farms connected by rough, rocky roads, and with limited access to water and electricity. Because of the distances and road conditions, we have had no opportunity to visit their homes. We love to receive their letters. We send them photos and sometimes receive a photo from them. But we always want to understand more about their everyday lives.


A farmhouse from one of the remote areas of Ulay. Photo was taken by the family that lives there, so that their partners in America might know them better.A farmhouse from one of the remote areas of Ulay. Photo was taken by the family that lives there, so that their partners in America might know them better.Reeba and Ann had purchased disposable cameras and gave one to each of the 17 Ulay member families on the first day of our visit. Ann showed each person receiving a camera how to use it, and we asked them to fill the camera with photos of their farms, homes, families, animals, etc.—and bring the cameras back to us on the following day. Each camera had the family name written on it, so we would know whose pictures they are. We had a phenomenal response—15 cameras were returned and the pictures are great!

Many thanks to Reeba and Ann! We will print the photos and send them to the families that took them. We will give a set to their UUSM Education Partner. We have a wealth of photos for our Partner Church bulletin board and web page. This was a wonderful idea, and we hope it will lead to more sharing between UUSM and Ulay Education Partners, and a deeper understanding among UUSM members who have not yet delved into our partnership.  ••