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Giving Voice (and Images) to Local Communities

A story in Sunday’s Charleston Gazette tells the story of how one Washington and Lee alumna has been forever changed by her participation in W&L’s Shepherd Poverty Program. You can get details fromthe story but briefly it describes a project that Shannon Bell, a member of W&L’s Class of 2000, created for five communities in southern West Virginia. As the Gazette piece relates, When Shannon served as a intern for the Shepherd Program in the summer of 1999, Shannon was assigned to West Virginia and fell in love with the state. After her graduation, she worked for the Cabin Creek Health Center with the West Virginia Rural Health Education Partnerships. (By the way, West Virginians know well that Cabin Creek is the home of basketball Hall of Famer Jerry West.) While there, Shannon conceived of the “Photovoice” project, giving digital cameras to people and asking them to take photos of issues in their community that were of concern to them and to write short essays to accompany those photos. Shannon eventually left West Virginia to pursue a Ph.D. at the University of Oregon but came back last September and gave cameras to 40 women to conduct a Photovoice project. The resulting images have not only been hailed for their artistic value but also have had an impact on legislators in the state.