Nonprofit hosts photo exhibition of clients’ work

By Jade Mardirosian
Staff Writer

Next Friday, Avance Waco will present its second annual Photovoice Project Gala, which aims to abolish stereotypes and prejudices and educate through the use of photographic storytelling.

The event will be held from six to nine p.m. at the Arts Center of Waco.

Avance Waco is a local non-profit organization that provides parent-child education to families living in at-risk communities.

The Photovoice Project Gala will include an exhibit of 96 photographs taken by nine parents that are part of Avance’s education program. The nine best pictures will be put on silent auction at the gala and the proceeds will go toward the services and programs offered at Avance. The gala will be open to the public with free admission.

“The Photovoice Project is a mythology using the field of education to provide a medium to individuals who do not have a voice to express themselves. That’s the purpose of the project,” Kretcha Roldán-Rodríguez, executive director of Avance, said. “Our participants often do not have that outlet to express themselves because of language barriers, because of socioeconomic barriers or because they don’t know how to. The Photovoice is a way of having those participants have that voice.”

Avance was founded in 2002 and provides classes for families throughout the year on various aspects of child education.

“We are considered a pioneer in parenting education. We take parents who have children [ages] 0-3 and provide parenting skills training to with a curriculum of 27 lessons they must complete from September through May,” Roldán-Rodríguez said.

Roldán-Rodríguez said the parents receive classes on things like how to discipline and better communicate with their children. The parents are also taught how children develop from conception to three years of age.

“While the parents are doing that, the children are receiving early childhood instruction school readiness skills like knowing colors, identify sounds, all those preschool readiness skills that they need on day one when they go to kindergarten,” Roldán-Rodríguez said. “Those are important because usually children living in poverty are not exposed to those skills until a later point because parents do not prepare them.”

Roldán-Rodríguez said the program discusses a series of issues throughout the year that help the parents focus their pictures on various topics.

“We have a series of topics that we go through during the whole year ranging from family, faith, community, joys and pains, struggles, barriers, all those things and we have guided questions along with those topics so as a group we can discuss those things and they can open up ideas,” she said.

Dallas senior Polette Galvan is an intern at Avance and helping with the Photovoice Project Gala.

“Starting my internship there I learned so much about nonprofits in general. I see how the budget cuts that are happening are going to affect the people in the community,” Galvan said.

Galvan worked closely with the participants of the Photovoice Project and helped teach them various tips for taking photos, including aspects of lighting and angles.

“When they went out to take the pictures, they had those ideas in their mind. They basically took pictures about things that we talked about,” Galvan said. “We also went to different parts of Waco like Cameron Park and took pictures there. There are also pictures of their families because one topic was the importance of families, so there are pictures of their children playing on swings and different things like that.”

Galvan said she feels the parents that go through Avance’s program gain a depth of knowledge.

“I never really knew what nonprofits really do, but I can see when mothers go in there they have a different perspective on life,” Galvan said. “The topics and key ideas they’re taught really help their kids grow as better individuals.”

Galvan said those who attend the gala will gain a lot from viewing the participants’ work.

“With people going to the gala, they’ll be able to interact with these mothers and see their story and how Avance has really impacted them on a personal level,” she said. “You’ll really be able to see the fruits of their labor. All nine participants are looking forward to this gala. Not many people get to experience an exhibition of their artwork.”