Youth reporters: Empowered by the pen and the lens

Yep — that’s me on the right, in second grade, holding my Pinewood Derby car. This is the same year that I decided I wanted to write for a living.

When my mother and father moved from their house to an apartment a number of years ago, I was given several boxes of things of mine they’d saved: photos, newspaper clippings, school projects, etc.

One gem was an assignment I did in the 2nd grade, where I’d written a short story and noted my dream of becoming a writer when I grew up. So it should come as no surprise that I have a bit of a soft spot for young people who show an interest in writing and journalism.

Today, I feel incredibly fortunate that I get to write for a living. Even better, I get to write for an organization that helps kids who really need support and opportunities.

One of the many ways CI empowers kids is through our Community Youth Reporter program. This unique program teaches teens valuable skills they just may use in future careers. Plus, as they develop stories and photos about real-life challenges and triumphs in their own communities, they learn their “voices” have value. Others truly care about what they have to say and can be moved to action.

That is an incredible lesson of empowerment — one that helps kids get into employment.

Here are a few highlights from recent Youth Reporter activities, when participants were handed cameras. Look for more in the upcoming issue of Journeys!


This may look like a scavenger hunt, but children in Lusaka, Zambia, often search through refuse for useful items, such as plastic bottles, that can be repurposed to hold tap water and cooking oil. Photographer: Rabbi B. (17), Lusaka, Zambia

Fun and games outside the CI community center in Quito, Ecuador

Young amigos play outside their CI community center in Quito, Ecuador, while their mothers take care of business inside — attending a meeting for volunteers. Photographer: Lizeth C. (20), Quito, Ecuador

Four young Filipinas pose with their colorful baby chicks

Titled “A Moment Together,” these young girls in Quezon City, Philippines, are taking care of little chicks. Raising chickens for eggs is common throughout the Philippines. Photographer: Nicole S. (15), Quezon City, Philippines

Two boys in Lusaka make the long haul to fetch water

These two boys in Lusaka, Zambia, are on a trek to the nearest water source. For many of our families, that can be a pretty long haul. Did you know that five gallons of water weighs more than 40 pounds? It definitely will take these two longer to get back home once the buckets and jugs are full! Photographer: George S. (19), Lusaka, Zambia

The clasped hands of youth reporters is a show of strength

The youth reporter who took this photo says these clasped hands (of youth reporters in Quito, Ecuador) represent the unity, joy and strength that accompany teamwork. Photographer: Vanessa C. (19), Quito, Ecuador


Smiling little faces in Bicol, Philippines

Titled “Priceless,” this shot from a young reporter’s own neighborhood doesn’t really need any further description, does it? Photographer: Tonie L. (20), Quezon City, Philippines


The playgrounds at our community centers are often the only safe, fun spaces that kids like this tyke in Quezon City, Philippines, have to play in. Photographer: Wykha B. (19), Quezon City, Philippines


Lusaka mothers wait their turn at a health clinic under a shelter built by the CI Youth Council

Through CI’s empowerment fund, the Lusaka Youth Council built a shelter at the Kanyama Self-Help Clinic. Mothers with kids under age 5 who came here to receive treatment were previously exposed to the elements — and occasionally to Zambia’s extreme weather. Photographer: Harrison M. (19), Lusaka, Zambia

Taken at the entrance of a community in Quito, Ecuador, with rows of houses on the horizon

“My perfect approach is to break the approach altogether,” photographer Katty says about her process. “Just like the streets in my community that have no rhyme or reason and are full of people who also think and work without structure.” Photographer: Katty C. (16), Quito, Ecuador

Elementary-school kids in Quezon City celebrated International Youth Day by participating in an event entitled “I am Un-BULLY-able” and pledging to treat their peers with respect. Photographer: Wykha B. (19), Quezon City, Philippines

Crowds of mothers and kids converge on the market in Lusaka, Zambia

The photographer captures a common scene in his community: a regular day at the market. Many parents of sponsored kids in Lusaka sell goods there to make a living. Photographer: Teddy M. (16), Lusaka, Zambia

Taking the bully pulpit from the bullies: More than 500 participants attended the 2015 International Youth Day event “I Am Un-BULLY-able.” Photographer: Tonie L. (20), Quezon City, Philippines

Three kids in Quito climb the fence at a community center

This photo is a cute reminder of kids’ ingenuity and great imaginations. They can turn any activity into a game! Photographer: Bryan G. (18) Quito, Ecuador

Learn more about the program!


Jun 15, 2016

I really enjoyed this article. I absolutely love the photos! Especially getting to see a glimpse of what everyday life is like in Zambia. Really was awesome!!

Jun 22, 2016

These kids' talent is incredible! They have truly unique perspectives in getting these shots. Knowing they are getting a boost toward future careers so early in life will only make them that much more competitive in the real-world job market. Go, #TeamCI teens!

Jul 7, 2016

I loved the pictures and articles written about the phillipines from a young person's prospective

Jul 15, 2016

Great photos! These kids have real talent.

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