Countdown to Worskhop 3 – Meet Jeff Speigner, Founder

Photo by Stu Estler

Jeff helps Camilo with a lens cleaning lesson. Photo by Stu Estler

Hi, my name is Jeff Speigner. I’m the founder, director, and volunteer coordinator for Design4Kids. I also have a paying gig as a graphic designer for a large aerospace manufacturer where I have worked for more than 25 years. One of the benefits of working for a Fortune 100 company this long is that I get enough vacation time to travel abroad and experience other cultures each year.

Originally trained as a photographer, I love making pictures, and have always made that activity a big part of my journeys. For several years I sold my travel images in summer art fairs and festivals across the Western United States. After winning a “People’s Choice Award” in 2005 I began looking for ways to use my talents to help people. After doing several fund-raising photo exhibits for worthy organizations in Asia, where I had traveled a lot, I came to learn about the work of two inspirational photographers using their talents to help kids in a direct and interactive way.

I was deeply touched when I encountered the story of photojournalist and former Reuters war correspondent Nancy McGirr who began a 6-month project teaching photography to kids living in the Guatemala City dump. 18 years later Fotokids has lifted hundreds of kids out of poverty. As soon as I saw the work of those kids and read Nancy¹s story knew I had to somehow work with them.

About the same time I met the renowned humanitarian photographer Phil Borges who founded Bridges to Understanding. Bridges teaches kids how to use photography and digital technology to tell meaningful stories in movie form and connect with peers all over the world. When Phil told me that the fall
2007 Bridges International Workshop in Guatemala would be working with Fotokids I signed up.

Photo of Jeff Speigner

Photo by Eric Lolkema

So in November of 2007 I found myself in Santiago Atitlan, Guatemala with both of these inspirational figures, their staff, 16 volunteers from, and 16 talented teens. In one short week we went from meeting each other, to holding a film festival in the town center. It was an intense and rewarding experience. The film that I mentored kids on was entitled Mi Futuro, “My Future” and explored the limited employment opportunities in Santiago. It starred David, a young Mayan descendant from Santiago Atitlan who wants to become a graphic designer. During production I visited Davids home, met his parents, and got to see his artwork. It became clear that he is very talented.

Coincidentally during lunch breaks Nancy told me about her plans to establish a design studio in Santiago that would serve the non-profits and business operating around the lake and provide employment opportunities for graduating Fotokids who wanted to pursue that path and who wanted to remain in their home community. Before I knew what was happening I was volunteering to come teach design, and bring other creative professionals along with me. That was the genesis of the first workshop which was held one year ago. We’re now about to embark on our third. Each one is getting better and better. Oh and David, well he’s been studying graphic design in the capital and has been a star in the first two workshops, and will be returning for his third one this week.

I can hardly wait to get back to see and work with these amazing kids, the unbelievable volunteers, and my friend and mentor Nancy McGirr. Be careful what you wish for people, it just may come true.

Ed. note: During the workshop we intend to post a student’s impressions of the workshop, some of their artwork, and of course pictures and video highlights. We want to make this a meaningful interactive experience for our audience so please let us know what you want to see more of, less of, etc., and if you have other ideas for content please tell us.

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