Meet Nancy McGirr – Inspiration Behind Design4Kids

Portrait of Nancy McGirr

Nancy McGirr with several of the Santiago Fotokids.

On the eve of the 3rd Design4Kids workshop, and after a week of running bio’s of the volunteers and founder, it seems fitting to feature the woman who inspired, and enables the work we do.

Photographer, journalist, educator, and for much of the 1980s, war correspondent, Nancy McGirr is no stranger to anguish. Covering the conflicts in Central America for the Reuters news agency, she saw her fair share of suffering. Going from barrio to barrio to tell the unfolding drama of conflict, she often noticed deplorable conditions and “thought someone needs to do something about that.”

Then in the early 1990s she was in Guatemala covering a different kind of war. Aware that the Guatemala City dump was home to an entire community of people who subsisted entirely off what they could gather there and decided to do a story and bring the situation into the light. Working on her story she met many of the deeply impoverished residents. And naturally she met their children. It was heartbreaking to see the conditions these kids faced. Born into generations of extreme poverty, their opportunities looked bleak.

With the encouragement of local nuns Nancy decided to teach these kids something that she herself knew very well, photography. By putting cameras in their hands and teaching them how to use them, she gave them a different way of seeing, and a way of expressing what they saw. And they saw a lot, relatives sniffing glue, rooms torn up after a drunken rampage. Without exposure to television or other media they shot without preconceived notions, or self censorship. Their raw and powerful work soon won the group recognition. Their photography began to be shown in international exhibits, and a book was published entitled “Out of the Dump.”

Photo of Nancy Working

Nancy working during D4K2

What began in 1991 as a 6 month photo project is still thriving 18 years later. Hundreds of very poor kids have been profoundly affected by their involvement with Nancy’s group now known as Fotokids. Many of the kids from the original group have now graduated from college and now volunteer teaching the younger ones.

Learn much more about Fotokids by visiting their website or by watching this terrific 17 minute documentary video..

Ed. Note: Beginning Monday December 7th, we will be blogging student content once-a-day, every day during Design4Kids Workshop 3 which runs through Saturday the 13th.


2 Responses

  1. To Nancy,

    It’s been forty years since we dated but I am impressed by your wonderful work and dedication for children and for justice.
    Mac Herrling – I was at Bates College in Lewiston Maine when we met and attended an anti-war rally in the spring of 1971.

  2. […] / Fundación de Niños Artistas (Guatemala). Fundada en 1991 por la fotoperiodista de Reuters Nancy McGirr, la organización ayuda a niños de barriadas de extrema pobreza a aprender fotografía y explorar […]

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