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a humble beginning

jparsons_parwinandi002.jpg

For a long time I thought of wanting to do more...wanting to make a difference but I had no idea where to start.
I had a graphic design degree, was working as a waitress, taking film classes, and really searching to create a more meaningful life.

My first experience came over ten years ago volunteering teaching ESL to a Kurdish refugee woman. I had approached a refugee organization here in Portland and asked if they had any volunteer positions. I had no training but I was eager to try and help. They told me there was a woman who had been asking for someone to teach her English for over a year and a half.

I soon learned however, that although learning English was important to my new student, making a new female friend in the comfortable environment of her own home- was a deeper desire. She had felt very alienated in her apartment while her husband went off to work. Although she had two children she longed to work herself and feel more comfortable in her new country. We struggled a lot trying to communicate at first but I could tell how important my visits were and I learned so much about Iraq, her family, and her customs.

Over time I did a very very short first documentary film for a class I was taking (we're talking 3 minutes long) about her son going to Head Start. He was only 5 years old and up until his first day of school he had been very shy and angry. Finally getting to be in school made him come alive. He learned english quickly and was so happy playing with is new friends. I was amazed at the transformation. What I thought was just his character, had more to do with his circumstances.

I learned a lot about isolation and how simple it can be to reach out to someone and to extend a part of who we are. To make that simple human connection can make the difference between thriving and just surviving.

It was then I knew how important "connection & creativity" was in my life. I knew if I kept that concept in the forefront of my mind that it would guide me to the life I was searching for and the role I wanted to take part in.

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Comments

Maria de Chirikof's picture

Important points

I loved that part about the little boy and how you thought he was one way when it was other things coming together more then he himself. I often wonder why we are always surprised by this happening when we can feel it insides ourselves too.

"Connection and Creativity" is a wonderful guide and I look forward to you achieving your dreams of this films and photos! Important stories can be told just as movingly with photos as with words!

Maria

Jennifer Parsons's picture

you made me think...

Your comment made me think about why I was so surprised to see such a shift in his behavior. I think the lack of information I had (and my awareness level back then) is what made me draw a simplistic conclusion to a more complex issue. Most of the time he was explaining himself or communicating he was doing so in Kurdish so I never really knew how he was feeling or what his thoughts were. I think the surprise came more from the realization that connecting with each other was so powerful.

aliĝngix's picture

Reach out

That's a nice story. To think your action because you took a chance helped a woman and her kid become more alive and happy is a nice thing to hear, and I'm glad for you.
I can imagine how tough it must have been to try to talk, because I even have trouble with people with accents!, is the fact that you wanted to help her kept you going.

....and of course, yes, it is a two way street. I most certainly received more than I gave. That is always the most humbling yet beautiful part.

Carole's picture

Give , Give, Give!!!!

As I read your post, this song kept ringing in my ears:
"Give and it will come back to you, Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over......."
by Ron Kenoly. Am not sure whether you have listened to it by any chance. All the same, am glad you took a bold step and gave of yourself without many buts.........

Enjoy your giving as you put smiles in other peoples faces. This is a great lesson for all of us.

Carol

Jennifer Parsons's picture

much thanks.

Thank you Carol. Your wonderful support is graciously appreciated. :) I will try and find that song and give it a listen!

JaniceW's picture

Inspiring

Jennifer, we are so thrilled that you have found PulseWire and I have no doubt that your guiding forces, connection & creativity, will come together fruitfully in this community. Your photograph is so compelling and indeed speaks to the idea of the eyes being a window to the soul. I would love it if you shared more of your work with us. Do you by chance have an online gallery?

Henri Nouwen wrote that "When we keep claiming the light, we find ourselves becoming more and more radiant". I believe that in your photography, you hold your subjects in the light and in so doing, radiate your compassion and empathy. I look forward to reading more from you.

Welcome. I know that you will find this to be a positive experience.
Janice
PulseWire Community Director

Jennifer Parsons's picture

i love that quote....

Thank you so much Janice. It feels so humbling, yet also fulfilling, that you see in my photograph what I felt in the moment in which it is taken. Minor White (who began his photography career here in Portland) once said.. "No matter how slow the film-spirit always stands still long enough for the photographer it has chosen." It was a special day when the series of photographs from which that photo belongs, were captured. I look forward to contributing more thoughts and more pictures. My website has more photographs like the one I have shown. You can find them under the portfolio, "global" at www.jenniferparsons.com.

jadefrank's picture

Your journey

Hi Jennifer,

Thank you for sharing your personal journey with us. I'm so glad that you've found the PulseWire community because you are such a welcome addition and true reflection of the spirit of World Pulse. Please continue to share your voice with us through your journal. We can learn so much from your insight - especially your expertise in the realm of human trafficking in the U.S. I look forward to meeting you in person at the conference. Thank you for posting this event on PulseWire. I feel that we have lots in common as well (I studied photojournalism in college and have worked in ESL).

In friendship,
Jade

Jennifer Parsons's picture

thank you

Thanks Jade! I will see you soon at the conference!

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