Redefine Culture Shock

This small project hoped to redefine culture shock as an opportunity to grow and challenge our assumptions we have of other people in this world. I wanted to utilize the power of photography and the power of stories by interviewing individuals to understand our human capacity to be resilient in times of challenges. We all hold a responsibility to fully understand this world by breaking down walls of stereotypes and recognizing the common humanity we all share.

We have forgotten how to live free and question our own narratives and assumptions. The spaces between us are filled by complex societal and cultural contexts that often breed ignorance and assumptions that eat away our humanity. Out of fear and misunderstanding we construct ‘the other’ in people living in our own communities to people living across the world. Conflict and violence are often propagated because of these misunderstandings. This projects raises awareness and fight against ignorance.

Culture Shock is a form of cognitive dissonance, it is in these moments of discomfort we are brought to challenge our own existence and the process of our growth. How do we understand and reframe cultural shock as a natural process in our lives? Culture Shock can enable the creative human spirit within to learn, grow and unleash itself from the conceptual cages of ignorance. To live with one another in a more peaceful existence we have to respect the humanity in others and honor our shared dignity.


Meet Adrien, he is from Burundi.

He’s one of the head facilitators for an organization called HROC (Healing and Rebuilding Our Community) in Burundi. He does community healing and reconciliation by bringing Burundians from different sides of Hutu and Tutsi who got separated because of the internal conflict, genocide and civil war in the 1990s.


“With the massive destruction in the war we lost everything we had, but life is still livable. Yes your going to feel bitterness, yes your going to feel grief , yes your going experience despair, these are normal feelings that I experienced, but through our Healing and Rebuilding Community Program I came to realize that im not the only one who lost someone, so there are people who went through bigger and bigger losses than mine who manage to  understand their pain, so that gave me strength and hope that I can work on my issues.

People were able to overcome and understand why it happened to them, they didn’t want to stay useless, they understood they were still valuable, that they still had strength within them and that they could make the next step, look for new alternatives, look for help and be the person they wanted to be to make their contributions to their community. There’s a time they thought life was not worth living anymore because their beloved ones had just left them,  but I saw that they came to realized NO, my kids are the most important, my family is also important,  my relatives, my neighbors need me, my school needs me, community needs me, these are something’s I heard from the participants…”

Resilience & Peace

“My mom passing away was a big loss for me, she represented a world view, I still hold compassion and share what I learned from her.  One thing that also struck me was the passing of my wife, she was my helper, my counselor, my advisor, she was everything, what I gain from her was humility, compassion and a caring heart, so these three things are still alive in me and her memory, whatever I’m doing I remember about her and make sure our kids are loved and cared for.”


Meet Tom, he lives in the central part of the State of Oregon, United States. He’s an author and has written two books – “Gather at the Table: The Healing Journey of a Daughter of Slavery and a Son of the Slave Trade” and “Inheriting the Trade: A Northern Family Confronts Its Legacy as the Largest Slave-Trading Dynasty in U.S. History.


“..I think there’s a lot of people that approach the concept of healing the legacies of slavery, sometimes the approach that people use, for me anyways I find less healthy. Anger is certainly an appropriate emotion but if its just a scatter shot anger without a goal of finding out why and how I can use that anger in a constructive way, and in way that it can lead to the healing of an individual, of a community and a culture.

I found out around the turn of the century in 2001, I was related to this slave trading family, never heard of it before and turns out it was the largest slave trading family in U.S history in any kind, found out they operated out of Rhode Island, you would think Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, noooo…. the little tiny Rhode Island was responsible for half of all transatlantic slave trading to this country, this country was a small player in the whole transatlantic slave trade with less than 3.4 percent globally, but in the U.S  Rhode Island was the biggest, this family was the biggest. Alot of it is being honest about our history, it was not just this family by any means.

I’ve had people say glad that I’m not you. Talking to another white person i said: “your family wasn’t connected really? Were they wearing cotton clothing, were they smoking tobacco and drinking coffee with sugar in it? Yea maybe they were connected since the entire economy of the whole world was based on slavery”. So for me its coming to term not with a isolated, personal, narrowly focused, guilt, blame and shame game, it’s a recognition of what our nation was founded upon. The recognition that 10 out of the first 12 president were slave holders, when the nation was founded on the annihilation of Native Indians and the enslavement of African people and a little bit later on the attack on Hispanic people to take a big hunk of Mexico to turn it into California, New Mexico, texas, Arizona, parts of Colorado and Utah, it’s a country build on conquest, oppression, terror and white supremacy.

And you learn that they certainty didn’t teach it to me in school, so I learned that through this process. So what do you do with that? As a white guy I could just feel guilty, horrible about myself, my white race and my family Or I can recognize that it’s a universal human problem, human constructed thing and to look at the legacy of what’s left today, what impacts are felt today and how do we address those, what do you do about the living consequences of these 200 year old wounds and how do they play out today and what do they do to us, what do they do to white people, black people, brown people. That’s the bigger question for me which is a much larger and more complicated question to do with if I feel bad that I’m related to slave traders, and I think that anybody that research their family histories they will find heroes in heels. None of us are responsible for any of that from hundreds of years ago but we do inherit an impact and carry the responsibility as members of the human family..”

Resilience and Peace

“One of the key components of the healing journey is to understand what trauma is and what it does to us physically, psychologically, socially, spiritually and how it gets passed down through generations. Learning how to be resilient is key, not just to cope but becoming resilient by learning tools to help break out of the cycles of violence. Relationship building, reading and utilizing different methods, there are many different possible tools.

We need to look honestly at history. We need to encourage people to take action, to look at what they can do, ask what actions can I take and where do I take the next steps on this journey, where is my path?”


Meet Maria, she is from Damascus, Syria. She graduated in civil engineering from The University of Damascus.


“..Syria is in conflict and it’s a bad situation. It’s not safe to go out because there are many bombs that are continually exploding and hurting many people. We have some fear, but we have to live, we have to go to our jobs, we have to visit our families.

We have to live…”


“Peace comes from within your spirit, If you don’t have it, then you cannot have peace in the outer. It is only when you have peace within that you can give it to others”.


Meet Emmanuel, he is from the country of Liberia and currently works at the Liberian Ministry of Interior.

Story of Resilience

“..I grew up during the Liberian civil wars of 14 years filled with brutality, killings and mayhem, over 250,000 people died and thousands of people displaced. The war destroyed everything that we had- Infrastructures of health, human capacity, education, everything was destroyed. Liberia returned to the peace 11 years ago…

We started a peace cause because of the resilience of the people, the collective effort, not because of the political ethos, not because of the international community but specifically because of the communities’ willingness, the grassroots efforts to form and to be peaceful by themselves. Liberia is on the path of development, we are moving forward and that’s a sign of a level of courage and a level resilience we’ve have had over the years…”

Message of Peace

“Before I can talk about my message of peace, I have to talk about war, what war does, what is war? War is an ugly structure that when you turn to it you get destruction, when you look at that structure you get division, when you move towards it you have crashes and devastation and everything bad about war you can think of, so no one wants to live in war any longer.

So my message of peace, is that peace is like a tree, a tree with many branches, as you can see a tree with many branch calls for unity; its development, togetherness, reconciliation, co-existence and to enjoy your life. So all must fight for peace, lay for peace, be ambassadors of peace and preach peace where we are, whether it is a tribal war , boundaries, land, whether its family problems, resolve it and live in peace, because peace is all that mankind needs to live.”

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