It’s not easy being an eighth-grader. Peer pressure, cliques, homework. Would any of us really want to repeat that experience? So when Kati Farkas’ teacher told her class that they were supposed to create a year-long project that culminated in a final presentation, Kati was understandably nervous.
The instructions were deceptively simple: Pick a topic that you don’t know anything about. Work with a mentor to learn about it. Figure out a way to demonstrate what you learned to the class. Kati is bright, enthusiastic, and bubbly – and she had lots of ideas. One kept coming back to her, though. “I’ve always wanted to help people, but it’s tough when you’re a kid. What could I do? This was an opportunity,” she explained. “Homeless people beg at traffic lights, rotaries and highways. Ever since I was tall enough to look out my Mum’s car window, and see what was going on outside, I have secretly cared about these mysterious people that society never fails to ignore. I have always thought that something should be done to help them. But many of my friends didn’t really seem bothered by it.” And that bothered Kati.
She decided to learn about homelessness, and to change at least her classmates’ minds about people who are homeless. “Kids my age try to be ‘cool’. I wanted to do something that would get their attention.” Building on her interest in photography, Kati chose three mentors: one who could teach her about photography, one who could help her with technology, and another who could teach her about homelessness. The result is a 15-minute presentation, featuring photographs taken by Kati and others, that challenges viewers’ preconceived ideas about homelessness. The narration comes in the form of text and 1st person accounts, taken from interviews Kati conducted with people who have experienced homelessness and/or are working in shelters.
On the day of her presentation to the class, Kati was unsure how her classmates would react.. What if they roll their eyes? What if they whisper? What if they get annoyed because they think she is “lecturing” them?
She opened the presentation by asking, “What is the first word you think of when you think of someone who is homeless?” Her classmates answered with words like “bum,” “drunk,” and “dirty.” She then asked, “How many of you know someone has been homeless?” Only one person raised a hand. “I wanted them to think about what they base their judgments on,” she said.
She showed them her movie.
“They were totally shocked. Dead silent,” she reports. A boy in the class opened the question session by asking how old the homeless students she met with were “Eleven and thirteen” Kati replied. Another had a hard time absorbing the fact that women, children and families were homeless. Reflecting on the experience later she said, “I watched their point of view change. By the end of the presentation, I actually could see it.”
To view Kati’s movie, click here
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