Higher Education Authority

HEA Inspire Conference 2016

For my #HEAArts16 keynote I used several images and referred to the work of Donna DeCesare , the pictures I used were from her series “Sharing Stories” , Donna kindly agreed to do a short interview for my HEA talk as I was looking for someone who has experience of dealing with and telling the stories of vulnerable subjects. I draw the connection in my talk between the duty of care that a journalist has to their subject and the same duty of care that a teacher has with their learner. Both involve inequitable distributions of power and require vulnerability vis a vis the journalist’s subject and teacher’s learner, in order for either the story to be told or for the learning transaction to take place.  I wondered what we as teachers might learn from some of her approaches and experiences as we and our subjects and learners all face new and unclear futures working and learning with the digital.

For more of Donna’s work and the restof these stories jog on to www.donnadecesare.com

Colombia 2004 
ÒCarolina,Ó  age 18, lives in a home for former combatants sponsored by the Colombian Family Welfare Institute.  She joined the FARC ((Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarios de Colombia) guerrillas when she was 13 years old and lost her foot when she stepped on a landmine.

Copyright © Donna De Cesare, 2004

ÒMy mother abandoned me when I was nine years old.  I stayed with my grandmother and went to school.  I was studying in 8th grade when, I just up and left and went with the guerrillas. I was thirteen years old. On the one hand it was because I liked the guns.  I liked their uniforms.  It was clear that people respected them a lot.   And it was also because I felt so alone. My grandmother took care of me but I still felt alone. 

I feel alone again now.  A few days before this accident happened they [the Colombian army] killed all the people from my unit. Well not everyone was killed but we had fierce combat and many friends died fighting.  Some were captured and gave themselves up. The few of us who survived and escaped went to the outskirts of the city.  That is where this happened to me. 

 We knew there were landmines in the area to protect our supplies from the enemy, but we were not certain exactly where the landmines were.  I heard something and ran and then I fell.  When I stood up the mine exploded. I flew up in the air and hit into a tree. The impact of hitting the tree almost killed me.  That night they took me to a doctor.  It must have been about 11 pm.  I didnÕt know that my foot was gone.  They didnÕt want to tell me.  They were afraid to.  But the next day I realized and when I did it was like everything went black.  It hit me hard and I tried to kill myself.  But they found me with the knife and took it away from me. 

 I cried and cried for three days without stopping.  I never imagined anyone could cry so much or so hard.  But there was nothing else I could do.  They kept me in the camp for a while but they couldnÕt keep carrying me and my leg was getting worse. I had an aunt that they trusted and they brought me to her.  They promised her that in 3 days they would come back and get me.  But they didnÕt come.  We waited and waited and my leg got very infected.  My aunt got afraid because of the smell [it was gangrenous] and so this is how my family decided to turn me in to the army.  

Ever since then IÕve lived in a group home with 3 other girls who also used to be guerrillas. I canÕt say I repent my past life though I do want to leave it behind.  You canÕt repent for loving people who loved and cared for you.  The FARC was my family for many years.  But I donÕt believe what they believe anymore.  What good is the war?  My friends are dead and look at me.  Sometimes I still cry and think who will ever love me now.  But I will get a prosthetic leg.  When I learn to walk with it and wear pants no one needs to know that I donÕt have my foot."

Colombia 2004
ÒCarolina,Ó  age 18, lives in a home for former combatants sponsored by the Colombian Family Welfare Institute.  She joined the FARC ((Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarios de Colombia) guerrillas when she was 13 years old and lost her foot when she stepped on a landmine.

Copyright © Donna De Cesare, 2004

"My mother abandoned me when I was nine years old.  I stayed with my grandmother and went to school.  I was studying in 8th grade when, I just up and left and went with the guerrillas. I was thirteen years old. On the one hand it was because I liked the guns.  I liked their uniforms.  It was clear that people respected them a lot.   And it was also because I felt so alone. My grandmother took care of me but I still felt alone.

I feel alone again now.  A few days before this accident happened they [the Colombian army] killed all the people from my unit. Well not everyone was killed but we had fierce combat and many friends died fighting.  Some were captured and gave themselves up. The few of us who survived and escaped went to the outskirts of the city.  That is where this happened to me.

 We knew there were landmines in the area to protect our supplies from the enemy, but we were not certain exactly where the landmines were.  I heard something and ran and then I fell.  When I stood up the mine exploded. I flew up in the air and hit into a tree. The impact of hitting the tree almost killed me.  That night they took me to a doctor.  It must have been about 11 pm.  I didn't know that my foot was gone.  They didn't want to tell me.  They were afraid to.  But the next day I realized and when I did it was like everything went black.  It hit me hard and I tried to kill myself.  But they found me with the knife and took it away from me.

 I cried and cried for three days without stopping.  I never imagined anyone could cry so much or so hard.  But there was nothing else I could do.  They kept me in the camp for a while but they couldn't keep carrying me and my leg was getting worse. I had an aunt that they trusted and they brought me to her.  They promised her that in 3 days they would come back and get me.  But they didnÕt come.  We waited and waited and my leg got very infected.  My aunt got afraid because of the smell [it was gangrenous] and so this is how my family decided to turn me in to the army.  

Ever since then I've lived in a group home with 3 other girls who also used to be guerrillas. I canÕt say I repent my past life though I do want to leave it behind.  You can't repent for loving people who loved and cared for you.  The FARC was my family for many years.  But I donÕt believe what they believe anymore.  What good is the war?  My friends are dead and look at me.  Sometimes I still cry and think who will ever love me now.  But I will get a prosthetic leg.  When I learn to walk with it and wear pants no one needs to know that I don't have my foot."

"I come from a very small village of peasants.   Buses go there but not many.  It's a long bumpy dirt road. There is no television in my village, only the radio.

One of my uncles was in the army.  But we were lucky the war didn't come to our village.  My childhood was happy I have no complaints.  No bad things happened to me.  Well except that my father was a preacher and he abused all the girls in my family.   He was drunk most of the time and he beat my mom and us whenever he was drunk.  

The first time I was with a boy it was a boy from the village.  Luckily I didn't get pregnant. My father would have killed me.   I was 14.  The boy wanted to marry me but I don't want a man beating me like my father and telling me what to do.  I don't want to be married ever.  I would like to have children, but without a husband.  They don't treat you well.  

It was an older cousin of mine who brought me here when I was 15.  I've been here a year and now my sister is here with me too.  I didn't know what the work was at first. They told me I was going to be a waitress.  It was hard to be with these men.  

 But I earn 600 quetzaeles ($74.00) a month from the owner of the bar and I live here in the back.  I don't know what the men pay.  They give the money to the owner and later he pays me.

 My sister and I speak our language when we don't want other people to know something. I never put on a mini skirt.  I like my traditional dress.

Dreams?  I don't have any."

Guatemala, 2001  
"Monica," age 16, stands before the door to her room in the brothel saloon where she lives and works. 

Copyright © Donna De Cesare, 2001

ÒI come from a very small village of peasants.   Buses go there but not many.  It's a long bumpy dirt road. There is no television in my village, only the radio. 

One of my uncles was in the army.  But we were lucky the war didn't come to our village.  My childhood was happy I have no complaints.  No bad things happened to me.  Well except that my father was a preacher and he abused all the girls in my family.   He was drunk most of the time and he beat my mom and us whenever he was drunk.  

The first time I was with a boy it was a boy from the village.  Luckily I didn't get pregnant. My father would have killed me.   I was 14.  The boy wanted to marry me but I don't want a man beating me like my father and telling me what to do.  I don't want to be married ever.  I would like to have children, but without a husband.  They don't treat you well.  

It was an older cousin of mine who brought me here when I was 15.  I've been here a year and now my sister is here with me too.  I didn't know what the work was at first. They told me I was going to be a waitress.  It was hard to be with these men.  

 But I earn 600 quetzaeles ($74.00) a month from the owner of the bar and I live here in the back.  I don't know what the men pay.  They give the money to the owner and later he pays me.

 My sister and I speak our language when we don't want other people to know something. I never put on a mini skirt.  I like my traditional dress.

Dreams?  I don't have any."

Guatemala, 2001  
"Monica," age 16, stands before the door to her room in the brothel saloon where she lives and works.

Copyright © Donna De Cesare, 2001

Carlos hugs his mom Buenaventura. His younger sister wants a hug from her too.
Carlos Arnoldo Monroy was sexually abused by a neighbor when he was 8 years old. Carlos was afraid but he told his mother and she immediately sought to press charges. The prosecutor in the case suggested that it would be prudent to have an HIV test. Buenaventura had never heard of HIV or AIDS but she quickly became an expert. When the boy tested positive she was tireless her pursuit of doctors and medical treatment for her son. the family are of humble working class origins but Buenaventuras tenacity and determination to educate people about HIV have encouraged her shy son Carlos to follow an activist path.

Carlos says: “My story can help other people. People with HIV are treated like lepers. When people see me and hear my story they see I am a normal kid just like their own. By speaking out we can make Guatemala more tolerant. We have suffered taunts and rejection, but someone has to open the way for others. My dream is to become a doctor to treat people with HIV. I want to open a big hospital. We need one in Guatemala. When Doctors Without Borders leave many people will have a hard time getting the medicines they need unless we make people care about us and respect our rights.”

Retalhuleu Municipio, Retalhuleu, Guatemala

Story Carlos Arnoldo Monroy 16 years old living with HIV.
Released.

Carlos hugs his mom Buenaventura.  His younger sister wants a hug from her too. 
Carlos Arnoldo Monroy was sexually abused by a neighbor when he was 8 years old.  Carlos was afraid but he told his mother and she immediately sought to press charges.  The prosecutor in the case suggested that it would be prudent to have an HIV test.  Buenaventura had never heard of HIV or AIDS  but she quickly became an expert.  When the boy tested positive she was tireless her pursuit of doctors and medical treatment for her son.  the family are of humble working class origins but Buenaventuras tenacity and determination to educate people about HIV have encouraged her shy son Carlos to follow an activist path.

Carlos says:   "My story can help other people.  People with HIV are treated like lepers.  When people see me and hear my story they see I am a normal kid just like their own.  By speaking out we can make Guatemala more tolerant.  We have suffered taunts and rejection, but someone has to open the way for others.  My dream is to become a doctor to treat people with HIV.  I want to open a big hospital. We need one in Guatemala.  When Doctors Without Borders leave many people will have a hard time getting the medicines they need unless we make people care about us and respect our rights."

Retalhuleu Municipio, Retalhuleu, Guatemala
Story Carlos Arnoldo Monroy 16 years old living with HIV.
Released.

For more of Donna’s work and the rest of these stories jog on to www.donnadecesare.com

Thank you Donna, jw.