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Ngalapita School

Why is it that when you are heading to your destination it always takes longer than the return trip? My friend Sarah and I recently visited Nglapita Remote Community School, 450km from Broome. There is nothing like heading out on a roadtrip before sunrise with some good coffee, fresh country air,  my Spotify roadtrip music and good company. Sarah volunteered her time to come with me and I am grateful I always have friends who want to help me and see how the project works. I by no means have it sorted, the project is always evolving...

This was a very special trip. I picked up my  new 6 DSLR Canon 1500D cameras when I went back to Perth last month and I was so excited the students got to use cameras rather than IPads. I met Tanya, the school principal when we did our youth grief training in February. I asked Tanya what could I bring for the students? When Tanya told me what she needed I just couldn't say no. The students LOVE basketball and football and Tanya really wanted basketball jerseys but it was not within the school budget. Thanks to my Harvey Norman funds,  and a kind hearted woman called Jenny who saw my interview with Paul Murray this year, I was able to deliver 20 jerseys embroidered with the school logo and matchings caps. Seeing those precious faces light up and the sense of pride the students had wearing their new clothes was just priceless. I really am so blessed...

As we sat down with the students who were aged between 8-12 years, the very first group of students holding these new cameras, I got a little teary. Here we were in the middle of nowhere, with a gorgeous group of 11 students that day (the entire school) and 3 wonderful teachers Ms Josie, Ms Taryn, Ms Faye and a visionary principal Ms Tanya, who were all excited about my project. Living remote is no easy feat for this community and people in cities just don't appreciate what it is like for those living and working so remote. 

We started the first day with mental fitness education, I introduced photography as a form of mindfulness and gave a brief lesson on photography.  After that session this is where it gets fun! Tanya asked me if we could shoot at the billabong. I said YEEESSSSS, absolutely, I wanted the children to show me their land and to photograph their culture. They know the animal tracks, the flowers, where not to go and to be cautious of the freshwater crocodiles. The photos they took absolutely blew me away. I am setting a gallery up on the website to showcase their photos. 

I gave them a brief to photograph reflections, photograph through something and make a frame within a frame. These students had never held a camera before, this was no easy feat. I set the cameras on Aperture Priority (that's how I learnt photography) and off they went. One student is blind in one eye, but that didn't stop him from taking photographs from a completely different perspective than everyone else. The children had so much fun and I wasn't worried watching them standing on tree branches with the cameras because I knew they were looking after them and they were focussing on the photography. I asked them, 'what were you thinking about when you were taking photos?'. They all said - 'taking a good photo miss'. My point is, when you are fully present shooting or doing whatever it is you love, you are not focussing on negative thoughts and all the other thoughts you have but simply learning to be present in the moment.

The best  surprise was when Tanya told me that the photos the students took will be used to create calendars for the families. I was thrilled. How wonderful for the students to see their beautiful photos in print. That's why I love photography, it captures a moment otherwise lost. I didn't know what to expect when I went to Ngalapita and I am so thankful to have met such beautiful teachers, students, families and  the Nookenbah folk who guided me to the Fitzroy river crossing safely.

What do you do to stay present? For me it's meditation, yoga, photography or a sunset walk on Cable Beach. Just observing. Letting thoughts and feelings come and go. You can't change the past, let those past hurts go. How can you move forward if you are continually reliving past events? Maybe you need to forgive someone..... or yourself. No one is perfect. Let go of regret. You don't know what's in store tomorrow. You don't need to have it all figured out today. So just enjoy today and be fully present with everything you do and who you are with. Surrender to being present and be grateful for what you have everyday.  Let go of controlling the outcome and watch your worries fade. I start my day with meditation, and focus on being the best version of me today. I hope that whatever it is you do, you experience the joy of simply being present. 

With gratitude,