Breonna Carroll is an Iowa Talent Project (ITP) student and is a photojournalism major and is also earning a Global Health Certificate. She recently finished her international requirements through the MHIRT program this summer and has been selected to present her photographic work and research at an art show in April. If you are interested in the environmental and health efforts in Africa, you won’t want to miss this event.
As I sat scrunched in a rickety minivan traveling down an unmarked dirt road I saw the main Gambian dump site. For the first time in my life I silently watched as mothers, children and men scrupulously scavenged through plumes of smoke and refuse lumped together like mini volcanoes. All were diligently focused on finding a shiny reward of metal to turn into a pot, a spoon or tourist jewelry; anything that would turn into money. As a 20 year old African American who had never seen a dump site besides the one in Toy Story 3 I was completely baffled that an entire community was un-begrudgingly living with the suffocating stench of burning refuse. Why weren’t the people up in arms, pounding on their president’s door? I was sure I could rally a group of concerned citizens to flood the streets ready to clean. Not one thing was picked up.
Instead, for three months I listened. At the end the only thing that I had rallied together was the realization that in order for my concerns to be answered I must ask if they are the concerns of those whom they would most impact. It is not my job to tell people what they need, it is to help them see they have the capability to make a change.
The Gambian government has made major strides in providing its citizens with free or affordable healthcare. However, it is now time to focus on cleaning up the environment so that Gambian residents benefit fully from their government’s efforts. This is a brief visual documentation of the triumphs and shortcomings of a nation that deserves better. Through my lens I hope to tell the story of an emergent people who are strong and intelligent, but are also desperately in need of a solution.