The School Sessions | Spotlight on photographer-philanthropist Jamie Delaine

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Jamie Delaine, of Jamie Delaine Photography, is a Langley, BC-based Vancouver wedding photographer who got started with gusto and continues to operate that way. She and her husband, Randy, have started an initiative to help photographers use their talents to contribute to a project in Haiti, so we crossed paths to discuss The School Sessions. 

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You got started in the industry at the age of 17. How did that come about?
Yes, I was 17 when I started shooting weddings! My interest in photography started when my dad purchased one of the first digital SLRs when they were released. I was 15 and I started teaching myself the basics. Shortly after, I discovered an online forum of photographers who were making weddings their full-time career. I found a photographer to volunteer with for a couple of weddings and from then on out, I started booking my own. The summer after I graduated high school I went full-time, and that was 7 years ago.

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Vancouver is such a gorgeous city! What’s your favourite location for photographs?
I love Third Beach (Stanley Park) at sunset.

Give me the lowdown about your big project for this year: The School Sessions.
The School Sessions brings together photographers worldwide in order to raise $200,000. We are trying to rebuild ECCA School in Haiti by photographing portrait sessions and donating 100% of the session fees. Sessions are taking place on or anytime before April 12th and we are encouraging Canada Photo Convention attendees to join the 450+ photographers already involved in the process of changing the lives of these children forever.

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What brought you and Randy to Haiti in the first place? Randy has been there half a dozen times already – what is it that has drawn him back time and again?
Randy’s first trip to Haiti was nine years ago. He had previously served with organizations in L.A. and Mexico and knew friends currently living and serving in Haiti. Randy had an opportunity to visit and contribute alongside them, and he was eager to experience a new culture. Since his first trip, Randy has travelled back to Haiti five more times. The openness of the culture; their desire for relationships with people; their willingness to learn and also to teach; and, of course, the huge amount of need all kept pulling Randy back there.

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How did you connect with ECCA School and with Hope Force International?
A few years after Randy’s first trip to Haiti, he was researching disaster relief training courses and came across Hope Force International. He travelled to New York to attend a three-day seminar on caring for people in the midst of natural disasters. In New York, Randy met the founders of Hope Force (Jack and Cherie Minton) and connected with their vision to serve and care for the emotional and spiritual needs of natural disaster survivors. They provide practical help, but also go far beyond that.

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Following the earthquake, Hope Force established a permanent presence in a Haitian village only 10km from the epicentre. On another trip, Randy was able to meet Rene and Marianne Lako, the couple living in and serving the 400 families in the village. Randy was introduced to ECCA School by Hope Force, since they provide a child sponsorship program and some of the children in that program attend ECCA School.

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How do you see this project impacting primary education in Mellier?
The 220 students who currently attend ECCA School are dedicated, willing students. It’s a huge sacrifice for families to send their children to school – there are fees for tuition, books, and uniforms – and the students understand the sacrifice and the importance of learning. A new building would provide quieter, safer classrooms; a concentrated environment in which these kids could focus on their studies without hearing the next grade only a few feet away. The students have big dreams – doctors, teachers, scientists – and a new building will make them feel valued, like their dreams are possible.

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What’s involved with making a school earthquake- and hurricane-proof?
The ten-classroom new school building for ECCA will be built to engineered specifications for concrete and steel construction, with hurricane-rated tie-downs.

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How will building a school encourage children to attend school?
A new building will expand the capacity for new students; ECCA is currently running at full capacity and can’t take on any new students. Even in the building that we aim to create, many classrooms will be used twice during the day, for morning and afternoon classes. It’s ECCA School’s dream to fill their school with as many students as they can. Not to mention, a building is a permanent thing. The $200,000 we raise will provide a safe, quiet learning environment for generations of kids to come.

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Right now, ECCA School has 220 students ages 3-16 in classes up to Grade 10, and all of those children are eager to attend school. We were visiting the school during a national holiday in November and unlike North American schools, a holiday didn’t mean a “day off”, but it did mean they didn’t have to wear their uniforms. The kids were all in assembly and learning about why the holiday is important to their country and identity as Haitian citizens.

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In your promo material, you talk about the desire to find a way to give your work greater meaning. How does this project fulfill that need?
I wholeheartedly believe life is most fulfilling when we are pouring ourselves out for others, not just chasing our own dreams and goals – although those are noble and good desires! I love that I can use my gift in photography to host sessions and see that money go towards a big need. I also love that I have the opportunity to connect my clients with a cause they can get excited about. And of course, as the founders, we are fulfilled when we see other photographers jumping on board, too!

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What type of photographer do you imagine would get involved with The School Sessions?
A photographer who believes they have a talent for a reason bigger than “to make money.” We only live one life and we are all given different gifts, talents, and abilities. I believe we are responsible to use those gifts to serve others.

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If this project speaks to your sense of humanity, learn more about #TheSchoolSessions via their website, on Facebook, or by following their progress on Instagram.

If you’d love to get involved with The School Sessions, they need 150 MORE photographers willing to donate 100% of the session fee from a portrait session before April 12th to meet their $200,000 goal!

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Article by Ang Waterton.

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