Boston-area photographer, Chris Cardoza has been shooting for the non-governmental organization, Shooting Touch for the last four years. Operating in Boston and Eastern Rwanda, Shooting Touch uses basketball as a tool to educate and empower at-risk youth and the communities where they live.
Chris had already traveled to Rwanda for Shooting Touch twice. For this trip he was accompanied by two of the organization’s board of directors: Jackie MacMullan, an ESPN writer and frequent panelist on the show, “Around the Horn” and Amy Lattimer, president of the TD Garden where the Celtics and Bruins play.
The objective of the project was to document the progress the organization has made with its women specific programming. Chris was to create a photo essay and documentary short to be used online and during the organization’s annual fundraiser gala. He also was tasked with creating images of Jackie’s experience in the country to run in conjunction with her essay for ESPN Women.
Before embarking on the trip, Chris learned about how Shooting Touch gave many women in rural Rwandan villages the opportunity to play basketball for the first time. When speaking with Lisanne Comeau, the Rwandan in-country director, Chris did hear some negative stories, like the occurrence of men kicking women out of their homes just because they played. But more common were recounts of the positive impact basketball was having on the community.
Some of the best stories we heard were about basketball empowering these women, making them stronger, healthier and happier.
Upon arriving in Rwanda, Chris traveled from village to village in an SUV, navigating the steep and sometimes treacherous dirt roads. During the course of the project, he encountered numerous situations that solidified his commitment to Shooting Touch.
I met women over the age of 60 playing basketball for the first time who are becoming healthier and happier. We witnessed hundreds of locals get tested for diabetes during a massive International Women’s Day Basketball Tournament that over 1,000 people attended. Every village welcomed me and my camera with open arms and everyone wanted a photo.
Shooting in a developing nation presented a unique set of obstacles for Chris. Electricity was scarce, and running water was never a given. And because of the completely different biome of Rwanda, getting sick was likely. Fortunately, Chris was prepared for all of this, with extra batteries, antibiotics, and bottled water.
Overall, deciding to accept the challenge, really embracing the adventure, and paying attention to my own mental and physical health throughout the trip helped me succeed. Beer helped too…but not the banana beer…that stuff was just too strong.
Despite the relative adversity he faced, Chris thoroughly enjoyed his time in Rwanda. Spending time on the basketball courts and being welcomed by members of the community was an incredible feeling for him.
Meeting the women and children, hearing their stories and connecting through the process of photographing was a special thing.
ESPN loved Chris’s photos and published several in a recent article by Jackie. That piece sparked a great deal of publicity for Shooting Touch, and they have already heard from a variety of people who want to get involved, including professional athletes and big brands.
Looking forward, Chris hopes to show his images in a gallery exhibition as well as partner with a media outlet to publish the complete photo essay.
Check out more of Chris at dozavisuals.com