TGL: Nicaragua turned out to be a profound human revelation mixed with some very beautiful photographic subjects. I went to Nicaragua with the idea of a photography workshop with The Giving Lens and also of spending some time teaching photography to underprivileged children through Empowerment International, an organization dedicated to, as the name states, empower children and people of one of the poorest areas in Granada to grow and learn through education and encouragement, to improve their living conditions and preserve their culture. Arriving in Granada, about an hour from Managua, one can see this is a poor area, with a mixture of some beautiful old Spanish architecture without much modernization or upkeep, but with the beautiful lines and wrought iron work in the doors and windows still present, and with rural and farm land not too far. Meeting and interacting with the children was the best part of the trip for me, I speak Spanish and they loved that, they had the most beautiful smiles, the sweetest disposition, were very clean and really eager to learn. Some had previously learned some photography and it was impressive to see the talent that was already obvious. The visit to the “Barrio” (slum) where these children live is something that is really difficult to see, the “houses” built from pieces of aluminum or wood nailed together, the whole house smaller than probably most living rooms in most American homes, dirt floors inside and out, one wood “stove” made of concrete blocks where they can place the wood and one pot to cook dinner. One cement sink on the patio outside had the only running water supply, where clothes, dishes and bathing all take place, for everyone who goes by to see, as well as an outhouse, if you can call it that, also in the middle of the patio in plain view. To see the friendliness, the big welcoming smiles, from mom and children, and their happy faces was a most humbling and beautiful experience, a mix of sadness, admiration, love and compassion. They have that wonderful spirit of joy and love although they have next to nothing of material comforts or even the most basic necessities. The group consisted of nine of us, including Colby, 6 were professional photographers, three, including me, were not. They were all willing and very able to answer any technical questions and help me improve my craft for which I am very grateful. It was a very good group, very congenial and having fun even when everyone was exhausted after a long day. And then there were some beautiful photography sites where we shot at sunrise or sunset, my favorite the Masaya Volcano, with a glorious sunset and some beautiful sulfur gas “cloud” underneath flowing out of the crater below, creating some incredibly beautiful sight and a photographer’s delight. We took a boat ride at sunset with the Mombacho Volcano on the background, a sunrise lake photoshoot, the craft market, the pottery factory with each artist creating beautiful pieces. So many places, people and things to see and photograph that one week seems short. A truly memorable trip.
Working with the children was an unforgettable experience and most satisfying. As well, the events exposing us to local culture were very well done and quite complete. I don’t think I’ve experienced such a well organized and executed cultural program.
I had an amazing experience on the TGL: Jordan trip which went way beyond my expectations. Overall as a photographer I did learn a hell of a lot and think I improved in what i captured. I had an amazing experience on the Jordan trip which went way beyond my expectations. Colby, Ken and Bonocore did a fantastic job of providing their knowledge, experiences and keeping us entertained and laughing along the way. The team was a great mixture of personalities and photography skill. I can honestly say that I learned something from everyone in the group. I enjoyed how informal the trip was and how approachable and knowledgable Colby, Ken and Bonocore were for the whole trip. I did take the opportunity to ask questions and listen in to the questions that other participants came up with. The different experiences and expertise from other participants was also very insightful.
I travelled to Jordan with TGL in 2014, the trip was absolutely incredible, not only did we visit and volunteer with 2 great NGOs, we marked off many “bucket list” items in one epic trip. I highly recommend travelling with TGL, especially if you are not familiar with the country they are travelling to. They organise everything and make sure that you have some unforgettable experiences, capture awesome photos and finish your trip with a sense of accomplishment and fulfilment. On top of all that, you are donating much needed time, effort, skills and money to NGOs. I’m looking forward to travelling with TGL again in the future.
If you get a chance to participate in a TGL workshop, grab it! TGL: Tanzania was my second time working with TGL (the first being TGL: Jordan) and I learned so much and came away so rich in a variety of experiences. They expand my world. And there is nothing more fun than hanging out with a bunch of photographers!
The most important thing to understand about The Giving Lens and its leaders; they WILL infect you with passion. Passion for photography and passion for the NGOs it supports. After two week with my team and all the locals we had befriended, I was more sad to leave my Giving Lens family than I ever imagined I would be. My trip to Thailand was very well organized and a lot of fun. If I could get away with it, I would go on EVERY trip! My soul has been revived with the passion that my leaders and the NGO groups gave me.
I have never been more moved as a person than I was in Tanzania with The Giving Lens. I believe this trip will change your life for the better, and though it is a tough trip it is worth every second. I love my new friends and family.
My time in Thailand was inspiring. I learned so much from my group leaders and fellow team members, and feel honored to be part of the first all-women TGL excursion, especially because we had the opportunity to work with girls at COSA, and hopefully contribute to fighting against human trafficking and sex trafficking. This is an experience that will stay with me for life – spiritually, educationally, and photographically. I felt like our small group became a family, and I know we planted the seeds of creativity and confidence by teaching the COSA girls basic photography skills. I know that in the future, I can call on any one of the eight other women from my group to travel with again, and I hope I can do another TGL trip!
Photography and volunteering: I can’t think of a better combination for travel!
I absolutely loved being a part of this amazing Cuba team. The team leaders did a fantastic job, keeping us on track even in the face of constant change. I’ll be honest that before we left for Cuba, I wondered what impact we’d have on a group of skateboarders. I decided to let go and have faith it would all come together…and it did. The young man I worked with had some experience with a camera but said a couple times how grateful he was to have this “class”. To know that the donated cameras we left, and help we had given, would provide some of these young people with a creative outlet they previously didn’t have was humbling and heartwarming. As a photographer, I knew that in order for me to grow on this trip I was going to have to be vulnerable and ask questions. And ask I did! I cannot begin to express my gratitude to the leaders and teammates who happily paid forward their knowledge. To say that my photography benefited from this trip would be an understatement.
TGL: Nicaragua was one of the best weeks of my life, hands down.
TGL is an adventure with learning a lot about culture, history, photography, and having a chance to share what you love with like-minded people. The Giving Lens gives a healthy atmosphere for travellers and photographers, not missing out the opportunity to capture a great moment, going to exciting places, and learning about the problems and treasures they have and share it all with the world.
Besides, all the unbelievable adventures I had with TGL, there was something more than that – people: my team, leaders of the workshop, our guide, and others I came across during the trip. We all learned something from each other. I left inspired. The Giving Lens is an intense workshop. The program kept us busy everyday. But every time, I recollected the highlights of what we did at the end of each day, whether it was educating youth basic photography, conquering the heights of Petra, or strolling in the streets of Madaba, I felt happy.
I’ve traveled with TGL on several occasions and would highly recommend the experience. I was able to see parts of the world that I may not have otherwise experienced on my own. There is comfort in traveling with experienced leaders and with a group of people with similar interest and mindsets. You’ll be challenged; to be flexible; to step out of your comfort zone; to experience life that isn’t easy. You’ll be better for having participated and contributed. Regardless of your experience as a traveller and/or photographer, what you bring is valuable. If you’re new? There’s someone else that might identify with you. If you’re a veteran? You’ll be a source of information and a valuable resource. The Giving Lens is a tremendous organization with priorities in the right place. Giving back. Challenging travel to extraordinary places. Learning while doing. Growth. If you have the chance, sign up for a trip.
The Giving Lens was exactly what I was looking for and simultaneously nothing that I could prepare for. On paper, it combined all of my passions: a unique travel experience, photography, and a chance to make a difference in a community or with an organization. In reality, there was so much more. Our partner NGO brought to our attention the many challenges faced by at-risk youth in Cuba. It was humbling to be a part of this work, and in doing so, step back from the camera long enough to reflect and appreciate photography as an essential medium for storytelling. Growth as a traveler, volunteer, and photographer is to be expected, but I did not fully anticipate the closeness that I would feel toward my team. The TGL Cuba team immediately felt like family. I cannot imagine having visited Cuba for the first time with any other group. Amazing! Amazing! Amazing!
Not all photography tours are equal. Traveling with The Giving Lens means you’ll connect with a local group, help their organization as a volunteer, and then share your passion for photography with the people you are volunteering to help. This is a collaboration that gives something both to that organization and to you as a photographer.
What do you get as a photographer? Planned interaction with people who are happy to accept your help forms a connection and observation with both the people and the country on a level that’s hard to reach as a casual observer. You will be able to better appreciate the people and the country and capture photos that represent it best. Yes, there will be plenty of time to take great photos.
I started practicing photography to have a purpose for my travels and to bring home something beautiful to remind me of the experience. With The Giving Lens that purpose gets expanded and I also get to leave something behind to benefit someone else.
My trip to Thailand with TGL was truly something that I will treasure dearly, both from the perspectives of travel photography and volunteer work with a non-profit organization. There really is power in numbers – we were welcomed in many places that would have been a bit more difficult to visit as solo or coupled travelers (authentic lunch with a hill tribe family in their living space, for instance). So all in all, I’m genuinely glad of my decision to travel with TGL. Thank you, Kate & Nicole!
If you are looking for a photographic journey…with meaning…then TGL is something you should consider. Being able to pursue a hobby that I love in a new and interesting location is fantastic. Top that off with diving into the local culture, avoiding tourist areas, and…most importantly…creating a positive impact with local people makes TGL trips something in a class all by themselves.
A lot of people use the phrase “life changing” but in my case TGL: Jordan truly was life changing for me. I came home from my trip determined to change some things in my life that have been making me miserable. It had been a long time since I was around such a positive encouraging group of people, and I came home with the need to have that in my life more often.
You guys inspired me to really push myself and take on challenges that in the past I would have never taken on. I will definitely be on a future trip. Count me in as an ambassador for TGL, anything I can do for you guys going forward all you have to do is ask.
I took the trip to Nicaragua with The Giving Lens. It won’t be my last! I have never traveled to a foreign country before by myself , Its always been with a group , family , or school . I went into the trip not knowing anyone or what I was getting myself into. The team that TGL selected to be there was phenomenal .We all meshed so well and all got along so great . My luggage ended up not showing up with me and everyone was so ready to offer me things to get through . Luckily the staff from EI offered to drive back to Managua which is an hour away and get the luggage for me so I didn’t have to miss out on all the excitement . I had an incident were I felt sick one of the nights , and Kate made it a point to come check on me to make sure that I was ok . That was one of the points that I knew I was going to enjoy the rest of the trip to see that The staff was that caring .Working with the kids and watching them interact with the TGL participants was amazing . The trips that we took were amazing being able to see the sunrise over a lagoon . Watching the sunset over a volcano . Ill never forget the memories and Im thankful I got the chance to participate.
When I first learned of TGL, I knew right away–in my spirit–that it was something that I had to be a part of. It combined everything that I had been searching for in one package (humanitarian, travel, & photography). The hardest part was trying to decide where I wanted to go first. My dream of many years was finally realized when I arrived in Tanzania, and I came away from the experience with so much more than I even anticipated. It was truly the definition of a win-win situation, and I would do it again in a heartbeat. Thanks TGL!
My trip with TGL to Nicaragua went beyond all expectations that I had. I am a new photographer who before the trip was afraid to take my camera off of automatic. Throughout the week, I found myself having so much fun learning how to shoot on manuel with the Nicaraguan teens I was partnered with that I forgot all the nerves I started the week with. Jay and Varina Patel were amazing teachers and helped me grow so much that by the end of the week I was no longer surprised as myself when I managed to take a good picture!
I loved this trip with The Giving Lens and would be very happy to recommend it to anyone who was thinking of going. I believe you have a winning formula for travelling to third world countries and giving back to the communities. I’m sure I’ll be doing another trip with you! Thank you all for a wonderful trip.
TGL Nicaragua is an amazing experience for the novice to the most experienced traveller. As a photographer, it is a rich opportunity to get some of the best photographs you’ve ever taken. You will build incredible relationships in a short amount of time you didn’t think possible, yet will carry a place in your heart for years to come.
As a teacher who loves to continue to learn, TGL is the perfect balance of challenge, self-growth and experiential learning, all with purpose. I’d love to make this an annual goal, and perhaps grow into a TGL leader. My language skills and photography need work and I’m more inspired than ever to improve and grow.
Traveling with TGL on the all-female trip to Thailand was, by far, my most exciting, emotional, and educational travel I have experienced to date. It has been a month since my return, and I still cannot stop thinking about my trip-mates, the girls of COSA, and the beautiful people and scenery of the country. Can’t wait to do another trip with TGL!
TGL: Jordan was definitely the highlight of 2012 for us, not only did we meet some amazing, conscientious & talented people but we had a chance to bridge cultures, learn new things along the way and make new friends. Colby & Ken demonstrated an enthusiasm for what they do that was so infectious that we all went away with a beautiful experience. And of course, thank you so much Kate for all your hard work behind the scenes!
TGL: Nicaragua was well organized and prepared, I had a great experience and I can’t wait to go on another trip with the awesome TGL team!
TGL: Peru was unlike any other trip I’ve ever been on. The fact that we were able to do two amazing things combined in one affordable trip was absolutely outstanding. The opportunity to expand my photography portfolio/skills, and the chance to help out in the community we were oh so fortunate to visit.. was amazing. This trip opened my eyes to cultures and lifestyles so different than the one I’m used to. It’s actually quite crazy how different your world can be from someone who lives just a few hours in an airplane away.. Having the opportunity to get to know this culture, this lifestyle, this amazing country was one of the most heart warming, wonderful things I’ve ever had the chance to do. Peru, Cusco, Aguas Calientes, Machu Picchu, Picaflor House, and of course the superb group of people I got to explore all these places with, will forever be in my heart and always put a smile on my face. I’d do it again in a heartbeat.
If you are thinking about doing a trip with The Giving Lens stop thinking and do it! It will be life changing in so many ways. Nicaragua pushed me as a photographer, traveler, and as a person. I highly recommend it!
TGL: Peru was a life changing experience. There is no doubt about that. I now have first hand knowledge on how photography can change your life and become something very meaningful. I left home with the happy expectation that we would work mostly with the kids and whatever time we had left we would devote to photography. I figured that there would be enough time for photography but not this much! I was pleasantly surprised with regards to our shooting schedule. It was much more than I expected and I’m very happy with that. This was photo heaven…..landscapes, sunset, sunrises, people….you name it. I always passed out at the end of the day. Days were long but fun; a full agenda everyday. Everything was just right.
I also happened to arrive prior to Kate & Mike so I was able to see some of the “behind the scenes” preparations for the arrival of the rest of the team. They executed this in a very professional and responsible manner. Both were amicable, extremely approachable and knowledgable. We were always on time and things flowed with relative easiness. If anything went wrong (as they sometimes do) it was unbeknown to us. Kate & Michael were excellent in transmitting the amount of respect and care they have for TGL, the brand and their assumption of responsibility. Michael’s personality, charisma, availability, leadership skills and good nature persona are traits that hide slightly beneath his “The Bonocore” alter ego. It didn’t take long to peel of a slight layer and find that wonderful individual. Kate is a hard worker, responsible, always up before most of us and ready to answer questions and deal with logistics at a moments notice. She has an intoxicating personality; I saw this in the way the girls took to her, interacted with her and vice versa. She has maturity beyond her age. Both are great leaders.
The locations and experiences were absolutely amazing! What a great way to see Morocco. Fabulous insights working with knowledgeable guides. Open Doors Morocco went out of their way to see to our every need and whim. I can’t praise them enough. This rates right up there as one of my best trips ever!
Standing in direct contrast to bland, sanitized, one-size-fits-all packages, The Giving Lens provides a wonderful setting for true exploration – enhancing photo skills, befriending diverse and amazing people, and getting deeply into local communities. My entire trip in Jordan exceeded “photo workshop + volunteering” to become a vast, wonderful immersion with a great group of people. The authenticity of the experiences and the people are top-notch!
TGL helped me experience Morocco in a way I never could have as an independent traveler. I felt immersed in the rich culture, integrated into the goals of the NGO, and completely invigorated by all the experiences planned for us. My photography skills got a huge boost, both by what I learned from the professional photographers and my fellow teammates. I’d happily go on another TGL workshop and see another beautiful location and culture through this lens!
I highly recommend traveling with The Giving Lens. You will get to see so much more on these trips that you wouldn’t otherwise. I learned so much about the culture of the country in Tanzania, and so much about photography. The leaders are so caring and smart and some of the nicest people I’ve ever met.
I’m not exaggerating when I say that the TGL: Nicaragua trip has changed my life. It’s easy to go about life knowing that poverty exists without seeing it. To see these families, these kids, living in those conditions made me think about all those modern conveniences I took for granted — hot water, toilets, light, clean floors, a stove, safe drinking water. I see things much differently now and my priorities in life have changed. The trip absolutely amazing. The trip went smoothly and jam packed with meaningful activities. This trip was a life changer. And to imagine, without TGL, I would never have gone on this trip.
During TGL Nicaragua, I for one have learned that the process of taking a photograph of a person is about the relationship between myself and that person, in that moment. I have discovered that a photograph can not only capture a part of another culture, it can also be a memorable and meaningful exchange between photographer and subject. TGL is a really unique opportunity in this regard!
I loved the entire TGL: Peru experience! It scared me; it challenged me; it motivated me; it pushed me to explore and expand my own comfort zone. The people, both the leaders of the TGL, as well as the travellers chosen to participate are genuinely good people. I would absolutely recommend this trip to anyone even thinking about it. If it’s piqued your curiosity? GO! You will not be disappointed.
From a photographer’s perspective, I absolutely loved the ‘loose’ structure of the workshops. To be actually in the field shooting and getting instant feedback was invaluable. Dealing with changing light and all the variables that you encounter in the ‘real life,’ was extremely practical and helpful.
Volunteering with the non-profit was highly valuable to me. I honestly feel like I got so much more from them than what I may have given them. To see their joy; to experience their enthusiasm; to be taken into their homes was truly an honor and a very humbling experience.
When I applied for the trip I told a friend about it. When they asked why I would be interested in a Giving Lens trip I told them that I wanted to set my soul on fire….emotionally, physically and creatively. Nicaragua did just that for me. It was a wonderful experience and I will never forget it.I love everything that The Giving Lens and Empowerment International (the NGO my team worked with) stands for. Most of all, I can’t wait for future trips.
TGL: Jordan. Was. Amazing! : ) Colby Brown, Ken Kaminesky, and Michael Bonocore – we couldn’t have asked for better team leaders/assistants (except maybe you Kate Havercroft!). They were funny, approachable, extremely patient, very knowledgeable, supportive, passionate, interesting leaders and always made themselves available to answer any and all our questions to help us grow both as people and photographers. The group was great as well – we really gelled and laughed basically for 10 days straight. I think the work you guys do is really important. You’ve found that sweet spot of creating trips that are not only inspiring for those who participate in them but also positively impact, in a tangle way, local charities. That’s no easy task. I’ve been spreading the word about TGL and the Jordan trip any chance I get since being back! I’ve done a lot of travelling but the TGL trip was one of the best things I’ve done – I grew both as a person and as a photographer. Thanks!
Being part of The Giving Lens trip to Nicaragua to visit and work with the students of Empowerment International about photography was life changing. It is a joyous wonder to able to communicate some photography basics and watch them engage and produce beautiful images from what they have learned. No matter what they want to be when they grow up, it will always be useful to have an artist’s vision and I hope we planted seeds that will grow large for these students and will be a positive part of their future.
Thailand was my first, but I can’t imagine my last, trip with The Giving Lens. Everything was well taken care of allowing you to have fun, learn lots of great photography skills, and to really soak in every single moment in the wonderful culture around you!
I feel honored that I was chosen as 1 of 7 women for the inaugural all-women’s trip to Thailand to work with COSA. The chance to give back to an NGO working with young girls of the sex-trafficking industry was really an eye-opening and rewarding experience. It has ignited a fire in me to continue to bring awareness to the issue through my travels and photography, and I thank The Giving Lens for giving me that opportunity. The ability to see and experience other parts of the Thai culture such as through street photography, visiting an ethnic hill tribe, temples, and an elephant rescue, were all amazing experiences and gave me a well-rounded experience of the Thai culture and people. I feel deeply bonded to my fellow participants through this venture and look forward to sharing more about my TGL experience with others.