From Harm to Home in Abilene
The IRC in Abilene hosted the first annual From Harm To Home Walk on June 19, 2010 in celebration of World Refugee Day and the success of the local refugee community. Participants roamed the Abilene downtown area and enjoyed the sampling of ethnic foods, music and dancing by local refugees, “My Story” testimonials from Abilene refugees and their volunteer mentors, and a poignant “Faces of IRC” photography exhibit created by Greg Kendall-Ball.
This volunteer project for the IRC in Abilene is close to Greg’s heart. Several years earlier, in 2005, a visit to Rwanda changed his life forever. And now in 2010 he was once again able to connect to Rwanda; this time not in Africa, but through the refugee resettlement program in Abilene, Texas.
When Greg and his wife Sara visited Rwanda, Kendall-Ball already had significant international experience. For much of his childhood, he had lived in South Africa where his father was involved in church work. The native Tennessean initially returned to the U.S. to attend college, and the Kendall-Balls moved to Abilene for Greg to pursue an advanced degree. The plan was to be in West Texas for two years. That was seven years ago.
Greg had never considered photo journalism as a vocation. The only camera he had with him on that fateful day in Rwanda was a basic, “off-the-shelf” model. But he obviously had a gift and photography became Greg’s passion.
He was asked to photograph Abilene refugees for the IRC in Abilene’s 2010 From Harm to Home Walk. “As humans, we have a strong tendency to categorize things. Categorizing people and thinking of them collectively, though, can easily lead to dehumanization,” stated Kendall-Ball. “The aim of the “Faces of IRC” project is to push back against that tendency. We often hear or read about ‘the refugee community,’ but that doesn’t do justice to the diversity of the cultural and ethnic heritages that are represented by those individual refugees and families who have been resettled here.”
“By focusing on faces,” said Kendall-Ball, “I hope to create some sort of connection between people, so that after seeing these images, they won’t be as tempted to think of ‘the refugee community’ as one singular mass, but as individuals with faces and stories as unique as their own.” You can view the “Faces of IRC” photos at http://kendallball.com/2010/06/faces-of-irc/.
You too can share your gifts and talents as a volunteer at the IRC in Abilene. Contact Aly Shanks at VolunteerAbilene@theIRC.org or 325-675-5643 ext.12 for information about volunteer opportunities