MEET NANYUKI’S FINEST PHOTOGRAPHER: BEN SON

PhotographyThey say a picture is worth a thousand words, however, a writer will swallow that with a pinch of salt. It’s distasteful and unfair to summarise the hard work behind writing with just a click of a button, on a light note though. Photographers and writers are like siblings who demean each other and fight from kitchen to bedroom. Nonetheless, finding words that keep out of the way the pictures and yet shed light on the nature of photography, is not only daunting but a tall order. In fact, constructing a story out of an image in mind and manifesting that to souls of readers is way beyond public scrutiny.

On another note; you know, professional photographers can be busy and elusive these days. That should be taken as a compliment. Elusive because, Ben Son is the fourth photographer I have written to, requesting to feature in my blog and has honoured his promise. No hard feelings for Paul Maathai of Mathai gallery, or Sammy Wabs or Bobby Wafalme who I understand was involved in an accident recently. Pole Bobby. True story, photography is growing in leaps and bounds. Ordinary young people are investing hundreds of thousands to acquire the best of equipments for their work. This reminds me of hey days, right when I was growing up, when a Mr. Gatere, the only renown village photographer would transverse my village and neighbouring ones to take pics. Mr. Gatere was tall and slender, with an unkempt afro and a high waist thing, always in dark suits and the icing on the cake – the bicycle of course. Yes he would timely show up on Christmas day and Easter holidays mostly uninvited and thanks to our folks who believed in documenting life back then and having the patience of waiting for an entire month to finally get hold of the photos.

Enough of that, introducing Ben Son of HD Media Africa; a well cultivated artistic soul and one of the most sort after photographers in and around Mt.Kenya region, with his core hub being Nanyuki. Besides, he has clients in Nairobi and Nakuru as well. He started off as a videographer until two years ago when he ventured into Photography in what he says are inevitable circumstances. ”Photography found me. Since that moment I have become fascinated by the rhetoric of the image. I fall in love every day and every subject I photograph. It is another art form to me; you can be as creative as possible with a camera as long as you have the ideas. Photography has the power to change our perspective in life and power to help us make decisions.” He quips.

I indulge Ben Son on what he did after Photography met him and how he has managed to cut his own niche in this very competitive industry. Going by what he says; just like any other form of art, there is a lot of passion involved. “For me photography is about the concept, the reasoning behind the image is far more important than the aesthetic value. All my work has a reason, whether to inform, make a statement, discuss or argue, it always seeks to promote a reaction.”

True to what Ben Son points out, talent is a medium which allows us to show our own point of view, sometimes helping us to understand the world we live in and to discover something unique about ourselves. Interestingly, this is easier said than done. This is because a lot of patience and self-discovery is involved to tap and listen to our passion. And the joy of all this is that; it gives us a chance to see what is invisible, hidden deep in our dreams. As Ben Son states it, “Photography just like any other medium of art, evokes emotions in us, asks questions and forces us to reflect on the world around us.”

By the way, why do the greatest of careers start by accident? What goes wrong in school curriculums that doesn’t align success in our paths? It is like filling a crossword puzzle. That’s how self-discovery smells and tastes like! More often than not, there is a lot of sheer luck that is involved to anybody who is hundred percent contented in what he or she does for a living. And that ought not to be. Life should be nicer and way easier to decipher the paths that lead to our own success and genuine happiness. As you will clearly tell from Ben Son, it was by sheer luck he crossed paths with photography. “I had never thought or had an idea close to my mind of becoming a photographer. Now that I’ve hit the ground, I dream and contemplate daily of becoming better and better than I’m today. When I look up to my role models and the ever changing technology and new ideas, its only then I realize I have a long way to go.“

Is he worried on the influx of quacks in Photography? ”This field is vast and in fact serious practitioners are few. The market accommodates all of us but what keeps us afloat is professionalism, creativity and our uniqueness. If people are showing interest in your work it means you are on the right headway and if it translates to cash then you’re in business but most importantly, its client’s satisfaction that I value most.” Additionally, “Anyone can start photo shoot today and be a professional with time. We can all reckon that at one point everyone starts as a quack and only by experience or exposure, passion and persistence that one gradually evolves from that level to a professional, be it a photographer.”

As someone said, never believe in your own hype if you want to go far; Ben Son sounds convinced that there is more ground to cover. “Photography is purely a learning process. Every day I meet new challenges; new ideas and I learn from them. I’ve learnt to embrace and accept them to becoming who I am today. I love the satisfaction one feels when I fulfill a customer’s expectations. My client’s expectations and gratification is what counts most.”

Don’t you miss childhood dreams and the innocence that came with young age, like me? How we painted our foreseeable future with accomplishment and perfection. Sooner we come head to head with the harsh hiccups of a life that plays mischief with us so effortlessly. That said, it is our duty to save ourselves from that shock and align those dreams to today’s reality. So, what dreams did Ben Son harbor growing up? “As a child I loved movies. I thought I was born to be an actor in Hollywood. Vague as it sounds, I really didn’t understand what I wanted to become, but later as I grew up I realized and developed this passion about movie production and photography. Camera work, editing and so forth, though later I’ve narrowed down to photography.”

It is of immense importance for our parents to be steadfast in whooping unrivaled support to our dreams. They are called to put hope and sense in one basket in matters assurance, and going further to assure us that we are curved to live happier and fulfilling lives. And so, Ben Son parents are an important pillar to his career. ”My parents have been very supportive throughout my career journey and in making sure I’m where I am today, in financial matters and moral support. Every time they see my work, recommend and advice, then I feel fully contended and at peace with myself.”

Ben Son considers himself spiritual and in fact serves in a Media department in his church. You know, contemporary-cool churches are so advanced that they even have media departments and things like Young mothers, Young dads Associations, Youths Chapter, Teens forums, Young-Adults, Men of Faith and such like. This is a huge milestone from the traditional ‘mainstream’ churches which had huge presence of elderly folks for affiliations like Women Guild and Men/Women Associations.

Anyway, I have saved this question for far too long. Somebody explain what’s fancier of these two pieces of equipments – Canon and Nikon? “Well, it depends on who is using it. But for beginners, it’s advisable to start with Canon because of budget constraints since it’s more effective on video shooting while Nikon is the real deal in photography. Nonetheless, you can use either since nowadays we have softwares to edit one’s work. “Ben Son attests.

I ask him about his biggest portion of clientele. “Couples and family shoots are my most frequent clients. Plus I do lots of wedding shoots every other weekend.” Of course women are more photogenic than men except for a few men that I won’t mention here, that take far too many photos and clog the new Whatsapp fad and IG. Man is that manly! Moving on, you’d wonder if one can pay his or her bills solely on photography. “I will surprise you with the fact that, the market is really responding well to photography. More middle class families are embracing professional photos and video shoots. Moreover, there is a lot of potential that is unexplored in this market especially outside of Nairobi. Nairobi is so saturated hence the need for the market to widen up and turn its heat away from the city and tap the talent in other photography hubs coming up.”

Does Ben Son believe in mentorship and giving back to the society especially empowering the youths? “I love and believe in mentorship. Photography is a field that anyone and especially youths can venture. I personally involve young people in my projects to equip them with ideas of what the markets expects of them. I also encourage young people especially those who would wish to venture in photography field, that with minimal resources, one can actually start photography as a career and build up on that.”

Signing off in Jack Ma’s spirit!!

“Help young people. Help small guys. Because small guys will be big. Young people will have the seeds you bury in their minds, and when they grow up, they will change the world.” – Jack Ma

Are you a young person, with a compelling story that you strongly believe should be retold to a larger audience for the sole purpose of inspiring and educating. Reach up to me on wandrewism@gmail.com

 

 

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STORY OF A CATHOLIC SEMINARIAN

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For the first time in my mainstream writing career somebody edited my work. Okay, not really editing but giving a heads up or what some may refer as green light. This is purely out of courtesy since here is an unusual guest who has a charm for dignity, protocol and decorum. That said, I would love to be an editor someday. It should be fun correcting obvious mistakes, rating one’s grammar muscles, detecting repetitions, cutting on not-so-necessary information, combing and brushing sentences in the best way possible…oooh. Speaking of which, when I will be in my late 40s(God willing) and perhaps feature in Bikozulu 40-series, I pray that my highlight will be editing my sons or daughters thesis then in their formative writing journey, steering them into this jungle of putting ink to the imagination. In all likelihood they will wish to nurture other tastes away from putting words to a story which by the way is quite daunting, and maybe have a thing for sophisticated stuff like Software Engineering or Cardiac Surgeon – which will leave me with no option other than hanging my boots.

Enough of that. Make way for this gentleman with such a brave passion that should sit you down and lend your ears for seven minutes utmost.

Mike not his real name is a student of Christ The King Major Seminary, Nyeri. I got wind of him from Kageshi as they shared common units while he was studying Project Management. This was before he finally made the decision of changing lanes and careers soon after graduating. As from last year, he embarked on a journey through Major Seminary – Nyeri to meet his dreams, make peace with his desires and finally lend his life to Jesus by solely focusing on serving the church. That said, I consider myself very privileged to have him as a friend owing to the fact that, in the current days of our time, it is rare to have such profound young people, holding public covenants with God that for the rest of their time here on earth they will actively and entirely serve him by every deed and act in their young and old age. That dating, harboring affairs and marriage are amongst many things Mike will sacrifice to serve the Lord. That his life companions will be the rosary, a house of prayer, meditation, theology and charity. How mind boggling is such a life! Does it appear fictional on paper? Well, Mike is closing in to clear his first year and counting nine more to graduate. He might graduate after the eighth year though, but will have two more for exclusive charity work.

Childhood being one of my most favourite phases of life, every time I’m digging in on someone’s story I die to know what one’s was made of. And just like many of us, Mike had a seamless one, certainly with nothing close to being a Catholic Father. He loved cartoons, in fact to date. Speaking of cartoons, blame my rural upbringing for not drawing excitement from them. No offence though. This should be because TV missed conspicuously in my childhood. The closest our TV screen beamed, I was in Form One deeply engulfed by adolescence. Anyway, Mike had a liking for drawing, decorating items and other art related stuff too. Let’s just say he was curved to be an Art enthusiast.

He was an altar boy since class three which coincidentally shaped him to what he is studying today. But don’t all boys fantasize with being Catholic priests at some point in their childhood? Especially when one was raised up in a rural background where only high ranking village civil servants and priests would drive and appear to live-large back then. In High school, Mike would read the Bible, spiritual books and novels regularly. This reminds me of something I did in High school; The fact that I went through a grueling Form One harassment, I devotedly read the bible since I kept it in my desk and that’s where most Form Ones spent their time. How could one frequent the dormitories whereas that’s where the cookie crumbled in matters bullying be it washing sweaty Form Fours’ clothes at dead of a night or reciting imaginary poems to hostile and restless Form Threes if not made to call one’s sisters using very smelly shoes that would act as landline calling-handles.

I engage Mike on whether he wrote love letters in primary school.

He dodges that particular question and I let it die as soon as it is born. However, I sneak in a more disturbing one. This time round, on whether he ever had a girlfriend growing up.

Just like any other high school kid, I had a girlfriend. Actually, even in college I still had one. My first girlfriend told me I would make a good priest since she used to see me serve in the celebration of mass.

What was the reaction when you broke the news to her of desiring to be a Catholic Priest

She wasn’t even shocked. She saw it coming.

What of your folks

Dad was very shocked. We didn’t speak for a week.

Your friends

They gradually edged out of my life. But I was lucky because I had a few who have supported me all along.

How was the first day in the Seminary

The place is so quiet, you are not controlled by a bell but oneself. Initially, I thought I was in a wrong place but again I got encouraged as I observed other young men around. I realized that Seminary is not about me as a person but about Jesus. Truthfully, I felt like a new student; with the orientation and learning how to begin all over again. Seminary days are unique. We have four lessons in day, we do manual work thrice, and games thrice. Talk of food; its abundant.

How many are you in your year of admission

We are 40 in total.

Why do we have a very low turnout of young men who’d wish to be Catholic Priests

I think it’s because of lack of moral values. If one is introduced to church at a younger age and instilled good values and teachings of the church, I think the number can increase.

Aren’t you scared of not having children or a life companion

Of course at some point everyone gets scared but again God decides on our vocations and we must rise to the occasion to respect those callings. I highly respect marriage sacrament because without marriage there would be no priests!

Is there monolization in that place

No no no.

Are all seminarians humble or is it like High school where we have a hodgepodge of all characters

Haha hakukosi vichwa ngumu (There can never lack mischievous people)

What are your hobbies

I love cars. Land rovers are my favourite. I also admire professional photography, watch football and basketball. Real Madrid and Golden State Worriors are my favourite.

Do you watch Football in the Seminary

Yes we do watch. I’m a big fan of Team Arsenal. It’s next to rare for me to miss Arsenal – Man U derby. By the way, I’m a goalkeeper in the school football team.

How is a Seminary program? What is the daily routine

We have a prayer book called The Liturgy of the Hours, which we use during morning, mid-morning, evening and night prayers. We use it in and out of school. This prayer book is divided into four weeks. Every day, there is a celebration of a particular Saint. We call it memorial. Some celebrations are bigger than others. They are called solemnities. For instance Mary Mother of God celebrated on 1st Sunday of every New Year. We meet with the Spiritual Director every month to talk about spiritual matters. This conversation is normally private and confidential. We have confessions twice in a month but one can have as many times as possible and is not necessarily limited to two sessions.

We have recollections once in a month. During this time, we maintain dead silence. This is a moment of prayer and meditation. Every semester we have a retreat for a week, where maximum silence is observed. Dead silence, no phones, no alarms, no bells…just silence.

The lecturers are priests. Lessons go for 40 minutes from 9am to 12:30pm. From 2pm we go for games or general cleaning depending on the day. We have our last lesson of the day from 4:30pm. We have evaluations and personal encounters with the Father in charge of Dean of students. Here, we discuss spiritual matters, academic, weak areas and how to improve. One must belong to at least one club and devotion too.

We normally have encounters with Universities and youth forums for mentoring purposes. We get engaged in charity activities every year. Moreover, we participate in country walks and trips regularly.

What is a devotion

This is where you develop your spiritual life whereas in a club one develops his talent

Do you use phones in the Seminary

It’s prohibited to use phones in the school compound, late at night after 10pm, in class, in the Chapel, Dining Hall, during retreats and recollections.

I understand you are on long holiday for three months. What are you up to at this time

This holiday is called pastoral holiday. The Parish priest has allocated me some duties; I teach catechism on Sunday, sometimes I conduct Sunday school teachings, I also teach aspiring altar services and also visit Jumuiyas(Catholic Saint associations) when permitted. I further, mentor youths and aspirants.

What is the procedure of joining the Seminary

One should contact the Parish Priest and he advises depending on the church calendar. Subsequently, one is sent to the Vocational Director where a brief interview is conducted to the applicant. Thereafter, one submits his academic testimonials and a comprehensive medical certificate. The last bit is the Approval stage after thorough scrutiny of the above mentioned stages.

What type of a Priest would you wish to be; the cool, calm and collected who follows traditions or an aggressive and pragmatic one who is vocal on society and church weaknesses.

I’d wish to make up a vocal one who criticizes and provide solutions. Moreover, I will reinforce my ideologies by furthering my studies on moral philosophy after graduating from the seminary. 

What would be your final remarks to the youth especially during this electioneering period

Two words; Pray for Kenya and maintain peace.

 

Press on. Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. – Ray Kroc.

 

Are you a young person, with a compelling story that you strongly believe should be retold to a larger audience for the sole purpose of inspiring and educating. Reach up to me on wandrewism@gmail.com

GRYZ WAHURA: A TRIUMPH OVER DISABILITY

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This article should have been published last week but something eroded the whole rationale. 30th June was fast approaching with thick torrents and fury. What to do when your whole extended family and friends who haven’t called you in fifty years finally emerge from nowhere and keep your phone buzzing unusually! So, around this time of the year, I usually feel quite proud of my career since very learned doctors who spent years in medical school studying complex stuff like, deciphering Human Cell Biology; TSC employed teachers salivating and edging in to meet their pensions; Beautiful, yellow-skinned lady bankers who apparently have no appetite for longer dresses who live for swindling the rest of us to take loans and subsequently sending their goofed and mean-looking credit officers to keep tabs on why the loans are not being serviced; Arrogant entrepreneurs whom you’ll spend years trying to explain to them what is I-tax, passwords and the need to have an email…name them. They will finally discover my number and call naively asking what is requested of them to file these returns. When you mention of P9As, they’ll condense and assume that is something close to a clearance form from CID. That was last week; Maddening crazy and overwhelming. Credit to I Tax portal – It was fast and efficient this time round unlike last year.

Further afield, we are putting up with July weather. Of course you and I under estimated the cold until we bumped on images about the Icing in Nyahururu and the acute low temperatures. What’s with Nyahururu and clouds falling on people’s heads and roads. Isn’t that invigorating? Well, by now you know I was raised in Nyahururu. In actual sense before global warming encroached, made a safe landing and settled, July was one of those months we all dreaded for. I recall my brother and I back then in lower class, where by 6:15 am we would painfully live the house to meet the annoying school bus. A time like July, we would shiver from the teeth to the intestines. Mind you we were on shorts, slogging through the mist and biting cold. By the time we boarded the bus, we couldn’t feel our legs.

Time for Gryz! Back in 2009, in the lifts of the tallest building at that time of Ngara area code was Vision Institute of Professionals. An accounting school where CPA was discovered, nurtured, instilled and exported to the rest of the colleges. In fact, most of these colleges which sprouted out after (Thanks God it was pre-Matiang’i era) had their founders cum lecturers start their careers at Visions. This was the epitome of excellence in the accounting field. Then, having been new to Nairobi, using lifts was quite fulfilling for me. Particularly because I was brought up in the village, Nyandarua County to be exact which has no single hill expect an ant-hill. So, being here boxed in a lift, my height dwarfed by humans with a taste for Nairobi fashion and fancy phones and school bags; I wanted to be like them.

It was on such moments that I met Gryz Wahura. Not that we exchanged pleasantries but at least I got to know of her. She was overly short, light complexion and with feeble legs. While I was joining Visions, she was clearing. Clearly, she was astounding by any standards. CPA not being a cup of tea course, we all wondered how she made it here. What cooked in her ambitions? She must have real fire burning in her belly and a self-drive that would move Kenya economy to first world. Watching her along the corridors, one could tell that was a walking gem eager to learn and change lives.

Eight years later(2017) I inboxed Gryz on Facebook requesting to have her featured in my blog. She had no qualms. I had her draft something for me about her life which I used to come up with a questionnaire to squeeze in more juice for this article. Ladies and gentlemen, here is Gryz’s story told for the first time on an online platform.

Gryz Wahura was born 29 years ago in Nyakahuho village, in Gikondi location, Mukurwe-ini Nyeri County. From the ages of two to fourteen years, she was raised by her grandmother. She is from a single mother who was the bread winner of the entire family. She was born a normal kid, crying and playing like any other until the age of three. This is when her mum realized that her beloved daughter had a spine problem. After back and forth to quite a number of hospitals, she was pronounced as to have a deformity in her spine. Her spine was curving in as she grew instead of forming straight. The spine being a very sensitive part of the body, nothing much could be done out of fear it could cause paralysis to her whole body. Growing up in the village at such a time had its pros and cons. First, there was stigma caused by lack of not so many cases akin to Gryz’s in the village. On the other hand, everyone got used to her physical challenges and she was treated like any other pupil in school including being punished like the rest if she featured in the list of noise makers or not completing her homework. She was active in co-curricular activities namely sports, drama and music festivals. Being treated like a normal kid helped her physiological wounds heal faster. In such formative years of one’s life, it is important to feel indifferent. But you can’t be indifferent in adulthood. Ama? You need to discover yourself, cut your own niche, embrace your personality and goals and remain self-reassuring. To that extent, it is difficult being an adult hahaha.

Something happened on the eve of her KCPE exams. She got a paralysis on her legs. Gryz was in and out of hospital for eight months for therapy and medical checkups, where she was confined to a wheel chair. Gryz later joined a special school for persons living with disability for her O levels in Thika, which was a big chunk of advantage to her because of the facilities and meeting classmates with similar challenges. While here, she lost meaning to life. And as she puts it, “at this point I lost meaning of life. I was a bright kid but I was never serious with my studies in high school, after all to my thinking, who would employ a person on a wheelchair despite their education!”

What was your initial experience on the wheel chair

At first I could not seat on it, I was in denial that I was paralyzed. It took me around six months to accept the situation, until when I joined high school and found other students with severe disability.

I cleared my high school in the year 2004 and I didn’t know what next. At this time I had moved to Nairobi and the stigma from the society was just too much, I didn’t know how to face the world. I had no idea what to do with my life more so since I didn’t know of any college or university which accommodated persons with disability. Between January 2005 and May 2006 I shunned myself from the society and the only place I used to visit was the hospital for my therapy.

 How long did it take you to accept your condition

After continuous therapy I started regaining my senses and I could walk again using crutches. I went through a lot of counseling through workshops and training which played a big deal in accepting my condition. I accepted who I am and realized that there’s so much to life than disability and made a decision to continue with my studies. At this point I didn’t care about public perception so long as I pursued my life.

I indulged Gryz about her adolescence experience.

High school was fun. Being in a mixed school, one could have more than one boyfriend and several secret admirers who would keep writing notes to you without revealing their identity and leave you to do all the guessing. I was very confident in high school which made it easier for me to interact easily with everyone around.

Later she joined Visions which disappointingly, was not disability friendly. This meant, if the lifts were not working, she could only be left with no choice but to use the stairs at times to sixth floor.

In July 2006 I joined Visions Institute of Professionals as a KATC student. At first I didn’t know what would be the reaction of the VIP’s family would be, but what mattered the most is that the management accepted to admit me, the college was accessible and I had a goal in life. I made friends at Visions, several of whom are still good friends to date. And very few people didn’t want to be associated with me.

You searching for a job

Luckily, I didn’t hustle for job. A friend from my current place asked me to apply for a job vacancy which was advertised internally and I got the job. Joined Kenya Education Management Institute (KEMI) in January 2012 on a One year renewable contract as an Accounts clerk. Got confirmed on a permanent and pensionable basis as an Accountant 1 in July 2014.

Gryz is very active in Sports

In the year 2010 I joined Para sports as an athlete I participated in field events i.e. short put and javelin throwing.

In August 2010 I was a Gold medalist at the Great Lakes Athletics held in Nairobi. In the same year, I was appointed the National Treasurer of the Kenya Cerebral Palsy Sports Association.

In 2011 I joined the umbrella body that is the Kenya National Paralympic Committee as a Committee Member. This position came with several responsibilities, among them coordinating a youth workshop in Rwanda, youth training camp in Korea, African youth training in Nairobi and a Team Manager for the 20th Common Wealth Games held in Glasgow, Scotland.

Tell me about what motivates you in life

My Mum is my all-time motivator. She encourages me in all ways. I wake up every morning with her words in mind “Grace your life is greater than your disability”

Social Life

I love life and touring is part of me and that’s why I joined the Maina Kageni Road Trip Tour. Have been to several exciting places in the country and few other places in Tanzania and Rwanda.  

Tell me more about Maina Kageni Road Trip

I joined the team when they were on their third week of the tour after I heard Maina talk about it on his morning show on radio. It’s very simple to join, since you only have to pay.

How have you been handled by the rest of the crew in the road trip

Maina and the entire management have been very supportive and extremely friendly. I remember the first time when my friend (a wheelchair user) and I joined the crew, Maina was very encouraged.

Most memorable visit

When we visited Kyanguli Secondary School where the fire tragedy happened in 2001 and killed 63 students. The images were very disturbing. It was overwhelmingly emotional.

Tell me about a typical day in office

I wake up at 6am and retire back at 12 midnight. I get to the office by 8am. Being in a Finance Department, I’m busy all the way to evening.

I also do more in this institution than just accounting stuff. I’m a member of committees like;

  • Disability Mainstreaming Committee
  • Integrity Assurance Committee
  • Information Security Management
  • Tender Committee

 

Currently, Gryz, is pursuing her Finance degree at KCA University.

 Nick Vujicic perhaps one of the most popular persons living with disability worldwide having been born without arms and legs but two small feet, at some point succumbing into severe depression from bully in school, survived all this horrifying childhood challenges and by now is a huge motivator to legions of us.

I will leave you with two of his quotes;

If I can encourage just one person then my job in this life is done…. There’s no point in being complete on the outside when you’re broken in the inside.

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Are you a young person, with a compelling story that you strongly believe should be retold to a larger audience for the sole purpose of inspiring and educating. Reach up to me on wandrewism@gmail.com