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Camera camp creates connections for campers

Campers are spending the week capturing everything from portraits to panoramas, gaining a different lens on life along the way.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — (WHAS11)-Summer camp often creates all sorts of memories, and a local one is making sure they last. It's for kids who go to Kentucky Refugee Ministries, and it's teaching something they can share with the rest of the world.

The nonprofit is called Give a Kid a Camera. It's a fitting name as it does just that, giving students a skill they wouldn't otherwise get it.

Tom O'Neill is the teacher. He was a newspaper photographer in Florida for about 30 years before he retired and started this work.

"What I know best is photography, so I just figured okay, that's what I'm going to share,” O’Neill said.

Campers are spending the week capturing everything from portraits to panoramas, gaining a different lens on life along the way. From the courtyard to the classroom, each snapshot breaks down barriers when talking can be tricky.

"That camera, I've found, is a good bridge,” O’Neill said. "It just gives you an opportunity to interact with someone."

"I love taking pictures of people, showing their emotions, how they're feeling, what they're doing. For me, pictures tell more than words. That's why I do it,” camper Bose Muhoza said.

Using the cameras gives the students a closer connection to their new neighbors and town.

"They're from Congo, Nepal, Malaysia,” O’Neill said.

"It makes it easy for me to talk to strangers,” Muhoza said. "This is home now."

It’s a week full of moments, all proof of the power a picture can provide.  

"Something as simple as this can really be a big help,” O’Neill said. "These kids have very little, other than their peers to interact with, so when someone takes an interest in them, I think it really opens up their eyes a bit. I think it makes a difference."

O’Neill also taught similar classes in Colombia. As for his next adventures, he's heading to Antigua and Guatemala for more classes later this summer.

Contact reporter Sara Wagner at swagner@WHAS11.com. Follow her on Twitter (@WHAS11Sara) and Facebook. 

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