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Optical Realities Indie Arts Initiative (ORIAI) is a nonprofit multimedia outreach project for at-risk and homeless youth, adults and single homeless mothers. Through creative expression, community collaboration and job skills development, ORIAI offers a pathway to healing and transformation.
An important part of the healing process is to restore a feeling of connectedness to society. ORIAI offers participants a powerful medium for sharing their stories. Through multimedia projects, including educational documentaries and video autobiographies, our program provides support to some of Philadelphia’s most vulnerable population, while confronting societal misconceptions about homelessness and foster care. With an increased understanding of the factors contributing to homelessness, as well as the exploits within the foster care system many participants are empowered to become community leaders and activists.
The ultimate goal is healing and empowering, but an important component is offering life skills as participants celebrate their uniqueness and similarities and unlock hidden talents while building self-esteem. Job skills training is integrated throughout the program in areas such as photography, videography and journalism as well as community coalition building and public engagement campaigns.
Photo opportunities and relationship building take place through weekly outings to venues such as museums, cultural and sporting events, community gardens and parks. While exploring the fundamentals of photography and developing life skills, students, volunteers and project participants collaboratively share the roles of learner and educator, supporting and mentoring one another. This connectedness offers a pathway for healing as participants engage in supportive friendships and take pride in their artwork.
- Linda Panetta
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