Labour Day Inspiration
We are delighted to speak to the very inspirational Stephanie Ravel about her involvement in the community and how she lends a helping hand to labourers all around Bahrain!
Hi Stephanie! Tell us a little about yourself?
SR: I'm a French photographer working at the University of Bahrain since 2009. Before establishing myself on the Island I lived in Tunisia, India and China.
How did you end up in Bahrain?
SR: I came first as a French teacher and Bahrain has been a trigger and an inspiration to change my career and follow my passion which is photography.
What's your educational background?
SR: I have 2 masters one in Photojournalism and one in Teaching French.
What inspired you to help labourers around the island?
SR: For many photographers in Bahrain workers are very photogenic subjects. I also took lot of portraits but quickly saw the limitation of it. We feed our social media or do exhibitions with their portraits but how do we give back to them. Doing a photo-story about their lives for my Masters, pushed me to conducted interviews and to spent lot of time with them, this is when I realize their needs. They did not care so much I was doing a story on them, as photography doesn't have a direct impact on their lives. I realize what they needed was clothes, food, calling cards, a descent place to live, a regular salary and respect. So I decided to use the combine power of photographs and social media to collect basic items and distribute it. I have to admit that Islam had also a big influence on shifting from empathy to really take action. The more I was studying the Quran and hadiths and the more notions like ethics, equality, fairness, good deeds...were taking lot of space in my mind and my heart.
How do you see the community contributing and making a change?
SR: I started alone few years back, just buying water from the cold stores during the week end and driving around to distribute it . But I rapidly met people who did the same or even bigger initiatives, so I either joined them to give a hand or bring them into my project. I have been inspired by lot of different groups and always learn a lot from them. This is to tell you that in Bahrain numerous people are conducting initiatives which have a direct impact on the labourers. To name few I volunteered with migrant workers protection society, Saturday Biryani party with workers, Helping Hands, there is also Feed the Need, Art of Living... all of those groups rely only on volunteers. Without people responding to my post on Instagram or Facebook, I would not be able to distribute so much, so I really feel the generosity and empathy in Bahrain as I rely only on those donations.
Do you have a memorable moment you'll never be able to forget?
SR: I will always remember when with my photographer friend, Saji Antony, we decided to take a small group of workers to Lulu to buy brand new shirts for Eid. Those workers lived in an isolated place in Sakhir and did not have occasions to go out shopping and feel like normal citizens. They were excited like small children, observing everything around them and they took a very long time in choosing their outfit and try it in the fitting room. But don't think they owe us a lot, a packet of rice or a tee-shirt don't make such a difference in their life. This is the contrary, we owe them so much. Helping them makes us feel good about ourselves, and they also makes us realize how lucky we are, this is the reality. Thanks to them we gain our status of good believer, of good human beings. Personally they make me feel that my life has a purpose, so what I keep from those encounters is the feeling that they are helping me more than I'm helping them.
How do you plan on curating more awareness?
SR: With photographer Saji Antony, we are planning to go to Bangladesh and directly distribute to the family of the workers we follow since few years the portraits of their loved ones. It's a big project which needs planning and founds.
What can people do to help?
SR: The perfect situation would be that individually everyone respect the regulation of Bahrain and just apply the basic ethics taught in the Quran and Hadiths which are for example giving an employee his due before his sweet dries (which means in practical terms employing an individual under a proper contract, paying on time and giving enough rest hours), talking to them with peace and keeping your voice law, being fair. If everybody does that the world would be a better place for so many people.