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Toronto-based photographer Andrea Rees didn’t spend Mother’s Day this year with her two sons, aged 4 and 8. Instead, she arrived in Cape Town’s Khayelitsha Township community armed with old iPhones donated by family and friends.

For the past 12 days, Rees has been teaching mobile photography to women in that community, skills that will help them become self-sufficient entrepreneurs. It’s the second phase of her initiative, the HeART of a Woman Project.

Rees was inspired to start HeART of a Woman during a visit to South Africa in 2012. Rees didn’t want to take a tour of the townships that was exploitative in nature; she wanted to learn more about the lives of South African women in Khayelitsha, an overcrowded place with few trees and where poverty, domestic abuse and the HIV/AIDS epidemic all contribute to make raising children there a daily struggle.

She also got to see firsthand that there were projects in Khayelitsha Township doing inspiring things.

eKhaya eKasi centre in Khayelitsha Township, South Africa, where the idea for heArt of a Woman project was born.

VIEW FROM EKHAYA EKASI ROOFTOP IN KHAYELITSHA IN 2012. PHOTO: ANDREA REES

One of these is Arts Aid Art, an organization that runs an arts and education in eKhaya eKasi centre. The centre serves around 400 residents, mostly mothers and grandmothers.  EKhaya eKasi teaches skills development including arts and crafts so that women can become entrepreneurs, and sell their crafts in the onsite boutique. Rees became involved because as a mother and a photographer, “this model of art and education inspired me.”

Arts Aids Art also sells crafts from the centre online. “They have a photography section, but it was empty,” Rees says. So she came up with the idea of teaching women photography skills — and turning their images into postcards available for sale to tourists. “I chose mobile photography because I’ve been using my iPhone on trips,” she adds. “I knew the capability of it. And I knew you could do everything with one device.”

Rees is currently at eKhaya eKasi teaching 10 unemployed women the basic functions of an iPhone, as well as photography skills and social media. During her first visit last November, Rees led the women on a photo walk through Cape Town, so they could capture images of the city that appealed to them.

Three women taking photographs during heArt of a Woman Phase 1 in 2013

Social media was a key component, and now some of the women from eKhaya eKasi are sharing work on Instagram and Twitter. In the first phase of the project, Rees left each woman with 200 copies of a postcard featuring an image they’d taken. The postcards sell for 10 Rand ($1) each.

heArt of a Woman Phase 1

NONKUTHALO NOBANGELA AND HER PHOTO POSTCARDS

“They have actually been earning money,” she says. For some of these women, this is their only source of income.

Until now, Rees has been funding the entire project herself including flights, accommodation and lunch for the women. “You can see them fade if they haven’t eaten. Knowing what I know, I can’t go there empty handed,” she explains. Rees has established a crowd-funding campaign to support the project — and the goal is modest: only $3,500 by June 20.

As for how a discarded iPhone from Canada can transform lives, Rees says this: “They’ve been able to put more food on the table, clothes on their children’s back, pay for transportation – solely by selling these postcards.”

To learn more information, visit The heART of a Woman Project or read the posts on Rees’ Wandering iPhone blog.

The heART of a Woman crowdfunding campaign

To send a cheque or etransfer — click here

Connect with heART of a Woman on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook

You can buy buy individual postcards or packs of 6 or 9 here

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