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Home About SAIT News & Events Taking learning to heart

Taking learning to heart

More about SAIT Study AbroadSAIT Photojournalism instructor Greg Fulmes is always looking for unique ways to push his students' boundaries and give them sharper focus.

So when he saw a local news story featuring non-government organization (NGO) The Flying Doctors, he was struck with an idea — he wanted to give his students the opportunity to capture the work of an NGO where they work — in developing nations.

"I wanted to get my students more socially aware," says Fulmes. "Often these organizations don't have the budget to hire photographers and videographers; I thought maybe they would be interested in working with us."

Coordinating with The Flying Doctors and SAIT Study Abroad, Fulmes was able to turn his idea into a reality. This July, Fulmes traveled with new alumni Brent Calver and Crystal Schick to Izalco, El Salvador, to capture the story of the organization that provides medical support to communities that don't often have ongoing access to healthcare.

"The reason I got into photojournalism was because I wanted to be a humanitarian photographer," says Schick. "This trip was exactly what I wanted to do - it was good to top-off my education with a real, live learning experience like that."

"I've not been able to find another college in the world where photojournalism students have had an opportunity to go and shoot with an NGO," says Fulmes.

The gift of healthcare

Schick, Calver and Fulmes were accompanied by approximately 20 volunteers on their voyage to El Salvador to join The Flying Doctors, including medical and nursing students from the University of Alberta, University of Calgary and University of Lethbridge.

Each day, the doctors and volunteers would travel to a new area and set-up a clinic complete with a pharmacy, dental practice, lab for blood and urine testing, x-ray machine, eyeglass fittings and ultrasounds.

Calver and Schick share some of the highlights and lessons learned from their experience.

Photo by Brent Calver.

Photo by Brent Calver.

"Right off the airplane, you could tell you weren't in Kansas anymore. Weather aside, the place was a little chaotic, but vibrant."

~ Brent Calver

Photo by Crystal Schick.                                                                                                                                                                                                 "We would get up around seven, have breakfast, get on the bus and go to a different rural location every day. The doctors and students would set up their equipment, most often in a school."

~Crystal Schick

Photo by Brent Calver.

Photo by Brent Calver.

"As soon as we got off the bus at the first clinic, the locals had a band playing with drums. There was a giant banner out front saying ‘Welcome Flying Doctors'. The locals were crowded around. It was like we were in the middle of a parade."

~ Brent Calver

Photo by Crystal Schick.

"As a photojournalist, it's a valued skill to be a fly on the wall in an environment like that. Going into it, my first day, I knew that I was going to hold back shooting as much as I could. I needed to figure out the boundaries of not only the doctors but the patients too."

~ Crystal Schick

Photo by Brent Calver.

Photo by Brent Calver.

"You definitely have to be sensitive, discreet, personable and respectful. One of the very first things I taught myself in Spanish was ‘May I take a photo?' and ‘Do you like it?' A lot of the time it was important to go up and show the person the photo so you can make that connection."

~ Brent Calver

Photo by Crystal Schick.

"One of the lab techs — I think her name was Ashlen — had been in El Salvador two years ago. At the time, she had met this little girl in one of the communities. They went to the same community this year and the little girl remembered her and immediately latched onto her. It just goes to show the lasting impressions that these doctors leave on these communities, not only from a healthcare perspective but also friendship."

~ Crystal Schick

Beyond the clinic

The Flying Doctors were also joined by Simon Boersma, a Central Alberta man who has designed a cooking stove made of concrete, wood and clay.

Most local Salvadorans cook their meals on open fires covered by a metal awning to protect them from the sun and rain. Due to smoke inhalation, many of the medical complaints that come to the Flying Doctors' clinics are respiratory.

Boersma's stove design includes a chimney that allows for the ventilation of smoke and makes cooking more efficient. It costs approximately $20 to build each stove.

Photo by Brent Calver.

Photo by Brent Calver.

"We visited this old lady who lived in a brick house on a coffee plantation. There was a sort of patio area with a cobblestone, morter surface for her to pitch a fire. She had been cooking on that stove for the past 30 years, providing for her 16 children. When she saw us putting in a new stove, she was in tears. It was a world above what she had known for so long."

~ Brent Calver

Photo by Brent Calver.

"The locals had just great personalities. This one man, you could see it in his face. He was wearing a cowboy hat and he did this "Wyatt Earp" pose for me. I think he was my favorite person to photograph."

~ Brent Calver

Photo by Crystal Schick.

"I love being able to tell someone's story. What I like particularly about NGOs and humanitarian photography is there's a piece of people's lives that you can share with the world that wouldn't necessarily be seen otherwise."

~ Crystal Schick

Photo by Crystal Schick.

"There's a truth about photography that I really like that words can't express or convey."

~Crystal Schick

Calver and Schick will share their work with The Flying Doctors for use on their website and fundraising materials.


Sept. 17, 2014


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