Columbia Projects: Doormen, Subway Players, Folk, Schools, Art and Neighborhood Crusaders

The semester is over, and I am proud to say that six teams have completed multi-platform reporting projects in my class at Columbia University’s School of International Affairs. The teams told stories spanning subjects from a deal for New York doormen to failing city schools to Juilliard musicians earning money playing in the 42nd Street subway station.

The class was challenging, forcing students to improvise means of telling stories in various mediums with little equipment or time for training in software and craft.

But, as painful as the last sleepless week of the semester was for them, I’m pleased with what the 19 students accomplished. They should all be proud of what they created.

Have a look at the classroom blog:

Clean Water for Struggling Haiti

Another of the stories I shot in Haiti recently for the TIM! 100 issue of the magazine. After the Haiti earthquake in January, Rahul Singh and his GlobalMedic group dashed to the scene with a medical corps and water purification teams. The need for clean water continues. I followed the Haitian workers who help GlobalMedic and ADRA supply potable water to 40,000 Haitians a day.

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Lens Blog: A Moment in Time

The New York Times Lens Blog asked photographers — both amateur and professional — to capture a moment in time at precisely 15:00 GMT (11:00 a.m. ET) today. The idea, says the fabulous photojournalism blog, is to “create an international mosaic, an astonishingly varied gallery of images that are cemented together by the common element of time.”

As I drank coffee and read the paper this morning, I thought about where I would best position myself in the ‘hood to capture a good moment. I wasn’t sure if anyone would be outside the catholic church around the corner, but it turned out there were several folks arriving for the 11:00 a.m. Spanish-language mass. One who was there, but not going inside, was a boy in a turquoise panda shirt and an oversized gangsta derby hat, sitting on a skateboard, reading something on his cell phone.

I’m looking forward to seeing what the mosaic looks like and what places in the world photographers will snap shutters and make photographs to send in.

My entry is this:

The Fish That Could Feed Haiti

Here is the first of three stories I reported in Haiti for this week’s TIME 100 edition of the magazine.

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At the lakeside village of Mandan Belize, Prophete Asseus looks out from his mud hut at the waters where, for decades, he has launched his boat and nets to eke out a life as a fisherman. He says he noticed over the years that the fish in Lake Azuei were going away.

The government has re-stocked the lake only twice in ten years: once with a donation from Cuba; and again with a donation of fingerlings from the Dominican Republic. The salt-water lake has been over-fished and is now nearly barren. This father of 8 children couldn’t feed his family — let alone send his kids to school — on the meager catch he was netting.

And, to make matters worse, seasonal winds would make it too dangerous to fish for many months in the year.

When I visited Prophete last week, he was doing much better. And it had to do with the box-like cages, buoyed by PVC pipe floats, bobbing in the water about 30 yards off shore. The cages contain tilapia, a breed of fish that thrives in the lake’s briny waters.

Once solely a fisherman, now Prophete is a fish farmer. And he says life is much better.

The farming operation is the brainchild of man from Ivory Coast named Valentin Abe. The Fulbright scholar earned his PhD in aquaculture from Auburn University and came to Haiti — on a six month contract — 13 years ago. He ended up staying.

Abe says he knew from first arriving in Haiti that fish production could be a huge boon for the country, for nutrition, for the economy and the environment.

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