Babita Patel, View Finder Workshop, photography, The Story Exchange, nonprofitYour Name: Babita Patel

Business Name: View Finder Workshop, a service that teaches photography to disadvantaged children

Type of Business: Arts & Entertainment/Children’s Goods & Services/Social Enterprise

Business Location: New York, New York, United States

Reason for starting
While photographing the slums of Haiti, I encountered children living under extreme conditions with no clean drinking water, education or much in the way of material goods. And this did not have to define them. I wanted to empower these vulnerable children through photography workshops. To provide the means and resources for children living in challenging circumstances to unleash their creative minds, recognize and celebrate their individuality, combat discrimination, and envision their lives through a different lens. Literally.

How do you define success?
Success comes from having just one child discover something new in herself and her community. The bonus comes from how that one discovery ignites a spark in another child which ignites a spark in an adult in that community which ignites a spark in the government, leading to a spark in a Westerner who hears of this discovery. These sparks continue around the globe, leaving a trail of sparkly people.

Biggest Success
During our first workshop in Haiti, a 15 year old boy came up to us saying he wanted to do what we do. He wanted to be a photographer. So we picked him to lead the school’s new photography club through the equipment we donated to the school. After we returned to the States, we learned this future photographer organized his fellow students in the workshop to photograph the funeral of one of their schoolmates. He even printed out the pictures to give to the mother as a remembrance. An occurrence that would not have been possible without the workshop & its impact on the participants.

What is your top challenge and how have you addressed it?
The biggest challenge for any non-profit is generating enthusiasm & funding for our cause. Having a great, clear mission is step one. The rest is turning every encounter, every meeting, every conversation into an opportunity to garner attention. Being 100% on 100% of the time shows the level of passion I have for what I am doing which inspires people to join me.

Who is your most important role model?
My mother is my role model. She passed on a lesson she learned from her father. If someone needs help and it’s in your ability to help them, you help them. No questions asked. No expectations of receiving anything in return. You simply do what you can do make life easier for the other person.