The AjA Project provides photography-based educational programming
to youth affected by war and displacement; students think critically about their identities, develop leadership skills, and become agents of personal and social transformation.
The AjA Project is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization headquartered in San Diego, California. Utilizing participatory photography methods and an assets-based model, AjA’s after-school and in-school programs transform the lives of displaced youth.
Since its founding, AjA has provided long-term, community-based programming for over 1000 displaced youth, and has shared their visual narratives with over 1 million viewers through large-scale public exhibits, including the National Geographic Society’s Explorers Hall (2003), United Nations Headquarter (2004), and the San Diego Museum of Arts (2006).
In 2007, AjA was invited to speak at Visible Rights: Photography for and by Youth, a conference hosted by Harvard University. In 2008, AjA received the prestigious Coming Up Taller award for excellence in youth programming, an award presided over by the President of the United States’ Committee for the Arts and Humanities, National Endowment for the Arts and The National Endowment for the Humanities.
• Assets-based model
The AjA Project operates from an “assets-based” model rather than a “deficit-based” model. We believe our students possess the skills and tools for success and self- sufficiency. The AjA Project provides a safe space for reflection, reconciliation and growth so that students can find their own voice and sense of empowerment.
• Cultural Literacy
We acknowledge that our students are not the “other.” We all have a set of cultural frameworks and assumptions from which we base our reactions and judgments of others. We recognize that we must first look inward and understand our own cultural frameworks before we can begin to understand another.
The AjA Project, founded in 2000, is an acronym for the phrase, “Autosuficiencia Juntada con Apoyo” (supporting self-sufficiency).
In July of 2002, AjA launched Journey, a photography-based after-school program in San Diego, California. The Journey program utilizes the process of participatory photography to help refugee youth reflect upon and process their experiences of displacement, migration and resettlement, as well as to help them think critically about their cultural identities and communities.
AjA’s unique curriculum makes the agency a distinctive one in the region—producing measurable outcomes and gaining AjA national and international press. A 2006-2008 program evaluation indicated that AjA plays a significant role in alleviating despair, loss, and alienation among refugee youth acculturating to life in America. Specifically, the evaluation reported that AjA supports positive youth development in seven areas: social support and belonging, involvement in pro-social activities, structure and safety, building self-efficacy, competence building, character building, and perspective building.
Based on these findings, the agency has expanded its reach by utilizing its method with other displaced youth populations and by collaborating with other agencies interested in using these tools for their own work in social transformation.
The AjA Project has two international sister organizations -- Record of Truth in Burma and Disparando Cameras (para la Paz) in Colombia – and is currently looking into further national and international expansion opportunities.