Women Who Rock: Julie Rohr of The Women Project
Happy Saturday! We hope you're all relaxing in your pj's, sippin a cup of coffee and enjoying the weekend! We've got a surprise saturday post because we were just too excited to wait any longer to post about this. ALSO - we've got the winner of our Pangea Organics and Murad Canada Giveaways posted at the bottom of the post!
You guys may remember a while back when we told you we participated in the Women Project. We first mentioned it when Diana made it one of her Park Picks after hearing about it, then we shared a little peek of a few behind the scenes pics when we were having our pictures taken. Well, we'd now like to introduce you to Julie, the driving force behind the Women Project and the inspiring local photographer who is seriously an inspiration for making a difference. So, for our second "Women Who Rock" (check our first here), read below to learn a little more about Julie and her passion for giving back to those not only in Edmonton, but in a national capacity as well - talk about inspiring! To date they've raised well over their $10,000 goal and there are still dates left to book (or you can donate $10 without a portrait sitting), so if you're in the Edmonton area we'd strongly suggest participating in this cause!
Q. How did you come up with the concept for setting up the Women Project?
A. The concept was a long time in the making. Over the past few years I have had a growing interest and anger regarding the subject of sexual trafficking and injustices of that sort around the world. Through a series of circumstances I heard several stories from women who had come out of that type of situation, and also stories from people who are dedicating their lives to empowering and assisting those who are in this type of captivity. I became really motivated to find a way that I could join the growing movement of raising awareness about this issue. Through talking with some friends and family about how I could give back with my photography skills, the project began to take shape. I'm grateful for the gentleman in my life, David, who has seen me dive head-first into these projects before - he suggested I reach out to other photographers and get them involved to help support me. I'm glad I did, because the scope of the project has monumentally grown and I couldn't be doing this without Tricia, Carmyn, Elaine, Kristy-Anne, Blake, and Ashley assisting with portraits. I'm so grateful they agreed to jump on board with the idea. And my sister Marcie volunteered her time to paint portraits of women as an extra fundraiser idea - I'm really thankful for that. Those will be awesome to see once the project wraps up.
Q. We notice that you and your sister are involved in many charitable causes - has giving back always been important to you? How do you determine what charities or causes you involve yourself with?
A. My sister and I were raised in a household that always prioritized giving and social responsibility. I credit my parents and grandparents for a lot of that. We choose the charities we are involved with based on how they line up with our own passions and what stirs us. My sister and her husband raised the funds to build an orphanage in Nepal - it's a really long story, but it starts with them backpacking through the mountains of Nepal on their honeymoon, randomly meeting a local woman beside a stream who started a discussion with them about the social needs in Nepal - and eventually they came back to Canada and raised the funds to build the children's home. There are almost a dozen kids living there now, getting their needs met. So yeah- giving back has always been extremely important to us, in a lot of ways. It's a daily choice for me, an intentional way of living. The way I look at it is that everything I have is a gift, so it's my responsibility to give back, every day, in some way.
Q. Can you tell us a bit more about the event that will be happening on March 8, 2015?
A. We will be hosting a final wrap-up fundraiser event at the Art Gallery of Alberta on March 8, which is International Women's Day. This will be a showcase of all the portraits taken over the ten months. We'll also have several speakers - Angie Redecopp will be there from International Justice Mission; she has done "rescue" work overseas in countries where women are at high risk for sexual trafficking. We'll also hear from a woman who worked the streets for over 25 years and is now a victim advocate, as well as a mother who lost her daughter to the high-risk lifestyle of sex work - she speaks as a voice for those who did not survive. It's going to be a powerful evening of awareness and sharing ideas of how we can get involved and assist those who are looking for assistance. Tickets will likely go on sale starting in January.
Q. What have been the highlights for you as you've been working with the Women Project?
A. I have always loved portraiture, but this project has been so different than I expected. Because of the nature of the project, I feel that women have been very open with me - even women I haven't ever met before the moment when I snap their photos. I've heard so many stories - even cried some tears with a few women during their sessions. One woman told me she's been diagnosed with a fatal lung disease and she wanted these photos for her children to have after she passes on. That was a tough one. Women have talked to me about failed relationships, about self-esteem, about coming through dark periods of time in their own lives, about feeling beautiful again. I've photographed three generations together, photographed life-long girlfriends, sisters- I've watched their love for one another radiate through their smiles. These responses have been greater than I could have hoped for. This is exactly the essence of the project - we are women. We walk this journey together, hand in hand, and fight our battles side by side. This is what we want to share with women who have struggled through sexual exploitation - fight your fight, girl, because we're here beside you. We stand together in support of one another, whatever struggles we're going through. It's beautiful.
Q. What would be your best piece of advice to women looking to start a business of their own like you have with your photography?
A. I'd suggest developing a strong business plan out of the gate; find someone who knows what they're doing with numbers (which a lot of creatives struggle with, myself included) and ask for assistance when you need it. Also, know when you need to be flexible. My business is part-time for me, which is perfect. It allows me to be creative with my job needs (I have another part-time job) and balance them with my personal life. Being there for my five-year-old son when he gets out of school is my first priority, and having flexible employment is a vital part of that.
And now, let's announce the winners of our Giveaway with Murad Canada and Pangea Organics!
Congratulations: ASHLEY DAVID, SUZIE MAGEE & NICOLE BASSO!!
We'll be reaching out to you lucky ladies soon to get the deets we need to set you up with your fabulous prizes