Dean O'Brien's Blog

The work on Coventry’s streets continues with Anesis Outreach..

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Its been a while since I last wrote a blog about the work of Anesis on Coventry’s streets. I have to admit that due to family commitments I have not been able to get down as regularly as I like. However, the work still continues. People still gather every Sunday in need of a sandwich, drink and some conversation. The top favourite drink under the subway definitely seems to be Kervin’s wifes soup. Spicy parsnip being my favourite without a doubt. If this was marketed properly I think a serious killing could be made. I still think that he should contact Dragons Den and get something sorted about getting this soup out there to the masses.

I float around amongst the homeless taking the occasional shot. I’m not starting a full blown project just yet.  Most of the images which I take are for the use of Anesis and helping to promote their cause. They will also be used on a website and leaflet which is planned for the future.

A Somalian refugee contemplating suicide is given guidance and advice from the Kervin and the team. Different members of Anesis take turns to sit and talk with the young man. He is persuaded to think again. I could compare this as how a trip to Lourdes was once described to me. Its not that you get cured, its the fact that you see people there more more worse off than yourself. It makes you feel grateful and that your life is maybe not so bad after all. Its at this point that I get chatting to a guy from Sierra Leone. He has had his fair share of problems as well. He decides to show me the scars of where he has been shot three times. Life is cheap there. That I know. Kervin then proceeds to show me where he himself was stabbed in the back. It brings back stories and memories of his past life. He, along with the others from Anesis understand first hand what these people are going through.

What do I know about Somalia? Not a lot. The film Black Hawk Down’, Pirates hijacking ships, and that old couple who were taken hostage and seem to get a bit of tv coverage every now and again. Thats about it. Its probably the same for a lot of people in the UK. Our knowledge of countries such as Somalia and Sierra Leone is restricted to the occasional news report and maybe the odd documentary. It made me realise that there are genuine refugees fleeing wars back home.

I spend most of my last visit on Sunday speaking to Hannah. A young christian from Coventry who is looking forward to going away to University in October.  She is an active member with Anesis and is here every Sunday giving out sandwiches, serving drinks and going around talking to people.  I am curious about what draws young people to this type of work. I ask her about her opinion of drink and drugs.  She explains that she does not want to have to rely on any substance to have a good time.  She wants to be accepted by people for who she is and not the person the drink could occasionally turn her into.  Wise words spoken so genuinely from someone so young. Hannah goes on to explain that this work is so rewarding. She gets to meet and talk with so many amazing people. I’m genuinely touched.

I then get a blast from the past.  I bump into a lad who I used to hang around with a few years ago.  He is known to Kervin and is one of the more challenging subjects in hand.  My friend is battling drug and alcohol addiction.  His partner is also an addict who is in prison.  Their child has been taken into care.  Depending on the day/availability, he will flutter between heroin, crack or alcohol. We talk for a while and I try my best to get him to see what he is doing to himself. I want him to see the bigger picture. He says that he may stop eventually when he hits rock bottom. I’m curious to think what he imagines rock bottom to look like…

There are lots of similarities between my photography and the work here.  With photography we are taught to pre-visualise.  To imagine how the final image will look.  Kervin also talks about pre-visualisation.  He explains that this is not just about feeding hungry people.  There has to be an outcome.  It has to lead somewhere. He has big plans for getting these people to turn their lives around.

There are many success stories. I have met some amazing people from Anesis over the past couple of months. Hannah Shuttleworth, Matt Boyle, Stephen Brind, Alex Smelt and Rick. All young people on the team helping out and trying to make a difference in whatever way they can. Its inspirational and shows that a small number of people can make a massive difference in society.

Later this year I should be working with Anesis Outreach in a more official capacity as I have selected ‘Volunteering in the Community’ for my Add+vantage Scheme module at Coventry University. I’m looking forward to having a more hands on approach.  I want to document the work Anesis do with the homeless but also look at the people involved with Anesis and what drives them.  This is what I love about photography so much.  It opens up doors and opportunities to me that would never have been possible before .  I am getting to meet the most amazing and inspirational people.  Yes indeed, maybe there is somebody looking down over me.


Written by Dean O'Brien

June 22, 2010 at 1:04 am

2 Responses

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  1. Excellent post Dean and a worthwhile project I feel. Nice to see that you are moving in closer to the subjects and engaging with them, not always easy as we have spoken about before.


    Rick Medlock

    June 22, 2010 at 11:24 am

    • Thanks. Yes I’m going to be working with Anesis for quite some time I think. Yes I’m certainly starting to think more about the narrative contained within the images. I am becoming more visually aware of small details so that is starting to help.

      Dean O'Brien

      June 25, 2010 at 12:17 am

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