First Friday Photo Exhibition : September 1st!

In October of 2016, I traveled to Greece to visit a refugee camp for Syrian’s fleeing civil war. I found an amazing place, the Bê Sînor – Sinatex Cultural Center, where volunteers from around the globe focused their attention to a small, forgotten camp, half an hour out of Thessaloniki. Camp Sinatex is a family camp of 300 Kurdish refugees, nearly all Syrians. At first the volunteers concentrated on aid supplies and non food items, but soon realised that the most important thing they could do for the people, especially the 120 children, was to provide them with lessons and informal education. The proceeds from this photo exhibition will benefit the Bê Sînor – Sinatex Cultural Center and the local group KC for Refugees, which does wonderful work in the Kansas City community connecting people who want to help with refugees who have been resettled in our area. Helix Architecture has generously donated their space for us to use for this amazing event!

September 1, 2017
6 to 8:30 p.m.
Helix Architecture
1629 Walnut
Kansas City, Missouri
RSVP HERE

UPDATE: We will have a kid-friendly space at this exhibition, so please feel free to bring your children!

About the Bê Sînor-Sinatex Cultural Center
After the evacuation of Idomeni, an informal refugee camp on the border of Greece and Macedonia, in May 2016, thousands of refugees were placed in military camps across Northern Greece. Camp Sinatex is a family camp of 300 Kurdish refugees, nearly all Syrians. Almost half of those residing at the camp are children. The global migrant crisis across the region has disproportionately affected children. Nearly half of the 4.9 million Syrians on the run from the brutal and deadly civil war are children. According to UNICEF, the Syrian conflict has put 2.8 million children out of school, including 2.1 million inside Syria and 700,000 abroad. The volunteers at the Bê Sînor-Sinatex Cultural Center realized the most important thing they could do for the people, especially the 120 children at the camp, was to provide them with school lessons and an informal education. The set up for the informal school is very basic. There are two tents and some benches, plus one notebook to cover all subjects. They found a piece of private land and began teaching. There are seven teachers from the refugee community who are teaching Arabic, Kurdish, math, science and geography. They also provide Kindergarten for the youngest children at the camp, and volunteers from all over the world are teaching English to all ages, including the adults. These children have been deprived of everything, and many of them have never been to school in their lives because of the war. The effects of the loss of education on this young generation could be detrimental. While 91% of children around the world are enrolled in school, only 50% of refugee children attend primary school. Without the chance to study, an entire generation is at risk. According to the United Nations High Council for Refugees (UNHCR), “In times of displacement, education is crucial. It can foster social cohesion, provide access to life-saving information, address psychosocial needs, and offer a stable and safe environment for those who need it most. It also helps people to rebuild their communities and pursue productive, meaningful lives.”

About KC for Refugees
We provide Greater Kansas City’s diverse community and organizations a platform to welcome our local refugee families through our core mission of education, connection, support and collaboration.

EDUCATE community groups and organizations on the refugee settlement process* at national and local level
CONNECT community groups both with local refugees through social activities and with each other
SUPPORT refugees by working with local agencies and encouraging people to donate time, funds and household items
DEVELOP alliances with regional and national organizations working toward the same vision

* How The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) works with designated local agencies in the selection, placement, and support of refugees and their families.

About Megan Peters
Megan Peters is a photographer based in Kansas City and founder of August Light Studio, a photography studio focused on creating imagery for professional and commercial businesses. Megan has a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism from the University of Kansas, and is an award-winning photographer and writer. In 2016, Megan traveled to Northern Greece with her good friend and academic researcher Theresa Frey, where she visited the Bê Sînor-Sinatex Cultural Center, an informal school within the Camp Sinatex, a camp for 300 Kurdish Syrians fleeing from civil war. Her photographs from this trip have been used in academic research to showcase the reality of education opportunities for refugee children. In 2015, Megan was the featured photographer for the Phoenix Project, a community art project, which included Megan’s photographs of domestic violence survivors. Megan was awarded “Artist of the Month” by the South Mass Street Art Guild (SMAG) for her work on the Phoenix Project. In 2013, Megan was the recipient of a grant from the beauty brand Olay, who funded “The Motherhood Project,” a collection of photographs of women, which capture the strength, joy and melancholy of motherhood and all its challenges. You can learn more about Megan through her blog, crazybananas.com or at augustlightstudio.com.

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Introducing: August Light Studio

Can you believe it is already close to the end of August? I can’t either…summer flew by this year, and for good reason. I had planned to slow down the business a little bit, restructure, focus on my advocacy work, and spend as much time at the pool with my kids as possible! By those standards, I’d call this summer a success!

One of my largest projects this summer has been creating a new business, and I’m so excited to be finally launching it TODAY! The name of this new project is August Light Studio, and if you’ve been following me on social media this summer, you’ve probably seen the name bouncing around! I wrote a post over on the August Light Studio website explaining more about the in’s and out’s of August Light, but I wanted to post something here as well, because I’ve had a ton of questions from friends and family wanting to know, “Wait, does this mean it’s the end of Crazy Bananas?!”

The short answer is NO! Crazy Bananas will still be here, just like it has been since 2004 (OMG, I’m seriously a blogging dinosaur, you guys). But things will change a little bit.

One of the main reasons I wanted to start a new brand is because my family life has been slowly changing. I suppose that’s actually one of the mainstays of this blog…it’s constantly evolving based on my life situation. When I first converted this space from a blog into a business almost three years ago, I had just quit my full-time job and one of my kids was still only in preschool part time. I wanted to find a way to convert this space into a place where I could still write about our life, but also share my photography and freelance writing projects, in the hopes of building a sustainable business. I focused on photography, because that was a place where I felt I could grow myself and create a business that would work for my family. I could be home (mostly) during the days with my son, and then work at night and during the weekends. It was a great fit! And by keeping it all in one space, here on Crazy Bananas, I didn’t have to reinvent the wheel. I already owned the domain, all the social media handles and had lots of content from all of my blogging years. It worked wonderfully!

But in the past year I’ve felt a big shift in my life and my family’s schedule. Both of my kids are in school full time, but are very active in evening activities. I found myself hiring babysitters to take the kids to and from skating practice and soccer games. I was missing out on important moments, like helping with homework and evening time together as a family. I realized that while I love having a flexible schedule, I needed to focus more of my work hours during the day, between 8:30 and 3:30, when my kids are in school.

With my background in public relations, advertising and marketing, I realized that I had something unique to offer to small businesses and commercial brands. I have extensive knowledge of social media marketing, online branding, and more…and I wanted to combine those skills with my photography business to help brands get more clients and do better work. In the last year I’d started taking on a few business-to-business commercial photography projects, such as headshots for staff or project photography for architects and engineers. It felt like the perfect fit for me, but not necessarily a perfect fit for Crazy Bananas.

The idea for a new studio was formed, one that focuses on branding and business photography, as opposed to personal and family portraiture. I’ve worked for months on putting together a business I’m proud of, and I’m so, so excited to be launching today! Along with our online home at augustlightstudio.com, I have moved into a new physical studio space at the Bauer Building in the Crossroads District in downtown Kansas City. This is literally a dream come true, and I’m so fortunate to have this opportunity!

I have to give a huge shout out to the amazing Jenna Murillo from J. Lynn Designery, who created my logo, branding look and website. She is simply incredible, and her process was simple, streamlined and fun. I always loved getting her emails because I knew there would be something beautiful inside! If you’re looking for a web designer or someone to refresh your brand look, I highly recommend her! Please head over to the August Light Studio website to see more, and make sure to follow August Light Studio on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. You can also sign up for the August Light Studio newsletter by clicking here.

Now, back to what this means for Crazy Bananas Creative Studio…don’t worry, it will still be here! I created this blog over 13 years ago, and I have no intention of quitting now. The blog will still exist as it always has, a space for me to share my thoughts, loves, happy moments, advocacy and life in general. The photography section of the site will also be around for the time being, as I plan to continue shooting personal and family portraits. As August Light Studio is only focused on business-to-business and commercial photography, I’d like to keep my portraiture side of the business right here for now. So if you’re looking for family photos, newborn sessions and senior photos, Crazy Bananas is still the place to be. This may change in the future, but I’ll be sure to let you know if and when any changes occur!

Finally, I have to thank my family for their endless support and love as I navigate this new adventure. I don’t really have a rational, linear brain, so the idea for this new studio came in bits and pieces and was often difficult to articulate, but I’m so excited they stuck with me and trusted me to make something great! Onward and upward!

Announcement : First Friday Art Show!

I have some incredibly amazing news, friends! My images from the Bê Sînor – Sinatex Cultural Center in Greece are going to be featuring in a gallery show for First Fridays in the Crossroads Arts District! I can’t believe it, and feel honored and humbled by this opportunity. The proceeds from the show will benefit the Bê Sînor – Sinatex Cultural Center and the local group KC for Refugees, which does wonderful work in the Kansas City community connecting people who want to help with refugees who have been resettled in our area.

I am still working on all the details for this event, but I am actively looking for sponsors to help this come to life! If you own a business (or know someone who does) that is civically-minded, I would love to chat with you about sponsorship. There are many different ways to help, and no act is too small. Please send me an email at megan@crazybananas.com if you might be interested!

Be Senior Sinatex - Syrian Refugee Camp

A Place to Educate, Make Art and Be Human Again

I’m so proud and grateful to finally be able to share with you all a few more images from my time in Northern Greece at the Bê Sînor-Sinatex Cultural Center, a place for the 300 Kurdish refugees from Syria who are stranded at Sinatex Camp, to educate each other, make art and be human again. These images have been approved to be shared publicly, but I do so with the highest respect for everyone photographed. Many of those who were photographed have chosen not to have their images published, for safety and security reasons.

Be Senior Sinatex - Syrian Refugee Camp

After the evacuation of Idomeni, an informal refugee camp on the border of Greece and Macedonia, in May 2016, thousands of refugees were placed in military camps across Northern Greece. Camp Sinatex is a family camp of 300 Kurdish refugees, nearly all Syrians. Almost half of those residing at the camp are children. The global migrant crisis across the region has disproportionately affected children. Nearly half of the 4.9 million Syrians on the run from the brutal and deadly civil war are children. These children are not political pawns or terrorists…they are children, just like my own, who have lived through horror and pain that is unimaginable.

Be Senior Sinatex - Syrian Refugee Camp

According to UNICEF, the Syrian conflict has put 2.8 million children out of school, including 2.1 million inside Syria and 700,000 abroad. The volunteers at the Bê Sînor-Sinatex Cultural Center realized the most important thing they could do for the people, especially the 120 children at the camp, was to provide them with school lessons and an informal education.

Be Senior Sinatex - Syrian Refugee Camp

The set up for the informal school is very basic. There are two tents and some benches, plus one notebook to cover all subjects. These children have been deprived of everything, and many of them have never been to school in their lives because of the war. The effects of the loss of education on this young generation could be detrimental. While 91% of children around the world are enrolled in school, only 50% of refugee children attend primary school. Without the chance to study, an entire generation is at risk. According to the United Nations High Council for Refugees (UNHCR), “In times of displacement, education is crucial. It can foster social cohesion, provide access to life-saving information, address psychosocial needs, and offer a stable and safe environment for those who need it most. It also helps people to rebuild their communities and pursue productive, meaningful lives.”

Be Senior Sinatex - Syrian Refugee Camp

This past summer I was fortunate to see Malala Yousafzai speak in Kansas City. Malala said the most surprising thing she’s seen in her travels is the lack of investment in education. She said if military entities worldwide stopped their spending for only eight days, we would be able to educate all of the children across the earth that are currently NOT attending school.

“More guns and bombs will never protect you. Educated children do not need to pick up guns.” – Malala Yousafzai

The volunteers at the the Bê Sînor-Sinatex Cultural Center realized that education was the best solution they could offer the refugee community stranded there. They found a piece of private land and began teaching. There are seven teachers from the refugee community who are teaching Arabic, Kurdish, math, science and geography. They also provide Kindergarten for the youngest children at the camp, and volunteers from all over the world are teaching English to all ages, including the adults. When I entered the camp, I was amazed to find almost ALL of the children could speak conversational English and German. They were eager and excited to learn. They wanted to know all about me and my family, and what America was really like. They were kind, smart and welcoming. While I was there, one of the older students was celebrating his 18th birthday, and his mother invited all of us into her tent, where she fed us a traditional meal and we ate a cake that one of the volunteers had purchased in town.

Be Senior Sinatex - Syrian Refugee Camp

I think this description of Bê Sînor, taken from their Facebook page, exemplifies what an incredible space it is:

It is place of welcome where everyone can do something valuable with the long and dreadful times whilst the borders are closed and we are awaiting the bureaucratic asylum system. We also organize birthday parties, dance evenings, yoga, sports, art classes, and distributions – all depending on the volunteers who come to join our project and the donations we receive. In the short amount of time that we have been teaching we have seen a big shift in behavior in the children, and they are all so keen to learn and have an education. Our teachers from the community and the volunteers try to counter the hardships that people are facing with creative lessons and lots of smiles. Forgetting your problems for a while, getting some structure in everyone’s daily lives and providing basic education for children and adults is worth a lot these days.

I am so grateful for the volunteers and camp community for allowing me to visit and photograph their space. When I visited in October, the weather was still mild and most of the children spent their days outdoors, running and walking around the area. Unfortunately, the harsh winter has arrived in Greece, and things are much more difficult. The temperatures have dropped far below zero, and snow is falling. The tents have no roofs provided, so the residents took everything they could find to put a roof over their head. There are still no washing machines, so the people – mainly the women – have to wash the clothes outside in temperatures, which reached -10°C this week. Currently, the camp is also without access to water due to broken pipes. They do not have electricity or heating and eventually it was impossible to teach outside in the two tents anymore. Volunteers describe, “watching the children trying to hold on with their freezing fingers to their pens and the adults not seeing their notebooks anymore during the evening lessons because it gets darker earlier.”

Be Senior Sinatex - Syrian Refugee Camp

Fortunately, there were two rooms inside of the camp building which the volunteers were able to use to continue lessons. They had been told by the Greek military that the rooms were too dark for school, but they have made do with the light from the windows and some tables that were donated Danish Refugee Council (which is also working at the camp). Also, after months of waiting, the children of Sinatex were FINALLY allowed to attend lessons at the local Greek school! This is huge for these children! You can learn more on the Bê Sînor Facebook page, but I wanted to share an excerpt from the first day of school here:

A team of teachers welcomed the children and us with open arms. A “Welcome to School”-sign was hanging on the wall. And within seconds the children found their places on one of the tiny school desks. For many of them it was the first time in a school building. The teachers had to explain them what the ringing bell means. Because of the war many children never went to school. During the time in Turkey the older ones were working instead of studying. The feeling to see these kids sit in an actual classroom is indescribable. But there was no time for happy tears, because of course everybody was way too excited to sit still.

The whole teacher team was amazing and very welcoming. The refugee children attend school in the afternoon, where as the Greek kids go there in the morning. But nevertheless there were some Greek kids hanging around and within seconds they were playing soccer together or tried to communicate with the little Greek they know or with their English. All of this was just amazing to see. Jony, one of the teachers who supported the kids and our project from the first day said, “This is the best day of my life!” Probably not only for him.

I have to expressly thank Alex Aronsky, Andrea and everyone else who welcomed us with open arms when we visited in October. I really believe if more people really understood and experienced the refugee crisis, especially it’s effect on a generation of young children, the world would open it’s borders and more people would open their arms. If you would like to support the efforts of this incredible team of volunteers, you can donate directly to Bê Sînor via PayPal by clicking here. Another group that does amazing work with refugees in the Kansas City area is KC for Refugees. This weekend, in conjunction with a few other organizations, there will be an interfaith prayer vigil for the local refugee community at Overland Park Community Church. In light of the new policies and rhetoric from the current American government, it’s so important to show our local refugees, who have already been through so much, that we support them. More information on this event can be found by clicking here. I will be there taking photos for KC for Refugees, and it would be wonderful to see some familiar faces!

Be Senior Sinatex - Syrian Refugee Camp

Finally, I must thank my best friend and sister, Theresa Frey, for inviting me on this journey with her. If I ever doubted that everything in life happens for a reason, this trip showed me the truth. I am so lucky to have Theresa in my life, constantly challenging me, working with me, and teaching me how to be better.

Be Senior Sinatex - Syrian Refugee Camp

Farm Sunset October 2016

Being Here, in 2017

Friends! It’s the start of a new year…and honestly, it’s a time where I can get easily overwhelmed. In the past I’ve written about lofty goals and ideas I want to tackle in the next 350+ days, but this year feels different. I have been struggling to wrap my head around last year and plan what comes next in several facets of my life. But after a chat with a good friend I realized something really important:

I’m already here.

The last three years or so have been a crash course in goals, resolutions and overcoming obstacles. Almost every facet of my life has gone through a fairly extreme overhaul…from my marriage to my career to my parenting status to my family. Illness and health have been a huge factor in the past few years, both for myself and for those I love the most. After really taking a look back on last year and everything I went through, I felt a sense of calm. Did I accomplish every goal I set out for myself last January? No. Not even close. But I learned so much and one of the biggest lessons was that I don’t have to wait until January 1 to decide to change my life for the better. I make that choice on a daily basis.

Farm Sunset October 2016

Last year was a big one for my business. I completely overhauled my pricing and the way I sell my photography. I created and facilitated the 30 Days of Summer Photo Challenge, which had hundreds of participants. I did a dozen television segments. I went to Greece to photograph a refugee camp. And I photographed dozens of families, newborns, children and couples…it was a fantastic year! Personally, I went through many (MANY) challenges, but I’m very proud of how I came through it all, even though there is MUCH to improve upon. One of the biggest personal goals last year was getting fit, slowly and surely, over about nine months of hard work, exercise and nutritional changes. I feel better physically today than I did in my 20s, which is saying something! I am officially in my mid-30s now and I feel stronger than I ever have. I also started working to find ways to make an impact as an activist in my community. This is something I didn’t plan on when 2016 began, but now I’m grateful for the opportunity.

In 2017, I’m looking forward to some more changes in how I do business, with a focus on continuing to be profitable while also serving my family, friends and community. There will hopefully be a few more writing and blogging projects (which took a backseat last year) and maybe even a new creative endeavor or two! I want to create more than I consume, and make the world a little more joyful every day. I am excited to reach out and work with even more creatives and amazing people doing wonderful work in my community.

If you’re interested in working with me in 2017, or you have an awesome project you want to chat about, send me a note at megan@crazybananas.com. Let’s make this the best year yet!

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