• Matthew Gilley
  • Matthew Gilley

I spent the fall of 2012 interning at Warm Heart Worldwide, a grassroots organization located in an impoverished region of rural Thailand. Warm Heart’s mission is the creation of sustainable community development through programs relating to health, microenterprise, and education. The Warm Heart Children’s Home houses 40 children from isolated Hill-Tribe villages that are either without access to education or under threat of violence from drug trafficking. The Children’s Home is a thriving community where the innocence of youth is protected and children are taught critical life skills that will make them competitive in a modern world. I served as photographer and director of communications while with the organization. I worked closely with the boys and girls at the Children’s Home and became both a mentor and friend. During my six-month stay, I fell in love with the kids, the surrounding community, and the meaningful, successful work of this organization.

 

My photography and mixed media installation pieces seek to immerse the viewer in a visual story about rural Thai culture; invites viewers to draw comparisons between cultures; initiates discussion about the perils of regional based poverty; and advocates for Warm Heart’s mission of sustainable community development. My work presents a glimpse into the every-day life of the girls and boys at the Children’s Home. Photography, video, everyday objects, and edibles are used to create a multi-sensory experience for the viewer to connect directly with the subject. Snippets of the children’s stories are presented and a human connection established. I hope that my work can create empathy and inspire action. I raised $2,319 via Kickstarter to make this exhibit possible; I want to raise even more support for the Warm Heart children. These photographs tell a story of the people of impoverished northern Thailand – and the hope that is being brought to them by the creation of new opportunities. This work is about poverty. It is about drug violence and human trafficking. It is about steamed rice, K-pop, math worksheets, skinned knees, jump rope, and laughter. These are the stories of the children.