Tucson native’s ‘Pictures of Hope’ encourages homeless kids to dream big

De’oujenai, age 9, with Linda Solomon (Sheila Wilensky/AJP)
De’oujenai, age 9, with Linda Solomon (Sheila Wilensky/AJP)

Drivers heading north on Alvernon Way pass a digital sign in front of Our Family Services, which runs a New Beginnings housing division for the homeless: “One-third of Tucson’s children live in poverty. Fifty-two percent live with a single parent.” Linda Solomon, an award-winning Jewish photojournalist, aims to change the lives of some of these homeless children by giving them cameras. Children are able “to visualize a dream when they can go off with cameras,” Solomon told the AJP, adding that the opportunity “builds self-esteem.”

Solomon’s “Pictures of Hope” project has been featured on “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” “CBS Evening News,” “ABC World News,” in People magazine and USA Today, as well as numerous other publications. Solomon was the photographer of “People We Know, Horses They Love” (2004), a New York Times best-seller. She has founded educational photography programs that have reached more than 1 million children.

For the third year in a row, the Tucson native has brought “Pictures of Hope” to her hometown. On Sept. 5, Solomon led a mini-photography class for a dozen homeless children, ages 7 to 12, at Our Family, a local partner with O’Reilly Chevrolet. Rob Draper, president and dealer principal of O’Reilly Chevrolet, and Solomon handed out digital cameras to each of the children after the class. The children wrote about their hopes and dreams during the session; one participant said that he wanted “to change the world through the arts.”

Mentors took the children to take photographs around Tucson at sites that reflected their hopes and dreams. They included Mayor Jonathan Rothshild and several News 4 Tucson-KVOA anchors and reporters, as well as Jewish volunteers Cathy Borinstein and Pamm Seleznov.

“One child I mentored expressed his dream to go to college and he had never been to or seen the University of Arizona campus until I took him there,” says Seleznov.

Tucson is one of 12 cities across the United States offering “Pictures of Hope” in partnership with Chevrolet, a division of General Motors. The hopes and dreams of participating Tucson children will be made into holiday greeting cards, with 100 percent of the proceeds benefitting homeless families.

The children will see the cards for the first time at a Meet the Young Artist reception and pizza party at O’Reilly Chevrolet on Nov. 4. Every O’Reilly customer who purchases a new car will be given greeting cards; the dealership will make a donation to the Our Family homeless shelter.

For more information, visit www.lindasolomonphotography.com, www.ourfamilyservices.org, or www.oreilly.com.