“As we listen to people's stories, we will be able to love better.”
Our photojournalism ministry, Remarks, launched a three-week photo exhibition profiling the resilience of local small-businesses through COVID. Over the last two years, many small businesses in Perth city were hit hard by the impact of the pandemic and Australia’s closed borders. A lot of the businesses profiled are family-owned and/or immigrant-owned. For many, the struggle to remain open caused great financial pressure and mental and emotional strain as well.
The exhibition showcased photos and interviews from 44 different small businesses in the Northbridge precinct of the city, including cafes, restaurants, shops and more. The concept of the exhibition was to share their stories over three weeks in three different venues to reach a wide audiences. Part of the funding came from a grant from the city of Perth.
The Remarks team started documenting and doing interviews in August 2021. Since then, they have connected with business owners and staff, built relationship, gathered stories, and offered prayer. Staff from other YWAM Perth ministries pitched in to help at different times too.
The owner of a local coffee shop explained the unique challenges of the last few years. "In every single up and down time through business, you always had some sort of experience and knowledge previously, or know how to deal with it. But COVID was so new for our generation and previous generations. So, we didn’t have any Plan B for what to do, or how to deal with it. Are we going to deal with all these COVID things just for two months, two years, twenty years? Everything was so unclear, we didn’t know how to deal with it.”
And yet they persevered. Businesses shifted with what felt like constant changes to regulations, went back and forth to take-away only, changed their customer capacities again and again. They built their agility and resilience.
Tirza observed that “They are the most giving people I know of; showing up day in and day out to serve the community. This pandemic has shown all of us that we are merely humans who can't control everything. Many of the people that we interviewed have gone through so much these past two years. And many of them have shown us how to fight for what we believe in.”
In reflecting on the impact of the project, she noted that “Kindness goes a long way to show who God is to people, and showing them that there are many others who care about them.”
Sometimes we may only see people in passing and make assumptions about their experiences. Or we may only be familiar with issues through the news, but there is power in truly connecting with people, listening to their stories. Tirza reflected that, “As we listen to people's stories, we will be able to love better.”