Filipina domestic worker turns lecturer

As a domestic worker by day, Brenda Belaza never expected to be invited to deliver lectures on her hobby of photography, but that’s exactly what happened when New York University in Abu Dhabi presented her with a two-day workshop at its campus recently.

“I was shocked and couldn’t believe it when they told me they wanted me to teach a two-day workshop about photography,” she said. “I had previously attended a photography course provided by the university’s social responsibility programme, but I never thought that one day they would invite me back to be the one giving lectures,” said Belaza, a Filipina resident who has been living in the UAE for 13 years.

Belaza said the workshops held in April, initially made her nervous.

“It was my first time to give a lecture like this for students in an academic setting, and so I was very nervous at the start being in front of everyone. I slowly started getting into my comfort zone as I began the lecture and not before long I felt really good and my nerves had all gone.

There were around 20 students in each workshop. I taught them about things like how to handle and hold a camera, the different techniques they can use when shooting and also how to adjust to get that perfect shot.
– Brenda Belaza | Domestic worker and photography enthusiast
“The workshops were around three hours long, but because I was enjoying what I was doing I didn’t feel tired, I felt the time passing fast,” she added.

“There were around 20 students in each workshop. I taught them about things like how to handle and hold a camera, the different techniques they can use when shooting and also how to adjust to get that perfect shot. I tried to encourage them to take the kind of pictures they like, pictures that resonate with them because that is what I do personally,” she explained.

Belaza says her own passion for photography started five years ago with her own mobile phone which had a built in camera.

“I was always into the arts, but when it came specifically to photography that started around five years ago. My mobile phone had a camera and so I started taking pictures with it and it just went from there. I went on to buy my own camera to take more professional pictures. On my days off I am always going and taking pictures,” she said.

“I like taking pictures of nature and also pictures of other domestic workers. I like to take positive images of them, showing them smiling, happy and taking care of the children. My goal with these photos is to show a different side to the domestic worker,” she added.

Belaza says her next big dream is to be able to have her own exhibition to showcase all of her photos. “That is my dream, to have my own exhibition and to be able to show many of the photos that I have taken over the years. I have a whole hard drive of so many pictures, and I’d be so proud if I had the opportunity to present them to the public one day,” she said

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