April Smith of AHA MEDIA is very honored to be featured by Gillian Shaw – Digital Life Writer for The Vancouver Sun Newspaper on Christmas Eve 2009

By GILLIAN SHAW

23 DEC 2009 DIGITAL LIFE

As it comes time to wrap up 2009, I wanted to share the story of a journalist who has inspired me this year.

A citizen journalist – April Smith, who is making an impact not only for her work chronicling the news and stories of Vancouver’s inner city but also for giving back to her community by mentoring others.

April didn’t graduate from any journalism program. Hers was truly the school of hard knocks and her background one of hardship.

I first met April at WordCamp Whistler last January. She was a grad of the Downtown Eastside’s Fearless City Mobile project, which helped residents and artists of the neighborhood learn to tell stories through mobile media.

At the time April said the experience had been ‘life-changing.’

“I have moved from one side of the tracks to the other,” she told me.

The other side of the tracks was pretty ugly. It was a life of homelessness and struggling to survive on the streets.

April shares her story with eloquence and honesty that is all the more compelling because it is free of self-pity. Her optimism for the future is what comes through loud and clear.

You can listen to Vancouver’s CBC radio did with April. And you see her at work in an episode of With Glowing Hearts the Movie. She is @AprilFilms on Twitter.

WGHthemovie.ca -April Smith storyline from Andrew Lavigne on Vimeo.

The mentoring April received is being returned to the community many times over with the creation of AHA Media, a fledgling new media company started by April along with Hendrik Beune and Al Tkatch – AHA coming from the first letters of their names.

April is teaching and mentoring others in the Downtown Eastside, sharing her skills and enthusiasm in the hope of offering alternatives that will help improve lives.

April lives in a single room in the DTES and carries out her work and volunteering on a shoestring budget – no shoestring might be too generous to describe it. When I talk to April on the phone, I know that it’s using up precious minutes that she must buy to recharge her cell phone. I recently found out that the Nokia video phone that April was using in her work was borrowed and had to be returned. So I asked her what she needs to carry on.

While it has been a tough year for media organizations, not many list food and warm clothing on their wish list, but those are among the items AHA Media, which does volunteer peer training at the LifeSkills Centre near Oppenheimer Park, is seeking for its DTES neighbors.

The organization also needs: FIDO Pay as You Go Phone Cards for cell phones, digital cameras, SD memory cards, laptop and desktop computers, video cameras and audio equipment.

If you have any of these things kicking around, consider sharing them with others who will pay it forward many times over.

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