SHOWING THE WORLD REAL LIVES #StickYourNeckOut #GiraffeHeroes When successful orthodontist Phil Borges was bitten by the photography bug, he committed totally to that passion, and to his social conscience. He’s not only become an internationally acclaimed photographer, he’s also stuck his neck out to connect young people all over the world, through photography. Borges founded Bridges to Understanding, a nonprofit that dispatches volunteer professionals to mentor young potential photographers, many of them kids who have never seen a camera. Borges’ system is to trek into a remote village and give the kids there donated digital cameras to capture the images of their lives. As he does his own work, shooting portraits of the villagers, the kids assist with lights and setups, learning the techniques of profes-sionals. Borges teaches fellow photographers his mentoring methods and they move into other areas, teaching the children there as well. Bridges mentors have worked in Peru, the Arctic, Kenya, Nepal, India, and a Navajo reservation in Arizona. On the radar for the program are Thailand, Ethiopia, Israel, Palestine, Mexico, Bhutan, and Ghana. Through the Bridges website, kids link up to share their photos and tell stories about their lives. A class in North Carolina pairs off with kids in an Arctic Circle village. Kids in Nepal can see the lives of young Detroiters and vice versa. Borges is currently working in dangerous territory himself—he’s doing photos and interviews of women in repressive societies who are overcoming great opposition to improve the lives of other women and their children. Trekking into remote communities in countries such as Bangladesh and Afghanistan with a camera and tape recorder is a far cry from his nice safe dental office. But Phil Borges has reasons for the risks he takes: “I’m seeing kids in remote, impoverished villages devour the technical training we give them. They see these communication tools as a miracle and a privilege. It’s so rewarding to see their excitement and to realize they’re building a communication infrastructure for their communities while sharing their lives with their contemporaries around the world.” UPDATE: Phil Borges has transferred direction of Bridges to Understanding to Teachers Without Borders. Borges has gone on to create the Blue Earth Alliance, which sponsors photographic projects about threatened cultures, endangered environments, and social issues. He's published books of photography honoring indigenous cultures, social action on behalf of women and families, and those who assist children and protect the environment. These include Tibetan Portraits: The Power of Compassion; Enduring Spirit, which records the natural wisdom and knowledge of that culture; The Gift, a book of photos from helpers in Peru and Vietnam who work with wounded children, and Stirring the Fire: A Global Movement to Empower Women and Girls. Borges lectures regularly, writes a blog, and has made a documentary called Crazywise about a young American who feels his mind has broken from reality. Borges compares his break to the opening of a young shaman, showing viewers the perspective of indigenous cultures on such "craziness."