photos: A fresh start comes into focus

Vendor Voices: A fresh start comes into focus

Valerie Fielding’s participation in Megaphone’s annual Hope in Shadows photography project revealed a talent she never knew she had and a sense of purpose she thought she’d lost.

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Something started with a Megaphone winning photograph for Hope in Shadows in 2009 titled Big Brother, Little Brother.

I am really proud and touched that they asked to have it be part of the Hope in Shadows calendar. I was deep in addiction at the time and I wasn’t able to go to the award ceremony. I didn’t feel very good about that.

Shortly after the award ceremony I started to think about how different my life could be. It started a process of a different mindset.

Hope in Shadows was so receiving of me, but I wasn’t proud of me. I felt being sober would make a difference in my life.

A year after that, I started to take pictures, and that’s when I recognized I might be good at something. My stepfather told me that I wasn’t good for anything and that affected me and was why I ended up on drugs.

I found something I was good at and it started me thinking about things differently. A year after I took that picture, I sunk down on my knees in my room and I felt that I needed the power of something big to help me detox. I never held a Bible before and I asked God to help me.

I made a deal with God. I had my last $5 in one hand and the Bible in the other and said, “God, if I don’t take my last five dollars to the dealer, will you help me?”

I still have that $5 bill.

I met a Christian group with Servants Vancouver and Jacob’s Well Ministry, and started attending a women’s group with dinner. Everyone was warm and welcoming and I felt a sense of belonging. Rebecca from Servants started to call me two to three times a week. It was encouraging to have someone to talk to.

Hope in Shadows people, especially Carolyn Wong, would call me from time to time, too. It was just the warm feelings of being completely welcomed that helped me not feel so alone during detox.

I was walking for three years with a walker and a hunch because I needed a hip replacement and couldn’t straighten up from the pain. I was feeling really scared of that surgery. My mom had an operation that ruined her legs for life and she could never walk.

I was scared that as an addict I wouldn’t heal from an operation like that. Jacob’s Well was so kind. For a year before my surgery, they listened every time I wanted to pray and encircled me with love every time I was crying and feeling lost and distraught.

And then I found my churches – Grandview Calvary Baptist and Mosaic Church in Strathcona. The first day I walked into Grandview, the pastors were celebrating 25 years of pastoring. Right away they felt like my grandparents. They could see I wasn’t well and needed vitamins and was fresh out of detox. But I was strong enough to go home from detox all by myself. There were days when I crawled to the bathroom to clean myself.

And things started to change for me. My friend circle got bigger and people came to see me from church when I was in
the hospital. The pastors were some  
of the first to take walks with me when I got out of the hospital.

This is my second year in Hope in Shadows and I am very grateful they asked me to give a speech to Vancity people this year. I teared up because I wanted  them to know how much their support is changing people’s lives. They really want to make a difference and I have been blessed by the feeling of that. And I have been fortunate to share in the experience.

Every two weeks I go to the flea market and sell Megaphone Magazine and look forward to continuing to do that for quite some time. I feel very honoured they helped me to find a picture-taking talent I had no idea I possessed. Now I am like a flower that is blooming in my heart and in my life.

Editor's note: Hope in Shadows is Megaphone’s annual calendar, sold alongside Megaphone Magazine on the streets of Vancouver and Victoria. Hope in Shadows features photographs taken by Megaphone vendors in an annual contest. Vendors are each given a single-use film camera and a time limit to capture the people and places that give their lives meaning. The photo contest is completed in June and the calendar is released in October of each year.

Vancouver vendor Valerie Fielding sells Megaphone Magazine at the Eastside Flea and at her church, Grandview Calvary Baptist.

Get on your megaphone

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