From 1998-2004, I worked as an ESL (English as a Second Language) instructor in a nursing assistant training program for new Americans in St. Paul, Minnesota. It was there that I began my relationship with the five women whom I photographed for this project.
At that time, all five women were working in the healthcare field and came to the U.S. not because they wanted to, but because they had no choice. Four are refugees and one is an asylee. They fled their countries due to war as well as political and religious persecution.
These women are mothers, sisters, classmates, co-workers, neighbors, and fellow citizens who are now part of American society and the American story.
The original body of work included five biographies and fifteen hand-printed fiber prints with accompanying quotes. The project, in its entirety, was donated to the Minnesota Historical Society in St. Paul, Minnesota in 2010.
This project is dedicated to my father, Reverend Ronald Koch (1939 - 2004).
Thanks to Dan Kramer, Daniel Kenewa, Merle Greene, Heidi Madsen, Katie Holm, Sharon Lyon, Joel Haskard, Robbie Hamblen, Michelle Gillman, Ellen Isaacs, Colleen Convey, Angie Bengtson, Stan Oslund, Brady Kiernan, and volunteers, staff, and Board of Directors at the IFP Minnesota Center for Media Arts.
Special thanks to the five women and their families who lent me their time, stories, and hearts: Perseverance, Dignity, Strength, Hope, and Peace.
This project was supported in part by an Access Grant from IFP Minnesota Center for Media Arts.