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When photojournalist Tim Hetherington suffered a mortar shell wound to the groin in Libya in April of last year, he ultimately died of massive blood loss. His death, according to friends, may have been prevented.

“Tim was my closest friend,” says Michael Kamber, founder and director of the Bronx Documentary Center. “He bled to death because he was surrounded by photographers who didn’t know how to stop the bleeding.”

In response to this assessment, Hetherington’s other close friend and co-director of the Oscar winning documentary Restrepo, Sebastian Junger, founded Reporters Instructed in Saving Colleagues (RISC), of which Kamber sits on the board. The organization simulates real war-injury scenarios at the Bronx Documentary Center, complete with pools of blood, contorted limbs and frenetic movement amid smoke-clad air, in order to train photographers and journalists in potentially life-saving techniques. “We go to great lengths to achieve the feel of war,” says Kamber.

“My adrenaline was going after I finished shooting the drills,” says photographer and Bronx Documentary Center volunteer, Katie Khouri. ”There was a real sense of urgency once trainer Sergeant Sawyer Alberi threw the smoke bombs and the CD of wailing and sporadic gunfire started. The trainees — all of whom are experienced conflict journalists – are a fun group of people but when the simulation began everyone switched into go mode.”

The need for medical training among journalists is especially desperate now as news outlets are employing freelancers — many without insurance or institutional support – to deliver stories.

“The industry is closing down bureaus. Increasing we are relying on freelancers for photographs. Look at the images from Syria, almost all of those are by freelancers, many of whom are without medical training or medical kits. It’s a recipe for disaster,” says Kamber, who has reported from over a dozen conflict zones during his career and even admits that he was unprepared in the past.

In recent years, the deaths of several photojournalists have reminded us of the extreme dangers faced by reporters in conflict zones. Getty photographer Chris Hondros died in the same mortar explosion as Hetherington; Anton Hammerle was killed by Gaddafi loyalists in April 2011; and Rémi Ochlik died in the bombing of Homs, Syria, in February of this year.

Prior to Hetherington’s death, he and Kamber were in the planning stages of a center devoted to video and photo documentary work.

“The Bronx Documentary Center is in Tim’s honor,” says Kamber. “It is dedicated to exactly what he believed in.”

Producing still and moving images for news, for film, for art spaces and for education, Hetherington believed in and practiced an approach to visual journalism that broke through the traditional confines of genre. The Bronx Documentary Center described by Kamber as a “community space, but not a hangout space” is devoted to serious application of skills and engagement. That extends from practical and vital training to exhibitions, lectures and workshops.

“We’re inventing new ways [to support documentary] and finding new outlets for documentary work, now that traditional media is dying and the public are distracted by a million points of white noise,” says Kamber.

Kamber lived in the Bronx during the eighties and says the support form the local community has been only positive, even during the conflict simulations that spill smoke, noise and blood onto the adjacents streets.

“Hundreds of people come by to stop, watch, comment, take photos and encourage us,” says Kamber. “Last year, when some neighbors heard the recording of the gunfire, they called the police, which is understandable. This year we’ve been very conscious to reach out to the NYPD.”

Unlike general hostile-environment training, RISC is focused on exclusively on medical training and on the procedures that will sustain someone between injury and the hospital front door. Tim Hetherington was only minutes from a hospital when he was struck by mortar fire in Misrata, Libya.

Through fundraising, RISC covers the cost of training which is approximately $1,000 per journalist. Following successful programs in New York, RISC plans training in London and Beirut. The response has been overwhelming. Kamber says, ”We’ve waiting lists. Journalists are desperate to get this training.”

Rookies, veterans, untrained and partially trained alike, there is a very real need for RISC’s type of training and photographers know it.

“You could see in some faces that it was taking them back to some bad memories,” says Khouri. “The reality is that potentially having to save an injured fellow journalist is a very real possibility when you report from the front lines. No one there took that responsibility lightly.”

RISC has an ongoing fundraising effort at Global Giving. Visit the RISC website and follow RISC on Facebook and Twitter

All images: Katie Khouri

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TEDxManhattan - Stephen Ritz - Green Bronx Machine - Growing Our Way Into A New Economy

Stephen Ritz is a South Bronx teacher/administrator. With the help of extended student and community family they have grown over 25000 pounds of vegetables in the Bronx while generating extraordinary academic performance. His Bronx classroom features the first indoor edible wall in NYC DOE which routinely generates enough produce to feed 450 students healthy meals and trains the youngest nationally certified workforce in America. Stephen has consistently moved attendance from 40% to 93% daily, helped fund/create 2200 youth jobs, captured the US EPA Award for transforming mindsets and landscapes in NYC, recently won the ABC Above and Beyond Award, helped earn his school the first ever Citywide Award of Excellence from the NYC Strategic Alliance for Health and attributes these results directly to growing vegetables in school. His speech at Columbia University, "From Crack to Cucumbers," along with the release of a You-Tube Video (Urban Farming NYC) resulted in a national following including an invite to the White House Garden. Dedicated to harvesting hope and cultivating minds, Stephen dreams of opening a nationally replicable Career Technical Education public school in the poorest Congressional District in America rooted in urban agriculture, green and sustainable initiatives. For more information, visit www.greenbronxmachine.com More information at www.tedxmanhattan.org About TEDx, x = independently organized event: In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, TEDx is a <b>...</b>
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