American man takes advantage of children in Rancho Dolores Print E-mail
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Thursday, 13 October 2011 00:00

Matthew BullaThe community of Rancho Dolores has come together to voice their discontent with American photographer, Matthew Bulla, who has posted unauthorized photographs of their young children on the internet.

What’s worse is that Bulla advertised the photographs for sale to fund a feeding program for these same children that he described as though they are “impoverished and needy”. These pictures have been on the internet for over a year now, and some of them reportedly have the words “sold” on the bottom.

The parents are worried about how Bulla was able to take the photographs. His account on the internet and media comments of the then-principal, Tricia Pook, paints a scary scenario of how secure our children are.

In explaining these photographs to his internet audience, Bulla, who is a volunteer for the Spanish Creek Rainforest Reserve, wrote that he and other members of the reserve heard that the village’s school was receiving a donation of 8 computers from a North American NGO called the United Federation for the Future of Kids. The information from the villagers is that this donation happened in March 2010.

Last year, this school was known as Our Lady of Sorrows RC School. It has recently been amalgamated to other primary educational institutions in the Belize River Valley, and it is now known a section of the Belize Rural Primary School.

Ministry of Education has facilitated a fully functional feeding program for the school, and all of the children are properly cared for.

Bulla wrote that he attended the donation ceremony for these computers, and realized that neither the NGO nor the faculty of the school could properly photograph the event, so he stepped in and offered his services.
Very soon after this, these photographs ended up being posted on his webpage.

The media spoke to Pook who basically gave a similar description of events as was outlined by Bulla on his webpage. She has added that she is outraged that she was not consulted, nor did she give her permission to post the photographs of these children, her students. She is concerned that the actions of this photographer has compromised the security of the children, and has left her with a mess that she has to try to answer for.

Several residents have vocalized their outrage and sincere concern for their children’s safety. They have all told the media that they were not consulted. Edlene Smith and Coleen Joseph, whose children were posted on the internet, are especially mad that they, as parents, were not consulted.

They are especially mad that Bulla has presented the community’s children as being almost homeless and needy. They say that this is far from the truth because the children are all cared for.

They were also concerned that Bulla may have been making money off this scheme, and he was exploiting the children. They were also concerned that there may have been child predators that could have bought these photographs, and that one day, they may try to kidnap the child who they were interested in.

Jahmoor Lopez, Belize’s District Education Officer, has said that the Ministry is looking at this incident very seriously and carefully.

   Since other sections of Belizean media have picked up the story, the websites promoting Bulla’s photograph sales have been taken down. It is not known at this time if he will be investigated by police, but residents are demanding that he be arrested and charged for what he has done.