Sam Pinczuk of Silver Spring is no ordinary teen.
The 16-year-old spent two weeks in Ghana, where he worked with orphans with HIV in the municipality of Kpando in the Volta Region. His mission: to teach photography
In his passion for photography, the Montgomery Blair High School student found a way to give people a voice and a way out of the bullying he suffered in school.
“I know how it feels to just not have a voice. ... [The bullying] got really bad when I got to high school,” Sam said.
Sam has learning disabilities — attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and dyslexia.
“I have a hard time focusing ... and also ... I have a hard time writing and spelling,” he said.
But Sam said he discovered that looking through the lens of a camera could be “something to focus that is positive and not negative.”
His mother, Jane Pinczuk, said Sam is passionate about making a difference in the world.
Besides teaching photography, Sam also documented the daily life in Kpando, taught children how to use bandages and clean cuts to avoid infection, and worked on photo essays focusing on issues affecting the people of Ghana.
One of his essays documented children laborers. Sam said he felt that, through his work, he gave his subjects a voice.
By the time Sam was 13 years old, his work had been published by the Public Broadcasting Service, a Chinese television station, and magazines. He also won first place in a Washington Post photojournalism contest.
Sam said he has “too many” projects brewing in the future, including continuing his photography work, visiting other developing countries, and going to college.
The Music in Me Foundation International — a nonprofit with a mission to empower youth by preventing bullying, building self-esteem, and reducing the literacy gap — sponsored Sam’s two weeks in Ghana. Jane Pinczuk founded the organization.
“I would love to go back to Ghana next year. ... I am interested in going to American University, but before that, I would like to work for a news agency,” Sam said.
Sam’s grandparents were Holocaust survivors. Jane Pinczuk said hearing the World War II stories changed her son’s perspective and appreciation of freedom, family, and his commitment to the world.
Sam also helped his sister, Michele Pinczuk, 21, a English major at the University of Maryland, with her documentary “L’Chaim Israel.” In it, she asked local Holocaust survivors what they would like to give Israel for its birthday. Michele’s short film was featured at the Cannes International Film Festival in France in 2009.
“I’m so proud of Sam. ... I’ve always known that he’s gifted, but more than his giftedness is the enormous size of his heart and generosity of his self and wanting to make a difference in the world. ... His father [Murray Pinczuk] and I couldn’t be any prouder,” his mother said.
Jane Pinczuk said anyone who wants to donate to the orphans of Kpando can go to www.themusicinme.org for more information.
To Sam, his journey in photojournalism would not be possible without the love of his family.
“My parents have been the biggest help and the biggest inspiration to me,” Sam said.