Friendships come and go, depending on the particular phase of life you are in. However, if you are lucky, you have been blessed enough to experience the rare kind of friendship that withstands the test of time, no matter what. It perseveres through single-life, marriage, kids, crazy schedules, various jobs, etc. No matter what, that special friendship remains the same. It’s rare, it’s beautiful, and it’s a blessing. I am fortunate enough to share this type of friendship with this month’s Smarty Mom, Joy Bruce.
She’s an amazing mother, non-profit founder, photographer, graphic designer, and most of all, friend. It’s not easy to keep our friendship strong due to the challenges we have inevitably faced with work, time, and family constraints, but once you get to know Joy a little better, you will see why I would do anything to ensure our friendship never fades. She is one-of-a-kind and I hope you enjoy getting to know her just as much as I have through the years.
Smarty Mom Stats:
Married to (and for how long): Sean 19.5 years
Children: (Name and age): Skylar 15 @ Cox Mill HS | Jaden 11 @ Hickory Ridge Middle School
Hometown: Stallings, NC (Union County)
‘Hood (area of Charlotte you live in): 15 minutes outside of Charlotte in Midland, NC
Alma Mater: UNC-Charlotte
Occupation: Photographer and non-profit founder
Tell us about Ansanm Ministries and how it started.
In 2012, I had the opportunity to travel to Cange, Haiti to teach photography to high school age kids. In a group of 18, I was one of two photographers, so I helped formulate the curriculum and teach the classes. It was a life-changing trip. After that trip I became involved more and more over time and had some amazing support from my community. In 2014, I formed Ansanm and became a 501(c)3 non profit. Ansanm means ‘together’ in Haitian Creole. I return one to two times a year and have formed some deep friendships in Cange.
What’s most rewarding to you about working with Ansanm?
Learning the Haitian culture and visiting a developing nation has deepened me. It’s expanded my mind and shown me other ways and perspectives than that of the American culture. For example, their focus is on relationships. Spending intentional time with each other, listening, talking, singing etc. They work so hard to survive daily and are grateful for every little thing, and nothing is taken for granted. Ansanm has done work with schools and partnered with Stop Hunger Now to provide over a million meals for the school children. We support artists, an orphanage with 30 children, eight of whom are disabled, and have supported a community that took in 40+ orphans from the earthquake in 2010.
What is your vision for Ansanm?
The Ansanm Board of Directors strives very hard to live up to our name, ‘together.’ We focus on listening to our Haitian friends’ dreams and visions. We walk alongside them and provide support. We do not come in with the “American way” and try to fix things. No one knows their country and town better than the natives. We also consult with them before taking action or giving money. Haitians take a lot of pride in working, therefore, we believe that providing sustainable work for our friends is the best means of support. For example, rather than taking a team to paint a school, we hire a Haitian to paint the school, providing them with a job. Our vision is to continue to provide jobs and opportunities to our friends in Cange.
How can Smarty Charlotte get involved with Ansanm?
We are always involved with projects in Haiti. Donations are always accepted and 100% of the money goes directly to those projects. Right now, our two main projects are:
1.) Raising money for the orphanage that has eight full time disabled children that need around the clock care. They are in dire need of diapers, new mattresses, stimulating toys, wheelchairs and funds to pay the caretakers. To donate, you can send a check to 10006 Dressage Lane, Midland NC 28107 or donate on Venmo: @joybruce.
2.) Rodolphe has become part of the Anasanm family. He is an extremely talented artist
that gives a lot of his time to teaching children to paint and to play guitar, bass, and drums. He supports his entire family, parents and two sisters. We love to provide him with jobs such as portrait painting, jewelry making, etc. He is a sound, honest young man that is well respected in the community. To donate directly to support Rodolphe, you can contact Ansanm to commission him to do a portrait, or you can simply send in donations (as noted above), notating Rodolphe.
Tell us about Joy Bruce Photography and Design.
I have been photographing for over 18 years. I started right out of college building my portfolio by shooting friends’ weddings for next to nothing. It just grew and grew from there. I majored in Art with a concentration in Graphic Design at UNC-Charlotte. I learned photography on film and in the dark room so when photography turned digital, I was already well-versed in the digital programs that went along with it. Through the years as a business owner and a mom, I found what fits into my lifestyle balance. Now, I mainly focus on corporate, event, and family photography with a side of graphic design.
What’s it like owning your own business and being an entrepreneur?
Tell us what you love about it and what you dislike most about it. Owning your own business is invigorating and exhausting all in the same. You set your own schedule and work flow, but you also are your own motivation. The toughest thing for me is to balance all the behind the scenes work, such as social media, correspondence, invoicing, bookkeeping, editing, uploading, scheduling, etc. I love shooting. Period. It’s my creative outlet and keeps me striving to produce better images, learn more, and connect with people in a way that they feel comfortable in front of the camera. The invigorating part is looking at the final products and being proud of your creation.
Music is a huge passion of yours. When did that begin and why do think you have such a love for it?
I grew up in a musical family. My parents were both in a gospel group and we traveled extensively when I was little. Music was always around. However, my passion isn’t so much in that type of music now, though, it definitely created the interest.
I’ve been with my husband, Sean, since I was 16 and we both grew to love the same music together. It’s straight up rock n roll. We attend many, and I mean many, live shows together. We have traveled all over the country, stood countless hours in line, and met some amazing friends along the way. It’s definitely a sub-culture and one we feel very at home in.
Do you share your love of music with your kids?
They have definitely fed off of our passion. We try to let them make their own decisions so it’s natural and authentic. My 15-year-old daughter from a very early age loved the Beatles and is a huge U2 fan. She just attended her first big concert, U2, this past May and had “the time of her life” experiencing that.
Favorite band: The Black Crowes
Favorite song: Wiser Time
Favorite concert venue: Red Rocks in Colorado
You are a working mom, you run a non-profit…. How do you keep it together?
Balance is big thing for me. If I’m off in one area, everything is off. There are several things that I have learned over the years that are key to my balance.
-Organization – meals planned for the week with ingredients on-hand. That way there isn’t the last minute decision or searching for ingredients.
-Working out – whatever it is, I need that for my mind and body. It relaxes me and clears my head. It’s hard to find the time I know, but once that habit is established, it becomes part of the family’s routine.
-I like to be home when my kids get home from school. That is a crucial time to hear about their day while it’s still fresh. We look over notes and homework so I am up to date with their daily routines.
-We have been diligent over the years to maintain our marriage and our family. I mention the two separately (marriage and family) because they are two big, different areas. We spend time with and away from our children. It’s healthy for all of us.
Favorite fall family tradition
We love to go to the Renaissance Festival. Everyone has an aspect that they love about it and it’s always an enjoyable time for everyone. Skylar, my 15-year-old daughter, loves the time period and the tomato throwing at the guy who hurls insults. Jaden, my 11-year-old son, loves the turkey legs and the jousting. Sean and I love the Pumpkin Beer and the handmade artisan goods.
“What we see depends mainly on what we look for.” -John Lubbock