After a study abroad to East Africa I was charged with this internal drive to work abroad and help those communities experiencing extreme poverty and I actively searched for work in the non-profit sector. I spent two months in Uganda working on a non-profit startup that had me perform a needs assessment in a small remote village near the Rwanda border. The kind of village where no one in the village owns a car, and a startup job for the youth consists of becoming a motorcycle taxi driver. I had an on-going deal with one of these motorcycle taxi drivers, locally referred to as boda drivers, to take my external battery to a shop on the main road where the shops had electricity and it could be charged. That little story highlights the lack of electricity in the village, but the village had many more problems from unclean water, to the lack of any healthcare, to families living off of less than $2.00 a day
This work ended and I found myself back state-side volunteering with an established non-profit, GHNI, which performed the same type of work I wanted to do abroad. And lucky me, they had announced their East Africa chapter to be based out of Denver. This led me to work as a volunteer with Global Health Network International. Unfortunately less than two years after announcing an East Africa chapter in Denver they combined it with another Africa focused chapter in a different city in the U.S.
This left me with a void where I had an outlet for helping others in dire need. Now I could look for more domestic areas to find an outlet for that drive to help people who need it, but I must admit that it is also how I justify my desire to travel to far-off places that don’t even make it onto the off-the-beaten-path lists.
I knew that eventually I had to find a way to connect my photography to helping others abroad and had deeply thought about a variety of ways to link the two. One idea consisted of giving portraits to the people who lived in rural extreme impoverished communities. When I was in the Ugandan village I saw how the chIldren looked at photos, usually a family members wedding album. It was similar to toddler’s delight of opening a gift for the first time. Minus the thrashing of the wrapping paper. They would ooo and ahhh over photographs that were not even of them, and as they flipped through the photo album they'd treat the album with as much reverence as if they were reading an old bible and would slowly turn each page.
As life went on for a little bit I was actually listening to one of several photography related podcasts that I follow when I finally found it. Or as it really occurred, they had created the non-profit and I finally knew it existed!
Podcast: Hit the Streets with Valerie Jardin
Episode 126 Photography with a purpose with John Peltier
Non-Profit Organization #1 – Photographers without Borders
Non-Profit Organization #2 - The Giving Lens
It was so cool to not only learn about one non-profit but two! And their mission statement were fantastic. One is poised to help the youth learn the process of photographing, while the other focuses on assisting local grass root organizations through photo and video coverage of their mission and their organization.
After a quick look into these two organizations I knew that I’d found an organization that combined my love for photography and my desire to give back to communities I visit through some form philanthropy. How I intertwine my business and these organizations is still to be determined
The interviewee, John Peltier summarized it perfectly when he said
"I realize how powerful photography can be and my goal is to use it as a tool to help people. That could be to motivate them to get outdoors for health benefits, to help preserve land for that purpose, to assist NGO's and their mission to bring a better life to others."
Looking at these workshops I started to day-dream how I will work towards attending them. As I let all those new possibilities sink in it really gave me a whole new perspective on how I can intertwine my passion for photography with this other side of my life.
While it feels great to have made this connection, there is still a lot of work to be done. I feel like I’m staring at a tough math formula that I should know how to solve, and I have the answer from the back of the book. Now I just have to work it out so that I’ll get the desired answer that I know to be right, for me at least.