Over the years, remarkable people that I know either started or helped shepherd organizations that seek to make a positive difference in the lives of others. Below is a list of some of them. I admire these initiatives because they bring hope to those they are serving and persevere along a long, and sometimes difficult, road in order to reach their goals.
STARS Children Africa seeks to provide orphans in Kenya with access to a secondary school education, and eventually a university degree, to transform them into leaders in their society.
Young Life Capernaum (Northwest Washington DC) is part of Young Life, a Christian-based organization that is about building relationships with teenagers to give them a fun, healthy and safe space to grow and interact with others. Capernaum focuses specifically on young adults with special needs.
I volunteer with both organizations and to view photo essays that feature the work that they do, visit my website.
In Memoriam, written in 2011:
In April, two Western journalists were killed in Libya by a mortar attack, one of them being the director of the Oscar-nominated documentary Restrepo named Tim Hetherington. He was my favorite photographer, who I first saw speak this past November. I had not heard of him at the time, but since then have studied his work and it has had a profound impact on me, both in his subject matter and the way in which he approached telling a story.
Hetherington covered mostly war and its impacts on society, from US marines in Afghanistan to rebel soldiers in Liberia to a school for the blind in Sierra Leone caught up in the backdrop of civil war. He imbued his images, either moving or still, with compassion and humanity. He focused almost exclusively on long term projects so that he could fully convey to his audience the layers and nuances that undergird complex emergencies in broken war-torn societies– nuances and details that usually never make it into the soundbites on the evening news, but ones that we long to understand in order to make sense of the bits and pieces of information that the mass media feed us.
I became familiar with his work shortly before I headed to Kenya in January on my first assignment with STARS Children Africa to photograph orphans receiving a high school education, and something he said resonated during the trip. “We all have a collective image library in our heads when we think of a particular issue,” he said. In his work, he sought to to break down any preconceived ideas that often limit our ability to relate to other humans. He used his talents not just to communicate to Western audiences what was happening in Africa, but his work was used within the local communities themselves to influence perceptions.
So, the world lost a special and talented individual. I saw the news at around 5pm and let out an audible yelp from my desk, prompting a “what’s wrong?!” from my colleague over the cube wall. I was upset into the evening, but couldn’t figure out why I was grieving someone with whom I had only come into very limited contact. I finally pinpointed it. It’s because I found a mentor, a guiding inspiration, and I wasn’t done learning from him And he was just getting started, it seemed.
One thing haunts me. I remember keeping my hand raised during the Q&A session at the Corcoran Gallery in Washington, D.C., where I first heard him speak. He finally nodded in my direction and I was granted the last question.
ME: “So, how do you avoid getting killed or injured while still being right there in the midst of the war zone?”
TH: “Well, I’ve been a war photographer for a long time, over 10 years, so I have learned how to handle myself in conflict… But in the end, it’s a numbers game.”
And this spring, very sadly, his number was up.
The following organisations were important to him: