Finding courage in JUNE

QUICK BACKSTORY:: We created a 2014 Calendar with 100% of funds going to help rebuild one of the many villages in the Philippines destroyed by Typhoon Yolanda in November 2013. With the profits from the Calendars and many other amazing peoples generosity we (a big we) have been able to rebuild over a 100 homes and support so many more families… we are now into helping to rebuild a second village where many still need support. These blogs are images (month by month that were used in the Calendar from around the world) to give you some background story and some more food for thought.

Finding COURAGE in June – Being scared but doing it anyway !

Courage

Courage – being scared but doing it anyway

Courage… I guess that’s part of why this blog site is called “Strength in Vulnerability”. Opening yourself up and putting things out into the world, allowing yourself to be judged and given feedback that isn’t always constructive from people who hide behind anonymous titles. How courageous are they? I decided they were anonymous for a reason and that by me opening up and sharing is more positive and constructive than any anonymous feedback I get hit with. I hope by doing so this it crosses boarders and breaks down people’s assumptions about places they have just seen in the media and can make the world a smaller place by reaching out to allow others to glimpse into the world I see !

This months image is from Rwanda… a mother I met walking home down a dusty dry orange dirt road in the heat of summer, carrying not only a heavy load on her head but also precious cargo tucked so tightly on her back just peaking out a little to see me. She was loaded up but still paused for a moment intrigued to see who I was, what I was up to and have her image taken.

You can see the wider shot of her and the load below…

All loaded up

All loaded up

With work to be done and no daycare system in rural areas mothers are always on the move and working with babies on their backs. So here are some images from the country that has stolen a huge piece of my heart, a photo tribute to babies on backs, the Mamas and siblings who carry them.

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Seeing is Believing – Eye Care in Kenya

In September last year I joined a Hope Global team from Australia who had come to Kenya to work with Early Childhood teachers and also screen students for any eye problems which were potentially causing learning and/or behavioural issues in the classroom. Some educational sessions were done with students and teachers on eye care/ health and initial eye testing was completed. I was fortunate to be able to return to Kenya a month later to help coordinate and document some of the children’s journeys through surgery.

Pick me

Pick me

In classrooms we saw students eager to learn and contribute to discussions. However, we also found a lot of the children with eye problems had not talked to their teachers about the challenges they had and were sitting at the back of the classroom unable to see.

Group work

Group work

While identifying the eye issues was one factor we soon realised that there was a huge education piece missing in terms of eye care and health that needed to be integrated in all schools.  There were also some myths and cultural beliefs surrounding the treatment available that had caused some small eye problems to become big issues that were too late for treatment.

Testing

Vision screening

Eye testing made fun

Eye testing made fun

Cataracts

There were also some older community members who came to have their eyes tested.

Many of the elderly patients had cataracts which can be fixed with a quick and simple procedure. Although the surgery is performed regularly and has an incredibly high rate of success the patients were still scared of having it done. They believed that they would have their eyes replaced by pigs and a also faced huge fear of going blind from the surgery without considering if they didn’t have surgery they would eventually go blind.

Testing

Eye checks

A young teacher watches on as one of her students is seen by a doctor from Sabatia Eye Hospital at a screening session in the community.

Simple treatment

Simple treatment

Some of the students had simple allergies and were able to head home with just eye drops.

Sabatia Eye testing

Back at Sabatia Eye Hospital  testing

Further testing was performed back at Sabatia Eye Hospital a non profit eye hospital in Vihiga County North of Kisumu which specialises in eye care.  

Eye testing

Eye testing at Sabatia Eye Hospital

This was incredible to watch unfold… she exclaimed in a completely bewildered voice “I can see!” once she had the right glasses fitted. Her mother burst into tears.

Waiting pre surgery

Mothers and their children waiting for surgery

Surgery prep

Surgery prep.

A young boy watches as the needle goes into his hand pre surgery. He had no idea what was happening and was not happy when he felt the needle inserted but kept watching with interest despite the pain.

Surgery

Surgery at Sabatia Eye Hospital

Incredible precision in eye surgery. A visiting doctor observes as the surgeon performs ‘sight’ saving surgery on a young patient.

Surgery

One of the children about to undergo cataract surgery at Sabatia Eye Hospital

Recovery

Post surgery recovery

In recovery

Nurses monitor the patients in recovery

Leaving surgery

Many patients waiting for their surgery as a nurse transports one of the children back to the ward.

Meds

The medical supply cabinet

Treatment is only as good as the post operation care which has to be explained in detail to caregivers in order for the surgery to be a complete success and for patients to avoid infection.

Too late

Too late

This teenage boy has a piece of debris removed from his eye which has been lodged in there for 5 years. He mentioned he had eye pain since something had flung into his eye years earlier when he was playing with friends. The optometrist removed it within a few seconds through a simple procedure (pictured here). While he is now pain free, if he had treatment when it first occurred he would likely still have his vision in this eye. Access & health education are still a battle facing many in rural areas of Kenya.

A monoclor

Making learning a little easier

A young boy is given a monocular as a short term tool before he gets access to glasses. His reaction from looking through it at the blackboard was priceless and his friends all wanted a turn as well.

Gaining independence

Gaining independence

After years of being restricted and feeling so alone at times this young lady gained back some independence by being shown how to use a walking cane. She took to it so quickly and when I returned a month later expressed such gratitude for the new lease of life she had gained.

Mothers…. a day of celebrating all those we call MUM

I have always had mixed feeling about these day’s – mothers day, fathers day, – why do we need one day to celebrate our Mothers or Fathers? Should we not do it every day… and then I thought about it and realised I was wrong. If we set aside a day then we can really step back and focus on paying attention to, being appreciative of our Mums and what pay tribute to what it means to be a Mum, then thats a good thing!

So I thought I would put together a wee blog on some mum’s I met this past year on a photography assignment I went on for USAID  to South Africa, Lesotho and Uganda. During my time in the field documenting their Orphans and vulnerable children’s programs I met some amazing loving Mum’s working hard to provide education, shelter and a safe home for their children. What more does a child need?

Mothers born in tough circumstances working so hard to provide a great life for their children. They were all amazing women and mums.

Proud mother

Proud mother

A happy mother & her young daughter stand in the doorway of their home in a rural village in Uganda. She has worked incredibly hard to support her family. The initial support they have received has increased their knowledge and ability to farm and sustain themselves for the future.

Love is happiness

Love is happiness

A mothers LOVE ! Is there anything stronger? A mother and her son share a moment at a fun nutritional session for mothers called ‘Mama Zama’. The groups works with parents teaching them ECD skills such how to stimulate their children more through play, South Africa

Mothers love

Mothers love

A mother shares a moment with her baby at a parenting educational session with parents at a clinic in Mbarara, Uganda

Keeping kids healthy

Keeping kids healthy

At a clinic in rural Uganda a mother has her son checked for malaria after he had a fever and lost his appetite. She was very conscious of his health, as he had been so sick as a young baby the doctor informed me, so was regularly bringing him to he clinic for check ups.

New uniform for school

New uniform for school

A mother working at a local sewing project in Lesotho looks for a school uniforms for her daughter. Mother’s know the importance of keeping their daughters in school.

New arrival

New arrival

I arrived at this rural clinic in Uganda just an hour after this mother had given birth. She looked incredible and was beaming with pride to show me her son. I was amazed that she had gone into labour and walked herself to the clinic and gave birth not long after arriving – a super mum.

Memories

Memories

The connection between this mother and her daughter was beautiful as they looked through photos and shared memories of both their childhoods, South Africa.

Copying how mum does it

Copying how mum does it

She told me “this is my baby” and she was doing what her mum does and taking great care of her baby, Uganda.

Good news

Good news

A mother living positively finds out the great news that her baby is healthy in a counselling session in a clinic in Uganda.

Securing the future

Securing the future

A mother and her daughter attend a local meeting on issuing birth certificates and will writing in her village. Ensuring that families have all of their legal documents, such as wills and birth certificates, prepared is information local paralegal officers deliver to remote villages. This ensures that parents understand the need for and importance of this for securing their children’s future.

Born to be a mum

Born to be a mum – superhero!

I was in nothing but awe of this mother as she told me the story of how she became mother to Josephine. She had heard cries from a latrine as she was returning home one day with her children. With no way to see down into the deep pit she ran to the local market and convinced them to give her a torch so she could see the baby inside. Through a series of huge obstacles she managed to get the concrete slab removed and have someone climb down into the latrine to retrieve the, only days old, baby who was bloated and covered in waste. There have been many challenges along the way but this mother is nothing but loving and proud of her healthy bright young 4 year old girl.

And to the Mothers whose girls are missing today in Nigeria & so many other places they are trafficked from my thoughts are with you #BringBackOurGirls

SOUL in May

“HOW YOU LIVE ON IN OTHERS MEMORIES”

Wow this women looked into me!

She was sitting in a doorway in a back alley in Udaipur (one of my favourite places in Rajasthan, India). Once you get off the main streets and start exploring you can go all day wandering around alleyways that lead through homes and small businesses. Its a maze of fun, faces and invites into homes for chai and meals.
I always try to engage people in a small conversation before taking their photo but she didn’t speak any english so after a small exchange of smiles, a few words in different languages, head and hand movements she motioned that she was happy to have her photo taken. I clicked a few shots and then sat down on the ground next to her to show her the images. As always others gathered for a look as well and she smiled and buried herself in her head scarf as others made comments. Then we just sat, no words just the odd glance and smile and watched the world go by for some time. I’m not sure what it was about her but I just loved being in her presence. I tried to explain to her that I would bring the photo back in a few days but she just looked at me with her half smile and continued to sit content with life.
Soul

SOUL – how you live on in others memories

A few days later I went back with her image (something I have done for a long time and will always continue to do). This for me is usually more exciting than taking the photo. However, this time it was very different I walked up to where I had taken her image and she was sitting in the same spot wearing the same outfit. I was so pleased I had been able to find her and sat down next to her and opened my bag to get her photo, which I promptly put in front of her. She looked at it for a short while, smiled and then handed it back to me. I tried to hand it to her again and then asked one of the men who had gathered to explain to her that I had printed it so she could have a copy. After a short conversation he told me that she wanted me to keep the photo so I could remember her as she had no did not need it being so old. She looked at me and smiled – I moved back and took another photo of her (below attached) hiding her smile – touched her hand and walked on. I may have only spent a short time in this woman’s presence but there was something about her that was just soulful and I will remember.

Even a short presence in someone’s life can have a long lasting impact!

Hiding that smile

Hiding that smile

There were so many beautiful souls on the streets and alleys here are a few sights and people I met.

Friendly children in the alleys

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Family

Smoke break