Postcard from Malawi’s tobacco lands

I’m back in Malawi, fondly (and so correctly) known as the ‘warm heart of Africa’. Today marks my completion of a month in the country, during which I’ve been on assignment for the European UnionConcern Universal, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) and the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation (EGPAF). Keep an eye on these pages as well as my newsletter over the next couple of months to find out more about what I’ve been up to and to see some of the fruits of my labours. In the meantime, I have a postcard for you:

humanitarian development hiv aids pmtct tobacco africa malawi 49260 Postcard from Malawis tobacco lands

Working to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV among Malawi’s tobacco farmers.

Tobacco, by far Malawi’s most significant cash crop, is unlikely to ever be the focus of an assignment for me as an international development photographer. Hardly surprising, given that it kills millions every year. I don’t see why it shouldn’t form the backdrop for the occasional image, though. After all, the drying process is aesthetically very appealing (at least, in my opinion), while the income from this kind of farming sustains millions in this largely cash strapped country.

So, in this postcard, I’ve not shied away from using the beautiful backdrop presented to me by tobacco leaves hung up to dry under the dusk sky. The image comes from a series shot for EGPAF in a rural community near Lilongwe, and features a Health Surveillance Assistant (HSA) checking the health record book an HIV-positive mother keeps for her small child as part of prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) efforts.

EveryChild – Images from Malawi and Russia

Towards the end of 2013, I undertook a couple of assignments for UK-based children’s charity EveryChild in two dramatically different settings, Malawi and Russia. Through this post, I have pleasure in sharing the resulting images.

EveryChild Malawi

While working for EveryChild in Malawi, I felt like I was getting a bit of a tour of the country as well, from the capital city Lilongwe to small villages on the Zambian border located many hours from the nearest sealed road. I met children like Solister (below) who’d been supported out of child labour and into school; children who are being raised by their grandparents because their parents are either away earning money for their families in South Africa or because their lives have been claimed by AIDS; children who’ve returned to their families after living rough on the streets; chiefs who’ve been supported in establishing local by-laws to combat child marriage; girls who’ve escaped child marriages and are now pursuing their dreams through formal schooling; and so many more. You can CLICK THE IMAGE below to view all 150 images for yourself.

 EveryChild   Images from Malawi and Russia



Partnership for Every Child in Russia

In Russia, the experience was very different. EveryChild as an international charity handed over responsibility for its work in Russia some years ago to Partnership for Every Child (P4EC), an independent Russian NGO. My photography was confined to the city of St Petersburg, where I visited a number of families where P4EC had been working to ensure that children were able to stay with their families in spite of challenging circumstances, rather than being placed in institutions. Several of these children – like Eva (below) who has Downs Syndrome – live with disabilities or other special needs. Others have parents who’ve fought addictions and complicated legal scenarios. Again, CLICK THE IMAGE below to view the gallery’s 107 images.

 EveryChild   Images from Malawi and Russia

Postcard from my latest visit to Chamrajnagar, India

Here I am, on my first assignment of 2014 after a solid chunk of time in London delivering on assignments from Southern Africa and Russia and enjoying the Christmas and New Year festivities with loved ones. Once again, I’m back in Chamrajnagar in the South Indian state of Karnataka, working on assignment with overseas disability charity CBM and one of their implementing partners, Mobility India. Perhaps you’ll remember the postcard I sent you back in June last year of three colourfully dressed little girls standing in an equally colourful doorway?

humanitarian development travel culture dance photography india karnataka chamrajnagar 43587 Postcard from my latest visit to Chamrajnagar, India

Bathed in the evening sun, children demonstrate a traditional dance in Chamrajnagar, Southern India.

Today’s postcard is made from an image I shot just after wrapping up my work one day earlier this week. I had been capturing how a particular After-School Club Coordinator used methods taught by The Teacher Foundation (TTF) to involve a child with speech and hearing difficulties more effectively in activities. As I was packing up my equipment, a few of the children asked if I’d like to be treated to a small show of traditional dance. Of course I did!!

SmileTrain – Christmas comes early for Russian cleft patients

I’m sure you’ll have come across Vincent’s story recently, either on my site or in my December newsletter. I’ve had a lot of really positive feedback from people who have felt tremendously moved by this 43-year-old Malawian’s journey and the life-changing work that SmileTrain is doing with people born with cleft lips and palates. This organisation and its partner hospitals really are miracle workers, and it’s been a great pleasure for me to bring you Vincent’s and other behind-the-scenes stories from their work. During November, I travelled to Russia with the same mission.

SmileTrain’s work in Volgograd, Russia

When I was greeted by Dr Irina Fomenko in the city of Volgograd in Russia’s Southern Federal District, she stressed that “Russia is not like Africa, what you’ll see here will be very different”. She was not wrong. Their system of medical care reminded my of the National Health Service (NHS) in my own country, the UK. Everybody is supposed to have access to a system of universal healthcare, as Russia’s constitution gives all citizens the right to free healthcare under a State insurance scheme. Nevertheless, there are plenty of cases that slip through the net. Stella, pictured here, is one example. She is an ethnic Armenian, and her parents have been struggling to get State insurance for her. This is where SmileTrain comes in.

IMG42328 SmileTrain   Christmas comes early for Russian cleft patients

CLICK THE IMAGE to explore the gallery.

Gallery of images

You can CLICK THE IMAGE above to view all 126 images in a gallery of photographs from my assignment for SmileTrain in Volgograd. You’ll meet Stella and her family, as well as baby Valentina and her parents and a young man called Kirill and his step-mother. Valentina and Kirill’s cleft cases are particularly pronounced. Valentina was born with a complete unilateral cleft lip and alveolus, while Kirill has so far had several surgeries since being born with a complete bilateral cleft lip and palate, the most difficult type of cleft to correct. Though both children can avail of support from State insurance, SmileTrain provides a means for such severe cases to come to the front of the waiting list. I hope you’ll enjoy getting to know all three of these delightful children!

Usage rights may be purchased for all of these images, but note that the photographer must be credited and reference made to SmileTrain’s work.

Free A Family video from Mozambique – World Renew

I recently introduced you to the Khoma Family of Mozambique’s Tete Province, and shared an album of images documenting various activities from their day-to-day lives that I captured for World Renew. As you may remember, the Khomas are that organisation’s ‘representative family’ from Southern Africa, one of five families from around the world that help them demonstrate how its ‘Free A Family‘ initiative works and makes a difference in places beset by widespread poverty.

Today, I’d like to share the icing on the cake from this project, a 2½-minute video:

Church congregations as donors

World Renew is a faith-based organisation, and most of its funding comes from church congregations in the United States and Canada. This video will be projected on big screens for these congregations in order to help them understand the Free A Family model and how it’s resulting in positive, meaningful change for individual families across Southern Africa.

Informative, peppy and accessible

Bear in mind, of course, that few of those watching will be international development professionals. So the challenge was to help viewers feel like they’ve been deposited there on the ground in rural Mozambique, allowing them to get a quick feel for the life and culture there, while breaking the subject matter down into laypeople’s terms and presenting it in a fun, peppy manner. I hope you’ll feel that I’ve achieved something close to this here!

Sustainable development

The song the farmers are singing in the video is very relevant in a sustainable development context, so I thought you might appreciate a chance to read the words in English. Here you go:

We don’t want to buy maize (x3), we can grow it ourselves. (Entire line repeated x2.)
We grow it ourselves. (Repeated x8.)

We don’t want to buy beans (x3), we can grow them ourselves. (Entire line repeated x2.)
We grow it ourselves. (Repeated x8.)

We don’t want to buy peanuts (x3), we can grow them ourselves. (Entire line repeated x2.)
We grow it ourselves. (Repeated x8.)

We don’t want to buy cassava (x3), we can grow it ourselves. (Entire line repeated x2.)
We grow it ourselves. (Repeated x8.)

We don’t want to buy millet (x3), we can grow it ourselves. (Entire line repeated x2.)
We grow it ourselves. (Repeated x8.)