On the lively streets of Kissy Dockyard, women wash clothes and clean fish while men work on cars. But for some women who don’t have work – they sell their body on the streets. So Operation Blessing is working with a local woman named Ms. B., on a sewing project geared toward teaching young women a trade that will keep them off the streets.
We sat down with Ms. B. and she told us about the situation and how she has been trying to help the young women, “They no got no daddy. Some, their daddy died. Some, they’re not responsible. So no me just alone to try to educate them, try to encourage them with words, that this life they are living is not good. But we encourage them, so they’re not going to go out on the streets.”
Ms. B started this program with one dress…a wedding dress. She rented it to brides and used the money to buy two sewing machines that she uses to train young women to sew. And that wedding dress? It is being restored as part of the learning process because she still rents it to buy materials for the program because the money generated is limited by the amount of work they can accomplish with 2 machines.
So to help Ms. B grow her program and help more women, Operation Blessing bought enough sewing machines and supplies for each of the young women to have their own work station
One of the projects that these young women are working on are school uniforms for a school that Operation Blessing is supporting in the same Kissy Dockyard neighborhood. The kids are benefiting from new uniforms made from fabric supplied by Operation Blessing and the work by these women who are being taught a new trade. This trade they are learning is very important. Because without a trade, young women like Josephine will become the trade.
Josephine told us, “I just want to learn to sew because I’m glad I won’t have to sell myself to pay for food and material things.”
This program is not only giving Josephine the skills she needs, the projects she is working on generate the income she needs to leave the program with tools necessary to make a living without resorting to prostitution.
9-year-old Hassan sits in front of a chalkboard at his school that is supported by Operation Blessing in Sierra Leone. Children are receiving free education because of free uniforms and school supplies that would normally cost their parents and entire month’s pay.
I had the honor of spending time with Ms Edith and over 5o joy-filled children that are in her care at Hope In Christ Orphanage Mission just outside Monrovia, Libera. Ms. Edith is an amazing woman. During the Liberian conflict, Edith started helping children in 1992 because of conflict in Liberia that left them orphaned. It started with one baby she found and rescued only to lose her own child soon after. The stories she told were tragic, but her compassion and calling has allowed many children to succeed under difficult circumstances. I pray that my life can be even 1/4 as touching as hers. Her life hasn’t been easy and she is a mother to hundreds of children in Liberia – and because of their success, she has a Joy that many cannot even imagine.
Operation Blessing saw the impact that Ms. Edith was making in Liberia and wanted to help her improve the conditions they live in and learn in. They all work hard to be able to have food to eat, an education, medical care, and a place to sleep. All of the buildings on the campus of the orphanage have been built by the older children that have come through the orphanage. They make the mud bricks on-site and build the walls. The roofing materials are purchased from proceeds they generate by from proceeds of their garden and by making and selling coal.
Ms. Edith knows the value of an education and has built a school for the younger children on the campus and pays for the older children to attend school. Costs of medicine when they are, teacher stipends for her school, and other costs that come up has kept them from being able to finish cementing school walls and fixing leaking roofs that are deteriorating the buildings. Operation Blessing saw the need and worked to fix up the buildings and providing the help she needed to continue raising up children that are making a difference in Liberia. From humble beginnings, she has raised up doctors, nurses, teachers, pastors, and government workers.
She has dedicated her life to these children and is an inspiration. Watch the video and let her be an inspiration to you.
I shot these clips in an afternoon while we had offsite meetings about upcoming work projects. The images were captured on a 5D Mark II with a Vello Shutterboss. I shot RAW and edited the images in Lighroom and assembled them in FCPX. I took Richard Harrington’s NAB time-lapse workshop and have been hooked on time-lapse video since. I’m still playing around with settings and finding out what works best. I don’t have any de-flicker software yet, so I decided to enhance the look with flash frames during the edit process.
And if creating a cool Timelapse video isn’t enough for you to try it yourself, you have the added bonus of hundreds of images to pick through to find still frames you like.
A quick video from my first experience shooting time lapse at Red Rock Canyon. It includes some photos and the time lapse shots I captured at the workshop. This is my first time at NAB and my first time shooting time lapse photography. I bought a Vello Intervalometer for my birthday back in January, but have not had the time or energy to invest in learning time lapse. I took the Time Lapse and Panorama Workshop with Richard Harrington at NAB to learn about the techniques and jump the first hurdle keeping me from learning. It was a great course and a beautiful environment.
A lot of people ask me what I shoot when I am out in the field, so I decided to do a quick iPhone video showing what I was using in Pelewanhun, Sierra Leone this week.
Sawuo spent all the money she from her business selling shoes, purses, and clothing on medical bills trying to save her husband who unfortunately passed away. She now works tirelessly under the hot sun to make charcoal she sells at the market to help support her 23 year old daughter and 3 grandchildren. She makes less than a third of what she made from her previous business and struggles to survive. We met her daughter and very sick grandchildren at the medical clinic and had to rush them to Monrovia for a blood transfusion and treatment for severe malaria and malnutrition at the hospital. Today we saw the young girls who are doing much better and then went into the bush to deliver great news to Sawuo. Their lives are about to be changed in a big way by Operation Blessing. The community is rallying around the family and the plans we have for them. More to come at a later date (watch www.operationblessing.org for a future update). Exciting day filled with huge smiles.
Well I just finished packing for my upcoming Operation Blessing trip to Liberia and Sierra Leone. I faced some difficulties trying to keep most of my gear in carry-on luggage while still having room for a couple days worth of clothing. It is a tough balancing act, but one I must make because I have had gear stolen from my checked luggage and several trips where my checked luggage is lost – leaving me without extra clothes to wear. In the end, I feel like I’ve been able to pack enough for me to get by without my checked luggage or items that may be pilfered. I look forward to the trip, the people I will be able to meet, and the stories that will be captured. In the end, that outweighs all of this heavy stuff that I am trying to bring.
Here’s what I was able to pack in 2 carry-on and 2 checked bags:
It seems like I just returned from Mali – in fact, my luggage is still sitting on the floor of my home office and my desks are cluttered with lenses and miscellaneous gear – but I’m already thinking about what I need to put back in the bags next week. So many ideas running through my head about the people I’ll meet and the media I hope to capture, which is the motivation for the gear I need to bring with me. Packing is a very stressful and long process for me because it is the rough draft of the media I hope to capture. There is a long list of items I will always have to bring with me: cameras, mics, batteries, chargers, laptop, hard drives, flashes, power adapters, clothes, medicine, etc. The difficult question is which lenses, flash modifiers, second camera (another Canon or my Sony NEX 5N – which requires more lenses, battery, and charger), camera bags and then if I want to bring extra items like a specialty camera (HD Hero, Polaroid, Holga, etc), backdrop, video lights, slider, monopod, filters, or reflectors. Bags get heavy and fill up quickly, so choosing one item means that another has to be left behind – and honestly, I can only do so much before the gear takes over and the story and media suffers.
I’ve learned over the years that good planning can avoid carrying extra weight that never leaves my bag. This is where vision makes a big difference. When you understand the scenario you are entering and begin to think about the best or most interesting way to capture media to enhance the story being told, you can pack accordingly and have the tools necessary to work effectively and efficiently.
Every trip, I try to scale back and carry only the essentials – while I am packing much leaner, I still convince myself to bring a few unnecessary items. It isn’t because I am being foolish, I just don’t know the exact scenarios in which I’ll be working and certain aspects I envisioned don’t play out. The gear would’ve been used had the environment been right. This particular trip I am considering a collapsible background that I can use to capture images in a way that I have not done before while traveling internationally. A neutral background allows the people to be viewed instead of their environment. Their are benefits to photos both ways, but I’ve always enjoyed seeing a collection of photos that allow the beauty of the person to shine without interference from their surroundings. This is still just an idea and will be decided as I meet with our team and talk about the trip and develop a more concrete vision. I have a week of these types of questions ahead of me and will let you know what I decide to pack.
See how Operation Blessing is helping victims of civil war in Mali.