A bittersweet moment....I spent some time with her, before her surgery. While the doctors and nurses were preparing for surgery, which used to be kitchen. I was left alone with her. She was smiling and joking around with me as we waited together. We didn't speak the same language, but that didn't matter. As the time for surgery drew closer she started to calm down, and became quiet. It's a tough thing to go through so young and by yourself. What she needed to have done was not complex, but will be life changing for her. As she woke up from the anesthesia she started to cry. I held her hand until she feel asleep again. Total strangers, yet for a moment very close.
I was in the Philippines documenting on going relief efforts by Direct Relief post Typhoon Hiayan. Even with all the devastation of peoples lives and livelihoods. People rebuild, babies are born, and life goes on. This little guy was only about an hour old and he still had the umbilical cord attached along with the placenta. I was privileged to be there for the umbilical cutting. He was born in a clinic that Bumi Sehat Foundation along with its founder Robin Lim set up in Dulag on Leyte Island an area that was destroyed by the typhoon. Inside the clinic are a series of tents where, women go through labor, babies are born, mothers recover, midwives live in, medicines are stored, and healthcare is administered. Amazing women who work there on 24 hour shifts, every single midwife a rockstar.
The devastation had been cleaned up in some areas and some areas not really. In Tacloban fishing boats were washed ashore during the typhoon and no one knows when they will be moved. So people have restarted their lives right under the boats. With children playing around them, meals being prepared, and homes being constructed.
"Need a lift?" she quietly said, as we passed by her on a path among the corn rows. We were headed to visit Pheobe, an obstetric fistula survivor, and her family at a village in Mumias, Kenya. I said no, thinking how a person as small as she is ride that giant bicycle with someone on the back. One of my traveling campanions had no issues with that. He hopped on the bike and rode off with her pedaling away. We continued on and after 15 minutes I arrived to find him sitting in the shade and relaxed, while I stood there sweating and over heated. Next time don't think so much I told myself.
A moment of reflection before her surgery is set to start, in a room that used to be a kitchen now an operating room where doctors help women heal. Not just from physical problems, but from some emotional ones also, to live a better, and fuller life. Documenting a day in the life of the Gynocare clinic dedicated to women's health in Eldoret, Kenya.
I have been in hurriances and seen their aftermath. I have experinced earthquakes and seen the destruction. None of those past experiences prepared me for what I saw in Moore, Oklahoma after an EF5 tornado. In some places it was a destruction so total it is a miracle that people survived. Survived they did, and right away they started to pick up the pieces of their lives. Groups of all kinds started streaming into Moore soon after the tornado, church groups, NGO's, government agencies, veterans, and just regular people who piled up supplies and equipment in their trucks and drove hundreds of miles to help. They came to clean up, cut trees, feed people, provide medical attention, bring medicine, to help in any way possible. I am glad I was able to travel with Direct Relief to document their efforts in Moore. I put together a video which shows the relationship between Direct Relief and Team Rubicon. The goal being how working together they are able to more effectively get help to the people that need it faster and more efficiently.
This video is about Direct Relief's response to the disaster.
I was commisioned by Direct Relief to document their efforts in reducing maternal death for both the mother and child. Direct Relief provides midwife kits to graduates from the School of Midwifery in Makeni, Bombali District, Sierra Leone. The midwife kits provide the tools needed to safely deliver a baby. Tools that are almost impossible to find in Sierra Leone. I was commisioned to document in photography, and video different clinics in rural parts of the country as well as the graduation of the most recent class. Sierra Leone emerged from a brutally violent civil war 10 years earlier, and their infrastructure was decimated. It was one of the more challenging trips I have done with all sorts of issues ranging from lack of electricity, the extreme heat, eating well, bad roads, spotty mobile service, limited internet access, and very basic lodging at times. This is one of the countries where the term "conflict diamonds" originated from. On the up side though the people were amazingly friendly, and welcoming everywhere I went from small villages to the capital city.
These photos are more of my expericnes, and a feeling of the place. As a policy I don't publish any photos that my client can use until they have published first. So I will publish more at a later time. Many thanks to Lindsey Pollaczek the project director from Direct Relief who organized the trip and traveled with me. She organized a great trip and is a super traveler. It was a positive and deeply felt experience.
While we were having lunch under a tree, a boy carrying water and mangos passed by.
At the graduation the local photographers were pretty aggressive on getting their shots. So was I....
Crossing a bridge and just washed laundry drying the in the sun.
A typical village with land being cleared for planting.
A shot of me with way too much gear photo by Lindsey.
We did lots of driving to get to some of the more remote clinics, over 20 hours in total for the week.
A house by the road. Some of the houses are from the colonial period of Sierra Leone.
Everywhere I went I would have an entourage......many curious and cute kids
Typical road in the more rural parts.
More ground being cleared for planting. Slash and burn, not a good thing.
A typical girl selling bananas, and eating a mango.
Sometimes we had to get off the road to get to where we needed to go in Kono, Sierra Leone.
A general store in rural areas.
Everywhere we went we got smiles and waves.
Graduation ceremony complete with marching bands and procession in Makeni, Sierra Leone
Some of the midwife graduates posing for a photo on the football pitch. The graduates played a soccer game....It was great fun to watch
I photographed an expectant mother at her home and she invited us to lunch. Rice with cassava leaves, palm oil, pepper, and a warm 7up. In the photo Dr. Heidi from the Medical Research Center on the left, and Lindsey from Direct Relief on the right. Not everyone in the shot was invited to the lunch...this was our entourage who stayed to watch.
Photographing the expectant mother while being observed.
These girls were way too cute and loved having their photos taken.
It was hot, very hot!
Sometime we drove at night. We tried to avoid that.
In Freetown the weekends are a time where football is played on the beach there must be about 20 matches going on. Keeping ft is a big thing with people jogging everywhere.
Night time in Freetown....The smell and smoke of cooking fires all over the city, make the city very smokey, and its dark in places due to no power. This is the Times Square there is a big jumbo screen playing videos.
Typical roadside businness'
Motorbikes are everywhere.
The marching band, and Abdul the trumpet player.
There was also an all girl marching band.
Each midwife team had someone to drive away the bad spirits. She was the best.
More motor bikes.
A goat tied up outside out guest house in Kono
The common area of the guest house, not bad
The bathroom in Kono. Pretty basic
My room in Kono with the requicsite mosqito net but the fan was not working. It was a long and sweaty night.