An instant is not so small a thing. Thousands of miles and millions of lives stretch toward each other and meet in the middle of a moment, and in that space exists an unlimited potential for change. A rupture in the earth or a quiet passing. A spontaneous chorus of voices finding each other, a map blown out a window, a chance encounter.
It was a chance encounter with Paul Chadha, an attorney, philanthropist, and friend, that set me on a journey 7,500 miles across the world to Awassa, Ethiopia, irrevocably altering the course of my professional and personal life.
Paul had recently returned from Ethiopia, having visited the Hawassa Children’s Center that he founded in 2001. The Center provides a home, haven, and education for over 80 children whose families the HIV epidemic has claimed. For ten years, Paul and a team of dedicated and passionate individuals have worked to establish the Center as a stable and nourishing environment for hundreds of children whose lives were in an instant radically disrupted. Their work – and the children’s – has helped to create out of the chaos of epidemic and the vastness of Ethiopia’s Great Rift Valley a mecca in which these youths can thrive.
As a professional photographer, I was intrigued when Paul mentioned that, despite the fact that the 50% of the Center’s funding must come from individual donations, the Center lacked a visual identity that could help raise awareness to new and potential donors.
A chance encounter, a conversation with a friend, several phone calls, and a strong show of support from my creative and globally-conscious community later, I was on a plane to Awassa, Ethiopia, just five days after running into Paul. I was going to provide the Children’s Center with professional photographs that could be used to give a public face to this tremendous organization.
For fourteen days, I spent ten hours a day with the kids of the Hawassa Children’s Center, learning about their lives both before and after HIV/AIDS had knocked on the doors of their family homes. They were angels all, rarely betraying the struggles and heartaches endured at startlingly young ages. Their positive energy and natural vivacity – particularly in light of their experiences – were inspiring and, in many ways, humbling.
The people I met in Ethiopia welcomed me into their daily lives for two weeks and for two weeks I lived behind a lens trying to capture their sincerity, spirit, and joy. As an independent artist perpetually seeking and reaching out to my community, I felt a deep affinity with a culture that placed family, collaboration, and fortitude above all else. My trip to Ethiopia was brief, but in those two weeks I shared with these children, staff, and their families countless and unencumbered moments of connection, amity, and perspective. I plan on returning soon and often thereafter to continue to document how the Center – and I along with it – grows.
My hope is that you will find in these photographs the words I cannot quite articulate. Their faces speak for themselves. The first of these two galleries include my favorite shots from the Hawassa Children’s Center. The second shares images from my travels around the Ethiopia. I hope you enjoy them.
If you are interested in helping the Hawassa Children’s Center, every photo presented here is available for purchase, with 100% of the proceeds going directly to the Center.
All prints are 16×20, and $100 USD each.
For more information on the Hawassa Children Center and opportunities to get involved, please visit Awassa Children’s Project
Thank you for letting me share my story with you.