Photo: school chums

"These are the faces of children and their families living in a world of AIDS. Their spirit, their determination, and their resilience inspire all of us to join their fight. We are one world, and these children are our children, their destiny is our destiny. Each of us can make a difference." -- Archbishop Desmond Tutu

Global Family Village, Nepal

May 23rd, 2013

Child with flowers“I slept and dreamt that life was joy,

I awoke and saw that life was service,

I acted and behold, service was joy.”  – Tagore

Global Family Village is a Bay Area nonprofit that aims to show that orphans can grow up as a family, feel loved and cared for and; part of their community. It’s a new idea and one that will only work if the local community is involved.

GFV 2I spent 10 days in late February and early March staying in Bungamati, Nepal with seven children living together in a home for orphans. I photographed the children and their relationships with each other and people in the community.

The children found their way to their home through a series of difficult experiences. Some of them were abandoned and left with relatives too poor to feed them. One child was starving when he was brought in. Two of the children were abandoned by their father and watched their mother commit suicide.

But now their lives are looking up through the agency of Global Family Village (globalfamilyvillage.org) and the participation of the Cooperative Society of Bungamati. I’m working on a youtube video that will tell about it. In the meantime here are photos of some of the children. As you can see, they are doing well! [View Video]
GFV 3

GFV 4

GFV 5

Karen Ande and Ruthann Richter Receive Eric Hoffer Book Award

May 30th, 2011

Eric Hoffer Award MedallionThe book Face to Face: Children of the AIDS Crisis in Africa has been honored with an Eric Hoffer Award as one of the best books in the “Culture” category, the Hoffer Award committee announced May 26.

The awards, named for the great American philosopher Eric Hoffer, recognize independent books of exceptional merit. The book received a silver-medal equivalent in its category.

“This book combines the compassionate personal narrative of award- winning medical writer Ruthann Richter with emotionally compelling photographs taken by documentary photographer Karen Ande,” the reviewers wrote. “Their joint focus on the devastation of the hopes and dreams of specific children—living in places such as the Mama Darlene Children’s Centre and the Saidia Children’s Home—that have lost one or both parents to Aids/HIV and or have themselves contracted the disease renders an emotional and deeply personal perspective of a crisis affecting 12 million children living in sub-Saharan Africa.”

Office Warming & Photo Exhibit at SF City Hall

February 13th, 2011


Lots of interesting people at Supervisor John Avalos’ office at City Hall on Thursday night 2/10/11. It was a combination office-warming and photography exhibit. I was lucky enough to be the featured photographer. We talked about politics—let’s keep Adult Day Health programs up and running for frail seniors!—and of course, African AIDS orphans. Here’s a photo with the supervisor and me plus one of the exhibit photos in the background.

Raiding the Piggy Bank for African Children

May 21st, 2010

I first met Mary’s children Sophia and Jacob when they were 5 & 6 years old. They wanted to help some of the people I met in Africa and raided their piggy banks. Here is what Mary and her kids have to say about giving:

I lived in Africa for 3 years before I got married and had children. When Jacob and Sophia started receiving allowance I felt very strongly that I wanted them to learn about giving a portion of their money to help others. We decided to help support Karen’s work with orphans of AIDS in Rwanda. One afternoon we covered a container with paper mache. We called it our “Africa” box. They already knew a lot about Africa because of my stories. Each week when they got their allowance of $5.00, they put $1.00 in the box. When Karen let us know she was getting ready to make a trip to Rwanda, Jacob and Sophia would open up their box and give the money they had saved to Karen. The thing I liked about giving their money to Karen was the direct connection. She would tell them what she was going to spend it on and when she came back she would let them now what the children’s reaction was to the gift bought with their money. Sometimes she even had a photograph! I’m sure Karen had much larger donations, however, she honored Jacob and Sophia’s donation like it was a million dollars! This good feeling they experienced from donating to Karen’s work has helped Jacob and Sophia to continue to enjoy the gift of giving. — Mary, mother of Sophia and Jacob

Now let’s hear from Sophia and Jacob:

“When I would save a couple of dollars a week in my little box it made me feel good because I knew it was going to people who needed it. We would give it to Karen and she would give it to the children she knew in Africa”. – Sophia, age 11

“Every week I would put $2.00 of my allowance in the “Africa“ box. When Karen would go to Africa my sister and I would take the money out and give it to her. When she came back she would tell us what she had had done with it. Sometimes she would show us pictures of the children we had helped. I felt proud and happy that I made a difference. – Jacob, age 12

Positive Energy is Never Misspent

April 17th, 2010

So, you’re out of work but you still want to help people? Laurin Hayes uses her smarts and creativity to find a way. Here is her story:

Laurin with Tanzanian friends

I traveled to Tanzania for the first time 9 years ago to see the flora and fauna of that amazing place. Being a nature and animal lover, I expected to fall in love with the wilds of Africa; which I did, but I unexpectedly fell in love with the Tanzanian people as well. Warm, welcoming, loving, soft-spoken, these people prize community over competition, and are collectively the most gracious and hard-working people I have ever known.

To realize what they must do on a daily basis just to survive was a complete awakening for me. To witness their triumphs despite their daily struggles has motivated me to take a harder look at my own privileged American society. To witness their simple joy in spite of overwhelming poverty has left me with a yearning to do what I can, in my own way, to help.

It was through a mutual friend that I met Karen Ande. Karen and I share a deep desire to leave “positive footprints” in Africa by helping to bring a healthy dose of awareness to the situation and to give others an opportunity to enrich the lives of those less fortunate that we have left behind.

A professional photographer by trade, Karen Ande has produced a book filled with beautiful images and touching stories of the many people she has met and places she has visited during her travels to Africa. She donates all the proceeds to worthy and responsible causes which she lists in her book. I was so motivated by Karen’s positive attitude and inspiring book that I wanted to share it with everyone I know.

Since I’ve been out of work for 6 months, I can neither afford to purchase multiple copies, nor make a significant donation by myself, so I have to get creative and ask myself, “What can I do???”

I have compiled a mailing list of 50 friends and family from all across the country whom I am sending my copy of Karen’s book to — one at a time. I’m giving others an opportunity to see, read and hopefully feel what I feel about the project because I truly believe each of us has a responsibility to help those less fortunate — in whatever way one is able. Even small donations can collectively add up to make a huge difference.

Sure, it’s a total experiment but I’m willing to give it a try, because that’s what I can do. I’ll keep blogging to let you know where my book travels and what the outcome of this experiment will be. My new mantra: Positive energy is never misspent.

Kids Who Care #1: Rebecca Jacobson

February 18th, 2010

This blog, first in our series of “Kids Who Care” is written by Rebecca Jacobson.  Rebecca visited one of my photo exhibits of children orphaned by AIDS and decided to become involved.  Here is her story:

Tzedakah means giving to charity and is a very important Jewish value.

My passion began in fourth grade, when I went to Karen Ande’s exhibit of pictures of children who had been orphaned by AIDS in Africa. Being in fourth grade I didn’t know what to make of the situation. It seemed so unfair to me that this number of children my age were suffering, as the pictures showed, while every night my parents tucked me into my comfortable bed. I knew I wanted to do something but how could I do something to help these people half way around the world? I decided to play the violin in the embarcadero with my friend and try to raise money. In one hour we raised over $200. This paid for eight children’s school uniforms and a portion of a garden at one of the orphanages. Later we received a thank you letter, making me feel so proud. I knew I wasn’t done helping.

In seventh grade, my class decided that instead of giving each other B’nei Mitzvah gifts, we would raise money to distribute among various non – profit organizations and give tzedakah. Teachers put us in pairs and small groups to research organizations and decide which ones would receive the money we had raised. To do my part, I played violin outside the farmer’s market. Earlier that year, I had done a project about education in Africa and interviewed Karen Ande about it. I learned that AIDS and poor education were closely related. For this new project, I knew I wanted to choose an organization that would help educate and stop the spread of AIDS in Africa.

My partner had a cousin who started a refugee resettlement organization called Mapendo International, which is based in Boston for those suffering in Africa. We decided to give our portion of the Bnei Mitzvah fund to Mapendo.. Mapendo means “great love” in Swahili. This is where the journey began.

Rebecca Jacobson

Mapendo’s mission statement says that “Mapendo International works to fill the critical and unmet needs of people affected by war and conflict who have fallen through the net of humanitarian assistance…” Mapendo helps resettle and fill the needs of people in Africa who have been misplaced as a result of war or any discrimination due to race or beliefs. After my partner’s cousin found out that we would be donating this money, he asked me to present it at an upcoming fundraiser for Mapendo.

The fundraiser was a life changing experience. When we got there, I met the woman who the organization is named after, Rose Mapendo who had suffered herself as a refugee in the Congo. After I spoke about our project and presented Mapendo with $1,500.00, Rose talked about her painful experience of being a refugee. The soldiers in her country, captured her family and the government imprisoned Rose, her husband and their seven children. That same day the government executed her husband. Rose and the children were not given any food or water. In addition, she gave birth to twins on the bare, dirty, cold prison floor. She sang us the song that she sang to her children every night in prison and started to cry. My eyes welled with tears, but I fought back my tears. I wanted to listen. I tried to imagine myself in her situation and felt guilty that I lead a much more privileged life than she had. Of all the horrific crimes that I have leaned about on the news and in the newspaper, Rose Mapendo’s story moved me the most. I had a close to first hand experience of what millions of people are going through as we speak. Her words touched my heart, unlike anyone has done before. Rose Mapendo represents the millions of people suffering in prisons, refugee camps, losing family members to civil war, singing melodies to their children and praying for a miracle. She and her family luckily fell into the net that Mapendo International created for them, but there are still nations full of people yet to be helped who fell past the net and deeper into the hands of the people who were torturing and oppressing them.

After the event, Rose embraced me. It felt tremendous knowing that I was helping her help so many people. This experience dramatically changed my perspective on everyday life. For instance, anytime I want to buy something gratuitous, I think of Rose Mapendo and the people she represents. I hold myself back because I know that other people like her could be using the money for survival. Because of this experience, I hope to devote a larger part of my life to the enormous number of people who have fallen short of Mapendo’s net.

My family’s unconditional support is the reason I am able fulfill my desire to be part of the solution instead of the world’s problems. My parents have continually exposed me to life outside my own home. They encourage me to support those who cannot support themselves. My journey started with my first footsteps into Karen Ande’s exhibit and now, a freshmen in high school Karen Ande continues to inspire me.

I can thank people who work for Face to Face: Children of the AIDS crisis in Africa, Mapendo International and other organizations for not only changing the lives of forgotten refugees and people suffering from AIDS but changing mine as well.

Presses Roll for Us at Canada’s Most Environmentally Progressive Printer: Hemlock Printers

September 8th, 2009

I spent a weekend recently at Hemlock Printers in Vancouver, B.C. participating in the press check for our book, Face to Face: Children of the AIDS Crisis in Africa. It’s hard to describe the satisfaction and joy as I watched the photos and stories that represent seven years of work come off those presses.

Hemlock printed our book on 6-color, 8-color and 10-color Heidelberg presses, some of the highest quality presses made. The detail they bring out in the photos is phenomenal. I felt from the beginning that I wanted the children and families in this book to have their story told as beautifully and engagingly as possible. They deserve no less, and that’s exactly what they got. I couldn’t be happier.

Our press check worked like this: Designer Doug da Silva compared the digital proofs we signed off on in San Francisco to the freshly printed sheets from the presses at Hemlock. He examined those sheets for color accuracy, richness of blacks, color balance and registration, among other things. He asked for needed changes and when the sheets were printed to his satisfaction we signed off on them.

After each approval, they printed 2,000 sheets. The 8-color and 10-color presses were perfector presses, which means they are able to print both sides of the sheet at the same time. This is a very efficient process. We had a two-hour break while they did the printing and readied the next sheet for our examination. The pressmen were very knowledgeable and responsive to our requests—so accurate that we really made very few adjustments to their work, particularly toward the end of the weekend.

We signed off on 5 sheets and the cover on the first day and finished the last three the following day. Each of those sheets will be cut up into 16 page signatures and sewn at the bindery. Eight signatures plus the cover will be bound into our 128-page book.

I realized a few things. It takes a village to produce a book like this and I’m grateful to writer Ruthann Richter; Doug da Silva and Annemarie Clark of the Clark Creative Group in San Francisco; Frits Kouwenhoven, managing partner of Hemlock Printers, and their talented staff and pressmen, particularly Gerry and Chris.

Now—to the bindery for the finishing touches and then, hopefully, to you!

New Book: Face to Face: Children of the AIDS Crisis in Africa

July 29th, 2009

Face to Face book cover

This unique book by Karen Ande and Ruthann Richter combines vivid narrative and photography to document the impact of AIDS on Africa’s children, offering a moving portrayal of life in the shadow of the disease. It captures the hopes and heartaches of youngsters who have lost parents to the disease or are coping with HIV infection themselves. The book profiles some of the activists – the energetic and inspiring people working at the grassroots level to help restore the well-being of these youngsters. And it pays homage to the care-giving grannies, the vast network of older women who have stepped in to keep families together as traditional social networks collapse.

The book serves as a reminder of this forgotten generation, the millions of orphans and vulnerable children who have been largely overlooked in the world’s response to the pandemic.

“Ruthann Richter and Karen Ande have given a new voice and face to this pandemic, which continues to destroy the hopes, dreams and lives of children. Through compelling and poignantly informed stories and narratives and incredibly sensitive and touching portraits of children, families, providers and communities, Richter and Ande remind us, in a deeply personal way, how important HIV remains in Africa and beyond.”Philip Pizzo, MD, dean of the Stanford University School of Medicine and a specialist in pediatric HIV

“This book brings these issues to the forefront, providing seldom-seen and poignant portraits of the lives of children in sub-Saharan Africa who are growing up in the world of AIDS. These are remarkably resilient youngsters, children with the faces of hope, carrying on in the face of daunting loss and economic deprivation.”Peter Piot, MD, former executive director of UNAIDS

“One of the most tragic and insidious costs of AIDS is the price paid by children, who lose parents, protection and opportunities for the future. These beautiful faces will remind you of children you love. And their stories show what’s possible when we care enough to stand up for them.”Helene D. Gayle MD, MPH, President and CEO, CARE USA

To order copies, please visit the book’s website: FaceToFaceAfrica.com.

Church in Action: From San Francisco to Nairobi, Kenya

April 4th, 2009

I believe in the beauty of children, and as a photographer I have my own way of seeing them. I like how light shines off the backs of their hands, silvers their cheekbones and warms their dark (or light) hair. I like their differences—the personality that looks out at you announcing I am bold, restless, shy, hopeful.
15-year-old Vannah cares for her 5 younger brothers and sisters after the death of their parents to AIDS.

Light also illuminates the darkness in which they sometimes live. When I visited a friend, Heidi Pidcoke, who works with children in the slums around Nairobi, Kenya, I became aware of a depth of hurt and abandonment unlike any I’d seen before. These children—14, 15, 16-year-old girls—were all orphans and caring for their younger brothers and sisters. Children cared for children all because their parents had died of AIDS and they had no aunts, uncles or grandparents around to help.

Jacob and Sophie help their mom at the bake sale

Being children, they had dreams. But when I asked about them I found they were largely unattainable. These “dreams” by the way, would be considered rights where we live. They wanted to go to school, get a backpack to carry their books, have enough food for themselves and their brothers and sisters.

Jacob organizes the food and handles the cash container

I decided to focus on the schooling of the girls that headed six of the families I met. I talked this project over with members of the Mission and Justice Committee of Temple United Methodist Church in San Francisco, CA. We soon recruited many enthusiastic committed friends from the TUMC community, Palo Alto and Menlo Park, CA. And I must say, never underestimate the power of a well-placed bake sale.

So, one Saturday morning in Noe Valley we sold Sandra Hardin’s bread, the Crain’s devastatingly good pecan pies and German chocolate cake, and cookies, muffins, candy from many of our friends at Temple and beyond. Sophie and Jacob, children of the M&J Committee chair Mary Hagen, did the artwork and managed the cash box. Frank Espada, photographer extraordinaire, documented the event.

All bake sale photos thanks to Frank Espada

We raised $1900 in four hours. Then with the additional help of donations from the Quakers and Barbara Brown, who committed to funding the entire four years of high school for one of the girls, we more than reached our goal. In January 2009, six of the girls started high school and another six began vocational training.

I thank all of my friends who took part in this project. Because of you six orphaned, teenage girls will now have an education and practical skills to support themselves and their families. “If you educate a boy you educate an individual, but if you educate a girl you educate a community.” African proverb

 

Abundance and Chickens

July 4th, 2008

Journalist Ruthann Richter and I met Joseph and William one morning in their two-room home in Naivasha, Kenya. Their rented house for which they paid $15/month was simple, unpainted wood. The floor was dirt and the furnishings included chairs, a bed separated from the rest of the house by a torn sheet, a kerosene burner and shelves that contained pots, plastic utensils and a flowered teakettle.

Joseph boiling milk tea

We wanted to meet them because we knew they were both HIV+ and had to handle the stigma that comes with this illness. They had little money as Joseph lost his job when he was diagnosed, and now struggles to pay rent and feed himself and William. On slim days they have “black tea” (tea without milk) and a cup of maize and beans for lunch. Other days the meals include ugali – a stiff maize-flour polenta – greens, bananas, and sometimes a little meat or fish. The point is that their living conditions are harsh and their protein intake inadequate to maintain health even though they are on antiretroviral medication.

But Joseph has a radiant smile and said, “I am enjoying my life and I thank God for giving me this chance.” And we loved the tenderness he offered his spunky, but very ill young son William.

William plays with his new toy car

Ruthann and I wanted to help, but didn’t want to give money without a plan. Joseph said that he thought he could earn an adequate living by raising chickens to sell to members of his church. The parish social worker said she would enroll him in classes to learn about the business.

It does not take all that much money to train set up someone in the chicken business in Kenya. We returned from our trip, sold our souvenirs to friends for holiday gifts, and through the Thomas Merton Center, wired the funds to Joseph’s social worker.

Joseph\'s chicks

Friends who visited them recently said he was doing well. He has 210 chicks, water dispensers, feeders and a charcoal burner to keep them warm. When they are 8 weeks old they will be sold, providing the capital to purchase more chicks as well as money to support his family. Here is a photo we received of the first batch of chickens.