This year I wanted to share a few of the images that I think about constantly. It was about 10 years ago that I began to learn about the water issues that exist in the world and saw for myself how the lack of clean water affects a community.
One of my first times to see this was in Rwanda. I’ll never forget watching people walk into brown murky water that I didn’t want to touch and then drink it. I wanted to stop them with every ounce of my being…but instead I watched them intently and snapped the shutter on my camera. Nearby a water well was being drilled and I captured the community getting clean water for the first time. I rejoiced with them as the kids played with the water pouring from a new silver hand-pump well. This was all new to me. I knew this was a story that had to be told to as many people as possible. So I partnered with a few incredible organizations who were doing everything they could to make sure people have clean water in countries around the world.
Three special people that come to mind when I think of clean water
1. Mulitani in Malawi
I camped in a village for a week and met a beautiful woman named Mulitani. She was vibrant and outgoing. She wanted to show me everything in her village. She loved her life and her friends — life each day was filled with walking to the local river for water for drinking, cooking and bathing. I followed her and got to know her more deeply than I thought I would. We had a moment where she shared some very painful moments of her life and my translator and I both started to cry with her. We were so challenged by Mulitani’s wisdom and grace for others. She never thought she would see clean water in their village and I was standing with her the day the drilling rig hit the aquifer. I will never forget this moment. Her face lit up with excitement like I had never seen before. She glowed as she stood watching water fly high into the air.
2. Ram Rati in India
I spent two days in this remote village in the north where I met a woman named Ram Rati who was a ball of fire. Every woman in town knew her - she was a leader. I followed her around as she told people in surrounding villages how the well mechanics could fix their broken wells. One-third of all the wells in Northern India were broken and she was determined to fix as many as she could. Along with her team of three men and one woman, they worked tirelessly to repair and restore clean water to broken wells. Ram Rati was a rock star and I knew the world needed to know about her.
3. Jean Bosco in Rwanda
Jean Bosco was a shy boy who lived in a Rwandan village. I followed him for three days as he collected dirty water from a pond and then just a few days later, clean water from a new well. I watched his life being transformed. I have gone back to visit this boy year after year. He has now become a man that I very much admire and continue to visit. On one visit I was surprised to find out he had named his youngest daughter, Esther. I couldn't stop smiling. I most recently saw him in January when we sat outside of his house and caught up on life.
This is why I travel the globe. It’s not for me as a photographer to get famous or to have work that gets awards. I photograph to see lives transformed. I photograph so my work can be a bridge between two worlds. I photograph so you can know their stories. I want you to be able to see and know these amazing people and walk alongside of them. I recently showed Jean Bosco, now age 24, his photo story on the internet and he couldn’t believe that so many people around the world know about him. He was so honored.
This World Water Day - I ask you to soak up these images. Look at their faces and see their joy and pain. See how important access to clean water is to all these beautiful souls.
There are several organizations that I have worked with year after year that do great work and I know your investment in their work will change lives.
Malawi - charity: water
India - The Adventure Project
Rwanda - charity: water / Wishing Well Africa
WATER AROUND THE WORLD
"It is stories that can get people to think differently. That can challenge them that can inspire them to action. We are not creatures of statistic and numbers and data. we are creatures of story. We think in stories. We are moved by stories. We remember stories."
- Scott Harrison