I personally am a huge believer in the ideology that you are responsible for the talent that you have been entrusted with and that you have an obligation to maximize your use of it.
My foundation focuses on providing refugee families with family photos. For those coming to America through the IRC (International Rescue Committee), these photos are not an annual normalcy like they are to us. We are infinitely fortunate to have access to photography and I'd like to pass this opportunity to others. I also want to document the incredible stories of immense strength that these families have to tell about their plight and flight from Africa to America to give those around me a better understanding of what these refugees go through for the hope of new life.
To learn more, click here for a video detailing Clarkston's role as a refugee haven.
I love the artistry that filters through the lens of my camera into my soul, and as photography became something that made me happier my immediate instinct was to use it to share that jubilance with others. But who? Who really needed or would benefit from my love of photography when all those around me already had access? Then, through service work, I became acquainted with Clarkston, Georgia, and fell in love with the refugees that I met there, and I saw the bigger picture.
These are families. Unfathomably happy families who have narrowly escaped and survived horrors most of us will never be able to imagine. They literally have won the lottery of the IRC (International Rescue Committee) to come to America to start their lives anew. This opportunity is wonderful, but also very unfamiliar and daunting, and I feel not obligated but overjoyed to make them feel seen and helped and appreciated in the country which is equally theirs as it is mine.
These are people -- these are my friends -- not projects. I am amazed and humbled by the stories that I’ve heard from these families. It is my pleasure to honor their flight and incessant courage with framed family photos and albums of them in their new home. As I give to them, I see them then inspired to give back to their neighbors. My hope is that this process of sharing time, love, and gifts will foster a sense of unprecedented interconnectedness.
(Pictured: Dr. Sally Wright and Lisa Hutson)
Upon delivering her photos, I got to meet Abrhet's two week-old baby girl. She is so healthy and has the most beautiful deep brown eyes. Her four siblings adore her and fight over the opportunity to hold her!
Abrhet's daughter helped me hang the photos on the front wall when I came to deliver them. She loved her self-portrait and repeatedly made comments about how cute she looked, all the while asking me to make more pictures of her and then show her immediately.
The immense gratitude shown by her family for their photos and the friendship I have developed with them inspired me today to continue giving. I could not be more grateful for the opportunity I have been given to touch her life and to feel her touch mine.
When Kathi and I delivered Nestorine's photos to her apartment, her family bubbled over with joy. Both Carole and Eric -- to the best of his ability -- were pointing at their mother in the photo, who appears the absolute pinnacle of unshakeable grace, and were saying how beautiful she looked. Carole even dashed out of the room to grab a small box of pink tools with which we could hang the photo immediately, near their map of Africa.
To learn more about the IRC in Cameroon / the CAR, click here.
Surprise! Simret and Samson were not aware that I was bringing these framed photos to them. I had also compiled an album of all of my favorites (including those above!) Sally Wright, the woman who had been their first friend upon their arrival in the states, made them close their eyes as I brought the photos inside.
Upon the great reveal, the whole family was overjoyed, and Simret blessed and embraced us. Looking through the album with Simret and Samson and watching their radiant expressions as they turned through the pages of their beautiful children was one of the most profound moments of mutual gratitude I have ever experienced.
All of my worries were cast aside as soon as I saw their immense appreciation for what I had been able to provide them with. For me, this served as a testament to that I could positively impact the lives of these families through means that I had never imagined.
All funds raised go toward purchasing the prints, frames, and albums necessary to provide these families with their photos, as well as the basic necessities they are most in need of at the time.
If you'd like to donate any money toward this cause, fill out the information to the left and let me know that you're interested! My site is currently not compatible with PayPal, so I am happy to inform you about how to make a donation!
Everything is immensely appreciated! Thank you so much!