Project Why

A few weeks ago I was asked to document Project Why, an NGO in New Delhi that provides after school care to underprivileged children. Most children come from poor families, live in slums and go to schools where they are beaten and quality of education is very low. Project Why provides a loving, warm environment in which children can thrive and feel safe. Many kids who have been part of the program end up working at the centres themselves, others are able to go to university or join the army afterwards.

Besides after school programs, Project Why offers vocational courses to adults and runs a day school for mentally disabled children.  

Whenever I photograph children who live under completely different circumstances than my own kids, I am struck by the similarities they have. All are curious, want to learn, talk and be loved. All have dreams and talents, different personalities and a need for a safe environment in which they can be themselves and thrive. Project Why reaches out in a caring way and is able to make a substantial difference.

I was really touching to see how these kind of initiatives go a long way. If you would like to support Project Why, please check out their website.

Protest Alley

The air in Delhi has been foul and reached the highest levels of pollution ever in the past days. I feel it when I go outside; my eyes burn, my throat gets scratchy and I get a nasty headache. Fortunately we have purifiers in our house, so the majority of the time we're breathing moderately clean air, but my heart goes out to the 24 million and something other people in the city who breath toxins 24/7. 

We move around so much and are always somewhere on a temporary basis. I am aware of the risk of becoming rootless and not attached to any place at all. That's why I purposely choose to be an active citizen of every country I live in and feel connected to the people who are there.  I'm not just passing by, I want to care. So last Sunday, instead of making plans to leave town as soon as possible, I put on my mask and joined a rally against pollution.

The protest was in a street where people can demonstrate permanently. On a stretch of about one kilometer there were tents with protesters, all for different causes, shouting various declamations through microphones. Since I don't know Hindi, it was a bit difficult to decipher what it was all about, but as you can see, there are many unresolved issues people struggle with day in day out. 

La Lutte, Snow and Sand

This Sunday afternoon in June must have been one of the most fascinating of my entire life. I had met Marlijn and her husband the night before and they told me about a documentary they were making about John, a Norwegian wrestler who for a long time had been dreaming of coming to Senegal to play in a wrestling match. Marlijn made his dream come true and was going to film the match the next day. I asked if I could come along and photograph.

Here's an impression of the afternoon. Added to the images you have to imagine an unprecedented noise of drums, cheering people and guys screaming through microphones. It was exciting, interesting and so much fun to see John being thrown into this Senegalese happening that is full of rituals, traditions, dancing and lots of entertainment. The match itself only takes about 4 minutes, but in the end it's all about getting there. 

The finished documentary should be coming out soon, can't wait to see it!

Centre Aminata Mbaye

Last December I had the privilege to photograph Centre Aminata Mbaye, a center for children and adults with a mental disability. This center is one of the centers of ASEDEME, an organisation that educates children and young adults so that they can fully participate and integrate in society. The children learn practical skills, mathematics and reading and do lots of arts and crafts and sports. When possible, the young adults receive special training to become a gardener, work in a hotel, or anything else that will help them find work and have a fulfilling life. It was so nice to be at the school for a few days and capture the lives of these special people. For more information have a look on their website.

Journée Portes Ouvertes 2014, UHCHR

On 17 September 2014,  the Regional office of UHCHR West Africa opened its doors for the national and international community of workers in the field of human rights in West Africa. The aim of the day was to inform about the work of the UHCHR in the region and focus on how all stakeholders can work together on various issues. I was there to take photographs and shot a promotional video of the day and the work that the office is doing.

When it comes to human rights there's so much to be done in this region. Therefor, it was very inspiring to learn about the initiatives that are being taken, the determination amongst the organisations to improve the human rights of minority groups and to sense the hope for a future where all people have equal opportunities and the freedom to be and express who they are.

Harmattan

I live in a community where people come and go. It's kind of sad, because it involves a lot of goodbyes, heartbreaks and farewells. On the other hand, it is really special to meet so many people who come from a totally different culture, country and background and realise that you have a love for something in common. The best thing to do then is spend your time together and enjoy it to the max.

'Harmattan' is the living embodiment of this transient life. A group of colleagues and friends got together to play their favorite songs and turned into a full blown rockband. They practiced once a week, performed occasionally and had a steady group of groupies. 6 people, all from different countries, who know how to seize the perks of a nomadic life.

I shot these images of the very last concert of Harmattan as we knew it. Two band members have moved on to other continents and are building up their new lives. Thank goodness over the summer new musicians arrived and practice has started again.

Can't wait to got to their next concert!

Presse Café

When we arrived in Dakar two years ago it took some time to get settled and feel familiar with the completely different way of life and scenery. Sometimes I'd really miss the feel of a cooler climate and most of all, a nice cup of coffee.

Presse Café came to the rescue. 

Press cafe blog-1.jpg

Run by Frial and her family, this café breaths maple sirup, oatmeal cookies, lattes and croissants. The wifi is fast and the airco is on. 

Nowadays I don't feel at all like I need an escape from living in Dakar anymore, but of course there are plenty of other good excuses to get something delicious whenever I pass by!

If you don't have the time to come by, this delivery boy during the week/wrestler in the weekends will happily scooter all over Dakar to bring you a fresh brewn coffee.

For more info, visit their Facebook site

Meet Ibrahim, Fluent Speaker of German, Spiritual Adviser and Traffic Safety Activist

It's rainy season, which means that there are beautiful clouds, nice showers of rain and lush green areas everywhere. Even though the temps rise and everything gets very sticky and humid, I love it. Not in the least because the light is so beautiful and soft and the skies are spectacular.

So yesterday I was out on a hunt for nice skies and vistas when I saw an interesting self made construction on the side of the road. I decided to have a closer look, walked up and introduced myself to a somewhat wild looking guy who was busy painting a face on a big stone. His name is Ibrahim and as it turned out, quite multi-talented.

Ibrahim was born and raised in Senegal, but moved to Austria about 8 years ago. He got married, learned to speak German and worked his way up to a steady job. When on holidays in Dakar a few years back, his backpack with identity papers and money were stolen and he couldn't get back to Austria. His wife divorced him and his parents passed away. With no money and place to stay he found a bunker on the coastline of Dakar and has been living there since. 

He soon realised that his bunker had a good spiritual feel about it and being a follower of Touba he turned it into a place of prayer. Now every day people come to pray and support him in the construction of his little sanctuary.

Besides this, Ibrahim paints bicycle paths and road signs. He wants the road he lives on to be an example for the rest of Dakar so that in a few years, traffic will be just as orderly and safe as in Austria. You'll see the 'Don't drink and drive' and 'Give space to Cyclists' sign all along his piece of coast line.

Just as he finished painting an other Touba, it started raining. We said 'Auf Wiedersehn', Ibrahim crawled in his tent and I drove off in my airconditioned car.

Life on the streets is as tough as it gets, but Ibrahim sure knows how to make the best of it.