Monday, November 29, 2010

What am I doing in Sudan??

I am finding that many people are wondering what brought me to Sudan & what exactly am I doing here. So here is a rundown...
In February I was getting very antsy with my work. I love my clients & taking pictures of families but I was needing a new challenge so I thought about doing something completely different as I know that in the future our family will be moving to live overseas for a few yrs. So I briefly looked into nursing school and masters in public health and found myself saying to a few friends that in 5-10 yrs I will be doing something internationally in photography (w/ no idea how I would get there). But then in May, I decided to challenge myself a different way and did the Giving Every Day in May fundraiser to benefit Soulumination. During that month and following I realized I needed to continue w/ my photography instead of looking elsewhere. It is truly my passion & I realized I can make a difference in peoples' lives so I had to continue on. Then randomly at my closing event in June to celebrate all the people who donated to Soul & hand over the funds raised a woman whose kids I had photographed for the fundraiser asked me if I would even want to travel internationally to photograph...she could have pushed me over w/ a feather. And then she went on to ask if I would be open to traveling to Sudan...I couldn't believe she said Sudan because I have been talking w/ my husband about Sudan since the late 90's. CRAZY how this world works!! We met in August to talk a little more about it and then in Sept. I met w/ Dr. Thomas Burke, who is heading this project and many others globally, while he was visiting Seattle on business. He is an ER doctor at Mass General in Boston and the director of the ER program at Harvard. We talked about me traveling to Sudan in March...I was so excited about the opportunity. And then in early Nov the dr asked if I could go in Dec. I initially said I could not do it due to my workload but then I realized I must try and make it happen. But just 3 weeks later, with the support of my family & some crazy work hours (and great clients) I am here. I am still having a hard time believing I am actually really here!
It is already an amazing trip that I have always dreamed about doing and I still have 10 days left here in Sudan. The group I am with, on behalf of the Sudan Ministry of Health & MGH(3 doctors & 1 support coordinator) are starting today w/ a training workshop to train midwives and nurses from the countryside how to train frontline village healthcare workers with the goal to provide better knowledge and tools to assist w/ maternal and infant healthcare. The infant and maternal mortality rate in S. Sudan is one of the worst in the world. The organization is also doing work w/ the Southern Sudan Medical College which is more than a bare bones status right now. Without the work that Dr. Burke and his group is doing w/ the University the students would have been without teachers for most of this year. I have been with this group for a very short time but can already tell how hard working and committed they are to this project. Their dedication is so obvious and I am hopeful their hard work will provide very positive results for women and children in S. Sudan. I am really honored to have the opportunity to see & document the work they are doing. I believe there are many unproductive development projects throughout the world and to see one that seems to be sustainable and is educating the local population instead of band-aiding their problems is so great!
The Sudanese are like no other people I have ever met. So resilient, optimistic, hardworking and stunningly beautiful. It seems that they are not looking for handouts but just a hand up. There is a monumental referendum taking place in January for people to vote to create an independent S. Sudan and separate from the north. It is a very crucial time and there is concern that civil war may break out which would be devastating to the southerners who have been through years and years of unimaginable hardship. Most have been displaced to camps in Kenya, Uganda,Ethiopia only recently returned in the last few years. They are educated and want to build their communities again. I think it is possible if they get their freedom and all remains peaceful. They so deserve it! If you have a chance go buy What is the What? by Dave Eggers. It is an incredible book that gives some insight to the plight of so many here. Even if you have never had an interest in Sudan or even Africa, the book is a great read and the timing is perfect to read it now so you will have an understanding of the importance of January's referendum.
I am hoping to continue to post images on Facebook when I have connection fast enough. Please email me or send a message to me via Facebook if you have any specific questions.

1 comment:

CP said...

This is both an amazing opportunity for you and an amazing gift you are giving to others. I'm in awe of your seizing the moment and jumping at the chance to follow a dream. Please keep the photos coming on FB!