Category Archives: uganda

earlier this year i spent three weeks in uganda. i volunteered with ‘water for people’ in an effort to bring safe drinking water and effective sanitation practices to all people of the world.
i was not there to take photographs… but of course i did. many people have been asking where are the images that i took while i was in uganda… well, they are all right here on my computer. it was such an amazing experience that i have had no idea where to start… and i’m not convinced that i will be able to do my experience justice.
i decided to start with one of the moments that i come back to often…
after finishing my field work for the day, i was waiting for some other teams. i was watching these kids across the street watch us. i’d had a chance to interact with many children during the previous days and they always seemed to find my camera a bit frightening at first until i smiled and showed them the screen where the image of them appeared- they always responded with a huge smile and a look that reminded even me of how insane technology is.
as i crossed the street, the kids initially stepped back, but i gestured for them to come look at the screen and they did. all of a sudden i had a bunch of new friends. they all sat on the bench for me and smiled while i took their photos and continued to show them the results…

they kept smiling and lining up to have their photo taken to see the results. they didn’t understand english, but we were able to communicate beautifully…

the villages that i spent my time in were very poor. they did not have power, most did not have clean water to drink and they certainly did not have many physical possessions. you can imagine how ridiculous something like my camera would appear to these children.
i decided to let them take some pictures. i could sense that they were scared, as if they respected my camera so much and didn’t trust themselves to hold it, but i encouraged them… it was so fulfilling to see how excited and careful they were while trying out my camera. i wanted to capture that excitement so i asked my friend to let them use his camera so i could capture their curiosity.

here are two of my favorite pictures that they captured.

i thought it was time to leave so i said goodbye and headed back across the street until i realized we were still waiting for other teams to return.  i left my camera behind and i headed back across the street… they were singing a song and as they realized i was coming back over they stopped singing. i motioned for them to keep singing. with huge smiles, they finished their song for me. i then shared a song that i knew. i sat down indian style and motioned for them to come sit by me. i had one of the little girls sit facing me and i taught the group ‘miss mary mack’… the old hand clapping game from growing up. they could not get enough of it. after trying over and over, one of the girls was able to make it all the way to the end. i must have sang it at least 30 times…
i’ve been blessed with many poetic moments in my life and i could write a book based solely on this one. im not convinced that my words have effectively conveyed what i felt sitting there with my new friends as they hung all over me, waiting for their opportunity to play the new game i was teaching them… and i’m not convinced that it is for the world to know. but i am convinced that you could have left me there, singing that song over and over… and i’d still be smiling.
sometimes as a photographer, you have to put down your camera so you can be in the moment… and trust your heart take its own pictures.


when i came back from my first trip to africa 9 years ago, everyone asked me what my favorite part was. while i’m a ginormous animal lover and i had done a safari through the serengeti, my answer was always ‘the kids’. people were always surprised. they’d always say, ‘but wasn’t it just so sad, all those starving, sick children?’

here’s the thing… i certainly encountered a lot of children that were malnourished and drinking unsuitable water, and maybe that was why i was eager to go back to africa with ‘water for people’ in order to help them. of course i saw some ‘sad’ situations, but the children of east africa have a spirit that i have yet to encounter anywhere else in the world.

this little girl had a terrible water source that she was drinking from. a hole in the ground where runoff from the farm up the hill would drain to. her distended belly was evidence of malnutrition and poor water, but she had a sweet little smile that could melt your heart.

when i start to think that things are hard for me, i remember this little girl and how she would smile at me despite her seemingly bleak situation and her strength makes me adjust
my perspective.







the last time i was in africa i had not been professionally trained as a photographer and i didn’t feel right photographing the people around me. this past trip to uganda, that is all i wanted to do. i wanted to capture their spirit and their strength and their beauty so i could share with everyone what i’ve felt all these years for the people, and especially the children, of east africa.


just a few random images of uganda…

these piggies were so cute…

keeps the stink out…


three little birds…




sometimes it was the only way to see myself…


just a few images to illustrate my work with water for people.

when we arrived in uganda, we met up with our ugandan teammates and had an orientation for how our mapping survey would work. below is a picture of moses, me and julius- my two teammates for the two weeks- in front of julius’ crib (as he likes to call it).

we mapped in two different regions of uganda with the intent of creating a GIS map when it was all said and done that indicated the state of water, sanitation and hygiene for each community. in total, we mapped over 600 water sources.


when my teammates and i first arrived in a village we sought out the chairman of the village who would then guide us to all the water sources and assist with our questions. below is the chairman and the woman leader of ‘buyuki’.
a lot of hiking was involved to reach the water sources. often, a resident would lead us to the water source and answer survey questions while we took GPS readings and pictures of the water source.
i encountered three different kinds of water sources while in uganda. the best sources were boreholes with handpumps. it is often the job of women and children to fetch water.
i also encountered several pumps that no longer worked. here is the chairman of ‘namagulwe’ next to a pump that has not worked for years. the villages do not have the technical ability, nor the funds to repair the pumps. this community hikes down the hill past this pump to a hole in the ground where they fetch their water.
i saw more springs than pumps in uganda. these provide a decent source of water, but are always located at a low elevation, thus requiring quite the hike, and also most of them dry up during the dry season.
more often than anything else, i saw people fetching their water from these little ponds, essentially holes in the ground. they are rather stagnant and are open to contamination from animals and runoff.
these are the containers that are used to fetch water. the largest one weighs about 40 pounds when full.

think about each time you use water… then imagine hiking a half mile down a steep hill to then carry 40 pounds of water, barefoot, back up the steep hill another half a mile
our second region, kyjenjojo, was very hilly and did not have many roads that were passable by car. we had to use ‘boda bodas’ to get close to the water sources.
water for people provided us with water for our field work. at first i was carrying my empty water bottles around until i saw my teammates just throwing them onto the ground. i couldn’t understand the littering so i asked them why they would just throw it there. they explained that someone would reuse it. from then on, i always gave my bottles to the little kids. they loved collecting them and i know they will use them until they can be used no longer.
this image always gets me. these children are literally getting their water from this source. it doesn’t take a genius to realize it is unsafe water. they will have to spend time boiling the water to make it safe, and i was told that sometimes people do not even boil it.
water is essential for life. the ugandans i met understand this and they also understand that they do not have safe water. they are not ignorant to the fact that their water sources are unsafe, but they need water to survive…