partner orphanages | tanzania

the foundation for tomorrow (TFFT) partners with eight orphanages in tanzania. while i was there, i had the opportunity to visit four of the eight partner orphanages -- nkoaranga orphanage, matonyok children's home, seeway tanzania and irente children's home. each orphanage has their unique aspects. each orphanage is magnificent and special. NKOARANGA ORPHANAGE houses a maximum of 30 children, ages four and younger.  the orphanage is run by two to four "mamas" -- whose constant hard work, dedication, commitment and love is beyond anything i could possibly put into words.  unfortunately i didn't have the opportunity to meet mama pendo, who has been running the orphanage for over 20 years, as she was at a computer class the day of my visit.

nkoaranga was probably the orphanage that needed assistance / volunteers the most (of the four orphanages i saw), due to ages of the children and the amount of work that the "mamas" are responsible for each day (laundry, cooking, water boiling, feedings, cleaning, diaper changing, etc.) -- the necessary tasks to simply sustain life's basic needs at the orphanage.

MATONYAK CHILDREN'S HOME houses approximately 25-35 children.  the home was started by a husband and wife team, emmy and ndemno, (now in their 60s), who are two of the most amazing and giving people i have ever met. it all started with bringing one child into their tiny two-room home.  and ever since, their house and their children have continued to expand. ndemno farms for a living and their land is incredible. they have chickens and goats. they a massive rain water collector and solar panels on one of their buildings. they convert manure into methane (which they use to cook with) and fertilizer. everything is so clean, well-maintained and organized. the children all sleep in two bedrooms (8 beds & a couple cribs). emmmy and ndemno know the importance of education and have hired a teacher to teach first grade in a classroom on their land. the older children (grades two - five) are currently sponsored to attend a nearby day school. emmy and ndemno hope to continue to build up their school (one grade at a time), ensuring their school provides quality education.

SEEWAY TANZANIA was founded in 2006 by two amazing, giving women, rebecca and wendy.  they have created an incredibly clean and beautiful environment for 16 vulnerable children (ages 4 and older). they not only provide a safe, loving home for their children, but also education (via funding boarding school), health care and a creative outlet through organized music lessons. on the compound, they have a large garden, a chicken project (selling eggs) and a nursery school / day care (for 40 two-to-six year olds).

IRENTE CHILDREN'S HOME is an incredible orphanage run by simon's grandmother, sister enna (simon is the 16-year-old TFFT student, who was selected to ride this year).  irente children's home is not only a impressive, loving orphanage, it also manages an amazing training program for young women, who are interested in becoming matrons of orphanages. they also have a massive garden and a cow, which supplies much of the orphanages fruits, vegetables and milk.

HOW CAN YOU HELP? a simple way to help is to donate directly to TFFT. each year TFFT sets aside a specific amount of their annual budget ($8000 this year) that goes directly to helping their partner orphanages, e.g. improving the facilities, building capacity among their staff, etc. TFFT requests that the orphanages submit ideas as to what they need, want, can use, etc.

HOW DOES TFFT DECIDE each year which children to select / sponsor into the program? over the years, they have leaned heavily on the administrators of the orphanages to assist the foundation in selecting the children. but some general guiding criteria are --

for the younger children, they base the decision on sheer need, looking at such things as: - family background - do they have any relatives? - if they do have relatives, can they possibly support the child? - if a child has no living relatives, TFFT believes that including him / her in the program is the safest bet for the child to have a viable chance of living a successful life within the tanzanian community.

for the older children, the foundation not only looks at their family circumstances, but also at their school records and their desire to be something, lead and excel.


there's an estimated 2 million-plus orphans in tanzania and only 50 (or so) orphanages (providing care to less than 3,000 of the population's orphans and vulnerable children).  it's such a painful thought!!  so many orphans, who have no other option but to live in the bush and streets of tanzania -- no home, no parents, little-to-no clothing, food and water.  so incredibly sad!

ETA:  to adopt a Tanzanian child, you have to live in the country for three years.

rideTZ | day ten

the final day of RIDETZ 2012  -- a short five hour day that brought us to the mkoma bay beach in pangani (pangani was where slaves and ivory were shipped out on the swahili dhows to the wider world). the riders biked about 400 miles, from kilimanjaro to the indian ocean, in 10 days.  pretty damn awesome!

there were plenty of dogs roaming around TZ.  seeing a dog on a leash was very rare.

on a few occasions, we put the landcruiser top up and i shot through the roof.  and i had plenty of bruises to show for it, as i bounced around while driving on the bumpy dirt roads.

traveling through paved streets in the city.

and more chapatis, soup and tea.

this guy followed the bikers for the longest time, proudly cheering as he rode past all the village spectators.

we saw quite a few children riding bikes, but never on a child-sized bike.  most of the time, they could barely reach the pedals.

barry with the crew, who worked so hard setting up our camp day after day.

making it up the last big hill before riding into the resort at mkoma bay beach.

and finally...THEY MADE IT!!

a dhow sailing by, viewed from the patio of mkomo bay tented lodge, where we stayed.

i can never thank the foundation for tomorrow enough, for giving me this most-amazing and life-changing opportunity!!! so can't wait until RIDETZ 2014. one way or another, i will be there!


win a photo session AND digital files

i'm super excited to share a raffle that i've launched in conjunction with my fundraising for the foundation for tomorrow (TFFT). RAFFLE [a $3,450.00 value]: a one-hour photo session in the tampa bay area one 11x14 print 30 high-resolution digital files on CD

HOW TO ENTER: donate $20 HERE for every $20 donation, you will receive one raffle entry you can enter as many times as you wish submit your first and last name when donating email me that you would like to be entered into the raffle

PLEASE NOTE: eligible for raffle if you live in the tampa area or are willing to drive / fly to the tampa area session must take place september 1st through november 15th, 2012 session location is limited to 30-miles of 33629 tampa zip code session is for immediate family members only [parents & children]

if you're in the the tampa area, please spread the word. you can read more about my upcoming trip to tanzania here.



if you would like to join this effort by offering a similar raffle to your clients, email me for more details. also, i have some exciting raffles for photographers coming SOON!

closing with some photos from my family session this past saturday...

400 miles | tanzania

i just finished looking through the foundation for tomorrow's 400 miles  -- the book from their 2010 400-mile fund- and awareness raising bike ride in tanzania.  it pretty much took my breath away.  seriously, my eyes welled with tears.  a-mazing! if you get a chance, take a look through the book -- you won't be sorry.

i still can't believe that i'm going to be photographing this 11-day event in june.  how did this happen? to ME?  OMG!  this truly is a most-amazing gift in my life. a dream come true really!

with the event just a few months away now, i'm beginning to move forward with things [immunizations, visa AND fundraising].

if you'd like to help this these children [PLEASE!], you can donate HERE.  MY GOAL is to raise $5000 for the foundation.  and every little bit will help!!

if you'd like more information on RIDETZ 2012 [400-mile bike ride from kilimanjaro to the indian ocean, to raise funds and awareness], you can view the brochure here.

you can also follow TFFT on their blog here.

here's a few of the children that TFFT is currently sponsoring [providing tuition, housing, foster care, health care, food, clothes, shoes and school supplies]...

and the riders from RIDETZ 2010...

spreading goodwill

Traditionally, prayer flags are used to promote peace, compassion, strength, and wisdom. The flags do not carry prayers to gods, a common misconception; rather, the Tibetans believe the prayers and mantras will be blown by the wind to spread the good will and compassion into all pervading space. Therefore, prayer flags are thought to bring benefit to all.

- wikipedia

when i was in wisconsin, i stayed at my dear friend, julie's house.  shortly after arriving, we had gone outside to look at julie's incredible garden and i noticed the prayer flags hanging from her front port.  later in the day, i mentioned how awesome it would be to have prayer flags at the fischer family's session (thinking maybe we could pick some up before the shoot).  the next thing i know...the prayer flags are down and ready to go with us to the shoot.

i absolutely love that we were able to have prayer flags with us at the fischer family's session.  i love it even more that they were worn from their days of dancing in the wind at julie's house.

i now long for prayer flags, to grace the front porch of my own house... prayer flags to flutter in the wind... prayer flags to bring good energy, luck and happiness... prayer flags to spread blessings and goodwill to those around.

i've been asking friends what they know about prayer flags and looking around.  while i'd love to make my own flags, i just know that that's not happening anytime soon.  so far, i've found...

these tibetan prayer flags, sold on amazon and here. or these prayer flags on etsy.  i'm a bit partial to the happiness-themed flags.

if you know a great place to purchase prayer flags or have any additional insight, i'd love to hear about it.

also, i just came across this PDF article on prayer flags, which i plan on reading later tonight.  seems like a great read.

ETA:  for anyone that might be offended because the prayer flags touched the ground, please know that at the time of these photos, i had no idea that prayer flags are not to touch the ground.  i had the absolute best of intentions in bringing them to the session and photographing them, with the fischer family.  i will never let that happen again, now that i am aware.

also, my friend, wendy, just shared this with me:

i do prayer flags with mighty girl...their flags fly to encourage the girls that come after them. i ripped an old white bed sheet into squares and give them fabric markers.

and after seeing this flag, created by nina beana, on the mighty girl art site... i'm feeling the strong need to make my own flags. a family project. designing, dreaming, gathering, creating, sewing...together as a family. my new (year old) sewing machine has been waiting for something like this, to finally make it's presence, from out of the box.  YES, our august pre-school project -- prayer flags.

i heart mr. fischer

i  think i met terri when i reached out to her about her dreads.  but i actually might have met her (pre-dreads) because of her wonderful film photography. can't really remember (because i have a terrible memory).  but i do know that we became friends on facebook.  i always knew she was special.  and then terri and julie came to visit me last year, in kansas. and our friendship has just continued to grow. yes, she really is that special...and more. a few weeks ago, terri shared the news that tom was diagnosed with a slow-growing follicular lymphoma. while slow-growing might sound better, it's actually not.  it means it's been around longer.  and often tougher to combat.  six rounds of chemo are in tom's immediate future.  he begins round two tomorrow.

as soon as i heard of tom's diagnosis, i knew i had to get out there, to photograph the fischer family.  to capture all the magic that they are.  i tried to get out there immediately after i heard but lots of factors prevented me from doing so. but last weekend, everything fell into place (much thanks to the women of the witches brew) and i was able to travel to wisconsin to photograph the fischer family.

i'm not really sure how to do justice to the amazing family that they are.  but i'm hoping that photos will show what i am not able to put into words...


also, please check out terri's t-shirts, for sale on etsy. she's saving the money to send tom on a dream-come-true fly fishing trip in alaska...once he's in remission and has beaten this beast (like seriously kicked it's ass kind of beaten). we HAVE to believe that that is the way this will all end up, right?!!!

i'm a proud owner of both an "i heart mr. fischer" t-shirt and a goddess t-shirt.  it's obvious how cool the t-shirts are but they're also seriously great quality.  i love my t-shirts.

a special thanks to julie, who opened up her house to me, while in WI...and drove me everywhere.  you are such a magical soul.  thank you for your friendship.  thank you for everything.

p.s. cancer fucking sucks!!

are you my mother?

sweet baby bird so innocentso beautiful and wise the future rests within your sights hope fills your tiny eyes your body warmed by fluffy down shields your heart from the rain rest softly on the leaves of brown your life has much to gain. - jill eisnaugle

before i photographed the fischer family in wisconsin, i really wanted to meet tom and the kids. so sunday morning, we met at a park playground. i wasn't sure if i should, but decided to bring my camera with me to the playground. little did i know that there would be a couple of children there, with a sweet little baby bird.

while baby bird might have thought this fabulous nest of brown was the perfect fit, sadly it just couldn't be so. i'm not sure what happened to the baby bird but i sure hope he was able to make it to rest softly on leaves of brown.

more tomorrow on the fischer family and my special days shared with them.

i ♥ mr. fischer!!