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    There are few elements across the spectrum of humanity that bind, and connect us as people; no matter what our age, race, or cultural background. They validate our bond as humans, and in many cases drive the most profound change that is occurring across the globe, that of bringing us together as a global community. The spirit of friendly competition through sport does exactly this.

    This is where Hoops 4 Hope (H4H) comes into play. H4H is an international non-profit organization, which, since 1995, has utilized the “power of sport to create sustainable long-term positive impact for youth, equipping them with the tools to manage the social, health and economic related challenges they face.” — Mark Crandall, H4H Founder & Director More

    As the sister organization for Soccer 4 Hope, Hoops 4 Hope utilizes the medium of basketball to provide empowering sports programing to youth across Zimbabwe and South Africa. The organization makes it a mission to educate youth with life skills youth needed to survive and has flourished in communities that struggle with poverty, unemployment, HIV/AIDS, violence, crime, substance abuse, and gender inequality.

    Over its 18 years of existence, H4H has seen many of its youngsters receive sports scholarships to high schools, coaches being chosen for overseas cultural exchanges, and even have a Zimbabwean athlete now playing professionally in the Euro League. Furthermore, various H4H courts have been graced with visits from German Chancellor Angela Merkel, along with NBA Star and member of the Chicago Bull Luol Deng, amongst many others.

    This photo essay highlights Hoops 4 Hope as our NGO of the Week, taking you to the on-site project locations throughout Zimbabwe and South Africa, many of which were made possible through collaborations with local schools, shelters, and community organizations.

    Connect with Hoops 4 Hope here.

    ANDREW BRIDGE is a global enthusiast with a passion for the road less traveled. As a frequent collaborator with World Hip Hop Market and Nomadic Wax, Andrew has worked with numerous socially conscious artists from around the world in the pursuit of inspiring cultural understanding and exchange through entertainment. This fascination with the world at large has taken him to over 20 countries (so far) through studying, volunteering, and writing about his travels, with no signs of slowing his globetrotting nature down. Connect with Andrew at @Bridgin_TheGap

  • UKRAINE: On the Cusp of Revolution

    UKRAINE: On the Cusp of Revolution

    Photos by, Graham Lawlor

    Text by, Andrew Bridge

    It has been nearly half a year since hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian citizens gathered on Kiev’s Independence Square with justice on their minds and revolution in the air. After constant protests and violent clashes against the corrupt powers that be put in place by former President Victor Yanukovych, the Ukrainian citizens took back what is rightfully theirs.

    But that was just the beginning. MORE

    Since the launch of the uprising, what came to be known as the Euromaidan, clashes between Ukrainian and Russian nationals have spread throughout the country, from Kiev to Crimea. Russian forces have flexed their strength while Russian-speaking Ukrainian residents violently clash with Ukrainian citizens throughout the country. And as the death toll rises, it becomes harder to see if the end of the violence is near. Or what the resolution will be.

    With the continuous uprisings and domestic conflicts a new breed of travelers has risen. Those from outside the borders eager to get on the ground, despite the danger, in order to learn first-hand what is going on, why it is happening, and where it may lead.

    Graham Lawlor, New York City based entrepreneur and economist and his voyage into the heart of Kiev as the uprising began, falls into this category. Throughout his weeklong experience in Independence Square, Lawler interviewed countless protesters – nuns, students, laborers, etc. - as he delved deeper into the heart of the matter at hand.

    In reflecting on his time in Kiev, Lawlor recalled that the first few days were upbeat, with a strong sense of optimism and purpose in the air. This mood changed however on January 16th when Yanukovych passed a law that made the demonstrations illegal. Days later, the violence and clashes truly began, eventually leading to the overthrowing of the government.

    When asked where he thought the conflict would lead following his return home, Lawlor’s answer was simple; “Civil War.” It appears his assessment was correct, as violence continues throughout Ukraine, with hopes of peace and prosperity in the future. His photos depict the mood of Kiev at the start of a revolution, and the brave citizens who made it happen.

    GRAHAM LAWLOR @revoportaits 

    Graham is the founder of Ultra Light Startups, which helps Fortune 100 companies and government institutions connect with startups based on their strategic and financial objectives. He is a frequent guest speaker, moderator, interviewer, and press source on startups and online business.

  • KENYA: The Maasai Spirit

    KENYA: The Maasai Spirit

    This series of images was taken while on assignment in the Maasai Mara Game Reserve in Kenya. As we were leaving the reserve one day our driver suggested we stop at a nearby Maasai village. I thought it would be just a quick stop and a chance to pickup some handmade souvenirs.

    Knowing that the Maasai depend on tourists to supplement their subsistence farming, I didn't expect the warmth of our welcome and the genuine dialogue I would have with the chief. He introduced us to the village, showing every aspect of their daily life. Speaking passionately about the realities confronting the Maasai people and the hard choices they must make in order to preserve their cultural identity - from environmental issues threatening their homes and grazing lands, exposure to tourists and the lure of modern life. MORE

    He was an erudite speaker, having mastered English and more than 6 African languages. This worldliness empowered him to make mindful decisions governing the collective future of his tribe. All the while recognizing the hypocrisies of a first world existence. In his village no one went hungry, loneliness and depression did not exist and the elders were a revered and integral part of the social dynamic.

    He encouraged me to take photos, wanting to share their simple but dignified life, beautiful aesthetic and overt happiness. I hope these images honor the chief's wishes and convey some of the Maasai spirit.


    Julien Capmeil is an Australian born photographer living in New York. His work has appeared in many publications worldwide including Vogue, GQ and Conde Nast Traveler.

    You can view more of his work online at:

    For print purchases Email:

  • Crossroads of High Asia

    Crossroads of High Asia

    ‘Crossroads of High Asia’ is the title of a book by Janet Rizvi first published in 1983 describing the little known land of Ladakh and referring to its unique position in the cultures, trade routes and religious beliefs of ancient Asia. Perched on the western end of the Tibetan plateau in the great Himalayan range it was an independent kingdom for 900 years up until the 19th century. In modern times Ladakh has come under Indian jurisdiction but border disputes persist with Pakistan and China. MORE

    Ethnically and culturally closer to Tibet and a fascinating mix of Buddhism, Islam and ancient belief systems, Ladakh remains enchanting and remote. Its geographical isolation has maintained traditional ways of life much revered by many although the hardships of village life in altitudes up to 4500 meters (15,000ft) with surrounding peaks of nearly 8000 meters (26 000ft) is not to be underestimated. Possessing the highest motorable roads in the world (up to 5 500meters, 18 000ft) much of the region is only accessible by road for a short 3-4 month period in the summer.


    Shaun Fynn is an acclaimed designer and photographer with a long history of advising and creating for Fortune 500 companies. Since founding STUDIOFYNN in 1997 he has lived and practiced globally including the UK, Italy the US and India working in the areas of design, photo documentary, design research and design education. His work has been exhibited, published and awarded internationally including the New York Museum of Modern Art, The Neues Museum Bremen, The Los Angeles Times, Fast Company, The Guardian (UK), ID magazine, Core 77 and Graphis. He is also a visiting lecturer at the National Institute of Design in Ahmedabad, India, the IIT in Mumbai, India, Art Center College of Art and Design in Los Angeles and the Istituto Europeo di Design in Milan.
  • CUBA: Havana's Smile

    CUBA: Havana's Smile

    Regardless of poverty, ubiquitous propaganda, scarcity or hypocrisy Havana continues to smile. Not a sly smirk or rueful grin but a broad, welcoming smile. One that welcomes you into its home, shares its simple meals and lures you to dance to its infectious rhythms.

    Walking the streets is a cultural excursion, from the ornate buildings of a former prosperous nation passing the bullet-ridden walls of revolution to the rubble of a stalled Communist state. Yet it is impossible to not be struck by the beauty of this city suspended in time. MORE

    Creaking old cars held together by paint that sputter down pot-holed avenues. Images of Che invoked on countless walls; men playing dominos by the roadside. Almost clichés of a city that you hardly believe still exists.

    The city raises endless questions, none of which, even if hotly debated, can be easily answered. People continually remind you of the failings of the revolution and the difficulties they endure under the regime. But it is precisely these factors that have preserved Havana, enveloped it in a hazy, tainted nostalgia.

    Finally change is under way, I hope it brings prosperity but does not tarnish that smile.


    Julien Capmeil is an Australian born photographer living in New York. His work has appeared in many publications worldwide including Vogue, GQ and Conde Nast Traveler.

    You can view more of his work online at: 

    For print purchases Email:


  • Unusual Indigenous Homes

    Unusual Indigenous Homes

    This photo essay highlights just a few of the fascinating array of indigenous homes found in every corner of the planet. Many are remarkable feats of human ingenuity - beautiful constructions that utilize natural materials from the landscapes where these people live, and each home is uniquely adapted to the environment and climate in which it is situated.

    To us at least, these communities often seem remote or even abstract, and it can be difficult to understand what life might be like for these people whose culture seems so different from our own. We recently wrote a post about the age of adventurous empathy and one of the ideas we focused was the importance of fostering a sense of curiosity and of seeking to see the world through another's eyes. We hope that through the stories behind the homes you see below, you will catch a glimmer of what life might be like for some of the isolated tribes and ethnic minorities, who are spread out across the globe in many beautiful and far flung places. It isn't always easy.More

    This collection contains 20 photographs of these amazing and unusual homes. We’ve tried to relay information about these homes and the people who inhabit them as accurately as possible, but if you have anything to add or amend, please get in touch with us. Many thanks to all the lovely photographers for sharing their compositions.


    ELLA FRANCES SANDERS @ellafsanders Ella is an intern at Maptia, who are on a mission to build the most inspirational map in the world.

  • SOUTH SUDAN: 100cameras

    SOUTH SUDAN: 100cameras

    100cameras is an NGO that empowers marginalized children around the world to document their lives through photography, and thereby create positive change in their communities. 100% of the photography sales go back to the children’s communities. Here’s how it works: 100cameras gives a camera to Jackson in South Sudan. Jackson snaps a photo. Then you buy his photo on the 100cameras website. 100% goes back to Jackson and Jackson is empowered.

    In 2008, 100cameras launched it’s first project at St. Bartholomew’s Orphanage in Kajo Keji, South Sudan that serves as a home to 80 children who lost their families during the brutal 21-year civil war. The orphanage was founded by IWASSRU (International Widows Association for Southern Sudanese Refugees in Uganda), a group of Sudanese war widows that banded together to care for refugee orphans. 100cameras funds lifeline supplies, such as protection and access to food, water and medicine. More

    To date, the sale of the children’s photography has raised $17,000 that was used to build a fence around the campus, protecting them from the rebel forces in Sudan, and has provided critical maintenance for the truck that transports all food and medicine for the children. $17,000 is four times the average annual income in Sudan!

    You can purchase a child's photograph on the 100cameras website and 100% of your purchase will go directly to IWASSRU to provide lifeline supplies and shelter.

    This photo essay is a small selection of the more than 200 photographs of South Sudan taken by South Sudanese kids, as well as projects in other countries around the world.

    Connect with 100cameras and purchase images of their kid photographers here. Check out their crowdfunding campaign going on now here at WEDIDIT.

  • MOROCCO: The Color of Tough

    MOROCCO: The Color of Tough

    It was the cemeteries that first spoke to me. Anarchic white tombstones tumbling down the foothills, flanked on one side by the Atlas mountains and on the other by the ancient doors of the walled town, or medina, of Fes. “Don’t go that way,” the doorman at our hotel had warned us, “There are thieves.” But my daughter and I did not find thieves. What we found were children younger than her four years sifting through sparsely strewn garbage. Traveling salesmen, burlap bags full of leather goods, weaving a path through the graves; women with brightly colored headscarves carrying water vessels to fill at a well amongst the dead.

    We also found many freshly dug holes, with funeral processions gathering around. They weren’t gloomy-looking flocks, these funeral processions: Almost everybody, male or female, appeared to be wearing red or orange or blue or lime green djellabas (robes). Only the widow of the deceased regularly wears white, I’m told-- as if she were a Western bride. MORE

    Love and death, kids and carcasses are all quite close in Morocco, a country of hit-and-miss medical care. Locals are so devoid of squeamishness, that they often don’t mind riding in the same little red taxi-seat as a slaughtered sheep being transported by its owner to the tannery downtown.

    Morocco—far from the coastal resorts and the gated mansions of European celebrities and American millionaires--defies stereotypes, outstrips expectations, and bursts with color and vigor. Women, who I’d imagined might behave in more subdued a manner than in the overtly feminist European countries nearby, straddled mopeds on Marrakech’s Jemma-El-Fna Square wearing hot pink robes or—not infrequently--hot pink jeans, and blithely cut off the path of male commuters. When I accompanied a French-Moroccan friend to a local farm outside of Essaouira, I watched in surprise as four generations of women served us home-ground couscous, milked, fed and straddled the animals, mended the wall of the central riad house and gathered local rock for a new one.

    There were eight of them, living there on their own. The men in their lives had died, been dispatched abroad, rejected, or simply rendered redundant. The only male in the room was a framed picture of the Moroccan king hanging behind a fifty-year-old television set. The great-grandmother of the household scooped up my daughter and kissed her smack dab on the mouth.

    CRISTINA NEHRING (Text + Photos)

    Cristina is an American author, journalist and photographer who lives in Paris with her now 5-year-old daughter, Eurydice, who has Down Syndrome, and often serves as her model. Her work has appeared in Condé Nast Traveler, The New York Times, The Atlantic Monthly, Harper’s, Slate, The Nation and elsewhere. Her books are A Vindication of Love: Reclaiming Romance for the Twenty-First Century (HarperCollins) and Journey to the Edge of the Light: A Tale Of Love, Leukemia and Transformation (Amazon Kindle Singles). Her photo exhibits include “The Sky is Falling” and “Found Love” (Chico, California).

    To contact Cristina for photo purchases and other inquiries, connect with her on Facebook @Cristina Nehring or email at

    Photo Essay Curated by Nelida Mortensen
  • MYANMAR: On the Surface

    MYANMAR: On the Surface

    The military junta has ruled Myanmar since 1962. Challenges to the junta are quickly thwarted with a heavy hand. Information coming and going is monitored closely. Journalists cautiously sneak in and out but many are blacklisted after reporting about the political situation.

    The former capital city of Yangon, while not without its beauty, is developmentally stalled in the past with beat down cars cruising by crumbling buildings. No ATM’s can be found; a visitor must bring all the money he/she needs with them. MORE

    It’s easy to forget the 2007 Saffron Rebellion. It’s easy to forget that the country’s beloved Nobel Peace Prize recipient Aung San Suu Kyi was under house arrest for the better part of the past two decades before her release in November of 2011. But regardless of its troubled past, you will rarely have a smile unreturned wherever you go, and it’s easy to have a look around and feel that everything is just fine and dandy.

    JUSTIN MOTT (Text + Photos) @jmott78 

    Justin is an editorial and commercial photographer born in Rhode Island, USA. He is living in Hanoi, Vietnam and working throughout SE Asia on personal projects and assignments. In 2008 his work on Agent Orange orphans was recognized in the PDN Annual and was awarded the Morty Forscher Fellowship for humanistic photography given out by the Parson’s School of Design in NYC.

    For more on Justin and his photography visit: Mott Visuals

    PHOTO ESSAY CURATED BY: Nelida Mortensen

  • WORLD: What Took You So Long?

    WORLD: What Took You So Long?

    Certifiably nomadic.

    This is just one of countless ways to describe the rag-tag, bootstrapped guerrilla filmmaking collective What Took You So Long? (WTSYL). On any given day, this small, yet powerful team may span the area of three, even four continents. From Ghana to Haiti, Qatar to Panama, the WTYSL clan is constantly on the move - capturing images, and telling the stories from wherever their feet land.

    Whether they be spanning the globe in search for some illustrious camel milk (yes, camel milk), or organizing TEDx events for the masses, WTYSL are constantly in pursuit of personifying the stories of the unsung heroes our world has to offer. MORE

    As guerrilla filmmakers, the team operates under the philosophy of their medium being a way of life, as opposed to a simple means of production. This is why they choose to live with those of whom they are filming and working with, take public transportation, and seek locals to collaborate with in the pursuit of building lasting relationships.

    To date, the team has filmed in over 60 countries, with no signs of slowing down. These photos provide a small glimpse into the lives of these digital nomads and their tales of misadventure across the globe; those of which will undoubtedly continue well into the future.

    PHOTOS: What Took You So Long? @WTYSL 

    TEXT: Andrew Bridge @Bridgin_TheGap 

  • USA: On the Playa at Burning Man

    USA: On the Playa at Burning Man

    For close to three decades now Nevada’s desert landscape has been annually transformed into the phenomenon that has come to be known as Black Rock City, playing host to Burning Man. While the essence of Burning Man is often mislabeled as a massive party where participants escape to for a week of excessive drug use, the best way of describing it is that of a "pop up society." One, which after a years worth of work, dedication and preparation is burnt down to the desert floor, leaving it just as it was before its temporary inhabitants arrived.

    Regardless of the stereotypes about the, for lack of a better term, “hippy sub-culture” that Burning Man has been built upon, the festival embodies a spirit of collective freedom that is seldom seen in our world today. It has evolved into a place of worship, innovation, radical self-reliance and authentic freedom of expression. Where anyone can reinvent himself or herself into whomever they want, without the stresses of acceptance and judgment from the ‘real world’. MORE

    Amongst the plethora of art installations, participatory campsites, and whatever else Black Rock City births, Michael Marantz, Founder / Director of Already Alive, was inspired by one in particular, ‘The Temple’. In his mind, the installation of The Temple, “explores modern spirituality in a contemplative and personal manner; touching on ideas of self-discovery, letting go and meaningful human connection that transcends a simple party in the desert.”

    Marantz’ inspiration led him to contribute to Burning Man’s consistent theme of a 'gift economy' by producing a short film about it. Fortunately, Michael was able to capture the film in a series of still images, allowing those of us unable to participate in the experience of Burning Man, to have a taste of what it is like to reside in the world of Black Rock City.

    WATCH Marantz' short film 'The Temple' here. 

    PHOTOS: MICHAEL MARANTZ @michaelmarantz  At the age 21, Michael was diagnosed with cancer. Having gone through hell and back, he rediscovered a new passion for being alive, constantly looking to discover more about life, technology, and why we humans do what we do. In 2012 he started Already Alive, a storytelling studio, to open new paths for collaboration. He constantly in pursuit of stirring people to feel the same way he does: Already Alive.
  • INDIA: Making Beyond the Surface

    INDIA: Making Beyond the Surface

    “Unite those with positive minds and compassionate hearts and good things happen…” I thought to myself, after meeting Emi Koch in San Diego and chatting with Crystal Thornburg-Homcy about her idea to make a unique surf film in India early in 2012. She and her husband, renown filmmaker, Dave Homcy, planned to document Emi’s work in India under her NGO, Beyond the Surface International, and other such inspiring cases of youth and women’s empowerment through surfing, yoga, and ecological creativity.

    On a scouting mission in December 2012, they serendipitously met, Ishita Malaviya, India’s first female surfer and a powerful voice for Indian women, who happily agreed to accompany us on the adventure. Shortly after, Damian Handisides of Free Theo Productions joined the team and the project’s momentum became unstoppable. I was honored to be a participant, along with Lauren Hill (founder of The Sea Kin), and Kate Baldwin (yogini extraordinaire).


    We all met in India from our various points on the globe this past April with the hope of exchanging Light and Love with the people we met along the way, especially those facing poverty, gender inequality, and social disparity. At the same time, the adventure would be a platform of growth for our own individual paths of self-realization. Our three unforgettable weeks abound with surprises, beauty, surf, and new friendships while touring and filming in southern India. We explored together in search of a deeper connection to our fellow humans and Mother nature.

    Look for updates and release info for the film at

    The following is a story from my first few hours in India…

    It didn’t seem real until the Indian official stamped my passport and waved me toward baggage claim at the Trivandrum airport in Southern India at three in the morning. The speed of air travel still confounds my sailor’s mind…Instead of watching lights slowly appear on a dark horizon, I found myself huddled around a whirling belt of boxes and bags elbow to elbow with Indian air commuters returning from Dubai. After long flights on multiple airlines, my travel companion since Brisbane–surfing’s extraordinary ecofeminist, Lauren Hill (Check out her fantastic blog/Zine: The Sea Kin), and I were relieved to find our belongings amidst the chaos and head for the exit.

    The sliding doors opened to reveal a sea of families lined upon a railing awaiting home-comers. The fluorescent airport lights eerily illuminated the throng against the black of night. Whites around dark eyes, teeth exposed between open lips, the flash off women’s shiny fabrics, ashen blessings on foreheads, and dazzling gold jewellery all blinked at us like navigational beacons on a horizon of humans. India. We had arrived!?! The air was a thick mix of humidity, exhaust, sweat, and spice, and I sliced through it with the vertical load of my Prolite Rhino Series 6′ 4″ boardbag on the airport trolley…

    Where the crowd thinned we found, Uddi, our driver, holding an 8 by 11″ paper scrawled with “Lauren/Liz”. He bobbled his head from left to right and we took that as a sign to follow him. We strapped the boards atop the classic Ambassador taxi and hopped in.

    The old headlights spat weak light on the right side of the oddly busy two-lane highway. Behind the wheel, Uddi was possessed–honking excessively and using the middle of the road like we were in a game of PacMan. We passed and dodged oncoming traffic in a series of what each felt like near-death incidents. My body stiffened. I clenched the velour cover on the backseat, fixing my eyes on the road from between the headrests, as if it might help us avoid collision. Twenty minutes into the ride, the fatigue of the 30 straight hours of planes and airports hit me. “Relax,” I told myself. “You’re not the captain now…” I closed my eyes and heard ‘Bharat Mata’, Mother India, whisper…

    “Lesson One. You are not in control. You never really are for that matter… People come to India for many things. But what I give each of them are opportunities to open their minds and hearts ever wider…chances to grow from within…to loosen the stuck places…nourish their souls with the notion that everything is possible… Welcome, my Dear, and enjoy the ride…” — Captain Lizzy

    LIZ CLARK (text + photos): Liz left California aboard her 40-ft sailboat, Swell, in 2006 and has sailed over 18,000 nautical miles in the Pacific exploring for remote waves to surf, learning new cultures, seeking truth, living simply from the sea, and writing about it on her blog: As an eco and spiritual activist, she hopes to inspire people to live their passions and reconnect with nature and our inherent Oneness.

  • PHILIPPINES: On the Ground with Waves For Water

    PHILIPPINES: On the Ground with Waves For Water

    While the Philippine Islands were being struck by Super Typhoon Haiyan’s wrath, Jon Rose, Founder of Waves For Water was already hatching his plan to help. Days later, he was mobilizing to get on the ground and provide victims with access to clean water through Waves For Water’s clean water filters. Having been on site for about a week now, Jon gave MISSION a first-hand status report on how their efforts are going, and how they are breaking through roadblocks to give aid to those in need:

    "It's been a long first week here in the Philippines, but we are making good progress in establishing local networks that we can implement our program through. I have always believed in the model of empowering and facilitating locals to help their own people rather than having us, a bunch of foreigners, deciding who gets what, when, where, and how. We aren't from here, we don't know the intricacies and nuances of this culture, so why should we show up and start dictating things? I believe that our greatest role is to be a facilitator by providing new tools, along with the proper education and training, to address at least one of the many needs - access to clean water.More

    In order for this model to be realized we have to spend real quality time on the ground - day in and day out - developing local relationships and really seeking out the biggest pockets of need. This has been our model since the beginning of W4W and remains the same today.

    We are on a good track here so far. We have done pilot sized distributions and trainings to 4 hard hit areas - Daanbantayan and Bogo in Northern Cebu, Iloilo and Antique on island of Panay, and Bantayan Island. I think we are best suited to focus on the "forgotten" pockets, so to speak. The areas that have not been the focal point of major relief efforts; there are so many islands and so much widespread devastation amongst them that I think with our "local network" based model, lean infrastructure, and targeted focus we can make a huge impact for this entire region.

    The best point to get across at this juncture is how you all can help support us. We have a very different model than most organizations and I want to clarify how the program works. We do not need a fleet of revolving volunteers because our "train the trainer" local based model is all about teaching and facilitating locals to be the ones who will ultimately be doing the distribution and training of our water filtrations systems. We have a core crew from our W4W team here now, day in and day out, expanding the program by enlisting these local leaders in each region."

    -Jon Rose, Founder of Waves For Water

    While Waves For Water’s lean, locally empowered infrastructure continues to implement clean water filters throughout the Philippines, those not on the ground can still be intimately involved. Through our awareness, and spreading of their initiative Waves For Water will be able to gain access to more clean water filters, thus granting thousands of victims access to clean water in their time of need. Each clean water filter Waves For Water implements directly helps hundreds of Filipino citizens.

    Text: Andrew Bridge & Jon Rose

    Photos: DJ Struntz

    Connect with Waves For Water’s Typhoon Relief.
  • SYRIA: The Young Men of the FSA

    SYRIA: The Young Men of the FSA

    The front lines of the Syrian Civil War trace through alleys and ancient streets in the Old City of Aleppo. Defending these lines are young men, most less than two decades old, carrying AK-47s and homemade grenades. They have no military training and will not wear body armor for fear of delaying the time of death anointed for them by Allah. They are kids and recent college graduates who picked up guns for their country and, most of all, for revenge. All have lost friends and family to Assad.

    These young men are warmhearted and hospitable, but daily burdened and degraded by the fighting. Every fighter I met had a different story that brought him to Aleppo; this project attempts to tell those stories. — Cengiz Yar


    CENGIZ YAR @cengizyar Based out of Chicago, Cengiz is a documentary photographer and freelance photojournalist whose work has been featured in publications around the world. His photography focuses on human conflicts, both violent and peaceful, and aims to encourage understanding by fostering interest and making the alien familiar.

  • TURNING TABLES: Voice to the Voiceless

    TURNING TABLES: Voice to the Voiceless

    Turning Tables is an international NGO committed to establishing, and maintaining permanent musical production facilities for DJ’ing, rap, and beat making for marginalized youth in the Developing World. “The aim is to start a process of reflection and self-empowerment by giving youth a space where they can express their travesties, hopes, and dreams in a non-violent manner,” says Turning Tables Founder and Director Martin F. Jakobson.

    In 2009, Martin was living in Beirut, and began working in several Palestinian refugee camps across Lebanon. Since then, Turning Tables has expanded its work across the Middle East to Tunisia, Jordan, Libya and Cairo, alongside establishing a presence in Haiti and Cambodia. More

    Beyond merely conducting workshops to educate youth about musical production, the organization has branched into workshops video production and has collaborated with local music festivals to further enhance the youth’s experience, and empowerment. Turning Tables also commits itself to the training of local staff, to ensure their facilities remain operational with the intention of self-sufficiency down the road.

    Currently, Turning Tables is conducting an international online fundraising campaign for Cambodian street youth, many of whom are former child prostitutes. “Our expectation is that, with the fundraising campaign, will be able to train about 800 vulnerable Cambodian kids for a year, and create a strong outreach program to reach more at-risk youth.” — Martin Jakobson (Founder + Director)

    This photo essay takes you to Turning Tables on site locations of Tunisia, Haiti, Libya, Cambodia and Egypt, displaying the many areas, and countless youth who have been powered through their inspired mission. Connect with Turning Tables here, and check out their crowd funded effort for the Cambodian youth on indiegogo.

    ANDREW BRIDGE is a global enthusiast with a passion for the road less traveled. As a frequent collaborator with World Hip Hop Market and Nomadic Wax, Andrew has worked with numerous socially conscious artists from around the world in the pursuit of inspiring cultural understanding and exchange through entertainment. This fascination with the world at large has taken him to over 20 countries (so far) through studying, volunteering, and writing about his travels, with no signs of slowing his globetrotting nature down. Connect with Andrew at @Bridgin_TheGap

  • Yoga in An African Prison

    Yoga in An African Prison

    We are not going to change the whole world, but we can change ourselves and feel free as birds. We can be serene even in the midst of calamities and, by our serenity, make others more tranquil. Serenity is contagious. If we smile at someone, he or she will smile back. And a smile costs nothing. We should plague everyone with joy. If we are to die in a minute, why not die happily, laughing?"

    — Swami Satchidananda, The Yoga Sutras

    Recently, I had the opportunity of traveling to Africa as a resident artist for Africa Yoga Project, an organization that seeks to empower individuals and strengthen communities on the African continent, through the practice of yoga, meditation, health education (HIV/AIDS) and social activism.

    One of the places I visited, a Kenyan prison for women, brought me unexpected joy, when the inmates, many of whom are HIV positive, shared that yoga has become a rare source of happiness in their daily lives.

    In the following images, I tried to capture this joy and the relaxing effects that this practice is bringing into their current reality. — Robert Sturman


    ROBERT STURMAN is the official visual artist of 2005’s 47th Annual GRAMMY® Awards. He has formal training as a painter and photographer, and holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of California, Santa Cruz. Following his degree, he completed a two-year apprenticeship with Carmel, CA-based master photographer William Giles, whose striking images have been said, “to have the impact of a Zen koan,” a description that could apply to Sturman’s imagery as well. He also studied for two years at the Memphis College of Art under acclaimed Italian painter John Torina, whose ephemeral, atmospheric landscapes are echoed in many of Sturman’s works. You can find out more about Robert’s work at his online studio and connect with him via Facebook and Twitter.

  • 7 Global Families Pose with 1 Week of Food

    7 Global Families Pose with 1 Week of Food

    How much food does your household go through in a week? What are your go-to family meals? And how much do you spend on food? You can get a glimpse of how others answered these questions in Oxfam’s new photo series, which depicts people from around the globe with one week’s food supply for their families. More

    Building on an idea that originated with 2005′s  Hungry Planet: What the World Eats, the new images feel especially timely now, when reports about half of the world’s food going to waste vie for space with news about rising global food prices. According to a recent article accompanying some of the photos in the UK Independent, “There is deep injustice in the way food is grown and distributed … the world’s poorest people spend 50-90 percent of their income on food, compared with just 10-15 percent in developed countries.”

    As you can probably guess, the families’ diets differ depending on where they live. But if if there’s one common thread that links these images, it’s that we all have to eat. We all face challenges and successes when it comes to feeding our families. And we can all help to make the food system fairer for everyone.

    So check out seven highlights below. Then tell us in the comments: What does your week’s food supply look like? How does your family measure up?


    ANNA KRAMER is a writer at Oxfam America, a global organization working to right the wrong of poverty. Based in Boston, Kramer is also the editor of Oxfam America’s First Person blog, where this post originally appeared. Find her on Twitter at @annakramer.

  • AFGHANISTAN: Art Comes to Istalif

    AFGHANISTAN: Art Comes to Istalif

    On October 26 we premiered the Streets of Afghanistan exhibition in the village of Istalif, a remote village in the Shomali Plain north of Kabul. Four years ago, I envisioned a collaborative photography exhibition between Afghan photographers and Western photographers that had deep affection for this country. Instead of a gallery show, I imagined surrounding the viewer in the image to bring the art off the wall, and into the viewers world. I wanted to see people’s reaction as they interacted with lifesize images and hoped that it would change American perspectives of Afghanistan—that if we saw it as a country with a beautiful spirit and culture that we would be more invested in it from a humanitarian perspective. More

    I saw that vision come full circle as we brought the exhibition TO Afghanistan, among Afghans themselves to surround them with the beauty and spirit of their country and communities. 28 photographs lined the market streets outside of the mosque on the first day of Eid in the village of Istalif and the reaction was nothing short of amazing.

    Setting up the exhibition itself was an enormous task. It takes two people to assemble each image in the dusty streets. It takes a lot of muscle and stamina to move the exhibition into place, and alot of ingenuity to keep them in place on 4×4 worthy roads. Luckily our team has that in spades.

    Many people expressed their doubt about the feasibility of pulling this off in a country like Afghanistan. Many more questioned the value of taking such a risk for ‘art’. Would Afghans understand it? What’s the point of doing this in a war zone? It’s not worth the risk. What that really means is that they think Afghans aren’t worth the risk. That because this is a country fraught with conflict and poverty that art doesn’t have much importance. I disagree. I think art is all the more important here.

    So when I was asked, often, “Is it worth it?”

    HELL yes. Beyond a doubt it’s worth it.

    Seeing men smile and laugh while pointing at the paintings and talk animatedly with each other, and to have old men in elaborate turbaned and ancient faces tell me “thank you” in halting English makes me prouder than anything I have ever done in this country.

    We watched little girls come by and touch the images, interact and smile and laugh with us. We watched young boys look at a photo of a busy Kabul street for 20 minutes as though they were right there – never having been there themselves.

    More importantly… we were treated with honor and grace from the entire village that treated us as their guests. Invited to lunch, for tea, and had multiple offers to spend the night with their families. The same response I have been beyond blessed to experience in many other Afghan villages. Proving time and time again, that ‘Hell yes. It’s SO worth it.” I’m honored to bring this show to Afghanistan. I’m honored to showcase another side of Afghanistan back home. Yeah, it’s worth it.

    In 2008 Mountain2Mountain launched the Streets of Afghanistan project, facilitating a collaboration of Afghan and Western photographers to document Afghan life through the rarely seen Afghan lens, immersing the viewer in the landscapes and faces of Afghanistan, transporting them directly into the culture and mindset of the country’s people. After touring the U.S. the exhibit of 29, 10×17 photographs now returns to the Afghan people. Follow along as we bring the exhibition back to Afghanistan.

    SHANNON GALPIN (words): Fueled by her own experience with violence against women and inspired by becoming a mother, Shannon founded Mountain2Mountain, a nonprofit whose mission is to provide education and opportunities to women in conflict zones. An avid mountain biker continually focused on breaking gender barriers, in 2009 she became the first woman to mountain bike in Afghanistan, a country where the culture does not permit women to ride bikes. A TEDx speaker, she has been featured on Dateline NBC, Huffington Post, and Outside Magazine and is a subject in the documentary film series, MoveShake.

    TONY DI ZINNO (images): From passion projects in Afghanistan to behind the scenes documentary films with racing heroes at the Indy 500, photographer Tony Di Zinno, is a self proclaimed photo sherpa. Di Zinno made his bones early in his career on Nike propaganda with print campaigns with the worlds most famous athletes in every category. This former competitive athlete turned concerned photographer makes his home nowadays near Venice, CA and when not on location working on assignment can be found at his old alma teaching as an adjunct professor of Photography and Imaging at his alma mater, the Art Center College of Design.

  • GHANA: A Volunteer Among Child Slaves

    GHANA: A Volunteer Among Child Slaves

    When Elizabeth Tulsky participated in NYU’s study abroad program in Ghana, she also independently volunteered with City of Refuge, a local organization that uses education as a tool to combat child slavery. She said of her experience that it had “a tremendous impact on my life and what I want to do in the future.”

    In Ghana, children are often enslaved, maltreated and many mothers struggle to see their children as more than a financial burden. While there are no statistics on the actual number of children trafficked, estimates are in the thousands. What is known is that 25% of Ghanaian children ages 5-14 years are involved in child labor. Child labor and human trafficking are both against the law in Ghana, however, laws are not enforced. More

    City of Refuge fights against child slavery by educating small villages about the harms of keeping children out of school and depriving them of a childhood. The organization is founded on the belief that if they can empower single mothers educationally and economically then they will no longer be vulnerable to selling their children as slaves.

    Can you tell me a bit about City of Refuge and the work they do? City of Refuge workers enter villages and open discussions with the chiefs in a respectful manner and work to free children who are in dangerous and/or miserable conditions and separated from their families. On a daily basis, City of Refuge provides home, happiness, and sanctuary to many rescued children. Furthermore, City of Refuge runs the only public school in the city, Doryumu. The organization works at the root of the problem, beginning with single mothers. Many children end up in slavery because mothers simply have absolutely no means of supporting themselves, much less their young children. Selling them, as hard as it may be to believe, truly seems like the only option for many women. Thus, City of Refuge works with single mothers to find alternative solutions to make ends meet, and have started two local businesses to be run by single mothers to increase opportunities for mothers and in turn, reduce the number of children sold into horrific situations.

    How were you involved with the organization? I worked in the small school where the children living with the City of Refuge family were educated and spent my evenings at the home playing with children and helping them with their homework. I also spent time shadowing the founders and through this I learned much about the process.

    What do you know about child slavery in Ghana? Children are targeted as slaves for fishermen for several reasons. First, children are easy to acquire as so many parents are impoverished and feel financially helpless. Second, children’s small hands are ideal for making and untangling fishing nets. When the nets get trapped in trees in the lake, children are sent in the water to untangle them. Unfortunately, this means many of the child slaves are incredibly susceptible to water-borne disease and illness and sadly, some do not know how to swim and may drown in the water. Children who are enslaved receive no form of education or care and spend up to eighteen hours a day working on the lake. They are often fed no more than one meal a day, which frequently consists of just gari, a food made from cassava, soaked in the lake water..

    Any advice for travelers going to Ghana? This is probably true for every country, but just approach everything with an open mind, try new things, immerse yourself in the culture as much as possible.

    How can readers help the victims of Child Slavery in Ghana? Check out City of Refuge for more information.

    Other organizations doing good work include Youth Generation Against Poverty (YGAP), an organization that inspires volunteers through creative fundraising opportunities. They have created several projects partnered with City of Refuge.

    ELIZABETH TULSKY (photos) Elizabeth is a senior studying social work at NYU. She has always wanted to become a social worker—to make changes and affect people's lives, but when she graduates she plans to travel and work globally, both in Ghana and in other parts of the world. You can contact her at

  • KENYA/UGANDA: A Life-Changer

    KENYA/UGANDA: A Life-Changer

    One can never discount the importance that travel can have on shifting one's life direction. Taylor Conroy is a case in point. After an impactful experience in Kenya and Uganda, he changed his career path in a big way. Taylor has worked in real estate, as a firefighter and in a variety of other commercial pursuits, and after his trip he focused on creating Pocket Change Heroes, the newly launched website building schools around the world, using the power of social media.


    Q: What inspired you to go to Kenya and Uganda in the first place, and why there?

    A: I wanted to SEE where some money I had put aside for charity would be going, and decide for myself where it would go. I went to Uganda to check out a diary goat project that a friend of a friend had instituted. Kenya was to check out Free The Children's villages. Those were the options I had narrowed down to from North America.

    Q: What are the specific issues you saw when you got there, and what surprised you?

    A: You name it. Water, sanitation, lack of education, and the thing that surprised me the most... ZERO opportunity. In the West it is generally accepted that if you try hard enough, if you work hard enough, if you go for it long enough, you will make it. Or maybe I should say that the chance is there that you might "make it". What I saw in Uganda and Kenya was what we called the global lottery system. The people I met in the small villages in the Rwenzori Mountains in Uganda don't just have it hard. They have no choice, and in most cases, no way to make their life better. They have ZERO opportunity.

    Q: What advice would you give to someone considering a volunteer trip or traveling outside of their comfort zone?

    A: Stop considering it and book it. Period. Don’t wait for every single thing to line up. GO.

    TAYLOR CONROY (@destroynormal): Taylor is the founder of 'Change Heroes' and 'Destroy Normal Consulting', which focus on innovative philanthropy and building projects like schools, wells, and libraries all over the developing world. His most recent efforts have seen schools funded in India, Nepal, Kenya, Sierra Leone, and Tanzania, impacting over 30,000 children. He has set foot on every continent, dozens of countries, and has worked as a professional fire fighter, real estate broker, and currently as an avid social entrepreneur.

  • GLOBAL: Slavery Still Exists

    GLOBAL: Slavery Still Exists

    It was 130 degrees when I was first introduced to the brick kilns of Nepal. In these severe temperatures, men, women, and children -- whole families, in fact -- were surrounded by a dense cloud of dust while mechanically stacking bricks on their heads, carrying them, 18 at a time, from the scorching kilns to trucks hundreds of yards away.

    These are slaves. Deadened by monotony and exhaustion, they worked without speaking, repeating the same task 16 hours a day. They took no rest for food or water, no bathroom breaks -- although their dehydration suppressed their need to urinate. More

    Around the world human traffickers trick many people into slavery by false promises of good jobs or good education, only to find themselves forced to work without pay, under the threat of violence. Trapped by phony debt, these slaves are hunted by local police and private security guards if they try to escape. Sometimes slaves don't even understand that they're enslaved, despite people working 16 or 17 hours a day with no pay. They're simply used to it as something they've been doing their whole lives. Their bodies grow weak and vulnerable to disease, but they have nothing to compare their experience to.

    For the last 28 years I have documented people in more than 100 countries on six continents. In 2009, at the Vancouver Peace Summit, I met a supporter of Free the Slaves, an NGO dedicated to eradicating modern-day slavery; weeks later, I flew down to Los Angeles and met with the director of Free the Slaves; thus began my journey into exploring modern-day slavery.

    Oddly, I'd been to most of the locations where I started photographing slavery many times before. I even considered some of them homes-away-from-home. But there can be dark corners in familiar places.

    These are not images of "problems." They're images of people. There are 27 million slaves in the world today: That's more than double the number of people taken from Africa during the entire transatlantic slave trade. A hundred and fifty years ago, an average agricultural slave cost over three times the average yearly wage of an American worker, about US$50,000 in today's money. Yet now, entire families can be enslaved for generations over a debt as small as $18. Slavery is illegal everywhere, but it exists all over the world. — Lisa Kristine


    Lisa Kristine is a humanitarian photographer who specializes in images of remote indigenous cultures. Lisa's most recent focus has been documenting modern day slavery and collaborating with NGOs in this effort. By purchasing one of her prints or slavery book or soon-to-be poster a percentage of proceeds will go toward fighting slavery. Her work may be found at

    Learn more at Free the Slaves
  • ETHIOPIA: Child Marriage

    ETHIOPIA: Child Marriage

    In the Northern Amhara region of Ethiopia, two girls, ages 11 and 8, prepare for their marriage celebration. These pre-adolescent brides are about to be sold to men many years their senior. While in global decline, child marriage is still apparent in Ethiopia, with families selling their daughters into marriage as young as age five. The legal marriage age of 18 is widely ignored and 48% of rural women are married before the age of 15. In 2006, photographer Guy Calaf moved to Ethiopia. During his travels he photographed the young brides and their families. More

    Child marriage, which is broadly defined as marriage before the age of 18, is a practice that still exists in sub-Saharan, West, East and North Africa, South Asia, Latin America, the Middle East, Caribbean and even in some communities in Europe such as areas of France and North America with some U.S. states legally allowing children to marry under the age of 18 with parental consent. Children who are married off are often forced into the union and because of this it can also be referred to as forced marriage. While this practice might be seen as abhorrent in many cultures, in these communities, many families continue the practice because it is what they believe to be in their children’s best interest, or even, what they feel they must do to survive in cases of extreme poverty.

    According to Pathfinder International, poverty is a defining factor as to why child marriage still exists. Giving a daughter away to marriage allows families to reduce expenses and in some traditions, receiving a dowry or bride price is common practice. Children coming from poor families are about twice as likely to marry before 18 as those from wealthier families. Child marriage is also deeply rooted in the traditions of these communities, with some families seeking to maintain family status within them. This is tied to the success of their children and when a daughter gets married, it is representative of her success. In many cultures, if a woman becomes too old for marriage it would mean a failure on part of their parents and be a risk her to her survival.

    (All names have been fictionalized to protect the identities of the subjects.)
  • THAILAND: Street Orphans Transform Into Art

    THAILAND: Street Orphans Transform Into Art

    I've been making street art since 2009 and have traveled to 13 countries to focus on children who are homeless and living on the street. I make cardboard cutouts that I mount to walls with high tack mounting tape or propped up as stand alone pieces. If no one removes them from the streets, the pieces will decay and be destroyed by the harsh environment. If someone does take it, then they can keep it in their home. If it survives, there is hope for them to continue on as pieces of art, just like there is hope for the actual homeless and street kids.

    During my last trip to Asia I stayed in an orphanage in northern Thailand and got to know the kids there. I spent two months with them, listening to their stories, and then I represented these young people in this body of my recent work.

    The most memorable stories were of two children named Chai and Lee, who were so malnourished that their little stomachs were swollen when they first came to the orphanage. To get food they would steal the offerings to Buddha in their tribal villages. With this money they would buy snacks, since the only thing they had to eat was white rice, which has hardly any nutritional value. The piece with the arrows (below) is about how Chai had a lot of things in life thrown at him, trying to destroy him, but instead, he focused on the beauty in life. The main thing I learned from this trip is that children find beauty and can reveal it to the rest of us.

    MICHAEL AARON WILLIAMS : My art is a narrative, visual poetry, making a social statement to move the viewer to action or realization. An important part of my work focuses on the street, the place where people live their daily lives. This allows me to interact with an audience on their own turf and observe how they react to the art; it is a social experiment. These open-air installations focus on the ephemeral state of street people and enable the viewer to participate in the outcome of the pieces, whether the viewer leaves or saves them from the street. My goal in depicting street people is to show their beauty, fragility, and to bring their situation into the eyes of the viewer, refusing to let them be forgotten or ignored.

    Learn about how to help the orphanage at Orphans Assistance and Rescue
  • VIETNAM: Bac Ha Market

    VIETNAM: Bac Ha Market

    One mist-covered morning a lone woman pushes a cart through an empty alleyway. The nearby hustle and bustle of the Sunday market in Bac Ha can be heard from the crowds of villagers purchasing fare like cabbage, chillis and fresh eggs from the market stalls. Colorful hand-crafted goods from the Hmong people who reside in the area can be found laid out in brilliant patterns across the dirt as groups of passersby gather around tables to enjoy a market meal. Street photographer Mark Carey traveled to Hanoi and the Sapa Region of Vietnam in October 2011 where he visited Bac Ha and the Sunday market to document the intricacies of life in the area.
  • SOMALIA: Daily Life

    SOMALIA: Daily Life

    At 8:30 am the streets are crowded after the Islamic call to prayer. The echo of gunfire in the distance is a normal, and seemingly daily occurrence, in present day Mogadishu. Pick up trucks armed with groups of men carrying machine guns firing rounds to hurry along busy traffic is common, and it carries on throughout the day and into the bat-studded night sky. Mogadishu has been called the most dangerous city on earth and the country has been wrought with civil war between Islamist extremists and a failing government since 1991. Since then there has been no central government control over the country’s territory and the region has been stricken with devastating violence and famine. There are an estimated 3.7 million Somali’s living without enough food and the rate of malnutrition is approximately 50%, the highest in the world. It’s difficult for aid agencies to gain access into Somalia because many have been blocked by al-Shabab—the Somali cell of al-Qaeda—leaving nearly a quarter million people trapped without access to food. Photographer Anthony Karen ventured to Somalia’s capital in January 2012 to document the daily life of the people who call the war-torn country home and to visit the the Dadaab refugee camp on the Kenyan-Somali border. More

    Famine in Somalia

    The United Nations declares a famine when 20% of households face severe food shortages. more than 30 % of the population is malnourished, and two out of every 10,000 people die from hunger each day. In July 2011, in the midst of the worst drought the country had seen in more than 60 years, the UN officially declared a famine in Somalia. The anti-Western, al-Qaeda linked militant group, al-Shabab made the situation worse, banning Western aid agencies from entering the territory and subsequently blocking starving individuals from gaining access to food. Al-Shabab has accused foreign aid workers of being spies as well as killed and kidnapped workers. The group has also diverted food supplies for themselves, leaving starving Somalis without any options and aid organizations in a tricky spot.

    In February 2012, the UN declared the famine in Somalia to be over, but the country still remains in crisis with widespread hunger and violence. Since the collapse of its central government two decades ago and the civil war that ensued in 1991, Somalia has been faced with myriad disasters and has ranked as one of the poorest, most violent countries on earth. Last year, a drought killed livestock and farms which spiked death and malnutrition rates. Desperate Somalis trekked across the desert in search of aid and some arrived in Kenyan refugee camps while the few hospitals in Mogadishu were overcrowded with malnourished people affected by famine and violence.

    The United Nations helped to raise more than $1 billion for relief efforts across Somalia and organizations such as the Turkish Red Crescent Society and The World Food Program have been working towards providing humanitarian relief in the country. Also, with the help of heavy rains in November, famine conditions began to subside in some parts of the country. However, the crisis is far from over and violence, instability and hunger is still widespread across Somalia.

    The Turkish Red Crescent Society is a humanitarian organization that has been working to provide relief in Somalia. For more information, visit:

    Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is a leading humanitarian organization that provides medical care to people caught in crises. They work within over 60 countries and remain the main provider for free medical services in central and southern Somalia.

    The World Food Programme reaches up to 1.3 million peopole with food relief to areas of Somalia which they have access to including, Mogadishu, Puntland, Somaliland, central regions and some border areas of the south. They have increased their nutrition programs to treat and prevent malnutrition.