Monthly Archives: February 2014

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Two ghostly figures work amongst the trash and burning and broke government heavy machinery in the Dandora dump.

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From where I stand right now.

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None of my hashtags are sticking to any of my posts. Deleted my @instgram app and re-installed it. Didn’t work. Anyone have a REAL solution? Guess not needed. Thanks so much!

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Life grows even in the harshest conditions. #jj_polaroid_yellow #fotobar @polaroidfotobar.

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Although it is very cold in Chicago today, this image reminds me to be thankful that unlike many families, this is not my entire source of heat for my home, fuel to cook and my light source at night.

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The @watts_of_love team boating some where on the South China Sea to reach a difficult part of the island to deliver new solar lights and to check up on a few fisherman that received lights a few months ago!

A beautiful moment, shared between friend and stepping out to help those in need.
#WOL #givelight #PhilippinesWOL

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The complexity of poverty, returning home and moving forward.

I returned home late on Saturday and have been trying to recover and process.

Unlike my jet lag, I have learned that my processing of what I have experienced, observed and encountered will never have end. You can’t experience such extreme poverty and not be radically changed. I understand that life is all about imbalance but, seeing how some people are forced to live makes you understand that there is injustice in the world and it is up to US to be the agents of change!

You don’t have to travel to distant counties to help, there is need all around. If active participation isn’t your calling, then please consider donating to a cause you feel passionate about or organization you trust.

If our work at @watts_of_love moved you in any we, would love to have your financial support and assistance in any capacity! Drop us a email and let us know how YOU want to help or go to www.wattsoflove.org. We need your help and more importantly little hands and feet like these pictured above need your help! You can be the help that radically change their lives forever!

Yes, it’s good to be back home but, whenever I turn on my room light, open the fridge door to see it illuminate my food, or flip the night light on for my son when he goes to sleep, I think about all of the people that still live in complete darkness after the sun goes down.

Light=Hope.
Light=Education.
Light=Love.

You=Their Light!

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At the highschool I attended in America, there were no windows or clocks in any of the classrooms.

We were told that by removing all distraction it would help every student focus and not day-dream looking outside the windows.

Although all the windows at Kinyago-Dandore have bars on them and a few have broken glass, there is a hope, focus, drive and understanding from each student that their education is a complete gift and blessing.

Every student knows that being accepted to Kinyago-Dandore is the equivalent of winning the multi-million dollar lottery!

I have never seen children so motivated to learn, study and grow. There is a spirit and drive in each student not be defined by their current living environment.

The truly touching thing I learned is that many graduates of the school come back to Kinyago-Dandore and choose to sponsor and pay for a current enrolled student.

Even though like most graduates when starting out, they don’t have any spare money, however, they choose to give back what they received to another. What an amazing cycle of receiving, giving and helping!

All of the students clapped, cheered and celebrated when Ginger Palm (CEO of the Kenya Children’s Fund) told them they would ALL be receiving a new solar light to help them with their studies at night.

Imagine that, children actually cheering that they can do MORE homework at night!

It only cost $456 a year to sponsor a student and I want to encourage you to read more about the amazing work at Kinyago-Dandore by visiting www.kenyachildrensfund.org.

Light=Education.

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These are two of the boys we met at the Dandore dump site yesterday.

As we were leaving the dump site, several of the boys including the two pictured here walked us to our vehicles. When I turned around, I casually saw these two boys walking arm in arm. I was moved by their obvious friendship.

I know that times of difficulty often unites and bonds people together through their common experience and these boys obviously don’t live an easy life.

Most of the people we encountered at the dumpsite struggle to survive every day so, it was really nice to see that although in a very difficult environment, these two boys seemed to have a true friendship to help them through their struggles.

Light=Hope.

#WOL #givelight #wolkenya

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My mom and dad will not like this picture!

As I mentioned in my last post, I was informed that in order entered the Dandre dump site, we could NOT enter the area unless we had armed security. I didn’t realize it meant two men carrying AK47′s.

I have experienced a million situations while creating photos over the past 20 years but, I have NEVER had two heavily armed men behind me as I captured photos.

The incredibly surprising thing is that NONE of the people I photographed seemed to care or even give it a second thought!

This fact alone showed me that the people that live off the dump site live an entirely different experience than most.

The sad reality is we needed the security and everyone we encounter understood it and casually accepted it.

Although I really liked both men, I can not say I would like to have both of them tagging along with me next time I am capturing street photos in Chicago! I was, however, really happy to have them with us at the dump site today.

Both men allowed me to take portraits of them and I am eternally grateful for their presence today and willingness to allow me to “shoot” images of them.

#WOL #givelight #wolkenya

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When I first entered the Dandore dump site today, I had the feeling that for the first time in my life, I had entered a place that all humanity, dignity, joy and hope had been completely eradicated.

I was wrong.

They say the Dandore dump site is one of the most dangerous places in the world and not a place a stranger should enter.

I now completely believe them and was very thankful we had two armed guards with AK 47 with us at all times.

Despite my original feelings, combined with the smells, trash, waste, and visual horror, I did see glimmers of, friendship, laughter, dignity, joy and at times…love.

Prior to our arrival arrangements had been made so we were allowed to enter the “turf” that was managed by a few boys someone in our team knew.

While interacting with these young boys, I encountered this young girl that in STARK contrast to others at the dump site, could not wait to be photographed.

Despite her awful surrounding, this young girl was so sweet and joyful while I was taking her picture and so happy playing with her baby brother.

After taking her picture, I showed a few of the photos to her and she covered her smile and laughter with her hand and suddenly became shy.

I was honored that the photo made her see herself as beautiful despite her surrounding and home.

To me, she and her baby brother were the most beautiful and valuable treasures I saw all day.

#WOL #givelight #wolkenya

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Yesterday, we left the school property and ventured into the slums of Kinyago-Dandore to personally deliver solar lights and minister to all of the families.

Although giving people their new solar light is always a powerful moment; ministering and praying for each family member after they receive the light is even more emotional.

Regrettably, I can not photograph this moment and do it justice. I also see this time as sacred.

When we ministered to the family pictured here, we were invited into their 6′x8′ shack to see where they lived their lives every day. Words can NOT describe their living environment and no one should ever be left to live in that type of home! It breaks my heart even thinking about it again now.

I am so thankful that this family can now discard the deadly kerosene lamp I saw hanging dangerously close their 6 month old new born baby brother Moses.

In the moment of taking pictures, I never find it hard to create the photos, however, when I relive the moment as I do when I write about my experience, it absolutely crushes me emotionally.

Some day I hope to write about this odd dissociation I experience while photographing such pain, sorrow and poverty. I know it is a copping and survival method but, it is something I struggle with on these mission trips.

#WOL #givelight #kenyachildrensfund #KCFWOL #wolkenya

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It is now 4:30 am and we are getting ready to head back to Kinyago-Dandore school for another day of interacting, teaching, distributing lights, taking pictures and of course smiles and laugher.

I can only hope the greeting is half as good as it was yesterday!

#WOL #givelight #kenyachildrensfund #KCFWOL #wolkenya

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TODAY IS MY BIRTHDAY!

I can’t think of a more joyful birthday celebration then being greeted by several hundred young Kenyan children ALL singing at the top of their lungs, dancing, banging drums and jumping up and down as we arrived at the Kenya Children’s foundation school today.

It was a magical moment and one I will never forget! I will post some video soon so you can hear how amazing the experience truly was for all of us!

I have much to be thankful for on my birthday today!

I am most thankful that God did not listen to all of my excuses, fears and doubts when I continued to say over and over “I can’t do it” or “I am not the right person to do that” when I was asked to help develop @watts_of_love and bring lights to all of the amazing people I have encountered this past year.

I know deep in my heart that every person I encountered on my mission trips this past year has given me more than I have given them!

I heard a pastor say today that once you experience and see the lives of people in such need and poverty “You can’t forget and God will not accept your excuses when He asks you to help!” The words brought tears to my eyes.

I was also very thankful today to have hairy arms and short sleeves on. My arm hair and skin color brought all the children such laughter as they pulled, tugged and touch it!

I might not have hair on my head anymore but, to the children in Dandora, my forearm hair rocks!

#armhairrocks #happybirthdaytome

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On my boat trip to Ilin Island I discovered that I could get better data cell reception out in the water and away from the jungle.

However, how would I do this when I wasn’t on a boat or raft?

Since @lifeproof was kind enough to send everyone on our @watts_of_love team new @lifeproof cases this wasn’t a problem!

On several occasions before the sun would set, I would float out into the South China Sea with my iPhone or iPad to edit pictures, write posts and then post on @instagram about the mission.

Let me tell you there is nothing like cooling off in the water after a 90 degree day and working with your iPad knowing it is completely waterproof and safe!
I also shot some great water images and video with my #lifeproof case!

Thought I would post this little photo to show all of you my view as I was working to keep all of you informed about @watts_of_love.

Bottom line…not everyone needs a water proof iphone or iPad however, after using one I’ll never not leave home without one.

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As I sit in the blackness of the morning awaiting my Maasai guide to escort me to our safari jeep, I am keenly aware of the pencil filling in the box that reads “African Safari” on my life experience bucket list.

Although I have been very blessed to experience, see, smell, taste, touch and travel more than most people, I have always had the desire to experience a African Safari.

Today, as we head out into our first animal safari @campiyakanzi, I can’t help and think of the famous photographer and artist Peter Beard that inspired me so much when I was first introduced to photography in my youth.

Peter’s work, images, passions and lifestyle personified and romanticized what it meant to be a photographer in Africa. I can only hope that while I am here, that I might be lucky enough to capture one truly authentic image that Peter himself might approve as acceptable.

I heard it say that once the experience of Africa gets into your blood, you are forever changed.

I have only been here one day and already, I can sense the magic and wonder of the Dark Continent.

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Although we said goodbye to all of our Watts of Team in Manila we wanted to take a moment and especially thanks Andy @andrewking757 and Suzi for all the hard work, love and dedication on Ilin Island. We could not have done it with out both of you!

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Although I have been an iPhone person since embracing cell phone photography, I was fortunate enough to have @Nokia provide me one of their new #lumia1029 camera phones for my current trip with @watts_of_love.

Although I have traditionally worship at the alter of Apple products, I am SO blown away by the quality of Nokia 1020 camera and it’s capabilities!

Prior to leaving, I contacted @Nokia and told them what I was doing with Watts of Love and they said they loved our mission and wanted to help.

Since shooting with the #Lumia1020, I can honesty say “the future of cell phone cameras has arrived!” This cell phone camera has amazing image qualities, fantastic clarity, the ability to change shutter speeds and you can even choose your ISO! This image was shot shutter speed1/4 at ISO 1600.

If size is your thing, the camera has the ability to capture a 40MB picture! Plus, it has great low light capabilities which is huge for my current work with Watts of Love.

The cameras simple user interface will not scare the amateur and will be a welcomed sense of euphoria for the pro or photo enthusiast!

In this shot this young Filipino boy was only lite by the only light source his family had prior to us giving his parents a new solar light.

The #lowlight capabilities of #Lumia1020 are amazing and blow my iPhone away!

For full disclosure Nokia is not paying me or @watts_of_love to write any kind of review.

#lumialove #lumialowlight #nokialowlight
#WOL #givelight #PhilippinesWOL

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Yesterday in Manila we went the Smokie Mountain dump site.

After reviewing some of the images on our 22hr travel day, this one really stood out to me.

This image seemed to by very symbolic of @watts_of_love entering into a type of environment we had never experienced and delivering lights to people who have all but been forgotten and discarded with the trash they live off to survive everyday.

As my sister Nancy walks down the narrow alley you can see the old bed springs that many of the families living there use to create the walls of their homes.

Although visually interesting to photograph, the reality of what the bed springs are used for is painful to comprehend.

#WOL #givelight #PhilippinesWOL

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Arrived in Kenya a few hours ago. My first time in Africa and so excited to explore this amazing place. Hopefully the airlines will find all our luggage. Only thing I have is my camera bag, laptop, and clothes on my back. Ugh!

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Just landed in Hong Kong and had to sprint to catch our flight. When we arrived they said “sorry gate already closed!” Obviously we didn’t accept that answer!

Now on the plane ready for a 13 hour flight! I hope the Sandman take me away quick!

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Today we went back to Pier 18, aka “Smokie Mountain Dump Site” to see how some of the people were using their new @watts_of_love solar lights.

We went to a different part of the dump site and this was by far the worst living environment I have ever seen in my life!

It’s an environment completely made up of trash. The People live in trash, people make their homes out of trash, people live off of the trash and there is trash EVERYWHERE you look, mounds and mounds of it.

The smells, smoke and environment were difficult to comprehend and photograph.

It is completely impossible to accurately capture the 360 degree environment of this place. One has to step into it to truly grasp it.

One thing I discovered is that many families use old rusted bed spring as the walls for their homes. When we were in someone’s home visiting, the neighbors young child could stop looking through the walls to watch. Although the light on him is beautiful the reality of the environment he is living in was crushing to me.

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Hi @andrewking757 here. A few things you should know about me 1) I’ve never posted anything before 2) I’ve never been on a mission before 3) I’ve never been to the Philippines before . @kevinkuster told me that if I were to come with him on this mission, that my life would be forever changed.
The ingredients for having a life changing event to occur in your life is to say yes to something that is totally different and outside your comfort zone. I did say yes and my life forever changed.

I’ve learned that the Pilipino people are the most beautiful people, respectful, kind, loving, happy, caring, people that I have ever encountered. They don’t need a bunch of things to make them happy. Their reliance on God and each other is all they need.

I also discovered that when I had the privilege to gift a woman named Joy, with solar light, that this woman’s life was immediately changed, and Joy’s smile turned to laughter. At that very moment, my life was changed, discovering that by giving someone something so valuable was even a bigger gift and blessing to me in return.

In this image Andy displays how to use the charging station on the @watts_of_love solar light.

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While pulling off the last piece of luggage from the bangka boat, our Captian shines a @watts_of_love solar light as if pointing the way home for our remaining journey.

#WOL #givelight #PhilippinesWOL

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It is now 3:00 a.m. and we are beginning our journey off Ilin Island. It is completely black outside except for our @watts_of_love solar lights and a beautiful orange moon.

Since it is low tide we needed to wade out in knee high water about 600 yards and then climb on to a small balsa (bamboo raft) where we are pushed out in waist high water to get to our bangka boat.

Once on our bangka boat we have a 1 1/2 hour boat ride to San Jose, then a short bus ride to the airport and finally, we fly to Manila.

Basically, getting to Ilin Island requires some serious effort and logistics.

Although I am very sad to be leaving the amazing people, loving children and gang of 10 boys that followed me around I have a feeling of gratitude and joy. Unlike last I left Ilin I didn’t think I would return. This time I know I will return!

As we begin sailing in into the darkness Alfred and I are singing the theme song from the TV show THE LOVE BOAT!

#WOL #givelight #PhilippinesWOL

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The Ilin island version of the school bus.

These children stand on a balsa (small bamboo raft) while being ferried to a larger bangka boat to get to school.

I wonder if anyone has ever fallen off the boat only to tell their teacher that they didn’t have their home work done because a fish ate it!

#WOL #givelight #PhilippinesWOL

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How does one actually describe a moment in your life when you are rendered completely speechless?

How do you then try and write about that same event when you know that trying to put words to the experience seems to only trivialize it?

This young boy proudly displays the RADIO he made out of his families Watts of Love solar light cardboard box. YES, he made a radio out of the cardboard box!

What was once a simple box that most would dispose of as trash, has been put to an AMAZING use by this ingenious boy!

When you have so little material possessions EVERYTHING has a use and purpose in life and there is no such thing as disposable!

Once I am off the Ilin island and have a strong data signal, I can’t wait to post the video of it playing music for everyone to see and hear!

#amazing #ingenious #WOL #givelight #PhilippinesWOL

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Sometime pictures really are worth a thousand words.

What do you think this photo is saying?

#WOL #givelight #PhilippinesWOL

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Families, friends, joy, love and light filled the church yesterday and I was lucky enough to photograph all 81 couples.

Some of these couples have been waiting for years and years to get married because they could not afford the state marriage license, rings, shoes, formal clothing, wedding dress etc, etc, etc.

Father Fernando said we were lucky to give them “some of their humanity back and let them know how valued they are!” It was very moving and profound to hear him say these words.

Thanks to everyone who donated to our cause and day!

#81couplewedding #WOL #givelight #PhilippinesWOL

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Families, friends, joy, love and light filled the church yesterday and I was lucky enough to photograph all 81 couples.

Some of these couples have been waiting for years and years to get married because they could not afford the state marriage license, rings, shoes, formal clothing, wedding dress etc, etc, etc.

Father Fernando said we were lucky to give them “some of their humanity back and let them know how valued they are!” It was very moving and profound to hear him say these words.

Thanks to everyone who donated to our cause and day!

#81couplewedding #WOL #givelight #PhilippinesWOL