I've thought so much about what to write for this post - I thought about splitting up the photos into separate posts, but I feel like sharing the story of my trip with all the photos is more impactful. Now, sitting down to write it, I don't really know where to begin. We were in Africa for 10 days and experienced so much. I got to combine work + play and it provided an escape that I needed. It allowed me to focus on things that are important and it allowed me to experience God + His wonders in ways that I never have before. I met wonderful people + had great, vulnerable conversation. There is something about traveling across the world, experiencing different cultures, and talking to new people that helps you to realize how much we, as human beings, have in common. This trip also challenged me to want to do more. I want to tell more stories. meet more people, experience more places, be challenged more, I want to know God more and I want to pursue what He wants for my life. I feel overwhelmed with thankfulness for this opportunity + also overwhelmed with a sense of responsibility that is hard to explain. While I am still sorting through feelings and thoughts from this trip, I am so excited to share some of my favorite images and experiences from the 10 days we were in Nairobi + Tanzania.
I traveled with my dear friend Ava (founder of Slumlove Sweater Co.), her husband Daniel and baby Zeke, along with my new friends Mary, Suzanne, Erin + Ross. It was a small, intimate team of wonderful people. We experienced once in a lifetime memories and I'm so thankful that I will forever share them with this sweet group of people.
David Sheldrick Elephant OrphanAge
New Hope Academy
Some of our time in Nairobi was spent at New Hope Academy in Kibera, the slums located very close to downtown. The living conditions in this area of town are some of the worst I have ever seen. There is no sewage system, barely any electricity (there is an occasional street light), and the houses are piled on top of each other. New Hope Initiative, an organization founded by Sandy + Karen Baird (Ava's parents) helped to rebuild a school in Kibera that has now helped so many children with their education in primary, secondary, highschool, and even university. The amount of good this foundation does is almost immeasurable. There are several projects that are under the New Hope Initiative umbrella including Penda Project, helps to provide highschool students with sponsorships to attend university. Another is Project Biashara which helps to provide jobs for some of the women of the Kibera community through jewelry making. Acacia Tree Lodge is the newest addition to the New Hope family and it is the beautiful guest house we. stayed while we were in Nairobi. For more information on New Hope and all of the wonderful things they are doing, visit their website: http://newhopeinitiative.org/
Visiting with and getting to photograph the kids at New Hope Academy was such a life giving experience. They are all so thankful to be getting an education and most of the kids I talked to really enjoyed school + studying. We spent a lot of time with the Grade 8 students working on their bios for sponsorships. It was really interesting and eye opening to hear about some of their experiences while living in the slum and what their dreams were for their future. God is doing such amazing things through these kids, through the teachers and through New Hope Initiative. The teachers are the unsung heroes of this operation. Their dedication to the lives of these students is inspiring. Festus is the headmaster of the school and the first day we met him, he made me cry with his stories about this school and how far they have come with the help from sponsors and New Hope Initiative. He is selfless and enthusiastic and has been with the school through really difficult times. He has a gentleness and kindness about him that is evident from the first moment you meet him. The teachers not only care about the student academic success, but also who they are becoming as human beings. They are invested in so many aspects of their lives and they are so loving. *For more of Festus' story check out this video.
My only regret of this trip is that I didn't have more time - more time to capture these kids and the school, more time to hear stories, and more time to learn. There is so much beauty in a place that, from the outside, might be considered dirty and unsuitable for living. These children help to renew the vibrancy of anyone who visits New Hope with their smiles and curiosity. They are intelligent, willing and dedicated to growing + learning.
Slumlove Sweater Co. in Nairobi
I met my good friend Ava a few years ago when I did a feature on Slumlove Sweater Co. for Made with Love Journal. We have since bonded over our love for fashion, our sarcastic sense of humor, our faith and now I am so happy to be able to add travel buddies to our friendship resumé. Slumlove is a sweater company that Ava started and it helps to provide jobs with fair wages to women in Nairobi. For the past few years I have been the Slumlove photographer and to say I'm honored to get to shoot for such an amazing company would be an understatement. Ava is an amazing person with a love for fashion, Nairobi and its people. On our trip, we visited the Slumlove Sweater Nairobi headquarters and it was such a humbling experience to meet the amazing women who make the beautiful clothes I have been photographing for the past few years.
Gonzala Leathers is a leather studio located in a neighborhood in Nairobi connected to the house where Gabriel, the founder, lives. These bags/ products are some of the most beautiful and well made leather goods I've seen. We showed up and Gabriel gave us a tour of their studio and allowed us to purchase already made items or design pieces that we wanted. Their team crafted bags, guitar and camera straps, wallets and more for 5 of us in under a week. They were extremely accommodating and kind. Slumlove Sweater Co. also works with Gonzala to create beautiful bags - last season was a duffel and Ava was working on designing the next bag while were were visiting.
Ngorongoro Crater + Lake Manyara Safari
We flew from Nairobi to Tanzania for our safaris and no words I put in this post will ever do our experience justice. Tanzania is such a beautiful country filled with lush landscape and vibrant culture. The first night we drove to the Ngorongoro Sopa Lodge located on the edge of the Ngorongoro Crater. The views were overwhelming to say the least. This place is unlike anywhere I have ever been. It is gigantic and beautiful. On night one, we watched the sunset over the crater and even though were were exhausted, we were extremely excited to wake up before the sun the next morning. We made it into the crater as the sun came up - the safari jeep top was open, the air was crisp, and the sites were stunning. We were sitting just a few feet from some of the most regal, majestic animals on the planet. After 6 hours of safari we drove to Lake Manyara Serena Lodge to enjoy a sundowner (snacks + beverages by a campfire + view of the sunset). We woke up early the next morning to do it all again at Lake Manyara. Hopefully my photos can do a little more justice to this awe inspiring experience than my words can.
*I shot all of these photos with my 50mm lens. This means these animals really were as close as they appear.
If you've made it to the bottom of this post - THANK YOU! I appreciate you taking the time to read it or just look through the photos. It truly does mean the world. I would love to answer any questions you might have! There are so many ways you can help and if you feel called to look into more details about New Hope Initiative or if you want to go on a trip like this one , I would love to help and encourage you!