Guest Blog: Humanitarian Photographer Gary S. Chapman
I’d like to introduce you to a few ordinary people doing some extraordinary things. These are people that have zero followers on social media and will probably cringe in embarrassment when they find out we are “exalting” them. But their sacrifice, courage and selflessness can be a huge inspiration for us and the way we direct our lives.
As a photographer focusing mostly on humanitarian issues globally, I’ve been fortunate to witness and share visual stories of people who have been a huge catalyst for change in my own life. After every assignment, I choose to live more simply and intentionally.
So, here you will meet Olivia and Wisdom from Ghana, and Vishnu from India. In their own communities they are enriching and empowering the lives of many in their circles of influence. I hope these glimpses into the lives of a midwife, a tilapia farmer, and a blind teacher impact you as well.
Olivia – The Midwife
It is 105 degrees outside and only a little cooler inside the delivery room of the rural clinic in remote Ghana. Lit by window light only, Olivia lifts the little baby boy with only one hand, like she was lifting a bunch of bananas, onto a white metal scale. The child, only a few minutes out of the womb, lets go a healthy cry as his skin contacts the cold metal. A moment later, Olivia gently wraps the baby, burrito style, in a clean blanket and his crying immediately stops, the newborn once again feeling warm, cocooned and safe.
Olivia has delivered over 1,600 babies in the last ten years in the sparsely equipped clinic that has no electricity or water, but this clinic is still considered an oasis for the women seeking her help for their deliveries. Without it, the closest medical assistance would be 30 miles away, along a potholed, dusty, dirt road.
“Since I came here I have never lost a baby. I know God has helped me a lot,” says Olivia. “I enjoy working with the poor in the villages because I want to save lives. The challenges are so many. We have bad roads. We don’t have lights.” But she adds, “My passion is delivering babies and taking care of pregnant women. I become happy when I deliver a baby safely, without losing the child.”
Wisdom – The Tilapia Farmer
There’s a good reason Wisdom Yao Nyador, who doesn’t know how to swim yet, spends most of his days on the waters of Lake Volta in Ghana.
Tending to their tilapia several times a day, he and others workers climb into small wooden canoes and paddle out to 4 cages anchored in the deeper parts of the lake. They hop on bobbing narrow wooden frames supporting nets and throw out feed to the always hungry tilapia.
Wisdom, 27, graduated from college to be a pastor, but he saw a great need for employment among the people in rural communities. Motivated to learn about tilapia farming to help his people in a practical way, he is now the farm manager and is learning to swim.
“Ghana imports 54% of its fish,” he explains. His hope for the farm is “to become one of the largest tilapia producing farms in Ghana. I believe in this project. One of our visions is to become self-sufficient and be able to help out many mission projects we have…and in order to give employment to people in the community.”
Vishnu – The Blind Teacher
Sometimes the blind leading the blind is a good thing. Vishnu is a blind teacher teaching braille to blind students in rural India.
His passion and compassion is evident as he patiently uses his hands to guide the fingers of young students over pins on metal braille tablets. I think by teaching these blind students I am serving God,” he says.
Before coming to this home and school for the blind and deaf, most of these blind students were begging on the streets. “My first goal is that children who are blind should not have to go and beg,” says Vishnu. He tells everyone he meets to support blind people for their entire education and not just by giving one time to a blind beggar. “As many as 44,000 children fall into the clutches of the beggar mafia in India each year, and of these, hundreds are deliberately mutilated,” according to the national newspaper Daily Mail in the United Kingdom. Once disfigured or permanently maimed in some way, the children are then put out on the streets to beg.
Vishnu says he is thrilled to be teaching at the orphanage and school. “Nobody supported me when I was growing up blind. These children are so fortunate that the mission is doing so much on their behalf.” He adds, with obvious joy and pride, “I am confident that these children will one day get good jobs, not only in India, but abroad too. And hopefully, they will support children like themselves that have struggled.”
A big thank you to Scott and Brad for generously affording me this platform to share some of my favorite people and their stories with you.