Sunday, December 19, 2010

Orphan, Schoolchild, HIV/AIDS, MACODEF, Western Kenya, March, 2007

Driving from one spot to another, a scene is to become more and more familiar to me: coffins lined up on the side of the road for sale, some obviously small enough for children.

In this part of Kenya, orphans are orphans because of an epidemic called HIV/AIDS. In school after school visited, the first children to be photographed with the help of MACODEF are the orphans under their sponsorship.

These children know little about wars, conflicts and so on. They know all too much about the violence perpetrated on their social fabric by this epidemic. At the time of this child's birth, one out of every ten women in this region is infected with HIV/AIDS.

According to many estimates, the population living with HIV/AIDS in Kenya is third in number behind South Africa and Nigeria. With an active HIV/AIDS population near 1,500,000 living within its borders, the number of orphans in Kenya has increased to 1,200,000.

The young child above is one such example of the ongoing struggle with the epidemic. On this beautiful morning, we arrive early in order to photograph the youngest of the students. The previous day we photographed the older students.

All of the children are wearing sweaters due to the coolness of the morning. They stand up on a chair while the teachers help with their clothing. My position is below them and in a ditch so as to give me a lower angle. The portraits are made with the sky behind them, this is true for the girls.

We make perhaps three to four portraits per child and then move onto the next student. Each child takes off their shoes prior to standing on the chair. The respect between student and teacher is immense.

We finish our work for the morning and then move on to the next school, where the students will be waiting patiently for our arrival, a population that will tragically include a number of orphans as a result of HIV/AIDS.