Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Girl, Orphan, Student, MACODEF, Western Kenya, 2007

We arrive in the middle of the day to a small school in rural Kenya for her portrait. There is little shade and we find a grassy area for the children to tell us their stories.

We begin with the boys, allowing the girls to get accustomed to our presence. All of the children's names are noted by the good people of MACODEF, a local and international foundation working in this area. Each child is given their chance to sit in the spot chosen, given a few moments to share their expressions with the camera.

Once the boys are finished, it is time for the girls. The expressions range from bewilderment to complete ease, from shyness to brazen confidence. The foundation tells me that many of these children are orphans, some partial and some complete. They also inform me that the source of their present plight is an epidemic of HIV/AIDS.

This is the first time that the words 'partial' and 'complete' have been presented to me in this way and my mind will never see these two words in the same manner. Prior to this experience, hearing that a child is 'complete' would have given me an entirely different notion.

The girl above is one such example. My memory fails me now as to category, but remembers her to be an orphan to be photographed according to the wishes of the foundation. She, like many of the other children, left her shoes back at the entrance of her classroom.

Like all of the other children, her head is shaved to prevent the presence of lice.

She is a testament to a child's enduring spirit.

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