Meditations for Holy Week

As churches have moved their worship services online in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, some have incorporated videos into their streaming presentations. One of my regular clients is Lutheran World Relief, a faith-based development and relief organization which draws much of its financial support from the Lutheran Church community in the USA. LWR commissioned these two videos to be shown during Holy Week. They highlight the integral relationship between Christian Faith and love and charity toward others. The first piece, solemn in nature, accompanies Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, which are somber days during Holy Week in which Christians reflect on Christ’s sufferings. Bright and celebratory, the second piece accompanies Easter Sunday, marking the morning of Christ’s resurrection from the tomb. With the exception of a couple of stock video clips I spliced in here, I used my back catalog of clips to produce these two videos. The featured[…]

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Celebrating International Women’s Day

I produced this dance-inducing video for the marking of International Women’s Day by ChildFund at an advocacy event in Washington, DC, promoting the Girls LEAD Act  – a bill that recognizes and promotes girls’ civic and political leadership as a priority for U.S. foreign assistance efforts. Following a “call for entries” to ChildFund’s 23 offices around the world, I chose the most thought-provoking soundbites to incorporate with some existing high-intensity dance footage. Herein, also, are some shots celebrating women and girls from recent assignments in Morocco, India, Nepal and Uganda.  

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She Feeds the World

Here are some stills from a recent whirlwind assignment with CARE in Peru, where I had the chance to document the lives of some of the women participating in PepsiCo Foundation’s She Feeds the World Initiative. In just four days, we visited women and their families who are working in the agriculture sector across the country from the scrub-desert far north of the country, to the tropical savannas of Sullana, to Lima’s chilly suburbs built along the dunes lining the Pacific. The village of Salitral is a farming hub for the banana industry. The women at the Association of Women Entrepreneurs of Salitral spotted a business opportunity when they saw cartons of over-ripe bananas being discarded by the farms each day. These too-ripe-to-eat bananas are perfect for making banana jam, a delectable jelly that’s usually spread on toast, cakes or cookies. The She Feeds the World initiative gave these ladies[…]

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ChildFund in the Philippines

These days my work with ChildFund involves getting to the heart of what the organization does through personal video storytelling. I’ve been talking to current and former sponsored children, and their parents, to see how participation in the program leads to transformation in their lives today and puts them on solid ground when they move on to adulthood. Hazel, whose profile is shown above, is a current sponsored child living in rural Mindanao, while Ana Maeh, below, grew up in the program and is now a teacher in Manila. Their stories would be entirely different had not someone from far away made the decision to intervene in their lives.   All photographs and video copyright Jake Lyell Photography, LLC 2019. All rights reserved.

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Georgia on my Mind

This relatively tiny slice of the Caucasus is one of my favorite corners of the world, and I relish any opportunity to come here. From the ancient castles, churches, rich culture and heritage to the stunning architecture and wonderfully unique wine and food (all at affordable prices) there’s really nothing not to love about Georgia, aside from the fact that its greedy northern neighbor keeps carving out slices of the country’s sovereign territory. I thought about not making this post so I could keep more of this place to myself. BTW I brought my drone. Below is an aerial view of the Ujarma fortress, circa 1100, followed by the Jvari church, circa 600. Other shots are from Tbilisi, Gori, and the Davit Gareja Monastery on the border with Azerbaijan.

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Open Sesame

  It’s one thing to increase the crop yields of vulnerable, smallholder farmers in a climate-challenged corner of the world. Lots of organizations are working – and bearing fruit – in this capacity. It’s another thing entirely to transform these smallholder farmers into major agricultural producers, connect them with buyers, and strengthen the value chain of a commodity for an entire region. In my most recent assignment with Lutheran World Relief, I was commissioned to take a brief look at the SESAME project, a US Department of Agriculture-funded initiative that works not only to increase the quality and volume of sesame farmers in Burkina Faso, but also to strengthen the cooperative system in sesame growing regions of the county. By working in cooperatives, everyday farmers can negotiate higher prices, streamline quality, access inputs and enhance overall market conditions, all of which create a sustainable, private-sector led framework for the sale[…]

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Saving Grace

  At the age of thirteen, Grace’s parents fell on hard times. The bride price paid by an older man in the village was incentive for them to withdraw her from school and marry her off. This video is part of a series I recently shot and produced for ChildFund documenting the organization’s work to prevent early marriage in Zambia.

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Habbanaye: Goat Whispering in the Sahel

    Every day the Sahara Desert gets a little bit bigger. Millimeter by millimeter, the desert encroaches on the people of the Sahel, the biogeographic zone in west and central Africa that transitions between the vast desert to the north and the fertile savannah to the south. For most people who find their homes here, living off the land becomes all the more difficult year after year. In an earlier post I talked about ways that farmers are rejuvenating their land through Lutheran World Relief’s CORE II project (Community-Led Food Crisis Recovery in the Sahel). This is a necessary undertaking to boost agricultural productivity, but is also one that takes time. In addition to maintaining fertile fields, survival in this climate-volatile region also depends on one’s ability to diversify income. Cue the goats! Livestock production can be a lucrative and sustainable income for poor farmers. Goats in particular are[…]

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Escaping Child Marriage in Kenya

I’m always astonished at the enthusiasm that exists for education among students in the developing world, especially when compared to my native USA.  I was reminded of this during a recent assignment in Kenya, where I spent a day at the Sapashe girls’ dormitory at a remote primary school in Samburu County. The dorm, one of many constructed by ChildFund in sub-Sahran Africa, provides a safe place for school-age girls to live on campus while they focus on their education.   Girls face a number of challenges in rural Kenya including FGM, child marriage, and, more often, the hurdle that when at home they’re expected to perform domestic chores like fetching water and herding livestock, rather than to concentrate on academics. The ability to live on campus helps bypass many of these obstacles. In the above video piece I present the story of Rehema, a resident of the Sapashe dorm, who[…]

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