Jake Lyell
Video Production | Still Photography

Visual Storyteller

Exit Strategy

Published on November 6, 2016 in Blog Posts, Video | 0 comments

For kids growing up in the slums of Nairobi, Kenya, education is the only hope of escaping a seemingly hopeless situation. This video was shot for ChildFund’s annual Small Voices, Big Dreams survey, which asks children their thoughts on critical issues affecting them. This year’s theme is education. I’ll be showing it to my daughter every time she complains about having to go to school.

Fair Trade Cash Crops

Published on September 20, 2016 in Assignment, Photo Essay | 0 comments

Who says money doesn’t grow on trees? I recently visited several villages in Burkina Faso and Kenya where the primary sources of livelihood fall from the sky, later to be collected from the ground and sold on the market – macadamia and shea nuts.

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Okay, it’s not always quite that easy, especially for shea nuts, which must go through a rigorous production process, shown below, to be made into a marketable product like shea nut butter or shea nut oil.

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The photographs shown here were taken for Shared Interest, an investment company in the UK financing fair trade growers and producers in the developing world. They are copyrighted, so please don’t use them without permission.

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Feed the Future Nigeria

Published on August 21, 2016 in Assignment, Blog Posts, Video | 0 comments

There’s no magic bullet when it comes to poverty alleviation, especially when working with communities for whom living off the land is their sole form of sustenance. Problems here in northwestern Nigeria are complex, and the diverse challenges create a devastating domino effect by which families are often overwhelmed.

Poor agricultural production leads to malnutrition and to communities that lack income. Desertification and the expanding Sahel lead to fewer water sources and make it more difficult for communities to observe proper sanitation and hygiene practices. These factors impact everything from livelihood, to health, to education, and form the boundary between mere survival and success. Only a holistic, multi-pronged approach can address the myriad of obstacles faced here.

Feed the Future Nigeria Livelihoods Project is funded by USAID and is being implemented over a period of five years by Catholic Relief Services in some of the country’s most vulnerable households. As the project enters its fourth year, staff and stakeholders are lobbying the Nigerian government to uptake and implement key strategies used in the project in order to create sustainable change in these communities. I produced this video both to showcase the unique approaches Feed the Future Nigeria employs, as well as to be an advocacy tool aimed at influencing government policy.

Wisdom from Wisdom

Published on August 6, 2016 in Assignment, Blog Posts, Video | 0 comments

The renovation of a school in rural Zambia by ChildFund has had an incredible domino effect in the community, impacting everything from teacher morale to child marriage. Instructor extraordinaire, Wisdom Chanda, tells us how a bricks and mortar makeover can go a long way towards impacting education and child rights.

Married at Fifteen

Published on July 12, 2016 in Assignment, Blog Posts, Video | 0 comments

A number of video stories I recently produced for ChildFund in Zambia deal with child marriage or the prevention thereof. Child protection is a hallmark of the organization’s programming, but especially so in Zambia where the practice of child marriage is yet to be eradicated.

What We Hear

Published on July 2, 2016 in Assignment, Blog Posts, Video | 0 comments

What we hear is the sound of metal scraping metal. It was that deliberate, unsettling sound that echoed across the compound of this remote village in Luangwa District, Zambia and drew me to discover its source. What we see is a three year old boy scavenging for every morsel of charred and hardened cornmeal leftover from his neighbor’s cookware in a vain attempt to quell his hunger.

As I frame this stark picture I’m reminded of an occasion when I myself scraped a bowl with such vigor. I’m reminded of the times growing up when my mom made cake or chocolate chip cookies and I relished the sweet remains in the mixing bowl as the batter baked in the oven and the sweet aroma filled the house. The comparison of pleasant childhood memories and the dismal situation before me is a vicious reminder of the reality at hand, the reality of plenty vs. want, of want vs. survival. I’ve never stood so closely to the divide before.

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After I film the scene I enquire more into Mika’s background. “Doesn’t he at least have something to eat other than these scraps?” The picture becomes more bleak. Late last year Mika’s father was out farming in his field when he was trampled by an elephant. He didn’t survive the encounter. In one moment Mika lost both his father and his family’s primary source of income. This year, as a horrible drought rages and the entire community faces food shortages, Mika’s mother, now as a widow, has become one of the least likely to succeed over the odds. So often the family simply doesn’t eat. As a sign of the times, the kindness of neighbors in this hospitable Zambian village has dwindled to the mere leftover scraps of bland cornmeal porridge.

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I had not come to this village to capture such a shocking scene. I didn’t even feel right filming it. Knowing that a harvest was not received this year, I thought I’d come to this village before it had gotten to this point. Sure, I gave my lunch to Mika that day. But what has he done every day since then, and what will he do in the days to come? How many other children are out there scavenging as they wait for the rains to fall?

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Dogs warm themselves by a fire in Luangwa, Zambia. ChildFund, NZ - Luangwa, Zambia. April 23, 2016. Photo by Jake Lyell.

This is how We Play in Zambia

Published on June 20, 2016 in Blog Posts, Video | 0 comments

This weekend my quaint little neighborhood in Richmond, VA went three straight days without electricity following a powerful storm. During the marathon power outage I noticed a lot more children playing outside than usually do. Maybe they should take some creative playtime tips from these kids I came across recently in Zambia.