City of Churches

While on assignment in Nicaragua earlier this month, I got a chance to spend the afternoon in Léon, the City of Churches. Léon is a bastion of Roman Catholic fervor, and its historic colonial temples date back as far as the early 16th century. I first visited Léon ten years ago, but was happy this time to see many of these churches in an improved state of repair. All photographs Copyright 2017 Jake Lyell Photography.

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Family Reunion

“We believe the family is the best place for every child.” This quote from a social worker narrating the video below is the central theme of the DOVCU program, which is implemented by ChildFund in Uganda and funded by USAID. Parents or family members who struggle through grinding poverty often feel that the best solution is to give their children up to an institution – an orphanage or children’s home – in hopes of a better life for them. The reality is that this often results in children growing up without culture and community and makes them more vulnerable to child trafficking or living on the streets. Furthermore, the standard of living in such institutions is seldom better. The Deinstitutionalization of Orphans and Vulnerable Children in Uganda program seeks to strengthen the livelihoods of families so that breaking apart the family is unnecessary. It also works to bring separated families back together again. I recently shot and produced these three short […]

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From Beans to Bank – Mt. Elgon, Uganda

Who knew that growing quality coffee was such a difficult task? In fact, cultivating a quality coffee plot can take an entire generation to perfect. So how do small farmers with limited capital and capacity ever compete in such a market? Are they doomed to sell poor-quality beans (ones that will eventually be used for low-grade instant coffee) for next to nothing, or can  they polish their growing practices enough to make a pretty penny selling to the likes of Illy and Starbucks? Lutheran World Relief’s intervention throughout the coffee growing world strengthens small, local coffee cooperatives in a number of ways, to include providing access to finance and processing equipment. In the above video, however, it’s the intervention of the Community Knowledge Worker that is highlighted. These CKWs, who are trained by LWR, move from farm to farm and work up close with small farmers themselves, advising them and […]

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Smiles from Timor-Leste

One thing I love about working with ChildFund is the bit of extra time they sometimes allow me to focus my lens on a country’s culture and daily life. In addition to shooting a few videos recently for the organization in Timor-Leste, I also shot these photographs, which give bit of insight into the country’s people and the terrain that is their home. Special emphasis was also placed on the beautiful practice of traditional Timorese weaving, seen below, which is a livelihood for many women on the island.    

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Exit Strategy

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.

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Fair Trade Cash Crops

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. 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. 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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