Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A little More FUN!

OK who pulled the hair out of my skull? (Below) See the hat? It is the most coveted hat in the E. Congo. Even Callie Lynn & Dr. Jo Lusi's dog wanted the hat. In the final Cherif of Heal Africa got the Obama hat!

(Picture 3 below) Dr.Jo Lusi founder of Heal Africa in Goma Congo checks a child after an orthopedic surgery.

Children in N.Kivu area of the Eastern Congo run through fields towards the foreigners.

UN peacekeepers in the Eastern Congo N. Kivu area with one of their broken vehicles in tow.

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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

My Volcanoe (Really)

This volcano in the background is actually called "My Volcano". It's so cool as anyone that speaks its name is calling it "My Volcano". So if you ask Belice, "where are you going this morning, she might answer to "my volcano". Believe me the first couple of times I heard this is confused me. I am rather naĆ­eve sometimes for someone who has been around so much.
As hard as life is in the Eastern Congo, there are some beautiful attributes in everyday life. Happy New Year!

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Sunday, December 28, 2008

World Magazine publishes Congo Crisis Photographs

World Magazine sent me a copy of this article with several of my images from the Congo on the inside pages. This is Bedu whose father was shot and killed in Goma Congo.

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Saturday, December 27, 2008

Thanks Professional Photographer's Magazine

Thanks Professional Photographer's Magazine for the interview and talking about my work along with ShootQ in the Congo.
Rangefinder Magazine-thank you for the recognition
and of course
Wonderful play of Bedu in the Congo and thanks for running the pictures in BW.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Taxi? This is it in the Congo

They call me a clinger. But I bet you would be a clinger too here in the Congo. When I get on a moto I wrap my arms around the driver's waist and intertwine my fingers. I usually have my camera bag behind the driver's back and my backpack on my back. Trying to stay on the seat takes talent and I am getting it down. This is the taxi equivalent in the Congo at least in Goma,Congo.

We begin each trip dodging volcanic rocks, mud holes,old holes,garbage,branches not to mention the thousands of motorcycles also dodging the same garbage along their way. As the passenger I am rarely actually touch the seat until we come to a stop.

We pass by hundreds of SUV's with AID logos plastered on the sides. It makes me think that the only traffic jam is caused by these giant AID vehicles from Medicines sin Fronteirs,Save-the-Children, USAID, oh my gosh there are so many AID groups here, it is hard not to mix up all the acronyms. Really if we counted you would think that everyone in this country would be well fed and housed in sufficient homes. Unfortunately this is not the case.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Belice and Her Water Can

Nine-year-old Belice with her Jerrycan listens to her mother before heading off to get water for the family. The trip for water includes passing by the CDNP rebel soldiers, and going along paths that bring back memories of her rape.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Belice and Cecile in the Congo

The first time I met Belice and her little sister Cecile we all felt shy. I wondered with the language difference how we would communicate. Belice later told me she never saw anyone so white. Her father said she, her brothers and sisters asked him if I were sick and why I didn't have any color. The baby screamed when he looked at me so the kids and the mother tried to keep his head under a blanket when I was around. He would pull the blanket off his head to see if I were still there and scream some more. I was terrifying to him.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

An Answer

"Love is a symbol of eternity. It wipes out all sense of time, destroying all memory of a beginning and all fear of an end” St. Valentino

Needing an Answer, A Resolve

From the Congo: You are at
Meet Belice's family.

Nothing is complicated here and yet everything is difficult. Electricity from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. if everything goes right. I am here in the Eastern Congo thanks to ShootQ Rachel LaCour, Andrew Niessen, Mark Adams and of course Dawn Davis,Laura Novack,Jasmine Star,Joe Buissnink.

It's illegal to take pictures of buildings, roads, cars or anything else they (soldiers carrying AK 47s or police) decide what is illegal on a whim. Once I have been detained because a friend took a picture, (not me) but he was Ugandan and it was me, the blonde (rich???looking one they wanted)and just the other day I had to fight for my camera (hey Mark I still have it) to keep a soldier from taking it.

It is 9-year-old Belice and her family who live daily with these terrorists. They live in the northern countryside of the Eastern Congo.
Belice and her family once had a house made of wood, a small herd of goats and farmed their land. When Congolese government soldiers and Laurent Nkunda’s rebel troops clashed in their village, the people ran. Just before this last fighting the soldiers nabbed nine-year-old Belice and raped her. Her father said, “she came running towards the house screaming and crying, I couldn’t understand her at first through her sobs. Then she said, Daddy the soldiers got me”. Leonard, her father says he knew exactly what that means.
He knows, because soldiers have raped 80% of the women in their village. After 3 weeks of living as a refugee Belice, her 4 brothers and sisters and parents returned home to the village. The soldiers had stolen their goats, dismantled and took every piece of wood that constituted their house, and every single possession within their home and farm.
Today they muster resiliency, they believe that things will get better. Then gunfire from an AK47 sprays bullets overhead breaking the laughter into pieces, devastating the hope. It is only a drunk soldier 500 feet from where we stand. No one is harmed this time. Belice and Cecile her little sister stood stunned I pulled them down to the ground. Everyone is OK today.

They ask for nothing from me except for a bible. It's almost Christmas. They pray their baby will not cry from hunger. They pray their mother to be well from malaria.
I am a journalist. Or am I? I cannot say I am today. I am not objective. I am on Belice’s side. Yes I am 100% for nine-year-old Belice.
Today hope prevails. Teachers have committed to teaching even under the CNDP rebel control and without any pay. The teachers will ask parents to contribute soon. For most this will be impossible. Yet Belice's father says, "one day of school, two days... is better than none." Belice will go to school until they are requested to pay money.

I gave Belice a couple of disposable cameras and had the film developed in a city for her. She had never seen pictures. Her face lit up with joy. Her shyness disappeared. She will be strong. I know this. My time is ending here in the Congo. I am not sure how to say goodbye to Belice and her family. I want many things for her and for her family. I want them to have enough food that they are not hungry and I want Belice to have a hiv test. Maybe I’m pushing it but I want them to have goats again and have the opportunity to stay in school. Somehow it seems unfair to say goodbye to Belice and to her family. I know she will miss me. I gave them so little and they have been thankful for too much.

Love and Merry Christmas Sherrlyn

Ducking the bullets and Belice Doesn't Move

Ta....tta.....ta.........ta machine gun fire rips through the peaceful tranquility of Belice's village. We are standing on the dirt road that runs through the center of her village when the firing overtook the sound of laughter. We all throw ourselves to the ground but when I look up there is Belice and her little sister stunned just standing there. I yell at Belice to get down and grab Cecile and pull her down. Everyone is OK. Just another drunken soldier firing off an AK-47.

Destination Wedding Photographer: Ducking the bullets and Belice Doesn't Move

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Trouble Makers

"Every time I pass by soldiers I think, "here come the big troublemakers". Nine-year-old Belice was raped by the Congolese government soldiers. The soldiers stole the goats from her family. The soldiers dismantled their house and took all the wood and possessions they had saved for over the years.

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Friday, December 5, 2008

An Average Goma Congo Street Downtown Goma

Several people have asked me what Goma downtown looks like. Well first of all it is illegal to take pictures of buildings, public places or anything else the police, military or guards decide is illegal on the spot. One can pay $250 for a piece of paper which says it is OK to take pictures but the problem with the paper is that it is useless.
I decided to brave it and grab a street picture. This is not the worse street and it is not the absolute best. The total amount of paved streets around Goma must be a total of 1 mile and they are covered in rocks and potholes.

No Pay. No Promises. Teachers Return


No pay. No promises. Teachers in N. Kivu return to work under Laurent Nkunda's rebels who have taken control of much of the N. Kivu area. They hope that the government will pay them but say they doubt they will because the area is controlled by Nkunda's rebel group. They also fear being accused of anarchy.

UN India in Congo and Food Distribution

People call them the "blue turbans" Indian UN troop in N. Kivu region patrol an area in the rebel controlled area of Laurent Nkunda.
A group of the Rwanda Liberation soldiers settle on the hill opposite of the UN base in N. Kivu.

Food distribution by Heal Africa to an Internally Displaced Camp. Food is distributed to IDP camps by Heal Africa and many AID groups in the area. Several IDP camps have become permanent homes for many who have run from fighting in the Congo. After settling in many decide to not return back to their native home even after the fighting has stopped. Food is distributed only to those holding the proper ID cards. Those from the neighboring village do not receive food.
Aid groups in the Congo rally to claim IDP camps as their territory.

The Aver

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Goma CONGO Guns Kill

When is it enough? "I have no father" 16 year-old Beda weeps after her father died from a gunshot wound in the kidney minutes earlier. He was hit by a stray bullet Sunday November 9 as he walked down the street in Goma, Congo in Eastern Africa.

Congolese Army and Nkunda's army continue to have squirmishes while negotiations and lack of aid are at a stalemate.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Standing on the Road in Congo

After the Congolese soldiers stole all their belongings Leonard holds one of the children while his wife is at the market to trade for food. Nine-year-old Belice, her brother and sister take a breath from the smokey cooking room.

Two, three SUV's with aid logos painted on the side of their vehicles fly by while I stand here with villagers. The trail of dust covers me and the villagers ( whom I now call friends) shake their heads with annoyance. Their food their homes all covered in the splattered mud from previous SUV's filled with the ever-growing number of aid representatives. While aid groups struggle over who gets what territory, life continues for most in the Congo. "We settle into our homes, fighting begins then we run, when things quiet down we return home," says Lenoard of N.Kivu,Congo. "The Congolese soldiers of Kabilla stole our goats, the wood I had saved for to build a house. They robbed our food, our pots and pans and most important they raped my nine-year-old daughter."
I am standing on the side of the road in this small village in the Congo writing with a pen and paper and will translate to computer later. The dirt road is full of life of village people. They have finally gotten used to my blondish hair and white skin. No one has pulled hair from my head for quite some time. My hope is to hitch a ride back to Goma about 2 hours south from here. This village is nestled between the volcanoes and the ridges of the neighboring country of Rwanda.
Laurent Nkunda's rebel soldiers control this part of the Congo. On the ridge overlooking the village is another group of soldiers from Rwanda. The ridge behind is a ever growing base of MONUC the Indian chapter. In front of MONUC is the Catholic church.

Walk back 1/4 of a mile off the road across black lava rock and there in a wood and cardboard one room house nine-year-old Belice helps her mother cook and do chores.

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Thanks to a very cool out of the box kinda guy, Gary Klein who made it all happen!!!!! Yeah Gary
Also Dr. V. Bose my surface hippy friend in Chennai, India many many thanks.

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