Sep 4 2012

Taking photos of sponsored children in India

Each year we take a new photo of every child and aging friend sponsored through CFCA ñ more than 300,000 photos. This helps sponsors stay in touch with their friend and keeps our records updated.

Our Bhagalpur project in India serves about 7,400 sponsored children and elderly, many of them living in remote villages. Joachim Hansdak, a CFCA staffer there, recently traveled to take more than 3,000 pictures of sponsored friends. Let’s follow him on his journey!

Joachim, CFCA staff worker in Bhagalpur, India

Joachim, CFCA staff worker in Bhagalpur, India.

A month before he travels, Joachim prepares a trip schedule in collaboration with the CFCA project coordinator.

His schedule ranges from 15 days to one month, traveling from one CFCA community to another without coming back to Bhagalpur to save time.

After the trip schedule is finalized, CFCA social workers plan to conduct photo sessions in their respective areas.

(Usually social workers communicate CFCA activities such as the annual photo sessions and letter-writing camps to mothers of sponsored children in their monthly support group meetings.)

Joachim prepares to leave after packing his equipment.

Joachim ties bag to motorcycle

Joachim ties the backpack containing his equipment to the motorcycle provided by the CFCA office.

Joachim’s supplies include:

  • Camera to take the photos
  • Laptop to identify and name the friends pictured
  • Extra batteries for the camera and laptop (because many villages do not have a power supply)
  • A list of sponsored friends to be photographed
  • Chalk with a slate (more on that later).

The nearest CFCA community is nearly 50 miles (75 kilometers) away from the Bhagalpur project. It takes two hours for Joachim to reach it.

The farthest destination is nearly 220 miles (350 kilometers) away from Bhagalpur.

Village road in India

Joachim travels on remote village roads to the next CFCA community.

Public transport is not available in some of the villages. Even if Joachim used public transport to the nearest town or bus point, he would still need to walk to the CFCA communities.

Road conditions provide another reason to use a motorcycle.

“Here the roads are very bumpy,” Joachim said. “The more we go into the interiors of the villages, the more the roads become narrower. Only with the motorcycles are we able to go.

“Sometimes when sponsored friends and their families are in hilly places or deep in the forest, it becomes difficult to reach even with the motorcycle. So I walk to those places.”

Occasionally he has to walk nearly 5 miles (8 kilometers) from his parked motorcycle to the CFCA communities, Joachim said.

Temperatures range from 107 degrees Fahrenheit (42 degrees Celsius) in the summer to nearly 54 degrees (12 degrees Celsius) in the winter.

“Most of the roads are made with mud,” Joachim said, “and in the rainy season it will become worse. In those conditions it will be difficult to travel because the vehicle tires will get stuck on the roads.”

Village road with mud

A road in India turns to mud after recent rains.

And let’s not forget all the animals that also use the roads!

Animals on village roads in India

Goats crossing…

As Joachim reaches each destination, the CFCA social workers gather sponsored children in nearby schools for their pictures.

(For pictures of sponsored aging friends, Joachim travels to their villages and takes each picture individually.)

Joachim asks the social workers to write the children’s sponsorship numbers on the slate he carries. He then takes a picture of the sponsored children with the slate.

Taking pictures of sponsored children in India

Joachim takes a picture of Benedict, a sponsored child.

Then Joachim takes another picture of the sponsored children without the slate.

Taking photos of sponsored children in India

See Benedict’s great smile for this picture!

“The earlier picture of the sponsored child with the slate helps me to identify the child later once I go back to Bhagalpur,” Joachim said.

For some children, 30 seconds is enough for their pictures. Others take longer.

“If the children are not smiling, it can take up to two minutes to take their pictures,” Joachim said. “First I make them smile, and later I take their pictures.”

Joachim taking annual pictures

Joachim’s photo shoot draws a crowd of sponsored children.

If some sponsored children are absent, Joachim plans a second trip to take their pictures. He said it takes two months to get all the photographs.

CFCA sponsored children in a village in India

All these children and youth send greetings to their sponsors.

Thanks to Sreekanth Gundoji, our CFCA communications liaison in India, for this report.

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7 thoughts on “Taking photos of sponsored children in India”

  1. My thanks to Sreekanth and everyone like him. I always love receiving the annual photo of my sponsored child, and now I will appreciate it so much more.

  2. What a wonderful story. Thank you, Joachim, for all your hard work. I pray for your safety out in the fields. Thank you, Sreekanth, for bringing to us the reality of many of our CFCA staffers around the world. Amazing story.

    1. My wife is the official “picture taker” at our caotic family gatherings, but her challenges do not compare to Joachim’s. Thank you Joachim!! Thank you CFCA!!

      Steve Williamson

  3. I just received this year’s photo of Bhaskar, our sponsored child. While we take pictures for granted, I appreciate the risk and work involved in receiving this picture. Thank you and God Bless!

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