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!
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’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.
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.”
And let’s not forget all the animals that also use the roads!
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.
Then Joachim takes another picture of the sponsored children without the slate.
“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.”
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.
Thanks to Sreekanth Gundoji, our CFCA communications liaison in India, for this report.