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2015 – A year in photos

When Arthur “Weegee” Fellig, a New York City street photographer in the 1930s and 1940s, was asked what the secret was to his images, he responded, “f8 and be there.” In other words, you gotta show up. During this past year, that’s what I tried to do. From the streets of Pasco, Washington, to the deep mining tunnels under Cerro Rico in Bolivia, I took my notepad and cameras to where I thought important stories were being told, and I tried to bring back some of the essence of what I found there. Here are some glimpses of some of what I did this past year.

In Pasco, just down the valley from where I live, I tried to capture some of the community anger about the police slaying of Antonio Zambrano Montes in February. The anger did little to achieve justice; in September the police there announced that no charges would be filed against the three officers responsible for fatally shooting Zambrano Montes, who was throwing rocks at them.

A woman participates in a February 14 2015 march in Pasco, Washington, demanding justice for the killing of Antonio Zambrano Montes by three Pasco police officers on February 10. About 700 people participated in the rally and march. (Paul Jeffrey)

I then traveled to Texas to cover a bit of the churches’  work with people with disabilities. Here’s Kristen Dacres working with a student with developmental disabilities in the school at Lover’s Lane United Methodist Church in Dallas.

Kristen Dacres works with a student with developmental disabilities in the school at Lover's Lane United Methodist Church in Dallas, Texas. Dacres is assistant director of the school. (Paul Jeffrey)

The congregation offers ASL interpretation during its worship services, and I’ve always been impressed with the ability of deaf interpreters to convey what’s going on. It’s more than just wiggling your fingers, as Andrea Raye demonstrates.

Andrea Raye provides deaf interpretation for a worship service at Lover's Lane United Methodist Church in Dallas, Texas. (Paul Jeffrey)

I also captured some images of faith community nurse programs (what used to be called parish nurses), including Donnelle Storrs pumping iron with a group at Chapel Hill United Methodist Church in San Antonio.

Donnelle Storrs, a faith community nurse at Chapel Hill United Methodist Church in San Antonio, Texas, leads an exercise group at the church. (Paul Jeffrey)

I then traveled to South Sudan, what’s become an annual pilgrimage for me in recent years. In 2014 I had covered the impact of the civil war, so this year–although the war continued–I focused on what churches were doing to encourage food security, capturing images such as this one of Martha Yar preparing the ground for planting at a Jesuit-run agricultural school outside Rumbek.

Martha Yar uses a hoe to prepare the ground for planting at the Multi Agricultural Jesuit Institute of Sudan (MAJIS), an agricultural school located outside Rumbek, South Sudan. (Paul Jeffrey)

In the far south of the country, where terrorist attacks by the Lord’s Resistance Army have long kept farmers out of their fields, I documented how farmers in Gangura are once again farming their fields with seeds, tools and technical support from a church agency and with armed protection from the Arrow Boys, a local self-defense militia established to defend against LRA attacks. In this image, Arrow Boy leader Erisha Dowdy, carrying a homemade shotgun, guards other residents of Gangura as they work in their fields, including May Evaristo, who is watering plants. The LRA attacked Gangura in early March, right before I arrived, kidnapping 13 people. The Arrow Boys eventually drove off the attackers, killing one yet losing one of their own members.

Once displaced by terrorist attacks by the Lord's Resistance Army, farmers in Gangura, South Sudan, are once again farming their fields with seeds, tools and technical support from Caritas, and with protection from the Arrow Boys, local self-defense militia groups established to defend against LRA attacks. Erisha Dowdy is a leader of the local unit of the Arrow Boys, and, carrying a homemade shotgun, here guards other residents of Gangura as they work in their fields, including May Evaristo, who is watering plants. The LRA attacked Gangura in early March, 2015, kidnapping 13 people. The Arrow Boys eventually drove off the attackers, killing one and losing one of their own members. The farmers group is supported by the diocese of Tombura-Yambio and Caritas Austria. (Paul Jeffrey)

While education remains a key to building a future in South Sudan, the war absorbs human and material resources that otherwise would go toward education and it dislocates millions of children from their homes. Nonetheless, church groups persist in providing basic education where possible. Here are two images of children in class at school in Rumbek run by the Loreto Sisters of Ireland.

A girl writes the alphabet on a chalkboard at the Loreto Primary School in Rumbek, South Sudan. The school is run by the Institute for the Blessed Virgin Mary--the Loreto Sisters--of Ireland. (Paul Jeffrey)

A girl recites the alphabet at the Loreto Primary School in Rumbek, South Sudan. The school is run by the Institute for the Blessed Virgin Mary--the Loreto Sisters--of Ireland. (Paul Jeffrey)

The same is true for health care, and I had the privilege of documenting the courageous work of people like Nyanthak Arop Mahadi, a midwife, who is here examining Nyankiir Makuac Deng in the Caritas clinic in Mading Achueng, a village in Abyei, a contested region along the war-torn border between Sudan and South Sudan.

Nyanthak Arop Mahadi, a midwife, examines Nyankiir Makuac Deng in the Caritas clinic in Mading Achueng, a village in Abyei, a contested region along the border between Sudan and South Sudan. Under a 2005 peace agreement, the region was supposed to have a referendum to decide which country it would join, but the two countries have yet to agree on who can vote. In 2011, militias aligned with Khartoum drove out most of the Dinka Ngok residents, pushing them across a river into the town of Agok. Yet more than 40,000 Dinka Ngok have since returned with support from Caritas South Sudan, which has drilled wells, built houses, opened clinics and provided seeds and tools for the returnees. (Paul Jeffrey)

And in the St. Daniel Comboni Catholic Hospital in Wau, I had the blessing to “be there” when Fatima Nakuyioko took a first look at her baby, moments after it was born via Caesarean section in the hospital’s operating room.

Fatima Nakuyioko takes a look at her baby, moments after it was born via Caesarean section in the St. Daniel Comboni Catholic Hospital in Wau, South Sudan. (Paul Jeffrey)

There’s nothing stodgy about covering church work in South Sudan, as evidenced by students presenting traditional tribal dances at the Loreto Sisters’ secondary school in Rumbek.

Students perform a traditional dance at the Loreto Secondary School in Rumbek, South Sudan. The girls' school is run by the Institute for the Blessed Virgin Mary--the Loreto Sisters--of Ireland. (Paul Jeffrey)

Speaking of dancing, check out Sister Maria Goretti Namono, a member of the Franciscan Missionary Sisters for Africa, as she leads students in singing at the John Paul II School in Wau. Namono, a Ugandan, is the school’s project manager for the full inclusion of girls.

Sister Maria Goretti Namono leads students in singing at the John Paul II School in Wau, South Sudan. Namono is the school's project manager for the full inclusion of girls. From Uganda, she is a member of the Franciscan Missionary Sisters for Africa. (Paul Jeffrey)

And who says white guys can’t dance? Check out Mike Bassano, a Maryknoll priest from the United States, as he busts a move inside the United Nations base in Malakal. More than 20,000 civilians have lived inside the base since shortly after the country’s civil war broke out in December, 2013, but renewed fighting while I was there this year drove another 5,000 people into the relative safety of the camp. Bassano, who is a member of Solidarity with South Sudan, lives in the camp to accompany the people there.

Father Mike Bassano, a Maryknoll priest from the United States, dances with members of a Catholic dance group inside a United Nations base in Malakal, South Sudan. More than 20,000 civilians have lived inside the base since shortly after the country's civil war broke out in December, 2013, but renewed fighting in 2015 drove another 5,000 people into the relative safety of the camp. Bassano, also a member of Solidarity with South Sudan, lives in the camp to accompany the people there. (Paul Jeffrey)

South Sudan has served as a magnet for church workers from around the world, women and men committed to helping the new nation through its birthing pangs. People like Sister Mariya Soosai, a member of the Daughters of Mary Immaculate, who here leads a group of children in an arithmetic class inside a camp for displaced families in a United Nations base in Juba. Several DMI sisters from India work in the Juba camp, providing counseling and psycho-social support for women and children, teaching children in makeshift schools, and providing food to hungry families.

Sister Mariya Soosai, a member of the Daughters of Mary Immaculate, leads a group of children in an arithmetic class in a camp for internally displaced families inside a United Nations base in Juba, South Sudan. Some 34,000 people have sought protection here since violence broke out in December 2013. More than 112,000 people currently live on UN bases in the war-torn country, most of them afraid of tribally targeted violence. Ten DMI sisters from India work in the Juba camp, providing counseling and psycho-social support for women and children, teaching children in makeshift schools, and providing food to hungry families. (Paul Jeffrey)

I had the pleasure to be in South Sudan for Holy Week, and worshiped on Palm Sunday with people in Abyei, where they gathered outside the ruins of their church, and then on Easter Sunday with the largely Nuer congregation hiding inside the UN base in Juba.

Women kneel during a Palm Sunday Mass at the Catholic Church in Abyei, a contested region along the border between Sudan and South Sudan. Under a 2005 peace agreement, the region was supposed to have a referendum to decide which country it would join, but the two countries have yet to agree on who can vote. In 2011, militias aligned with Khartoum looted and destroyed much of the church and drove out most of the Dinka Ngok residents, pushing them across a river into the town of Agok. Yet more than 40,000 Dinka Ngok have since returned, with support from Caritas South Sudan, which has drilled well, built houses, opened clinics and provided seeds and tools for the returnees. Yet violence has continued, with a March 1 militia attack killing four residents, according to the United Nations. (Paul Jeffrey)

Women sing during a Roman Catholic Mass on Easter morning, April 5, inside a United Nations base in Juba, South Sudan, where some 34,000 people have sought protection since violence broke out in December 2013. More than 112,000 people currently live on UN bases in the war-torn country, most of them afraid of tribally targeted violence. The Catholic Church has maintained a pastoral presence inside the camps. (Paul Jeffrey)

Next I spent a week in Uganda, working on a story for response, the magazine of United Methodist Women, about the changing lives of rural women, including Grace Sebowa, who here gets her cooking fire started in the morning in Kabulasoke, where the Ntulume Village Women Development Association has trained women in improved agricultural practices, thus increasing food security and empowering women and children.

Grace Sebowa gets her cooking fire started in the morning in Kabulasoke, Uganda, where the Ntulume Village Women Development Association has trained women in improved agricultural practices, thus increasing food security and empowering women and children. Sebowa has been an enthusiastic participant in the program, which was supported by funding from the Call to Prayer and Self-Denial of United Methodist Women. (Paul Jeffrey)

A quick trip to Guatemala allowed me to shoot the wedding of some friends in Cantel, a village in the western highlands. Congratulations Porfirio and Mariana!

The wedding of Porfirio Benedicto Tzoc Morales and Mariana Guadalupe Garcia Estrada in Cantel, Guatemala. (Paul Jeffrey)

I then headed to the middle east, starting with Lebanon, where I documented the churches’  work with Syrian refugees. Here’s Maha Shoker, a health educator with International Orthodox Christian Charities, using a mid-upper arm circumference (MUAC) measuring tape as she examines a Syrian refugee child in the community health center in Kab Elias, a town in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley which has filled with Syrian refugees. Another refugee child looks on. Lebanon hosts some 1.5 million refugees from Syria, yet allows no large camps to be established, so refugees have moved into poor neighborhoods or established small informal settlements in border areas.

Maha Shoker, a health educator with International Orthodox Christian Charities, a member of the ACT Alliance, uses a mid-upper arm circumference (MUAC) measuring tape as she examines a Syrian refugee child in the community health center in Kab Elias, a town in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley which has filled with Syrian refugees. Another refugee child looks on. Lebanon hosts some 1.5 million refugees from Syria, yet allows no large camps to be established. So refugees have moved into poor neighborhoods or established small informal settlements in border areas. International Orthodox Christian Charities provides support for the community clinic in Kab Elias, which serves many of the refugees. PARENTAL CONSENT OBTAINED (Paul Jeffrey)

Next stop was Jordan, where I photographed Ahlam Mazatha supervising the homework of her sons Mohammed, 13, and Abed Rahaman, 10, and her daughter Sarah, 5, in their small apartment in Madaba, a sprawling Palestinian refugee camp in Jordan that has grown in recent years with the arrival of refugees–like this family–from war-torn Syria. She and her husband and three children fled Daraa in 2013 when bombing destroyed their home. Mazatha was a teacher in Syria, and her husband owned a taxi, but in Jordan they are not allowed to work by the government. The Department of Service for Palestinian Refugees of the Middle East Council of Churches, a member of the ACT Alliance, provides a variety of services here, including medical care.

Ahlam Mazatha supervises the homework of her sons Mohammed, 13, and Abed Rahaman, 10, and her daughter Sarah, 5, in their small apartment in Madaba, a sprawling Palestinian refugee camp in Jordan that has grown in recent years with the arrival of refugees--like this family--from war-torn Syria. She and her husband and three children fled Daraa in 2013 when bombing destroyed their home. Mazatha was a teacher in Syria, and her husband owned a taxi, but in Jordan they are not allowed to work by the government. The Department of Service for Palestinian Refugees of the Middle East Council of Churches, a member of the ACT Alliance, provides a variety of services here, including medical care. (Paul Jeffrey)

I also returned to the sprawling Zaatari refugee camp at Mafraq, where I met these girls on their way to school. Opened in 2012, Zaatari has turned into a rather permanent settlement, with a variety of problems.

Girls pose on their walk to school in the Zaatari refugee camp near Mafraq, Jordan. Established in 2012 as Syrian refugees poured across the border, the camp held more than 80,000 refugees by early 2015, and was rapidly evolving into a permanent settlement. The ACT Alliance provides a variety of services to refugees living in the camp. (Paul Jeffrey)

While in Jordan, I also visited several Christian families who had fled Iraq. Including several families living in the basement of Sacred Heart Catholic church in Amman. These children are among the 60 people living there. The Lutheran World Federation has helped the church feed the refugees and remodel the basement into partitioned areas to provide some privacy for ten refugee families.

Iraqi children bounce on a bed in the basement of Sacred Heart Catholic church in Amman, Jordan, where 60 Iraqi Christian refugees are living. The Lutheran World Federation, a member of the ACT Alliance, has helped the church feed the refugees and remodel the basement into partitioned areas to provide some privacy for the ten refugee families. Parental consent obtained. (Paul Jeffrey)

I then went to Gaza, where I documented the aftermath of the latest Israeli war. Not all of it was sad. Here’s an image of children traumatized by war enjoying a trip to an amusement park in Gaza City. Apparently the way you get children to forget trauma is to traumatize them anew! The trip was sponsored by the Al Ahli Arab Hospital, a member of the ACT Alliance.

Children traumatized by war enjoy a trip to an amusement park in Gaza City. The outing was sponsored by the Al Ahli Arab Hospital, a member of the ACT Alliance, and financed by the Pontifical Mission for Palestine and Misereor. (Paul Jeffrey)

In August, I went to Hiroshima and Nagasaki, accompanying a delegation from the World Council of Churches and listening to the demands that after 70 years, we pay attention to the lessons of the horror visited on those cities.

A woman sets a floating candle lantern on the river on August 6, 2015, in Hiroshima, Japan. The lanterns, thousands of which were launched on the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombing of the city, carried handmade messages and drawings, conveying each person's prayers for peace and comfort for the victims of the violence. In the background are the ruins of a building damaged by the bomb and now converted into a peace memorial. (Paul Jeffrey)

By September, the flow of refugee to Europe had turned into a torrent, and I made two trips to document the situation in Serbia, Germany, Austria, Hungary, and Greece. I blogged about it, wrote about it, and also placed online two galleries of images (here and here). Here are refugee families passing through the Serbian village of Berkasovo as they approach the border into Croatia.

Refugees and migrants on their way to western Europe approach the border into Croatia near the Serbian village of Berkasovo. (Paul Jeffrey)

Not all were Syrians. Here’s 6-year old Miriam, a refugee from Afghanistan, holding her stuffed toy duck as she embraces her little brother inside a refugee processing center in the Serbian village of Presevo, not far from the Macedonian border.

Six-year old Miriam, a refugee from Afghanistan, holds her stuffed toy duck as she embraces her little brother inside a refugee processing center in the Serbian village of Presevo, not far from the Macedonian border. Hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants--including many children--have flowed through Serbia in 2015, on their way from Syria, Iraq and other countries to western Europe. Parental consent obtained. (Paul Jeffrey)

Nor were all Muslims, either, despite the hysterical cries of Islamophobes in Europe and the U.S. Here three Eritrean asylum seekers pray before eating in their room in a church-run shelter in Freudenstadt, Germany. The shelter has 18 refugees from Eritrea and 10 from Gambia. They came to Europe via Sudan and Libya, crossing the Mediterranean to Italy.

Eritrean asylum seekers pray before eating in their room in a church-run shelter in Freudenstadt, Germany. The Freundesdreis Asyl is run by Christlicher Kirchen, and managed by a retired United Methodist pastor. The shelter has 18 asylum seekers from Eritrea and 10 from Gambia. They came to Europe via Sudan and Libya, crossing the Mediterranean to Italy. (Paul Jeffrey)

After my work was hampered by high winds and bureaucracy during a first visit to Greece, I returned on my own dime at the end of October. Although the weather had worsened, the number of refugees and migrants seeking to cross the Aegean from Turkey was steadily increasing, which meant many didn’t make it across alive. Here’s what appeared to be a 10-year old Afghan boy, whose body some fishers found one morning on a beach on Lesbos.

The body of a refugee child lies on a beach on the Greek island of Lesbos on November 1, 2015. The body appeared to be that of an Afghan boy of about 8 years of age. Thousands of refugees have died this year attempting to cross the Aegean from Turkey to Greece. Fleeing violence in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere, most are on their way toward western Europe. (Paul Jeffrey)

Yet the risks of drowning were outweighed for most by the risks of staying home.

Refugees land on a beach near Molyvos, on the Greek island of Lesbos, on November 3, 2015, after crossing the Aegean Sea from Turkey. Local and international volunteers welcomed the arriving refugees with food and medical care and dry clothes before the newcomers proceeded on their way toward western Europe. Their boat to Greece was provided by Turkish traffickers to whom the refugees paid huge sums to arrive in Greece. (Paul Jeffrey)

When he landed on the Greek island of Lesbos on October 30, 2015, Nabil Minas, a refugee from Syria, carried his children through the water and left them on the shore, then fell on his face and kissed the ground. A Christian, he crossed himself and covered his face with his hands, weeping with joy. The shore where he kneels is covered with the black rubber of deflated refugee boats. Minas and his family came in the boat from Turkey, paying an exorbitant amount to traffickers who provided the transport.

When he landed on the Greek island of Lesbos on October 30, 2015, Nabil Minas, a refugee from Syria, carried his children through the water and left them on the shore, then fell on his face and kissed the ground. A Christian, he crossed himself and covered his face with his hands, weeping with joy. The shore where he kneels is covered with the black rubber of deflated refugee boats. Minas and his family came in the boat from Turkey, paying an exorbitant amount to traffickers who provided the transport. (Paul Jeffrey)

Wherever refugees landed on Lesbos, there were volunteers from all over the world helping to pull them from the water and provide comfort. One of the most well-organized group of volunteers was Drapen i havet (Drop in the Ocean), from Norway. In this image, Lisbeth Sagen Lundin, a volunteer from Norway, hugs a frightened Syrian refugee woman.

Lisbeth Sagen Lundin, a volunteer from Norway, hugs a frightened Syrian refugee on a beach near Molyvos, on the Greek island of Lesbos, on October 30, 2015. The woman was on a boat full of refugees that traveled to Lesbos from Turkey. The boat was provided by Turkish traffickers to whom the refugees paid huge sums to arrive in Greece. Lundin is one of hundreds of volunteers on the island who receive the refugees and provide them with warm clothing and medical care before they continue their journey toward western Europe. (Paul Jeffrey)

In early December, I spent several days in San Antonio, Texas, documenting the experience of Central American refugee women and their children who’d been released from U.S. immigration detention facilities, many with electronic tracking bracelets on their ankles. I interviewed several, listening to their stories of fleeing horrible violence, and photographed them as they began their journeys on to other parts of the United States, even though their long-term immigration status has yet to be decided. Here’s an image of Rosaura Pineda and her kids, then Eulalia Miguel and her 5-year old son, cuddled together on a Greyhound bus in the middle of the night, traveling toward an uncertain future.

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I then went to Buenos Aires, Argentina, to work on a story about memory and democracy, but my visit coincided with the transition from the populist government of Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner to the rightist presidency of Mauricio Macri. I wrote briefly about the change from the perspective of church activists and human rights advocates who I interviewed, and I photographed an enthusiastic goodbye party for the ex-president in the streets of Buenos Aires, as well as the stubborn Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, who took to the streets–as they have done for 38 years–within hours of Macri’s inauguration to demonstrate that they will continue their quest for truth and justice.

On December 9, 2015, Argentinian President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner's last day in office, a lively crowd filled Buenos Aires' Plaza de Mayo to say goodbye to her.

The Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo joined together 38 years ago to demand information on what happened to their disappeared children during Argentina's Dirty War. Within hours of President Mauricio Macri being sworn in as Argentina's new president on December 10, 2015, the Mothers took to the Plaza to reiterate their demands.

I then wrapped up the year with a couple of weeks in Bolivia, where I began by focusing on mining conditions in Potosi for an article on environmental justice that will appear in the spring in response, the magazine of United Methodist Women. I spent three consecutive days inside mines, the last under the care of Marisol Baltazer, a 19-year old Methodist woman who kindly kept me alive by shoving me out of the way of speeding ore carts and patiently not abandoning me as I gasped for oxygen in the thin air of 15,000 feet. There were a couple of times I thought I was going to die from lack of air (I’m not kidding), and I felt sorry for poor Marisol because she would have to leverage my body into an ore cart to wheel me out of the dark tunnels. But I survived, much to the relief that you can note on her face here. I haven’t processed the images from inside the mines yet, so we’ll close with this photo of Marisol and me taken by my friend Dakin Cook. It’s a fitting way to end, because it’s precisely people like Marisol who, all over the world, provide me with the local knowledge and access that make my job possible. Without them, and without the consent and collaboration of the people I interview and photograph, I wouldn’t bring home much of anything to share. I can manage Fellig’s f8, but to truly “be there,” I rely on people like Marisol. Thanks to them, I had a busy year.

ME AND MARISOLA

 

4 Responses to 2015 – A year in photos

  1. Valerie Dalton says:

    Wow! I have been following you, but to see your travels for the year all at once is exhausting! Thank you for enduring hours in cramped planes, questionable ground transportation and more so that we may see the lives of others, glimpsing their emotions as captured by you and your camera. Thank you!

  2. gadfly1974 says:

    Thank you! Your work is challenging and inspiring.

  3. Jan says:

    At the end of last year I went on a reality tour to the Ecuadorian Amazon. I saw the result of oil exploitation, and lived among the local people for a week, but I sure wish I came home with photos like the Rev. Paul Jeffrey takes. Even the parrots at the parrot lick were not breathtaking.

  4. Jan says:

    Those rubber boots that you and Marisol have on. I remember them! Each time we went into the Amazon Rain Forest, we wore them.

    Thank you, now I will go to the blog and try to relate what you have provided us to my community of friends, family, and church.

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