Global Lens Reflections on life, the universe, and everything

2017 – A year in Pictures

A real blog is supposed to have regular installments, but the last year was so busy that all I could do was try to keep up with my day job, which is feeding images and words to demanding editors around the globe. They are fortunately a forgiving lot, otherwise they would have sent me packing years ago. This blog, however, has no cruel captain ready to make me walk the plank if I fail to post every month, so I let it slide, repeatedly, missing opportunities to offer witty and timely comments about the world we share. As a sign of my contrition, what follows is a belated attempt to recall a year in which, although the world slid closer to destruction, countless people of good will risked their lives to carve out space for justice and compassion, or, failing that, simply a space to live without fear. I’m thankful to them for letting me close enough to capture some of their struggles. I’m thankful to people like Zano Begum, this young Rohingya woman I met in her makeshift shelter in the Chakmarkul Refugee Camp near Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. She had arrived in the sprawling camp just a month earlier, fleeing horrible ethnic cleansing in Myanmar. Through a translator she told me her story and I photographed her and her family. Thank you, Zano, and so many others like you, for letting me into your lives for a few moments.

Zano Begum in her makeshift shelter in the Chakmarkul Refugee Camp near Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh. Begum arrived in the sprawling camp one month earlier. She has thanaka on her face, a cosmetic common in parts of Myanmar. More than 600,000 Rohingya refugees have fled government-sanctioned violence in Myanmar for safety in this and other camps in Bangladesh. (Paul Jeffrey)

 

IRAQ

Rahaf Saeed, 6, a Yazidi girl displaced in 2014 by the Islamic State group, today lives with her family in the village of Kora, outside Duhok in the northern Iraqi region of Kurdistan. (Paul Jeffrey)

In January I spent a couple of weeks in Iraq, beginning in Baghdad but spending most of my time in the Kurdish north, documenting again the lives of people affected by the takeover of much of the region by the Islamic State group in 2014. The horrible stories abound, yet life goes on for survivors like Rahaf Saeed, 6, a Yazidi girl who was displaced by ISIS and today lives with her family outside Duhok. I met her family after photographing her father in a church-sponsored jobs-training program, and he invited me home to meet his family and share a couple of hours of conversation in a crowded temporary shelter.

I entered Mosul in a military convoy on January 27, and witnessed the military victoriously raise the Iraqi flag over the eastern part of the city, celebrating its liberation from ISIS even as gunfire still echoed through the ravaged city. In this image, two residents of Mosul celebrate the partial liberation of their city by taking a selfie in front of festooned army vehicles. Fierce fighting remained ahead as the army moved to retake the remainder of the city, but for this one day there was jubilee amidst the ruins.

Two residents of Mosul celebrate the partial liberation of their city from control by the Islamic State group by taking a selfie on January 27, 2017, in front of festooned army vehicles. Although a portion of the city has been liberated from ISIS, fierce fighting is predicted as the army moves to retake the remainder of the city. (Paul Jeffrey)

Father Emanuel Youkhana accompanied me to Mosul, the first priest to enter the eastern part of the city after the Peshmerga and Iraqi forces had driven ISIS out. Here he walks through the rubble of a church that belonged to the Ancient Church of the East. According to neighbors we spoke with, ISIS used the building as a warehouse until the final weeks of their occupation, when they awarded the building to a contractor who began to demolish it in order to salvage the steel rebar in the walls. We also searched for several houses that had belonged to Christian families but had been transferred to others by ISIS commanders. Although the entire city is now liberated, Christians are unlikely to return soon due to concerns about their security in the Sunni community. And the Sunnis are on edge because many of their liberators were militant Shias, some flying the flag of the Popular Mobilization Units, an Iranian-backed sector of the military. Here’s an article I wrote about our visit to Mosul.

Father Emanuel Youkhana walks through the rubble of a church in Mosul, Iraq, on January 27, 2017. The church belonged to the Ancient Church of the East. According to neighbors, the Islamic State group--which took over the city in 2014--used the building as a warehouse until the final weeks of their occupation, when they awarded the building to a contractor who began to demolish it in order to salvage the steel rebar in the walls. Although this portion of the city was liberated in early 2017, Christians are unlikely to return soon due to concerns about their security in the Sunni community. Youkhana is a priest in Duhok of the Holy Apostolic Catholic Assyrian Church of the East. (Paul Jeffrey)

In the article I also discuss the role of the Nineveh Plain Protection Units, a Christian militia I had covered a year earlier. This time I found them on patrol the town of Qaraqosh, a Christian community that was occupied by ISIS in 2014 and liberated by the Iraqi army in late 2016. Residents have yet to return, citing continued insecurity, and so the militia members remain vigilant, patrolling the streets of the embattled city to make sure ISIS doesn’t return. It’s a land of shifting alliances, however, so eventually it may not be ISIS that draws their fire.

Members of the Nineveh Plain Protection Units, a Christian militia, patrol the town of Qaraqosh, a Christian community that was occupied by the Islamic State in 2014 and liberated by the Iraqi army in late 2016. Residents have yet to return, citing continued insecurity. (Paul Jeffrey)

If you’re looking for a thrilling video of what it looks like to ride around Baghdad in the back of an armored vehicle, check out my cinematic thriller.

 

US – Mexico Border

In order to write a story for response, the magazine of United Methodist Women, about life along the U.S.-Mexico border, I spent a few days poking around communities along the Rio Grande River, hanging out with people like Patricia Esquivel and her daughter, Yarely Arellano, who here walk through the predawn darkness of the Mexican city of Juarez on their way to the border, where Arellano will cross into El Paso, Texas, to study at the Lydia Paterson Institute, a United Methodist-sponsored high school. Arellano makes the journey every school day, and most days her mother accompanies her to the border for safety. Arellano was born in the United States, and is thus a U.S. citizen, but her mother, a Mexican national, was later deported and is thus not allowed to reenter the U.S.

Patricia Esquivel and her daughter, Yarely Arellano, walk through the predawn darkness of the Mexican city of Juarez. They are on their way to the U.S. border, where Arellano will cross into El Paso, Texas, to study at the Lydia Paterson Institute, a United Methodist sponsored high school. Arellano makes the journey every school day, and most days her mother accompanies her to the border for safety. Arellano was born in the United States, and is thus a U.S. citizen, but her mother, a Mexican national, was later deported and is not allowed to reenter the U.S. (Paul Jeffrey)

In the article I linked to above, I tried to show how the border is far from a static place, and where shifting policies and demographics make change a constant. When I visited Nuevo Laredo at the beginning of March, for example, hundreds of Cuban immigrants were stuck there as a result of a change in the U.S. government’s infamous wet-foot, dry-foot immigration policy. The Cubans weren’t allowed to enter the U.S. yet didn’t want to return to Cuba. Many of the city’s churches became temporary shelters for the immigrants, and congregations rotated responsibility for feeding the Cubans, who were literally forced to appreciate Mexican cuisine or go hungry. Here’s an image of Maria Natividad Granados, a Methodist woman in Nuevo Laredo as she and other members of her church serve food to Cuban immigrants in that city’s Plaza Benito Juarez. Such solidarity from ordinary Mexicans has been tested this past year, as not only were the Cubans stuck at the border, but the U.S. stepped up deportations of Mexican nationals, while at the same time detaining many undocumented workers from other nations and simply dumping them across the U.S.-Mexico border.

Maria Natividad Granados, a Methodist woman in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, serves food to Cuban immigrants in that city's Plaza Benito Juarez on March 3, 2017. Hundreds of Cubans are stuck in the border city, caught in limbo by the elimination in January of the infamous “wet foot, dry foot” policy of the United States. They are not allowed to enter the U.S. yet don’t want to return to Cuba. Many of the city’s churches have become temporary shelters for the immigrants, and congregations rotate responsibility for feeding the Cubans, who have slowly been forced to appreciate Mexican cuisine. Such solidarity from ordinary Mexicans is being tested these days, as not only are the Cubans stuck at the border, but the U.S. has stepped up deportations of Mexican nationals, while at the same time detaining many undocumented workers from other nations and simply dumping them on the US-Mexico border. Granados is a member of the El Ebenezer Methodist Church in Nuevo Laredo. (Paul Jeffrey)

In this image, Edwin Chacon, an asylum seeker from Honduras, watches as TSA agent Norma Villegas and Border Patrol agent Rene Perez inspect his papers in the Valley International Airport in Harlingen, Texas. Chacon was transported to the airport by a United Methodist deaconess, Cindy Johnson, from the Posada Providencia in San Benito, where Chacon, 18, stayed for several days after being released by immigration authorities pending a judicial hearing on his asylum request. He was on his way to stay with a relative elsewhere in the United States. Sponsored by the Catholic Sisters of Divine Providence, the Posada Providencia provides a safe place for people in crisis from all over the world who are seeking legal refuge in the United States. Read about them in my border story.

Edwin Chacon, an asylum seeker from Honduras, watches as TSA agent Norma Villegas and Border Patrol agent Rene Perez inspect his papers in the Valley International Airport in Harlingen, Texas. Chacon was transported to the airport by the Posada Providencia in San Benito, where Chacon, 18, stayed for several days after being released by immigration authorities pending a judicial hearing on his asylum request. He was on his way to stay with a relative elsewhere in the United States. Sponsored by the Catholic Sisters of Divine Providence, the Posada Providencia provides a safe place for people in crisis from all over the world who are seeking legal refuge in the United States. (Paul Jeffrey)

 

South Sudan

In April I began a five-week visit to South Sudan, a country I have journeyed to repeatedly in the last decade. From the emotional high of independence in 2011 it has descended into a chaotic cauldron of overlapping conflicts. There’s the power struggle between political Big Men that came to a head in December 2013, quickly ripping the country along ethnic lines. But there were already places where it was easy to rip things apart, like perforated lines running across the country’s multi-cultural landscape. One has to do with cattle culture, where traditional cattle raids, a rite of passage for young men, have gone from little more than sport with a few bows and arrows to full-out warfare with automatic weapons. On this trip I spent several days in cattle country, shooting images such as this one in Jonglei State. I also got a closer feel for the level of tension there one night in Poktap, where I shot cattlekeepers celebrating a wedding with lots of dancing and more than occasional firing of automatic weapons into the air. Just after dusk, however, the firing took on a different tone and someone was murdered, apparently settlement of a months-old offense. As gunfire bursts punctured the night, I was ushered into an NGO compound and spent several hours on standby, sitting in a vehicle ready to drive away into the bush at night if the violence worsened. Finally I went to sleep in a tent, but fully dressed in case we needed to make a quick getaway. We didn’t, and morning came. The whole experience was a reminder of how cattle culture has become militarized not just in South Sudan but across sub-Saharan Africa.

A young Dinka woman walks among cattle in Dong Boma, a village in South Sudan's Jonglei State. Most of the families in the village recently returned home after being displaced by rebel soldiers in December, 2013, and they face serious challenges in rebuilding their village while simultaneously coping with a drought which has devastated the cattle herds that provide a foundation for their economy and culture. The Lutheran World Federation, a member of the ACT Alliance, is helping the villagers restart their lives with support for housing, livelihood, and food security. (Paul Jeffrey)

I reported from several places around the country, including the city of Wau, where tens of thousands of people had taken refuge inside the city’s churches and the local United Nations base. In one Episcopal Church, I photographed families before dawn one morning as they lay on the ground. Two days later, the army showed up and forced them all out. Some of them went to the Catholic cathedral, where more than ten thousand displaced had also sought shelter. The second photo is of a family eating their meager ration inside the Catholic cathedral grounds. Here’s a story I wrote on the violence in Wau.

A mother and two of her children wake up after sleeping in the open in a camp for over 5,000 internally displaced persons in an Episcopal Church compound in Wau, South Sudan. Most of the families here were displaced by violence early in 2017, after a larger number took refuge in other church sites when widespread armed conflict engulfed Wau in June 2016. Norwegian Church Aid, a member of the ACT Alliance, has provided relief supplies to the displaced in Wau, and has supported the South Sudan Council of Churches as it has struggled to mediate the conflict in Wau. (Paul Jeffrey)

A family shares a meal inside their shelter in a camp for more than 12,000 internally displaced persons located on the grounds of the Roman Catholic Cathedral of St. Mary in Wau, South Sudan. Most of the families here were displaced in June, 2016, when armed conflict engulfed Wau. Norwegian Church Aid, a member of the ACT Alliance, has provided relief supplies to the displaced in Wau, and has supported the South Sudan Council of Churches as it has struggled to mediate the conflict in Wau. (Paul Jeffrey)

South Sudan has become a poster child for displacement. Not only have almost 2 million South Sudanese fled the country as refugees, and another 2 million are internally displaced, but the country also hosts almost 200,000 refugees from elsewhere, mostly the Nuba Mountains and Blue Niles regions of Sudan, as well as the Democratic Republic of Congo. As fighting has shifted from one part of the country to another, some have been fortunate enough to return home. In northern Jonglei, I spent a day with a group of women returnees, listening to their stories and documenting their lives, such as here where they walk home from a community garden, singing and dancing their way along the top of a dike they built to control flooding.

After working together in a community garden, women sing and dance as they walk home on April 12, 2017, atop a dyke they constructed to control flooding around Dong Boma, a Dinka village in South Sudan's Jonglei State. Most of the women's families recently returned home after being displaced by rebel soldiers in December, 2013, and they face serious challenges in rebuilding their village while simultaneously coping with a drought which has devastated their cattle herds. The Lutheran World Federation, a member of the ACT Alliance, is helping villagers restart their lives with support for housing, livelihood, and food security. (Paul Jeffrey)

In other places, conflict and drought have combined to generate hunger, leaving people eating wild leaves and fruits to survive. Part of what I documented was how a few strategically placed wells dug by church organizations provided just enough support for people to stay at home and wait it out, though what they’re waiting for isn’t always clear.

A man walks by a dead cow in Dong Boma, a Dinka village in South Sudan's Jonglei State, on April 12, 2017. Most villagers recently returned home after being displaced by rebel soldiers in December, 2013, and they face serious challenges in rebuilding their village while simultaneously coping with a drought which has devastated their herds. The Lutheran World Federation, a member of the ACT Alliance, is helping villagers restart their lives with support for housing, livelihood, and food security. (Paul Jeffrey)

Mary Kuol carries water home from a well dug by the ACT Alliance in Yang Kuel, a village in South Sudan's Lol State where a persistent drought has destroyed crops and forced people to eat wild leaves to survive. Kuol is seven months pregnant. The well was drilled in 2016 by a local partner of Christian Aid, a member of the ACT Alliance. The organization has also distributed food vouchers to hungry families in the region. (Paul Jeffrey)

Some parts of the country had remained relatively immune to the conflict, yet in 2015 the government faced a huge financial crunch that left it unable to pay the swollen ranks of the army. So commanders sent the troops south to the relatively unaffected Equatoria region, giving them license to plunder and rape in lieu of salary. That provoked a flood of new displaced people, many fleeing across the border into Uganda, others clustering around churches in the illusive hope that they would there be safe. There they find people like Raquel Peralta, a Catholic nun from Paraguay. Here’s she’s hugging a girl in a camp for more than 5,000 displaced people in Riimenze, in South Sudan’s Gbudwe State. Families here were displaced at the beginning of 2017, and Peralta and other pastoral workers have remained by their side through awful violence. She’s a member of the Missionary Sisters Servants of the Holy Spirit, and works in South Sudan as part of Solidarity with South Sudan, an international network of Catholic groups. Raquel and other Catholic workers from around the globe remain a clear sign that the world has not forgotten South Sudan.

Sister Raquel Peralta, a Catholic nun from Paraguay, hugs a girl in a camp for more than 5,000 displaced people in Riimenze, in South Sudan's Gbudwe State, what was formerly Western Equatoria. Families here were displaced at the beginning of 2017 as fighting between government soldiers and rebels escalated. Peralta is a member of the Missionary Sisters Servants of the Holy Spirit, and works in South Sudan as part of Solidarity with South Sudan, an international network of Catholic groups working in the newly independent country. Solidarity and Caritas Austria have both supported efforts by the diocese to ensure that the displaced families here have food, shelter and water. (Paul Jeffrey)

 

Uganda

After South Sudan, I flew with Mission Aviation Fellowship to the north of Uganda for a couple of days to document work in the sprawling Rhino Refugee Camp.  As of May, the camp held almost 87,000 refugees from South Sudan, and more people were arriving daily. Because water pumps in the camp are solar-powered, water can only be obtained during daylight hours. Refugees will therefore line up their jerry cans overnight in order to be among the first to get water in the morning.

A boy keeps watch on a row of jerry cans before dawn in the Rhino Refugee Camp in northern Uganda. As of April 2017, the camp held almost 87,000 refugees from South Sudan, and more people were arriving daily. About 1.8 million people have fled South Sudan since civil war broke out there at the end of 2013. About 900,000 have sought refuge in Uganda. Because water pumps in the camp are solar-powered, water can only be obtained during daylight hours. Refugees will therefore line up their jerry cans overnight in order to be among the first to get water in the morning. The Global Health Program of the United Methodist Church has supported work to improve access to safe drinking water in the camp. (Paul Jeffrey)

I produced a short video about life in the Rhino Camp, focusing on how the United Methodist Global Health Program was providing medical care and clean water.

 

Middle East

In remembrance of the 50th anniversary of the Israeli occupation of East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza, I traveled to the middle east to produce portraits and short videos of 12 people–Jewish, Muslim and Christian–about why they still had hope for peace in the troubled region. It was an assignment for the World Council of Churches, which put together a campaign around the theme. 

 

Malawi

After a couple of weeks at home, in June I was back on the road in Africa, this time focusing my lenses on maternal and newborn health issues in Malawi. In this image, Rhoda Nyoni, her son Moses on her back, waters a community vegetable garden in Kayeleka Banda. She’s pregnant, and a program of the Church of Central Africa Presbyterian works with her and other women in her village to insure that they and their children receive proper nutrition and health care.

Rhoda Nyoni, her son Moses on her back, waters a community vegetable garden in Kayeleka Banda, Malawi. Nyoni is pregnant, and the Maternal, Newborn and Child Health program of the Livingstonia Synod of the Church of Central Africa Presbyterian works with her and other women in the village to insure that they and their children receive proper nutrition and health care. (Paul Jeffrey)

The same program works with Mektie Nkuna, who’s pregnant with her second child and is here winnowing corn early in the morning in Chibamu Jere.

Mektie Nkuna winnows corn in Chibamu Jere, Malawi. Pregnant with her second child, Nkuna and other women in the village get support from the Maternal, Newborn and Child Health program of the Livingstonia Synod of the Church of Central Africa Presbyterian. (Paul Jeffrey)

 

Refugees in the U.S.

I spent several days in July visiting refugee resettlement programs on the east coast of the U.S. In Durham, North Carolina, I photographed Evanis Gatunzi, a refugee from Rwanda, riding a bike for the first time. She’s helped by Greg Garneau (left), a volunteer who coordinates the refugee bike program for the Durham Bicycle Co-op, and Monique Lohmeyer, a case manager for Church World Service. In the background, Yosef Birhane, a refugee from Eritrea, cheers her on.

Evanis Gatunzi, a refugee from Rwanda, rides a bike for the first time in Durham, North Carolina, on July 22, 2017. She’s helped by Greg Garneau, a volunteer who coordinates the refugee bike program for the Durham Bicycle Co-op, and Monique Lohmeyer, a case manager for Church World Service. In the background, Yosef Birhane, a refugee from Eritrea, cheers her on. Church World Service resettles refugees in North Carolina and throughout the United States. Photo by Paul Jeffrey for Church World Service. (Paul Jeffrey)

In Harrisonburg, Virginia, I captured Martin Mayiani, second from right, teaching a class on driving in a Presbyterian church. Mayiani is a former refugee who came to the U.S. four years ago. He volunteers to teach these newly arrived Congolese refugees how to pass the state’s driving test, which isn’t available in Swahili. They use toy cars to understand the nuances of how to drive in the U.S.

Martin Mayiani, second from right, teaches a class on driving at a Presbyterian church in Harrisonburg, Virginia. Mayiani is a former refugee who came to the U.S. four years ago. He volunteers to teach these newly arrived Congolese refugees how to pass the state's driving test, which isn't available in Swahili. They use toy cars to understand the nuances of how to drive in the U.S. Mayiani and his students were resettled in the Harrisonburg area by Church World Service. Photo by Paul Jeffrey for Church World Service. (Paul Jeffrey)

In Linville, Virginia, volunteers work with refugee children in a 4H program where they learn to raise and show goats and sheep.

Resettled refugee youth run with goats in Linville, Virginia, on July 17, 2017. The youth are preparing to show sheep and goats in a county fair. The refugees were resettled in the Harrisonburg, Virginia, area by Church World Service. Photo by Paul Jeffrey for Church World Service. (Paul Jeffrey)

And in this image, Mekiya Kebir and her children, recently arrived refugees from Eritrea, explore a book in their apartment in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. They got the book and other educational materials from Church World Service. Following that is an image of 5-year old Saliha Mussa, another recently arrived refugee from Eritrea, enjoying dinner in her family’s apartment in Lancaster.

Mekiya Kebir and her children, recently arrived refugees from Eritrea, explore a book in their apartment in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. They got the book and other educational materials from Church World Service, which resettles refugees in Pennsylvania and other locations in the United States. Photo by Paul Jeffrey for Church World Service. (Paul Jeffrey)

Five-year old Saliha Mussa, a recently arrived refugee from Eritrea, enjoys spaghetti for dinner in her family's apartment in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. The girl's family was resettled in the United States by Church World Service. Photo by Paul Jeffrey for Church World Service. (Paul Jeffrey)

Also in Lancaster, I accompanied a “cultural orientation class” where newly arrived refugees walked together on a downtown street, learning how to read street signs and practicing their English with passersby. At one point, the woman on the left shouted as she came out of her home and crossed the street, all the while clapping her hands and repeating, “Welcome to America!” It helped me understand that no one needs to make America great again, because it already is.

As members of a cultural orientation class for newly arrived refugees walked together on a street in downtown Lancaster, Pennsylvania, the woman on the left came out of her home and crossed the street, clapping her hands and repeating, "Welcome to America!" The class was sponsored by Church World Service. Photo by Paul Jeffrey for Church World Service. (Paul Jeffrey)

 

Milky Way

I got bored one night in August so I hiked up the northeast side of Mt Rainier to photograph the Milky Way, positioned at 2 am as if it were erupting from the summit. The small lights on the slope of the mountain are the headlamps of climbers. (High quality prints of this and a selection of other images are available for purchase.)

The Milky Way rises above the summit of Mount Tahoma, also known as Mount Rainier, at 2 am on July 25, 2017. The headlamps of climbers can be seen on the slopes of the mountain. The photo was captured during a 30-second exposure. The peaks are located in Mount Rainier National Park in the U.S. State of Washington. Prints of this photo may be ordered at http://langleyumc.photoshelter.com/index/I0000dRy5p3eenmg (Paul Jeffrey)

 

Alaska

I then spent part of August in Alaska, traveling from Nome to Homer, working on a story for United Methodist Women about several issues in Alaska today, from the historic trauma of Native peoples to the abuse of opioids. I couldn’t resist a few photos of scenic Alaska, like this of the Russian Orthodox Church at Nilnilchik.

 

Haiti

In September I spent a week in Haiti capturing some images in preparation for the first anniversary of Hurricane Matthew. I focused on how church agencies had helped people rebuild in the aftermath of the devastating storm. People like Eliciore Volbrun, who here prepares tea by candlelight before dawn in her family’s new home in Djondgon, a village near Jean-Rabel in northwestern Haiti. The family’s previous house was destroyed by Hurricane Matthew in 2016. (Special thanks to the CWS crew willing to get up early to get me out into this village in the dark.)

Eliciore Volbrun prepares tea by candlelight before dawn in her family's new home in Djondgon, a village near Jean-Rabel in northwestern Haiti. The family's previous house was destroyed during Hurricane Matthew in 2016, and Church World Service, a member of the ACT Alliance, helped the family build their sturdy new home. (Paul Jeffrey)

Here a boy plays hopscotch in the Haitian community of Ganthier, where an ecumenical aid agency from the neighboring Dominican Republic has built hundreds of homes and helped kickstart the local economy in the year after Matthew.  

A boy plays hopscotch in the Haitian community of Ganthier, where Servicio Social de las Iglesis Dominicanas, a member of the ACT Alliance, has built hundreds of homes and helped families rebuild the local economy during the first year after the devastating passage of Hurricane Matthew in 2016. (Paul Jeffrey)

And here’s an image of Marcilien Georges as he pulls in a fish in a small fishing boat off the coast of northwestern Haiti near the village of Plateforme. Derlien Hendy is rowing. The village was ravaged in the storm, and an ecumenical aid group helped the community rebuild its economy with fishing materials, a solar-powered refrigerator room for storing their catch, and other assistance.

A year after Hurricane Matthew ravaged parts of Haiti, Marcilien Georges pulls in a fish in a small fishing boat off the coast of northwestern Haiti near the village of Plateforme. Derlien Hendy is rowing. The village was ravaged in the storm, and Lutheran World Relief, a member of the ACT Alliance, has helped the community rebuild its economy with fishing materials, a solar-powered refrigerator room for storing their catch, and other assistance. (Paul Jeffrey)

 

Myanmar

In October I spent several days in Myanmar, part of it at a regional conference on mission, then working on a story setting the stage for the upcoming visit of Pope Francis, then a few days around Kalay in the north, where among other things I documented a workshop on women’s empowerment conducted by a regional missionary for United Methodist Women (the article will be out in a few months).

I also just took time to photograph and interview ethnic Chin women in that part of the country.

 

Bangladesh

It was then on to Bangladesh, where I traveled to the north of the country to document work being done in communities that had experienced severe flooding from monsoon rains in August. With help from aid agencies, people were working together to make their villages along the Brahmaputra River less vulnerable. People like Komela Khatun, who in order to raise her home a few inches, spent days carrying dirt in a basket in West Fasura, a village on an island in the middle of the Brahmaputra. The flooding had destroyed everyone’s crops on the island, but a Bangladeshi aid group provided emergency cash grants to vulnerable island families so they could reestablish their household economies and restart their lives.

In order to raise her home a few inches, Komela Khatun carries dirt in a basket in West Fasura, a village on an island in the Brahmaputra River in northern Bangladesh. Severe flooding in August 2017 destroyed the island's crops but RDRS Bangladesh, a member of the ACT Alliance, provided emergency cash grants to vulnerable island families so they could reestablish their household economies and restart their lives. (Paul Jeffrey)

Same with Hasina Begom, here planting rice in Kunderpara, another island village 

Hasina Begom plants rice in Kunderpara, a village on an island in the Brahmaputra River in northern Bangladesh. (Paul Jeffrey)

And her neighbor Jabeda Begum, who here stands in her rice field where severe flooding eroded the bank, washing away part of her farm.

Jabeda Begum stands in her rice field in Kunderpara, a village on an island in the Brahmaputra River in northern Bangladesh. Severe flooding in August 2017 eroded the bank, washing away part of her farm. (Paul Jeffrey)

And these kids who, ah, are more concerned about the game.

Children play with stones in Kunderpara, a village on an island in the Brahmaputra River in northern Bangladesh. Severe flooding in August 2017 destroyed the island's crops but ICCO Cooperation, a member of the ACT Alliance, provided emergency food and seeds so that islanders could replant their food crops and restart their lives. (Paul Jeffrey)

I then flew to Cox’s Bazar in the south of the country, an area that’s become ground zero for the humanitarian response to more than 600,000 Rohingya refugees who’ve fled ethnic cleansing at home for relative safety in crowded makeshift camps.

A section of the Jamtoli Refugee Camp near Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh. More than 600,000 Rohingya have fled government-sanctioned violence in Myanmar for safety in Bangladesh. (Paul Jeffrey)

A Rohingya girl walks between makeshift shelters in the Jamtoli Refugee Camp near Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh. More than 600,000 Rohingya have fled government-sanctioned violence in Myanmar for safety in Bangladesh. (Paul Jeffrey)

Many Rohingya fled their homes with little notice as the Burmese military and mobs of Buddhist extremists attacked their villages. Their journeys to Bangladesh were long and arduous, and conditions in the camps are difficult. Here a Rohingya woman feeds her child in a United Nations clinic for severely malnourished children in the Balukhali Refugee Camp. She is using Plumpy’nut, a peanut-based supplement given to malnourished children. The next image shows a newly arrived Rohingya woman waiting to be registered in the Kutupalong Camp, and then Rohingya women line up for food distributed by an ecumenical agency in the Chakmarkul Camp.

Shortly after they made the perilous crossing from Myanmar into Bangladesh, a woman feeds her child in a United Nations clinic for severely malnourished Rohingya children in the Balukhali Refugee Camp near Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh. She is using Plumpy'nut, a peanut-based supplement given to malnourished children. More than 600,000 Rohingya have fled government-sanctioned violence in Myanmar for safety in Bangladesh. (Paul Jeffrey)

A Rohingya woman, having just crossed the border from Myanmar, waits to complete registration in the Kutupalong Refugee Camp near Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh. More than 600,000 Rohingya have fled government-sanctioned violence in Myanmar for safety in Bangladesh. (Paul Jeffrey)

Rohingya refugee women line up to receive food from ICCO Cooperation in the Chakmarkul Refugee Camp near Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, where ICCO and other members of the ACT Alliance provide a variety of humanitarian support for the refugees. More than 600,000 Rohingya have fled government-sanctioned violence in Myanmar for safety in Bangladesh. (Paul Jeffrey)

Given how the Myanmar government denies them citizenship, and the Bangladeshis, though they have displayed remarkable hospitality, nonetheless don’t want the Rohingya to stay in their already densely populated country, the Rohingya are effectively stateless. Yet several cultural elements, such as the use of thanaka on the faces of women and girls, belies their Burmese identity.

A Rohingya girl in the Jamtoli Refugee Camp near Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh. Her face is marked with thanakha, a traditional Burmese cosmetic. More than 600,000 Rohingya have fled government-sanctioned violence in Myanmar for safety in Bangladesh. (Paul Jeffrey)

Given the intransigence of Yangon, the Rohingya aren’t going home any time soon, and there are several things that can go wrong as they remain in Bangladesh, as I outlined in this article. Yet as difficult as things may be, you can always count on children to make the best of it.

A Rohingya boy flies a kite in the Jamtoli Refugee Camp near Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, where members of the ACT Alliance provide humanitarian support for the refugees. More than 600,000 Rohingya have fled government-sanctioned violence in Myanmar for safety in Bangladesh. (Paul Jeffrey)

 

Korea

In December I went to South Korea to cover an ecumenical conference, and while there photographed a candlelight vigil calling for peace on the Korean Peninsula.

Baek Seunghoon, a member of the Methodist Church, holds a candle during a December 7, 2017 nighttime vigil in Gwangwha-Mun Square in Seoul, South Korea. The ecumenical Advent vigil was part of "A Light of Peace Campaign" for the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, sponsored by the World Council of Churches and the National Council of Churches of Korea. (Paul Jeffrey)

I also spent a day with some wonderful women in the Sunlit Sisters Center in Anjung-ri. It’s a gathering place, started by a Methodist woman, for women who worked as prostitutes around the U.S. military bases in Korea starting in the 1950s. Today many of them live in tiny unheated rooms within a stone’s throw of the largest US military base outside the United States. I’m doing an article on them for response, the magazine of United Methodist Women. They include this woman, pictured here in her one-room apartment that she shares with two stray dogs she adopted. 

There’s another struggle in Korea and beyond about an earlier generation of the so-called “comfort women” forced into sex slavery by the Japanese military during World War II. Every Wednesday in Seoul there’s a demonstration around a statue of a comfort woman who sits permanently across the street from the Japanese embassy. It was cold when I was there in December, so her supporters had dressed her warmly.

 

5 Responses to 2017 – A year in Pictures

  1. Leslie Vogel says:

    Paul, I am grateful to you go not only the amazing images, but for the background stories that accompany them. It boggles my mind that (not even taking jet-lag into account as a workplace hazard), you are able to track of names, faces, places, players, issues, etc.
    ¡Mil gracias!

  2. Marcia Limoges says:

    Thank you, Paul, for all your travels, photographic and written work! Marcia Limoges

  3. Daniel Foster says:

    I have no words for your remarkable work, Paul. I wish I could communicate how deeply your pictures have touched me. You have the “gift of reminding” us all of the overwhelming need that exists in this broken world we share. I only wish your special gift would motivate us even more to respond as Christ would have us respond. And thank you also for so eloquently capturing the grace and beauty we too easily overlook in the midst of the brokenness …

  4. Carol Mariano says:

    Paul, your pictures are truly amazing! I greatly appreciate the work you do–your travel and documenting the lives of real people in troubled areas. Thank you.

  5. Fred Rakevich says:

    Paul, thank you for the amazing photograph’s accompanied with names, places and stories ! Sharon and I spent 3 yrs. living in S.E. Alaska and later on the Kenai Peninsula near Homer. At one time I was camped on the beach near the old Russian community below the Russian orthodox church that you added to your list of photographs.
    Best wishes and thanks again !

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