Face to Face: Children of the AIDS Crisis in Africa by Ande and Richter

Face to Face: Children of the AIDS Crisis in Africa by Karen Ande and Ruthann Richter

Face to Face: Children of the AIDS Crisis in Africa by Karen Ande and Ruthann Richter

Open to any page of Face to Face: Children of the AIDS Crisis in Africa, and you’ll find haunting photos and text that will either make you weep for, laugh with, or give applause to the children who are profiled here.

Tiny Mary Maishon flees from the camera in Face to Face: Children of the AIDS Crisis in Africa. Photo: Karen Ande

Tiny Mary Maishon flees from the camera in Face to Face: Children of the AIDS Crisis in Africa. Photo: Karen Ande

The story of one tiny girl, whose image flees across the page, gives a new perspective on the word “hardship,” as we experience it in the West. Author Ruthann Richter writes, “Two-year-old Mary Maishon was near death when she was found with two other children living under a piece of cardboard and plastic. Her limbs were skeletal, bent from lack of nutrition, and she was barely able to sit up. She didn’t speak at all.”

In a later photo, taken after she was restored to health through loving kindness and the generosity of strangers, tiny Mary beams at the camera, full of life and joy. Over a period of many months, photographer Karen Ande has captured the child’s journey from the brink of death to the beginning of a hopeful future.

Healthy now, Mary smiles at the camera while getting a hug from a friend. Photo: Karen Ande

Healthy now, Mary smiles at the camera while getting a hug from a friend. Photo: Karen Ande

Mary’s is but one of several heart-wrenching stories included in Ande’s and Richter’s new book. Both strikingly beautiful and compellingly written, Face to Face is a joint enterprise of two longtime friends who share a passion and a dedication to the orphaned and vulnerable children of sub-Saharan Africa.

Though AIDS no longer has a mandatory death sentence in many countries of the developed world, in sub-Saharan Africa, it is a very real and deadly enemy. Nearly an entire generation has disappeared, leaving more than 12 million orphaned children in this part of the world.

Like the subjects of the stories Ande shared in her interview with Blue Planet Green Living last fall, these children face almost insurmountable odds as they strive to care for dying parents, raise orphaned brothers and sisters, or struggle to survive on their own without the support of caring adults.

Between 40 and 60 percent of these children are estimated to be living in the care of a granny, who is to likely to be too poor to support them. In addition, there are some 2.3 million children in the region who are living with HIV.

Children crowd around the photographer at an orphanage in Gilgil, Kenya. Ande and Richter raise funds to support these and many other children. Photo: Karen Ande

Children crowd around the photographer at an orphanage in Gilgil, Kenya. Ande and Richter raise funds to support these and many other children. Photo: Karen Ande

But Face to Face is not simply a story of heartbreak. It is a story of hope. And it calls us all to action to do whatever we can — no matter how small — to help provide a future for children who struggle each day for survival.

Writing in the foreword, Peter Piot, MD, former Executive Director of UNAIDS, says, “This book brings these issues to the forefront, providing seldom-seen and poignant portraits of the lives of children in sub-Saharan Africa who are growing up in the world of AIDS.” He adds, “These are remarkably resilient youngsters, children with the faces of hope, carrying on in the face of daunting loss and economic deprivation.”

For several years, Ande and Richter have worked tirelessly to bring public awareness to the critical situation of AIDS orphans and other vulnerable children in Africa. They have also been actively gathering donations to support the children whose needs they know so well.

“We have been raising funds for education and nutrition primarily, though the organizations we support provide a variety of services,” says Richter. “For instance, we raised $10,000 to help the Goat Project at Mama Darlene, a project in Tala, Kenya; the goats went to desperately poor families to provide a source of nutrition, as well as income. To date, we have raised about $70,000. In addition, Karen has recruited a number of people who are sponsoring children’s education.”

Speaking of Face to Face, Helene Gayle, MD, MPH, President and CEO of CARE USA, says of the book, “These beautiful faces will remind you of children you love. And their stories show what’s possible when we care enough to stand up for them.”

“We were greatly moved by the children and families we met,” Richter says. “It was impossible for us to turn our backs on them, especially when we knew that a simple thing, such as a $15 school uniform and a $5 pair of shoes, could make a difference between a child’s ability to go to school or not. And so many of these kids we met were desperate for the chance to go to school. That spurred us to action.”

Julia Wasson
Blue Planet Green Living (Home Page)

Note: Proceeds from the sale of Ande’s and Richter’s book, Face to Face: Children of the AIDS Crisis in Africa, will be used to support orphaned and vulnerable children in Sub-Saharan Africa, a few of whom are profiled in the book. The book is available on the web at www.facetofaceafrica.com. By purchasing directly from the book’s website rather than an online bookstore, significantly more of the proceeds will be available to support the work that Ande and Richter sponsor.

As you plan your holiday shopping, please consider giving Face to Face to someone on your list. Your purchase will be a double blessing, as it brings a gift of love to the recipient and a gift of hope to children who have little else.

Related Post

Children Raising Children: Documenting Africa’s AIDS Crisis

My 5: Karen Ande, AndePhotos

January 1, 2009 by  
Filed under Blog, California, Front Page, My 5, Sub-Saharan Africa

Comments Off on My 5: Karen Ande, AndePhotos

Karen Ande and children from the Gilgil orphanage. Photo: Jeff Johnson

Karen Ande and children from the Gilgil orphanage. Photo: Jeff Johnson

BPGL: What are the five most important things we can do to save the planet?


  • Educating your mind and heart are musts. That’s the first thing to do. A lot comes back to heart issues. People have to realize they are part of the planet. I think of hands reaching out across continents. We’re part of the same ecosphere.
  • We have to nurture each other and the world. It’s about how you look at life, your own life, how you value the people, animals, and the world.
  • Live greenly. Pay attention to not overusing resources. We have to share. It’s getting to be a small world. Nurture the resources we have, so they can last and grow, and so we’re all healthy together.
  • Think about how your decisions impact a couple of generations ahead. We have a whole issue in this country with consumption. We have a lot, and we think we need a lot more than we do. Our whole economy is based on it. People need to take a long, hard look at what is necessary and what is a responsible use of resource, and what’s necessary to develop. I have no sympathy for violent video games. In a capitalist country, money is the bottom line; but how your life contributes to the world around you should be the bottom line. Look at the kinds of choices you make. When you buy an SUV, think what that means not only for my pocketbook but for the planet’s pocketbook.
  • Emphasizing education for women is a must. If you educate a girl, she educates her family. If you educate enough girls, you educate a village.

Karen Ande

Photographer, AndePhotos

Blue Planet Green Living (Home Page)

Related Posts:

Children Raising Children: Documenting Africa’s AIDS Crisis

Solution to Conference Waste Is in the Bag

Five Things We Can Do to Save the Planet

Children Raising Children: Documenting Africa’s AIDS Crisis

Blessing and Felix, orphans of the AIDS crisis. Photo: Karen Ande

Blessing and Felix, orphans of the AIDS crisis. Photo: Karen Ande

“Any human being who could look at these photos and not be moved would have to be lacking a heart,” I said, clicking through pictures of AIDS-orphaned children in Sub-Saharan Africa. “They are so beautiful. ”

“Yes,” said Karen Ande, the photographer. “That got to me, too.” Karen was at her home in San Francisco, California, when I called her for this interview. “From the first moment I saw the kids, I was taken. The children are all beautiful. Absolutely beautiful.”

Ande is a documentarian of the struggles of AIDS orphans in Sub-Saharan Africa. She supports various grassroots organizations working there, raising funds partially through the sale of her photographs.

You may wonder why Blue Planet Green Living has chosen to profile Ande’s photographic work. You may also wonder what it has to do with green living. The answer, for Joe and me, is that sustaining the planet doesn’t just mean making a healthy world in which to live. It also means providing for the health and well-being of the organisms — plants, animals, and, especially, people — who inhabit it. — Julia Wasson, Publisher

BPGL: How did you get started photographing orphans in Africa?

ANDE: At first, I was interested in photographing the animals. My husband I had traveled a couple of times to Africa. We volunteered for some Earthwatch projects in which we were field assistants to different scientists working in game parks. We went twice and tried to do it a third time, but the trip didn’t work out with Earthwatch. So we arranged our own trip.

At the time, I wasn’t aware of the impact of AIDS in Africa. I knew as much as anybody in the West in 2002 — which wasn’t much at all. Then, on one of the journeys we took during that trip, I met Jill Simpson, a Kenyan of British descent, who grew up there. Jill was a nurse who flew into the bush with doctors. She asked if I’d like to ride along to an orphanage. In the car with her, I said, “I’ll do some shots if you can use them for publicity.”

The orphanage got started after a social worker, a friend of Jill’s, found two boys wandering alone on the street. They were 8 and 10 years old, looking for their mom. The social worker took the boys home. Later, she found their mother in the morgue, about to be shoved into a common grave. The story about two abandoned children really bothered me and caught my attention. I got to meet those boys at the orphanage.

We visited the orphanage for an hour and a half, and I took shots of about 20 kids. I was so incredibly taken with the children. As we were leaving, someone said the orphanage had run out of rice. So I gave them money for rice and went back home, thinking that was the end of my involvement.

Children at play in Kibera. Photo: Karen Ande

Children at play in Kibera. Photo: Karen Ande

When I got home, I started printing pictures of the kids in the darkroom. Printing pictures is a magical thing. The pictures that emerged just completely grabbed me. I thought, I can do a couple of things. I can take the pictures I have and do nothing, or I can make a difference in the world. It was one of the points in life where I had to make a choice of which road I would take.

BPGL: What did you do next?

ANDE: Right after I came home, it was very clear to me that I wanted to go back. So I called the Firelight Foundation, in Santa Cruz. Their main interest is helping AIDS orphans in Sub-Saharan Africa; they are child-focused.

The AIDS issue has had a huge impact. I have heard there are from 15 to 18 million children living in appalling circumstances. In Africa, AIDS is in the heterosexual population and has affected a whole generation of parents. In the U.S., the emphasis is on treating adults and pregnant women. Very little work has been done with children. But Firelight has focused on children’s issues. I went back to Africa, and Firelight connected me with projects there.

BPGL: Tell about the projects you’re connected to in Africa.

Rwandan mother and child. Photo: Karen Ande

Rwandan mother and child. Photo: Karen Ande

ANDE: I work as a physical therapist in the States and fund my Africa work through that, but I often get help from agencies on the ground. Once Firelight funded me in Rwanda. And one agency has led to another. I’ve visited some very diverse kinds of communities and projects. With Firelight, I went to Kibera, the biggest slum in South Africa. They do volunteer testing for HIV, and they sponsor home health care workers there.

I had been in a photography class and met a teacher, who asked me to take pictures for her while I was in Kibera. I was absorbed and loved photographing the children. It was profoundly interesting, a visual feast. I felt more alive, more present, more that I had a sense that there was an impact to be made in a good way, that the pictures of these children could make a difference to their lives and the lives of kids in general over there.

I also went to the rural communities and focused on grassroots organizations in country. What that means, usually, is that someone in the community is impassioned on the issue and has an idea how to help. They know their communities, which are often very small. For example, one woman lived in a tiny town that had no pharmacy. So she decided to create one. With the profits, she intended to send orphans to school. There are no school fees, but you have to have uniforms. Poor children can’t afford $25 for clothes, and sometimes they have to pay tuition too.

The woman who started the pharmacy had an idea, but didn’t know what to do to implement it. She connected with another nonprofit that taught her how to get the idea funded. So far, she has sent about 18 or 20 children to school. Her idea worked because it involved people in a community who know what their community needs.

BPGL: I understand there’s a lot of corruption in some places, and that the aid we send from the US or elsewhere doesn’t always benefit those it’s intended to. Can you trust the community groups you work with?

ANDE: If I fall in love with a project started by a community organizer and come back home to fund-raise, I know what the project is doing. I also know that the person I’m working with knows it intimately and can direct money to the maximum benefit with very little waste. In some cases, people start projects on almost nothing.

With the community projects I’m connected to, there’s no waste, no government bureaucracy, no shady dealings. They provide a way for people [outside of Africa] to connect with people over there. You can give $25 to send kids to school and know it will actually happen.

We met one family, a 13 year-old girl named Esther, her dying mother, and three other children. Someone had given us a donation of $35, so we spent money on chickens for Esther to raise and sell. Several weeks later, the mother died. Nuns looked in and tried to figure out what to do with the children. All four were placed in Saidia (the word means “Help” in Swahili), a very small orphanage in Gilgil, Kenya, that holds about 35 children. That money bought protein when the mom died and helped keep the kids together as a family.

But I haven’t just gotten involved with orphanages. In Africa, people try to keep children in their own communities. They may live with an aunt or an uncle or grandparents. It’s a very tentative situation, as the relatives are often poor themselves. Some of the aid goes to help support the community so that children can stay with relatives.

BPGL: Do you work with nonprofit organizations besides Firelight?

A child-headed family in Kibera. Photo: Karen Ande

A child-headed family in Kibera. Photo: Karen Ande

ANDE: Yes, another I particularly like is GRACE, which stands for Grass Roots Alliance for Community Education. In one case, the director of the local GRACE group approached an elderly woman about taking in six kids. The woman was overwhelmed. “How about if I give you a cow?” he asked her. The granny said yes and took in all six children. Families are being made across genetic lines.

A whole generation of parents is dying, and there are so many children. Many people have at least one child they’ve taken in. Grandparents have special responsibilities. For example, Paulina had 12 children. All 12 died of AIDS, leaving her with 16 grandkids to raise alone, and she was 92.

BPGL: What is the future bringing to the next generation? Will they understand AIDS and protect themselves?

ANDE: It’s hard to say. It depends. You can educate people about the disease, but poverty is as much a problem as anything else. People here in the United States have free and private access to HIV testing. In rural Africa, they might walk miles to get a doctor. If you have HIV and no symptoms, you don’t know you’re sick, and you can be spreading it. Once you have symptoms, the likelihood of getting help has improved. Anti-retroviral drugs are more common than they used to be. But with poverty, people don’t always have choices.

For example, a woman I met worked in a dicey hotel in a small town; it was really bad there. She was employed by the owner, and she had to sleep at the hotel. In the middle of the night, a man came into her room. He was a village elder who was ill [with AIDS]. He said, “You will have sex with me. If not, I’ll tell your boss, and he’ll fire you.” She had the immediate and very real pressure of getting food for her children, so she felt she had no choice. It was a poverty decision.

I think that things will probably get better. I’m hoping there will be a medical solution to make it easier to deal with the disease or get treated. But there are still so many issues surrounding poverty. With even a small donation to a local organization, we can make a substantial difference in individual people’s lives. If enough of us care, we can make a huge difference in many lives.

BPGL: Is part of the answer adoption to families in other countries?

ANDE: There are not nearly as many adoptions as there are children who need homes. People in Sub-Saharan Africa have mixed feelings about adopting older kids out of their communities. Family structure is very important. They try to keep families together. One result is that there are many children taking care of children.

Yvonne and her little sister, Tina, in Kibera. Photo: Karen Ande

Yvonne and her little sister, Tina, in Kibera. Photo: Karen Ande

I saw huge numbers of child-headed families in Kibera. That is really difficult. It’s extremely hard for me to see this, and I’ve seen a lot at this point. Kids are very vulnerable. One girl, Yvonne, was orphaned at 12 and left with a six-month-old sister. They were living in a mud shack and had to pay rent. It was an impossible situation. We connected her with Kibera Hamlets, an organization that directly benefits child-headed families. There are a lot of groups working in the slum, and they have different approaches to the problems.

Another thing that kills people is stigma. Yvonne had had a two-parent family. Both had AIDS, but were reluctant to go to the clinic for testing. Your neighbors can see you walk in. If you walk out, they know you’re fine. If you stay there an hour to learn what you need to, you’re not. By the time they went to get tested and were put on anti-retroviral drugs, it was too late.

When I met Yvonne, she would attend school until it was time to collect the fees. Then she [and other kids who didn’t have the funds] would disappear for a while. When the pressure was off for collecting fees, they would come back.

BPGL: What about her little sister?

ANDE: She basically leaves her two-year-old sister, Tina, home alone. The little sister wanders from place to place looking for food. She is very shy and frightened. She has a haunted face. Yvonne is trying to go to school and sell sweets. She buys the sweets at low cost, then sells them on a blanket to passersby. She might make 100 shillings a week, which is about $1.50, to support both herself and Tina. Something about Yvonne touched me. I talked to church groups who agreed to send her tuition. She now is in high school. That costs $125 a year.

BPGL: How do you keep from bringing all of the children home?

Vannah is raising her young brothers. Photo: Karen Ande

Vannah is raising her young brothers. Photo: Karen Ande

ANDE: In a way, I do bring them all home. You have to figure out how to handle it. It’s like a half-full/half-empty glass. I choose to emphasize the full. Sometimes people really touch me. If there’s a group I feel compelled to raise money for and feel I can help, I do that.

Wake people up to the problem, and they will help. That keeps me going. I focus on what little I can do and do it well. Both Firelight and GRACE have stringent guidelines. I give through the U.S. groups to make sure there’s monitoring and oversight.

BPGL: What can people outside of Africa can do to help?

ANDE: What you asked is a complicated question. If you’re coming from the States, you don’t know the people on the ground. But you can connect with people on the ground from Firelight, the Steven Lewis Foundation, Partners in Health, GRACE, and a few others. If you donate to those groups, you know the money will directly benefit the communities that need help.

I have a Take Action page on my website, for donations to the Firelight Foundation, GRACE, and others. It really makes a difference in kids’ lives. For example, the head of GRACE USA is Natasha Martin. She decided she would put all the orphans in a certain community through school. She’s paying for 200 orphans in primary school through college.

You can also get educated — read a book or two. You won’t get excited till you find out more about it. I put books on the bookstore page of my website that I think are written in a way to connect with people. If you’re interested in adoption, you should read There’s No Me Without You, by Melissa Fay Greene.

Or, if you have the means to travel and see it firsthand, there are ways to do that. But the experience is beyond a level of adventure a lot of people want to go through. If you go there, you will be changed.

Julia Wasson

Blue Planet Green Living (Home Page)

Related Post

Face to Face: Children of the AIDS Crisis

Note: Proceeds from the sale of Ande’s book, Face to Face: Children of the AIDS Crisis in Africa, will be used to support orphaned and vulnerable children in Sub-Saharan Africa, a few of whom are profiled in the book. The book is available on the web at www.facetofaceafrica.com. By purchasing directly from the book’s website rather than an online bookstore, significantly more of the proceeds will be available to support the work that Ande and Richter sponsor.

As you plan your holiday shopping, please consider giving Face to Face to someone on your list. Your purchase will be a double blessing, as it brings a gift of love to the recipient and a gift of hope to children who have little else.

Love is Green

What Joe and I like most about this venture of ours is the fascinating people we are fortunate to meet. We learn something from each of them, and our lives are enriched.

This morning we interviewed an amazing guy, a lifelong surfer who also happens to be an ecopreneur (you’ll meet Harry Johansing in a future post). When we asked him one of our favorite end-of-interview questions about what we all can do to help the planet, his first response was “Love.” Before you jump to conclusions, he wasn’t being flip. He meant it, and we were touched.

Love is green

Love is green. Photo: J Wasson

During the recent political campaign here in the U.S., Joe kept telling me that candidates should have to tell the people how they support love. “The candidate that has love for the people, the environment, and the world should be the one who wins,” he said. Okay, I admit, I looked at him with more than a little skepticism. It’s not the kind of thing a political candidate could espouse in the U.S. without getting laughed off the platform. But maybe it shouldn’t be that way. Maybe we need to hear our leaders tell us that they love more than just themselves and their families, that they love their people and our fellow humans and the world that we share.

What we’re noticing is that the people we interview are truly full of love — for the planet, for their families, for their gardens, for animals, for people. Love is what motivates them to do what they do. Yes, they want to make a living. Without a reasonable expectation of paying the bills, perhaps they wouldn’t have the courage to choose the more difficult path to be an ecopreneur or to live sustainably.

Jill Schutts and Ely

Jill Schutts and Ely. Photo: J Wasson

We’re reminded of Jill Schutts and her son, Ely. Jill stands at her kitchen window and basks in the beauty of the goats she raises. But what really motivates her is the wish to provide the best-possible life for her son by Pursuing the Dream of a Sustainable Life.

Jeanne Freymiller kept thousands of pounds of usable fabric out of the landfill by teaching others how to quilt and make things from fabric. That’s love. And now that Jeanne has died, the love of friends like Peggy Schmidt is making sure the Legacy of a Green Artist and Dreamer is carried on.

Kurt Friese

Kurt Friese. Photo: Joe Hennager

Kurt Friese believes mightily in eating locally grown foods. We’ve known him for some time, and he is all that his book implies. We loved how Kurt Friese Shares His Passion for Slow Foods in a New Book (and I learned something about the wisdom of short titles after that one was published). Kurt, his wife, Kim, and their restaurant staff fed my daughter’s love of cooking when she volunteered as a dishwasher just so she could learn from them. Their Iowa City restaurant, Devotay, exudes that same love of nutritious, tasty, local foods that he writes about.

Mary Somerville and organic hops

Mary Somerville and organic hops. Photo: Joe Hennager

Jessica Klein loves her garden. Kevin and Mary Somerville love their farmland. Both have a fondness for vermiculture — Jessica in a single bin, and the Somervilles on a grand scale. Their passion has inspired readers who also are passionate about gardens and worm farming (see Ranching Underground Livestock). (Now Joe wants to put a bucket of worms in our kitchen…)

Kevin Somerville telling about their organic fields

Kevin Somerville telling about their organic fields. Photo: Joe Hennager

You’ll read in a future post about our new friend, Bob Packard, whose worm farming adventures led him to volunteer in a gardening program for inner-city youth. He loves what he’s doing, and “the students have gone from ‘Yuck!’ to ‘Wow!'” as they, too, are becoming fond of worms.

Though I may not have mentioned the others in this post, every single one of the people we have written about and will feature in the future is filled with passion. If they’re not, no matter what enterprise they’re engaged in, they don’t interest us. Where there’s no passion, no love, there’s no real story.

Karen Ande and Kenyan orphans

Karen Ande and Kenyan orphans. Photo courtesy: Karen Ande

A couple of days ago, we posted our first Premier Sponsorship. AndePhotos might not sound, on the surface, like it’s an enterprise that’s “organic,” “green,” or “natural.” So why do we think Karen Ande belongs on our website? Because we believe the work she does to support children orphaned from AIDS in Kenya is as “natural” as it gets. Through proceeds from her nature photography and the photos she takes of the orphans, she is helping provide a sustainable life for children whose futures have been all but ripped apart. Her photos touch our hearts.

Sabrina Potirala, University of Iowa

Sabrina Potirala, Contributing Writer. Photo: Joe Hennager

We also want you to know about the volunteers who are responsible for bringing you many of the stories we post. Most are college students, writing about green living in ways that are meaningful to them.

Emmalyn Kayser

Emmalyn Kayser, Contributing Writer. Photo: Joe Hennager

Others are a bit more “seasoned,” sharing the perspectives gained over a longer life. Some have specialities, such as Veterinarian Doreen Hock, who recently wrote to encourage pet owners to take a Holistic Look at Vaccinations. All are motivated by love of the earth and its inhabitants. They are eager to make a difference, in whatever way they can, to make the world a healthier place for themselves and for generations who will come after them. Please get to know our Contributors, for their passion also inspires us.

Our families, too, support us, in ways too numerous to count. They are our ultimate loves. And, fortunately for us, they understand and share our love for the rest of the world.

Belinda Geiger

Belinda Geiger, Contributing Writer. Photo: Mark Geiger

Soon, we’ll be bringing you original Blue Planet Green Living videos. Our goal is to engage viewers with humor while passing on important content that you can really use. Joe has the vision, the passion, and the knowledge.

The BPGL video crew: Aaron Render, Justin Mangrich, and Jake

The BPGL video crew: Aaron Render, Justin Mangrich, and Jake Mathias. Photo: J Wasson

But without our dedicated team of volunteers (whose profiles will appear under Contributors once our first video is posted), this creative project would never materialize. Once again, college students and other young people (young to us, anyway) are selflessly giving their time to this project. Their dedication and passion have kept us going through disappointing technical issues like a new camera that refused to talk to the editing program we purchased. (Yes, we’re learning things every day.)

And so, I’m getting to the final point of this post about love. Last night, we purchased a Panasonic camera on line. Joe and I were working late, preparing a post for today (which you’ll now see tomorrow), when the phone rang. It was 10:30, not a time our phone often rings except in emergencies. On the other end was an effervescent voice, an inquisitive person who wanted to know more about Blue Planet Green Living, to whom she had just sold her camera. We instantly bonded. Her interest in our mission was genuine. And when we learned about her own important work, we all felt there was a greater reason we met than to transfer ownership of a camera.

Amy Louise Williams and friends

Amy Louise Williams and friends. Photo courtesy: Amy Williams

Amy Louise Williams is an Emmy-winning documentary producer. She has a passion — a love — for people and the environment that she shares through her work. We plan to tell you more about Amy as time goes on. But today, we want to introduce you to her through a short promo for a PBS video that we are posting on our home page. What does Amy’s video about the children in The Road to Matveevka have to do with things “organic,” “green,” or “natural”?

Like Karen Ande’s photos, Amy’s video introduces us to children who may never have the luxury to think about how to make the earth a better place. They are the forgotten children of Ukrainian orphanages, children whose futures are all but sealed to a life of crime and prostitution and sometimes suicide. They, too, are part of this planet we love so much. We don’t pretend that our website can solve the incredible problems that they face, but we want to shed a bit more light on the issue in whatever way we can.

To us, and to other environmentally minded people, saving rain forests and sea turtles and song birds and whales and all of nature is important — essential, in fact. But we must not lose sight of the urgency of caring for our fellow humans. Please take a look at Amy’s video, then look inside your heart. We think you’ll understand why we found this so important to share.

I’ve called this post “Love is Green.” That might sound a bit simplistic. Love comes in all colors, after all. What I mean by this is that we can share our love for people, for animals, for the beauty of nature, for each other, in fact, by making this planet a better place for all to live. The changes we need to make take money, time, and commitment.

We have a choice. We can each love “locally,” focused only on what directly affects us, or we can reach out with love to others we’ve never met and will never get to know. We can reach into the future by Living Green today, leaving the world a healthier place for the generations that come after us. But let’s not forget to also reach across borders, to make the world a safer place for our fellow travelers on this Blue Planet.

Julia Wasson

Blue Planet Green Living (Home Page)