While we were in Kenya we took tons of pictures of the amazing children we were working with. We entered one of these images into a huge photography contest and it made it to the final round!!! Not only that, but we were contacted by the amazing organization running the contest and they wanted to feature our image! Ekk!!! Still can’t believe it! I mean the BIGGEST names in the photography world are a part of this contest! AND it’s voted on by fellow photographers! The images we were up against were GORGEOUS! Along with our feature they wanted some information about the story behind the picture.. we thought we’d share out to y’all what we wrote about one of our favorite images…
Michael grew up in Nairobi, Kenya. He spent 14 years of his life calling this city home. After we were married, we knew we wanted to travel Kenya and spend some time in the country that was such a huge part of who he is. On October 27, 2014 (our second year wedding anniversary), we moved into Happy Life Children’s Home in Nairobi, Kenya. It was a tough decision to leave the U.S. and turn down so many amazing couples just as our business was starting to grow (we had more wedding requests than we’d ever had before!), but we knew this is where we were supposed to be.
After moving into the children’s home, we began searching for a way to entertain and love on all the kids there (this one location houses over 50 abandoned children). Whenever we walked into a room the kids would get so excited and they all wanted our attention so desperately. Even when the children were in smaller groups, it was enviable that one or more would become upset. It was not uncommon to find the two of us holding two toddlers at a time, with 2 or 3 others holding onto our legs for dear life.
Until one day we discovered bubbles. Never in my life have a seen something as beautiful as these children playing with the bubbles. Snot running down their noses, sticky fingers, holes in their sweaters – but with the biggest smiles and widest eyes I have ever seen. The unimaginable joy was breathtaking. And Michael and I couldn’t stop smiling… and blowing the bubbles. I knew I couldn’t let this moment pass us by.. That we just HAD to capture this to be forever reminded of this moment and the joy of these children we love so much. I quickly ran upstairs to our room, grabbed our camera, and began snapping pictures as the sun was setting behind the tall building. Michael and I switch back and forth again and again trying to capture how excited they all were.. But we were too enthralled in the moment to keep our eyes behind the lens but for just a few seconds at a time. Even this shot, those beautiful boys, Jayden, Abidah, and Jude, are out of focus. But we love so much the emotion in this picture.. And what it reminds us of.
A few weeks later we found out the directors of the children’s home were looking to update their website. It was horribly outdated and rarely used. We offered right away to update their site and add new images of these beautiful children. They gave us free reign to do what we thought was needed, so we completely redesigned their site (happylifechildrenshome.com), updated all the children’s profile pictures (what is given to prospective adoptive parents), and constantly snapped pictures of the children to show off their beautiful faces. We also used these images to jumpstart a fundraiser during Christmas time. We used the images to raise enough money to buy every children (at both of their locations.. over 100 children) a Christmas gift. The only time these children have ever all received gifts for Christmas. It has been a beautiful experience working at the home. Heartbreaking at times, seeing new children rescued and brought to the home, often weak and ill from their circumstances. But also so joyful being able to capture pictures of the children with their new families before they leave the home for their new lives.
The images we’ve taken, and the website we created for the home has prompted our involvement in two other amazing mission here in Kenya. One, Glory of Africa, which provides a living wage for 8 incredible Kenyan women whose struggles are beyond my understanding yet are some of the most joyous people you’ll ever meet (gloryofafricastore.com). Another we are working with now, Tunajenga, another wonderful fair trade organization with a beautiful mission to help the people of Kenya (tunajenga.com).
While we are excited to leave Nairobi in May to return to the U.S. and launch the rebrand of our photography business. We are devastated to leave these children we have become so attached to. We will miss walking downstairs to the children chanting “balloons, balloons, balloons” (their word for bubbles), watching their wide eyes and arms reaching desperately to touch one, and hearing the overwhelming joy-filled laughter. But, we are forever grateful that we were able to use our gifts here to help this beautiful mission, and hopefully help aid these amazing children in finding new, loving homes.