Last fall, photographer and storyteller Branden Harvey traveled with our Advocacy team to visit our maternal and child health programs in Zimbabwe!
Today's photoblog captures his journey and the "secretly incredible people" he met along the way.
My name is Branden Harvey and I’m a storyteller and photographer based in Portland, Oregon. This past November, World Vision invited me to join them on an adventure of a lifetime to Zimbabwe. While I was there I learned a lot about the challenges woman are facing in West Africa and how some secretly incredible people are devoting their lives to making a change.
While I was traveling throughout Zimbabwe, I shared about my journey on Instagram. I like to think of Instagram as my public diary. On this trip I shared stories from the incredible people I met and even shot photographs of beautiful Victoria Falls. I wrote about the hope that I see growing in this country, all because of the hard and diligent work these secretly incredible people doing.
Below are some my favorite stories and photographs that I shared during my time in Zimbabwe. To see more, visit my Instagram profile and scroll down until you see photos that look familiar.
Visually, my last few days here in Zimbabwe have been pretty boring—lots of boardrooms, offices and lectures. But the truth is that my time here has been incredibly interesting and engaging.
I've been given opportunity after opportunity to meet with local leaders, the largest organization in Zimbabwe and the USAID staff at the U.S. Embassy (no cameras allowed here). So crazy.
The focus of my time here has been on maternal health issues and what these change-makers in Southern Africa are doing to make an impact on the lives of women. I'm learning as much as I can so I can use my talents and platforms to make a difference where I can as well.
I'm excited to head into the field soon to meet women in their communities. I'm looking forward to making these women real to me—not just statistics or talking points—but real people like me. It's going to be so great to laugh together, hear their stories and visit their homes.
As always, I'm excited to share what I learn and experience through this journey. Thanks for following along.
I just hosted a Nelson Mandela look-alike contest and this man won. I think it was his hopeful smile and salt and pepper hair.
Fake Mandela's name is Dan and it turns out that he, like Mandela, hugely impacted his nation's well-being.
I began my conversation by naively asked Dan if he had ever done much traveling outside of Zimbabwe. "Just a little bit. Latin America, the Soviet Union, up and down Africa, nearly all of Europe …" Whoops. More than me.
Dan joined the leadership within the government in 1980 when Zimbabwe gained its independence after 90 years as a British colony. As an integral part of this transition, Dan was sent around the world to speak with political leaders about the needs the new nation faced.
About a decade later, Dan became part of Parliament—just as the national economy took a nosedive. Dan worked to restore his nation to its previous state.
Now Zimbabwe's economy is far more stable and he serves as an advisor to the youngest chief in the history of Zimbabwe. Dan's years of experience and wisdom have been incredibly valuable to the young chief. Dan advises on a number of issues—one of the greatest being the importance of advocating for women's health.
Absolutely honored I got to spend so much time getting to know Dan today. He's seen more history than I can imagine.
James is the nicest police officer I've ever met. Hands down. No idea if this is the norm for Zimbabwe, but James loves what he does and loves it for all the right reasons.
I asked what he loves about his job. "I love my job because I love seeing people happy, safe and free." Not much better than that.
James recently joined a community task force focused on improving the lives of mothers and their young children.
It's so refreshing to see people of authority stepping up to the plate on these issues. James says he doesn't just want to help women. He wants to see them thrive.
Driving long dusty roads under big African skies.
In a world where 800 women die due to pregnancy complications every single day, Jackie is a hero.
Jackie is a local nurse, working in several communities to educate, protect and care for women.
It's not necessarily easy to talk about controversial issues like women's health in Zimbabwe, but Jackie is passionate about changing culture and changing lives. She travels between villages and educates men and women on safe childbirth, what to expect with pregnancies, the importance of cleanliness and how to prevent HIV/AIDS. Oh, and she performs surgeries and delivers babies. NBD.
Most people probably couldn't do this job very successfully. (I know I couldn't.) But Jackie isn't most people. She's honestly one of the funniest people I've ever met and makes the kind of jokes that make you feel accepted and loved. She's always smiling and it’s apparent that everyone in her community respects her.
I'm not worried about Africa because of women like Jackie. She's making all the difference in the world. The future is bright.
I loved walking into a hut to see this mother scooping porridge into bowls for children in her community.
This week I learned about stunting, a condition where a child doesn't receive enough nutrients at a young age. This creates an inability to fully develop physically and mentally.
After mothers in this particular community were educated on the importance of proper nutrition, they got straight to work. Porridge is the cheapest and most common meal you'll find in small villages, so they've adapted it to be more nutritious for their growing kids. They do the math on how many calories you need to thrive at different ages and add certain ingredients to hit those benchmarks.
These moms love their kids so much and it was a blast seeing the ways they would do anything to help their kids be the best they can be.
Perfect light at the perfect school.
I felt pretty awesome driving around with the youngest chief in the history of Zimbabwe over the last few days.
He has a really cool sounding name but I just call him Chief. Because how often do you get to call a real chief Chief?
Chief's father was a chief, as was his father's father before him. A few generations before that, his grandfather's grandfather was a king of sorts.
You would expect someone in a position of power at such a young age to have a sense of self-entitlement and hubris, but Chief leads his community with humility. One of my favorite things about Chief is the way he's using his position to stand up for people with less power—people who can't stand up for themselves.
I got to spend some time touring a new hospital in Zimbabwe. I met doctors and nurses and a few amazing patients like Maria here.
I heard stories of people walking more than 30 kilometers to get to the nearest hospital before this one was built. Can you imagine? Now they don't have to.
Now that more hospitals are being built in rural areas, less women are dying during childbirth, more diseases are being treated quickly, and more kids like Maria are able to get fixed up so they can get back to being kids.
If we want to end global poverty, it starts with mothers and children.
During my time here, I've been getting to know government leaders from the U.S. and Zimbabwe, faith leaders, local influencers and mothers themselves, in order to hear about the work being done to increase maternal health.
Mothers and children matter. Their stories matter. An alarming amount of women and infants die each year because of pregnancy-related complications. These deaths are preventable.
How can we get more funds and resources in the right places? How can we get Congress to allocate more of our budget to USAID? How can we share more stories of amazing mothers? These are the questions I'm asking.
It's crazy how fast the weather can change during the rainy season. From sunny to pouring rain in just a few minutes.
On the road to somewhere special in Zimbabwe. Can anyone guess where?
Victoria Falls is one of the seven natural wonders of the world. During its most active season it boasts the largest sheet of falling water in the world and even in the dry season it's stunning.
I'm a fan.
My time in Zimbabwe has officially come to an end. I've loved every minute of my time here.
I'd like to thank @worldvisionus for inviting me along on this trip. I'm really critical of non-profit organizations but I've been nothing but impressed with the work that World Vision is doing on the ground.
It was incredible meeting so many amazing world changers from near and far. Some of these world changers are famous and have done things you may have heard of. Others are doing incredible work, knowing that they'll never be known for things they're doing. I'm going home inspired and challenged to fight for justice in big ways and little ways, whether others are watching or not.
Photos: 2014 Branden Harvey
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To see my work, you can visit my portfolio at brandenharvey.com.
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Join us in supporting child and maternal health in Zimbabwe! Sponsor a child today.