Through a grant from Sony in the spring of 2017, Ripple is documenting the work of two spectacular aid programs, Operation ASHA in Cambodia and Pact in Myanmar. Operation ASHA trains and equips an army of female health workers that work tirelessly to provide rural populations with care they desperately need. Pact is a multinational NGO that focuses on empowering women to take economic control in their communities and determine for themselves the paths their lives will take. Through the Sony grant, Ripple Effect photographer Lynn Johnson and videographer Melanie Burford traveled to Cambodia and Myanmar to tell some of the stories of these organizations and the women who work so tirelessly to make them successful.
Johnson and Burford have just returned from Cambodia and Myanmar and they are working on bringing the stories of these extraordinary women to the world. "Operation ASHA is focused on prevention of drug resistant tuberculosis," Johnson explains. "They use something called the Last Mile program where healthcare workers actually go to the patients in their homes to provide medication and to confirm that it's been taken, because drug resistance occurs when people just can't get to their drugs. There are so many ways in which people are derailed from good treatment; they can't get to the clinic, they're too sick, they're too poor, there's a flood in between the clinic and the house. These amazing women take the drugs to people. We covered two of those women. One who operates primarily by boat in the flooded times of the year and the other uses a kind of a motor scooter delivery system. Then in Myanmar, we were photographing the work of Pact and they have a multi-dimensional approach to helping women. They focus on healthcare, microloans and other ways to help women really determine the course of their own lives, health and economic stability."
These can be extremely challenging stories to tell in a way that truly does the women justice. Burford describes some of her approach, "I think there's two parts of being a visual journalist. There's the taking of the photo or the gathering of the footage, how you compose and frame and how you gather audio. And then there's the being; the listening, the reaching out and the comforting. I think that in stories like these it's really important to be compassionate, to listen and to care. We want to make sure that we do justice to these inspiring women that do incredible jobs and to tell their story the best way that we can."
And Johnson adds, "You have this kind of thread you grasp onto when you're in the field. You're visiting with people and you do see the difference, but you can only hope that, that circle of success is widened by providing images that bring the funds to the organizations that are doing the real work. We are tangential. We image makers are really just like an outside circle, but the witnessing of these people's lives is something you carry with you day after day and into the next assignment and back home to family. All those stories then form every step of your life. The ripple effect really is present in many, many areas."
As the team works through their images and footage in the coming weeks, we'll have more on Alpha Universe about The Ripple Effect and the stories that Johnson and Burford went to Asia to find and to bring to the world.