BA in DF with IU

Today was definitely badass, and will go down as one of those days that are memorable in that badass way.  My second day as Sol Garcia and myself explore the world and work through the Mexican NGO Isla Urbana.  Today I learned that to be full of shit is actually a good thing, that is if you are a BioBolsa (a 10 meter long bio-bag that when filled with animal excrement ferments it into useable methane (to fuel your stove) and fertilizer for your crops at the same time!  We visited several homes in the pueblos of Tlalpan where there is no water from the Delegacion (the city) and the people rely on Pipas (water delivery trucks) and now, rainwater harvesting through Isla Urbana.  We met an amazing woman, Guille, who is for sure the most badass woman in the hills of Llano of San Miguel!  She has been fighting for years to have the Delegacion give the community access to water.  But now she is part of a pilot project to implement the rainwater harvesting systems, and is bringing her community together to have the same systems.  You gotta love it!  The last 24 hours have also included a visit to a street tacquera, El Cunado, and of course some tequila before bed!  Tomorrow night a big party at an amazing labyrinth, to celebrate David Vargas, el presidente of Solucione Pluvial!  Can I say it again…yes…badass!



1.&2. the offices of Isla Urbana

3. David Vargas conducts a meeting outside with Edgar, a recent intern

4. Chile Reyenos curtesy of Carmen the amazing kitchen maven at IU

5. Part of the Team, Carrie, Zach, Terian, Jen and Hiram!

6. Scaling rooftops to check out recently installed systems

7. Waiting to access a community participants home for a followup

8. I get “the eye” from a community participants daughter

9. Guille, an amazing community activist sounding the call for IU

10. Jen White points out the benefits of the BioBolsa

11. Sol and I outside a greenhouse

12. The best Tacos ever are just a few meters from where I’m staying (just sayin!)

13. Goodbye from the land of Dia de los Muertos



@8000 ft with Isla Urbana

Last night I arrived into Mexico City at 10pm, hired a cab and began my journey to the main Isla Urbana sight on the SW perimieter of D.F., which also happens to be the highest point in the city.  DF is surrounded by 64 mountains, and the community of Tlalpan where the office and housing is located is the highest point in the city, so when I woke this morning I was feeling the effect of high altitude for the first time in my life!  At first I thought I was hung over, (but I only shared 1/2 pint of beer with David Vargas last night!), and the dizzyness and lightheadedness was striking and unusual to anything I had felt before.  Not letting that stop me, I am busy today getting the facts on this amazing NGO, the work they are doing, the stories I think will be the most important to cover and the ideas that Jenn White the community relations director and I have been brainstorming on  They are an uber cool organization, and I am more than impressed with everything they have cooking, and I mean this literally, as they are as we speak part of a project implementing the Sistema Bio-Bolsa (a geo-membrane bio bag that ferments animal excrement into methane gas for cooking and super rich fertilizer!)  More on this to come.  In the meantime I have been given the story from the ground up on RainWater Harvesting, and can’t wait to share more with you.  Please follow myself and Sol Garcia as we meet the players in the story of water in Mexico City through the eyes of the Isla Urbana Team and the individuals in the community they are bringing water security to!

Rooftop Garden with Rainwater Catchement System at Isla Urbana in DF Mexico


On the Road to Mexico

Walking my dog in the crisp Vancouver sun this morning I felt lucky.  Tomorrow I will be flying to Mexico City. Sol Garcia of Project X Impact and I are on the road again, this time we are teaming up with ISLA URBANA, an amazing organization that is helping thousands of people in the barrios of Mexico City with water.  We often think of Africa, Haiti and other countries when it comes to the water crisis, but it exists in so many locations that we are less aware of.  One would think that Mexico City is not necessarily one of those places, but in actual fact daily, millions of people living there, fathers, mothers, sons and daughters strain to meet their fundamental water demands.  Isla Urbana is facilitating the widespread adoption of rainwater harvesting, a sustainable solution to the world’s water problems. 

We will be visiting the projects and staying in Tlalpan, the barrio district where they are working, meeting the families and seeing the process.  We are thrilled to have been invited to work with them, and to share the stories first hand.  So I am dusting up on my Spanish, getting my equipment ready, and excited to meet a new group of people doing the right thing! vida y el agua

Sol and I will both be collecting stories and images to share, and we have decided to post this blog together!

As you know, Cate and I are both passionate about this water crisis and doing something about it. We will be visiting the organization for a week (starting next week Nov 3rd-9th) and doing what we do best, researching and bringing the knowledge to the public! I will be interviewing community members about their experiences and Cate will capture it all and more. We will have wifi at our place of stay and will be blogging from there. I think this is a great opportunity.  For me, it hits home because I’ve long wanted to do a project in Mexico being that my family is from there.  I’ve been visitng every other year and I’ve grown up seeing the need and the situation.  In Mexico City alone, 8 million people lack access to adequate water.  I’m excited that Cate and I can team up again and I look forward to this continuing.




Last night as I turned on the news I saw something unexpected.  Not the normal North American newsreel, or civil unrest that is going on seemingly all over the world, but a video clip from China, of a toddler being run down in the street, and then left for over 7 minutes as people walk by, around her, and do nothing.  Then horrifically another vehicle comes down the narrow paved street and runs her over a second time, stopping to see it is a small human, and driving off.  Finally she is rescued by a well-meaning samaritan woman.  Sadly after 2 weeks of trying to save her tiny life, she died.  Heartbreaking for so many reasons, wrong for so many reasons, and why? for so many reasons.  Where is humanity in China when this can happen, and equally important, it happens in so many different ways all over the world. And we are all ultimately responsible in this, and so I plead to anyone reading this to send love and compassion into the world with our thoughts and actions. 


This image was originally posted by my friend Christina Gomez from Project X Impact



BLOG ACTION DAY 2011 : FOOD 4 CHANGE (meals I have known)

When I found out that Blog Action Day 2011 was themed around food I was excited!  Working around the world in communities that don’t ever have anything like a 4 or 5 star restaurant, I always look forward to the local delicacies, and have experienced some of the most amazing meals ever in some of the most surprising places!  Food is important to each and every one of us, and some take it to a different level, but we all need it to live, grow and survive on this earth.  Many don’t have choices in the matter, and many more are starving in conditions that we cannot imagine.  While working in Africa, India and Haiti, I have seen the effects of severe malnutrition, and it is of course one of the saddest things to witness, especially when we know it really is not necessary.  I have been also fortunate to share meals with families that had very little but the food they had simply prepared to offer us, which always blew me away and opened my heart even more.  I want to share with you two of my most favorite dishes, one from Zambia, and one from Southern India!  FOOD CONNECTS US!


1.  Corn mixed with Ground Nuts courtesy of Gladys Katongo in Mapalo Zambia

Whole corn kernels are pulverized and stewed until soft, and then mashed and  mixed with some sugar and ground nuts (peanuts).  It was delicious!!!


2. Fried Cabbage from Mangaiyarkarasi a lovely 45 year mother in the village of Pasphavanam near the Tsunami region in the Bay of Bengal.  She served us the most incredible lunch, which was a fried fish with this Cabbage Dish.  Get ready to fall in love!


Finely chopped cabbage, chopped green onions, a small amount of shredded coconut, a few green chillies, a bit of tumerac, mustard seed and curry leaves.  Dry fry in a pan or wok and serve warm!!!


LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL – If you like these recipes, be part of Food 4 Change and make a $10 donation to the following:



Project X Impact




We all work in different ways to bring sustainability, transformation and positive change to lives and communities that wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity.





In rural coastal Kenya you have to get up pretty early to be the first one at the well.  On a drive from Mombassa inland working with P&G’s Greg Allgood, Keith Call from World Vision and members from CARE, we came across a well teaming with women, children and buckets.  I scanned the crowd and walked towards a young woman with a serious look on her face.  I asked her name, it was Alice and she was 22; but she did not want me to take her picture.  As we continued to talk I learned that she had to walk ½ an hour to get to the well, with her day beginning around 3am, sometimes she make as many as 6 trips per day.  This is time spent away from her 2 young children, and time she could be putting towards so many other things but instead she is spending 4 hours a day for water. Alice was with a neighbour, and as we talked she finally let a smile out when I asked her again if I could photograph her.  I walked a ways up the road with her and her friend, and tried to imagine her life, the length of the road ahead, but really just enjoyed walking with her.  Thank you Alice



at 9 years old Gladys has experienced alot, including her parents planning to marry her off.  While working for Gold Miners after being passed to another family member, the District Educational Officer took her to a school so she could be educated.  Although safe, her life is difficult without the support of her family, but she is grateful for education and working hard at school.  I met this shy girl one afternoon, her school master singled her out to meet wtih myself and Sol Garcia of Project X Impact.


Statistics show that girls that recieve education make better decisions regarding their own future and that of their own children which include having less children, and educating those children so that they continue to make better decisions.


Girl Effect



There is not something you’re supposed to do. There’s not something that you should do. There is only that which you are inspired to do. And how do you get inspired except by the contrast? It’s the life experience that gives you the idea of the desire, and then as you focus upon the desire, the Energy flows.

— Abraham


Become inspired, I met this amazing girl in Pokot Kenya, she went to extraordinary lengths just to get an education.  Pascah experienced famine, seperation from her family, and running over the Ugandan border and finally resuced from child labor to go to a local school…




Last night I had a premonition that all things are possible.  That we don’t have to suffer our way through life, or struggle towards joy.  That maybe we can simply “be” joyful, and be happy in life.  I am choosing this right now.  I love my life, I love the work I do, and on a daily basis I choose to meet interesting, inspiring people, and guess what, that is what happens.


This past weekend I gave a presentation at DIGITAL EXPO 2011 in Calgary, an amazing weekend for photographers with guest speakers, trade equipment and most importantly, community!  I spoke about my work as a humanitarian photographer, defining what it means from my perspective, how it differs from photo-journalism, and the direction it is taking me. 


Crucial to the way I operate, is the theme of connection.  That is how I work in field, by truly connecting with others, looking past the situations and circumstances that separate us, and aligning myself with them on a human level.  In taking photos that tell their story, my intention is to reconnect others to them.  What I often find is that despite their often extremely challenging lives, underneath that I am meeting interesting, inspiring people.  That the more severe the situation, the more uniquely brave, amazing and rewarding are the individuals I work with.  Here are a few, and I look forward to many more that I will never forget.


#1I met these women by getting up at dawn to walk around the village of Karikudi in the Chettinad region of India to beat the heat of the day.  They were on their way to wash at the lotus pond!

#2 These children were all set to have fun, love the superhero poses!

#3  I love animals and saw many in sub-Saharan Africa, India and Haiti, but this guy was the most friendly, it was hard to leave him.







This quote “liked” by my muse is my inspiration for today!  I totally agree with this, when we are pushing is when we experience the most growth, the most knowledge and the most of life.  If we never explored our outer limits we would all be stuck back in the womb! 


I really laugh when I think back to my late 20’s, whenever I heard of people traveling to Africa and India, all I could think about was how afraid I would be of the unknown kinds of creepy crawly’s if I ran into them!  Even funnier when on my very first night in Africa with Melanie Jones we sat in a living room, pondering Zambia.  We were locked inside a house with iron gates, guards outside, and even more gates, but no one was there to protect us when the biggest baddass spider crawled up behind Melanie on the couch!  We both jumped, screamed, and ultimately had to deal with it ourselves.


In reality our comfort zone was being truly desensitized over the following days when we rolled into Mapallo, Mackenzie and George.  3 small “illegal” settlements where life was no-where near anything we knew or had seen before, as we covered an unfolding story of the World Water Crisis.  We wondered a lot over the next few weeks, but became accustomed quickly to that life, and shared it with the people we met there, grew to love them in fact, and cried when we left.  Returning back to Canada 2 months later, I wanted North American life to cease and desist, I wanted only to return to the uncomfortable life that had become my comfort zone. 



It is not for everyone, the love of venturing to places like that, but whenever I return to Africa, the first thing that greets me is the warm air, laced with the sweet smell of smoke, and I take comfort from that strangely enough, because I know I am in a place where life and death is played out in the blink of an eye, that reality makes you love life


Walking through a doorway to the

unknown can be difficult, but life is an experience!


One of the first African Homes I went into was a cross cultural experience, seeing how people live, I didn’t know how much it would effect me.