Help Portrait in Swaziland.

This long weekend trip that we took to Swaziland was with an important purpose. Seeing a magnificent landscape was just the bonus for us. We were there to do some serious work too.

It was for a cultural exchange exercise of the Help Portrait movement. A bunch of us volunteers from South Africa went over to Swaziland to shoot portraits for the underprivileged community there.

There’s alot of poverty in Swaziland. According to Wikipedia, 60% of the population live on less than the equivalent of US$1.25 per day. And 26% of the population is infected with Aids/HIV.

Even through hard times, the Swazis turned out to be a bunch of very warm, kind and happy people. I was very lethargic after 5 hours on the road and was all ready to crash when we arrived at a school. But a bunch of kids was there to greet us. I perked up immediately. They were so happy to see us, they climbed up the car while it was still moving!

Some of the locals danced for us.

Photo credit: The hubby

The kids were very excited that they were going to have their photos taken. They waited eagerly in line in anticipation of their turn to pose for us.

Photo credit: The hubby

Some of them rushed to wash themselves clean to look smart for their shot.

The hubby shot most of the pictures here because I was busy taking portraits for the people, while he documented our experience. I’m really glad he was with me on this journey. It has turned out to be one of the most meaningful things we’ve ever done together.

Photo credit: The hubby

Photo credit: The hubby

I look back now and laugh at the positions I would take to get a good shot.

Photo credit: The hubby

At one of the schools, I shot portraits for a bunch of disabled children. I was choking as I shot.. and tried very hard to hold my tears.

But I burst into tears as soon as I started processing the shots. I can’t show the portraits here, but there were kids with disfigured faces and bodies.. some from birth, some from abuse.. kids who were so beautiful, but would never see the lovely shots I had taken of them because they were blind. Kids that were younger than our children sitting in wheelchairs.

Every time I think my life is hard, I’m going to think of these kids.

Photo credit: The hubby

Sometimes I feel like it’s such a small contribution on my part. I know how to take pictures, and I was just taking some pictures for some people. But to them, it’s a huge thing. This is a scene that I would never have known or seen if the hubby hadn’t taken this shot. Everyone was surrounding me, watching the action.

Photo credit: The hubby

I love the experience I’ve gotten from the Help Portrait movement. Meeting fellow volunteers and super nice people..

Photo credit: The hubby

.. bringing laughter to children..

Photo credit: The hubby

Photo credit: Nathalie Boucry

.. and they bringing laughter into my life too..

Photo credit: The hubby

This has been an incredible year for us, being in South Africa. I’ve said it many times, but it’s really true – South Africa has changed my life.

Photo credit: The hubby

And doing the Help Portrait has turned out to be one of the best things I’ve done since I quit my job to become a housewife.

For more information on Help Portrait and how you can participate in your country, be it through being a Photographer, Volunteer, Stylist or Make Up Artist, go to the main Help Portrait site.

If you are based in South Africa, go to the Ubuntu Help Portrait site for details on how to join us in the movement.




  1. long live children …as long as they are smiling our Earth keeps spinning, long live good people… as long as they are taking care of others hope still has a meaning for everybody

  2. Karen,

    I love this post! What are you doing is amazing!

  3. Wow. What an amazing opportunity for you and a blessing for these children.

  4. Love Love Love it!

  5. Excellent initiative Karen, and congratulations with your 15 minutes of fame on CNN!

    • It’s not 15 mins of fame! Probably 10 seconds of read. Hahahhaa..

  6. Karen … just want to say that I learned about Help Portrait from your blog, and what you shared inspired me. Thanks for sharing.

    I went to an orphanage earlier today (here in Jakarta) with a few others (with the kids). I took individual portraits of the young orphans and promised that I’ll send the prints to them afterwards. They never had portraits of themselves done before. It’s always been a ‘group photo’. They may be orphans and have always belonged to a group, but I hope the portraits remind them that they are an individual too, they are loved and they have hope.

    • Great job, Leonny! That’s amazing work. I hope you write about it and inspire more people to give back. You’re right. The portraits will remind the kids that they are loved and they have hope. It means alot to them. =)

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