One night in the Summer break I had dinner with an incredible couple, Nikki and Kevin, who I am lucky enough to call family friends. There are many reasons which make this couple incredible. One reason in particular is the work they do for the world, through their company Exposure. The easiest way to describe this company is through a description copied from their website (http://www.exposure.org/):
“Exposure is a method for building a tangible bridge between a message and the people who need to hear it. It is far more than merely reporting on an event, passing on information or providing a platform to express a point of view. It is allowing people to develop a personal and emotional link that transcends the limitations previously imposed by the media of print, radio, and even television or film.” Exposure’s projects range far and wide and I was lucky enough to talk with Nikki about a recent photography trip she did in Somalia, a country that many describe as a living hell. The only way Nikki could have travelled there was due to a friendship she had established with a Somalian woman who had left Somalia, and now had returned. This woman is not only a doctor but she also is the wife of a man who Nikki describes as the ‘president’ of northern Somalia.
The turmoil and devastation of Somalia is unbelievable. There is a Somalian proverb which outlines this anguish. “Somalia against the world. My clan against Somalia. My family against my clan. My brother against my family. Me against my brother.” I mentioned it to Nikki, having just seen it in an article in Vice magazine, she knew it well.
Before reaching Somalia, Nikki was struck by the no-hope attitude many had towards it. When she got on the plane to Somalia at the Dubai airport, people saw her white skin and begged her not to go. But, like those journalists or photographers who have an itch for truth, she was determined. She told me that she would rather die doing what she loves that not do it if it came to that.
On arriving in Somalia, around thirty bodyguards surrounded Nikki and her party and from then on stayed with them at all times. They travelled through the hospitals and she photographed the inadequacy of the health care. She told me nothing in Somalia has advanced forward, it is like going back to the Dark Ages.
Having a personal interest in Amnesty International, I asked her about the child soldiers. Yes, they do exist in Somalia. Because of poverty and starvation there are many children wondering around willing to do anything to survive. And of course this situation has been exploited. For example, a child is given a photo of a person to assassinate. They are told to go to a particular location and pick up an AK-47. They don’t know who they are shooting, more often than not it will be a peacemaker. All the child knows is that after the deed is done they can pick up a stack of cash that, for them, is the equivalent of two years of work. How can you combat that kind of deal?
We talked about many more things but there was a message that Niki engraved into me that I wish to leave you with. She told me it was important for the world to NOT give up on Somalia, to NOT let the devastation continue. The point of Nikki’s photography was to show us back home, that help can be given. Funds can be raised to provide the hospitals with better health care. It can happen. One of her main messages always echoes in my head, when dealing with issues this large, it is important not to try to tackle it all at once, instead we should aim to help one life at a time. And, with the aim of saving one life at a time, without realising it, you begin to heal the whole.