“Orphanages don’t belong to a developed middle class country.” That was the reason for Rwanda to close all orphanages. Paulien Bakker – a friend of ours and blogger for Conscious Travel Guide – has been visiting the orphanage L’Esperance Children’s Village regularly since 2005. She became friends with several kids, who now live with (distant) relatives or on the street.

Personal project offering Rwandan orphans a way out

When Paulien heard that Rwanda would close all orphanages, she told friend and photographer Anaïs López. They immediately came into action. They asked Cuban filmmaker Anisleidy Martínez to join them and visited l’Esperance Childrens Village in December of 2014. At this stage only 56 children of the 126 kids were still in the orphanage. Just weeks before the orphanage closed, Paulien, Anaïs and Anisleidy gave 32 of them a photo course and an assignment: to portray their own lives.

Through this assignment the children learned to look at themselves and the world. It also help them to develop some self-esteem and hope.

The best pictures of the children are now brought together in a photo notebook that gives a unique insight into their world. The sale of this photo notebook is the start of many more projects to raise money to send at least 5 of these kids back to school and provide them with at least one meal a day. For this Paulien, Anaïs and Anisleidy set up the project Country without Orphans.

Country without Orphans projects

In my dream I want to become a tourist

Through a crowdfunding campaign, the three ladies got the money together to fund the production of the photo notebook, “In my dream I want to become a tourist”. The notebook obviously has pages where you can write down notes. Notes of inspiration, or notes of dreams maybe? But it also contains happy, touching and ordinary photos, made by the kids themselves. Together with small stories, written by Paulien, you get a nice peek into the lives of Agnes (18), Fisto (12), Hirwa (12), Jean-Cloude (11) and Solomon (9).

Music, food, a clothes sale, paintings and a light box

Besides the notebook, some ambassadors also organised other projects and events. There were living room concerts in Amsterdam and Singapore, an evening full of art, food and music and a second hand clothes sale event. Besides that, a beautiful photo of a girl with a candle in a tent, by Anaïs, was transformed into a limited edition light box of 27 x 29 cm (see the photo above this blog). The last event that was held, was an online photo auction.

Photo auction with famous Dutch photographers

Update 1 December 2015 – From 23 to 29 November 2015 people could bid on one of the 82 photos and 2 photo books. Among the selection were beautiful, poignant, historical, current, and award-winning photographs.

The auction finished on Sunday 29 November raising a staggering €10,847. A wonderful result!

Conscious Travel Guide is proud to be associated with this initiative as it is completely in line with our beliefs and passion for initiatives that focus on human rights. Conscious Travel Guide has donated time and expertise in setting up the online photo auction for Country without Orphans.

Conscious Travel Guide not only wants to promote a better and more sustainable world, but we also want to support others doing so. Therefore we support (local) projects that help create a better and more sustainable world. We mainly support local projects in the cities we operate in and/or that have a connection with travel. Sometimes another project slips in when we really feel connected, either by passion, through personal contacts or both.

In the future we will donate a certain percentage of our profits to (local) projects that create a better and more sustainable world. Since we don’t yet have a stable revenue stream, our donations consist of small amounts of money and time and promotion.