Tag Archives: Nonprofit

In Japan, Restoring Photos For Tsunami Victims

by Frank Langfitt

Each week, tsunami survivors gather at temporary housing centers in the city of Yamada along Japan’s northeast coast. They sing songs to cheer themselves up and comb through salvaged photos.

One morning, Miyoko Fukushi finds an old picture from the opening day of her daughter’s elementary school. It’s a formal shot of the students’ mothers, wearing kimonos with their hands in their laps. Fukushi, 77, points to a younger version of herself.

“I was chubbier when I was young,” she says with a laugh.

Then she points to other women in the picture, who lost their lives in the deluge.

“Kayo Suzuki. She was washed away as she ran from the tsunami,” Fukushi recalls. “This is Kayoko Kon. I heard she went back home to get her belongings.”

Last March’s tsunami devastated the coast here. If people didn’t lose their lives, they lost practically everything else — except, it turns out, many of their photos. Survivors found countless pictures strewn amid the mud and wreckage, many badly damaged by water.

Over the past several months, All Hands Volunteers, a Massachusetts-based, nonprofit, has done everything from repairing homes to cleaning drainage ditches along the coast. The organization has also hand-cleaned more than 55,000 photos. In some cases, professionals from around the globe have even restored images digitally.

Fukushi’s photograph needs work. Specks of dirt are embedded in the surface, and saltwater has washed away some of the figures.

“It’s a shame that damage has gone up so far on this lady, but most of her face is there,” says Becci Manson, a volunteer with All Hands, as she examines figures in the picture.

Ordinarily, Manson works in New York retouching images for magazines like GQ and catalogs for Barneys. When she saw all of the damaged photos here, she saw another way to help.

Manson has traveled more than an hour up the coast today to pick up and return photos. She takes Fukushi’s picture, scans it onto her laptop and uploads the image to a server. Then, she turns to scores of volunteers — from Sydney to Spain — to see who’s available to restore it.

“I’ll send an email out to all the retouchers and say, ‘ I’ve got loads more images for you,’ ” says Manson, who travels from town to town with a portable scanner. “Those who write back and say they want a new one, I’ll start sending the images.”

Scores of photo retouchers have pitched in to help. In all, they have fixed more than 220 photos for nearly 60 families, Manson says.

One of the volunteers is Bob Whitmore. Whitmore used to work with Manson in New York and learned about the photo rescue project on Facebook. He has already restored two pictures and is working on a third from his home in Metuchen, N.J.

Sometimes, Whitmore has to restore people’s bodies, or backdrops have been blotted out by water. He uses Photoshop to restore a piece of clothing or reconstruct a room.

“Using the laws of perspective, if you’ve got a wall coming up and a ceiling coming over, you can kind of figure out where they should meet,” he says in a Skype interview.

Professionally, Whitmore spends most of his time making a glamorous world look even more so in fashion magazines, but he has always loved restoring people’s old pictures.

“It’s the most satisfying work I think I’ve ever done,” says Whitmore. “Taking old photos and breathing some life into them. Putting the color back in that was faded, or fixing spots that have been damaged. People just light up when they see something come back that they thought was gone.”

Cho Kikuchi certainly did. She lost all of the photos in her house to the tsunami, but a few survived in a Buddhist temple, including one of her late father and another of her late husband.

They were worn and scratched by the elements. Manson retouched the photos herself, good as new.

“I didn’t expect this would [be] so beautiful,” says Kikuchi, 75, admiring the restored photos while sitting in a temporary home the government has provided. Every time she sees Manson — who is about half her age — Kikuchi invites her in for tea and snacks.

Kikuchi has placed the restored prints in a small, wooden shrine in her tiny home where she honors her loved ones.

“In the morning, I give them water and tea with ice,” she says. “Then, I pray for them to please watch over me.”

Manson says responses like this make the work worthwhile.

She says it’s also gratifying for another reason: Photo retouchers are often criticized for distorting reality in fashion magazines.

“There’s always someone who’s got something to say about how thin someone is made or how flawless someone’s skin is and the effect it has on young women,” says Manson. “So when I set up the project, it was nice to think we could actually do something to help someone.”

There’s more to do. In Yamada alone, thousands of recovered photos are waiting to be reclaimed by their ow

NPR / All Things Considered / Published: August 19, 2011


i have the honor of being a part of this project. what an incredible gift to give. you can listen to the story on npr here.

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charity: water turns five

charity: water started five years ago with a simple idea: we’d share our story with the world, ask others to join us, and use 100% of the money we raised to fund clean water for people in need. With your help, we’ve had explosive growth. Our partners in the field are working at capacity to implement our projects. The only way to keep fighting the water crisis at this rate is to buy the equipment our partners need to get the job done faster.

Scott Harrison is such a good man. Clean water should be available for all. This is possible.

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Celebrating Women Around the World

It’s International Women’s Day! So we’re taking a moment to look back at all the incredible women we met last year while in the field. Some have clean water, others are still walking hours to the nearest source. Many are mothers, balancing parenting with housework, jobs or work in the community as hygiene educators and well caretakers. Some run their own businesses or entire clinics and schools.

All are beautiful.

photos: Esther Havens, Mo Scarpelli, Scott Harrison

Celebrate women today! Take a look back at some of our latest stories from the field about powerful women:

Elodi from Central African Republic: She lost a child to waterborne illness. But the Live Drill would change the future for her other kids.
Rose from Kenya: Now that she has clean water, she’s getting her grad degree.
Keisha from Haiti: She fled to an island after the earthquake — with no water, but lots of hope.
Helen from Uganda: “Now, I am beautiful.” 

jerry can
charity: water is a non-profit organization bringing clean and safe drinking water to people in developing nations. 100% of public donations directly fund water projects. Learn more or donate.

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The Clock Is Ticking

Since we’ve been on the subject of revisiting: The Girl Effect.
Yes, it’s still the most important thing you can do.


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Earthquake in Haiti

Help Needed: Haiti hit with massive quake.

Haiti was hit yesterday by what could be considered the worst natural disaster for the region in the last 200 years.

An earthquake with an estimated magnitude of 7.0, shocked the country just before 5 p.m. on Tuesday, collapsing buildings and cutting water and electricity services in Port-au-Prince and surrounding areas. Aftershocks of 4.5 magnitude or higher continued through the night and early Wednesday, thwarting immediate aid efforts for an estimated 3 million affected by the quake. Thousands are expected dead or injured and many more will be displaced with their homes reduced to rubble.

charity: water’s two local partners, Partners in Health and Concern Worldwide, are reacting to the disaster swiftly and comprehensively.*
We need your support. In the interest of immediate relief, we’re asking that donations be made straight to our partners.

To donate to Partners in Health’s efforts, click here.
To donate to Concern Worldwide’s efforts, click here.

Already one of the poorest and densely-populated countries in the Western Hemisphere, Haiti has struggled to overcome the effects of a slew of rough storms in 2008 before this week’s disaster. More than 4 million people (42% of the population) already lack access to safe drinking water. Disasters undercut development efforts tremendously.

*charity: water started working with PIH in 2007 and has since funded six freshwater projects with the organization to bring safe water to more than 25,000 people in rural Haiti (learn more here). Last year, we started partnering with Concern Worldwide in Haiti by funding eight spring protection systems, which will provide clean water for at least 6,000 people, once completed.


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travel hiatus.  my favorite kind.

we’re in nepal and india for the next four months, volunteering for VCD Nepal, Pencils of Promise, shooting a lot, playing a lot, and testing out olfactory fatigue.

india has gotten more expensive, but really, the dollar is just not what it used to be.  not even since last spring.  good thing we’re in nepal now, where spending twelve dollars tonight seemed like an extravaganza.  great meals for a dollar or two.  hotels for less than ten a night.  had some delicious masala tea at the kathmandu guest house.  saw a breathtaking view of the himalayas on the flight in (travel tip#1: sit on the left side of the plane flying eastward, right westward).

i’m looking forward to hanging out in the mountains, rolling around a bit in greens and blues, shooting what makes me happiest, being encompassed by a new culture, and potentially learning to not gag while eating lentils every meal.

more to come.

updates here and from two points of view at sojourner cafe.

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The Girl Effect

India_IMG_6487_R India_IMG_6809_R


Microfinancing changes lives. For the women involved, their parents, their daughters, sons, their towns. They create governments, strive for freedom, build houses, battle healthcare, encourage education, and instill hope. It happens for so little.

Join Kiva (it’s just a loan). Read Banker to the Poor, Three Cups of Tea, Infidel. It’s so easy. Join the Women’s Crusade. Invest in The Girl Effect.

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