Every now and then, I get a really interesting e-mail from someone with a genuine focus for helping others in remote parts of the world. Louis Hebert wrote to me while I was away in Ethiopia. Louis is a U.S Peace correspondent working in Nepal.
I visited Nepal myself last year to make a portfolio of images around the Kathmandu area. What always strikes me (and this was no different with my recent trip to Ethiopia), is that the majority of the world does not live like I do in the west. The world in general, is a place with lack of clean water, facilities, decent health care, pollution, lack of education and perhaps what I find most upsetting (being a westerner), is that there are tangible pointers that show the eradication of culture.
I'm very sensitive to this, because I feel in the west, we've lost a lot. David DuChemin said to me upon my visit to Nepal that he finds the west 'culturally devoid'. It's not really true, but I understand what he means.
Developing countries have a lot of cultural stories that have never been written down. They are only shared by being passed down from one generation to another. Young people leave the villages for work in the big cities, and all of a sudden, stories disappear, languages are lost too.
I'd love to go back to Nepal at some point, and focus more on the remote villagers and their way of life. Photography, and especially travel photography bring a combined interest in the 'image' and the 'story' together. You have to be interested in the culture of a place as well as photography, to make compelling imagery. It's not all about the image, because if it were, the images would convey a sense of contrivance.
Anyway, back to Louis Herbert and his project.
The stories Louis has recorded, and donated, are being used to teach the children at the free school in Gangkharka about their cultural history. These recordings are helping to preserve the oral history of Helambu by uniting the orphaned children with their distant ancestors despite the two groups being incapable of ever meeting. I think it's an interesting project and certainly something worth considering donating to.
For more information about Louis and his project, please go here.