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Ever since I was a young girl, I’ve always been extremely passionate about caring for infants, specifically infant orphans. After working in different orphanages through the years, I became more passionate about the cause of keeping babies in families. My first time going to Tanzania was in 2017 to volunteer at a baby home. I did go to help with the kids, but I mainly went to learn about the organization there because from what I could tell by reading up on them, they were very focused on helping babies stay in families or get adopted.
While I was there, I took photos for them because as a full-time photographer, that was my most specialized skill I could offer that would help them beyond just me working with the kids and babies.
The baby home had an outreach program that was supporting families to care for their babies, and I fell in love with that program. When I got back home (actually even before leaving), I could not stop thinking about how I’d like to help the program expand.
Just weeks after being home, I was informed that they were looking for a photo/video person for the program, and I knew I had to go back. Six months later, I started fundraising and left a month later. I photographed (and documented through video) the program on the ground for three months.
In all honesty, I didn’t want to go back to Tanzania the second time. It was not because I didn’t love the cause and the country - I did with everything in me - but I desperately wanted to settle down and was ready to stay in one place to put down some roots.
But when I learned that they needed a photo/video person for the program, that’s when things first clicked. I thought to myself, 'No matter what I want in life right now, I cannot say no. My occupation is merging with my biggest passion, and as far as purpose goes, that seems like pure alignment.' I committed to go back, but I was really attached to the life I thought I wanted and was really looking forward to that. I definitely went through a tough process of yielding and letting go right up until I left.
I will never forget one night when I was editing photos. It was my first week back, and I photographed these women with their babies against this white wall. As I was going through editing, I began to cry and couldn’t stop crying. That was when things really experientially clicked in a way I’d never felt before.
As a photographer, I simply loved the quality of the photos - the lighting, the colors, the clarity. There’s a certain gratification there when those conditions are met for assumedly every photographer regardless of what you’re taking photos of.
But then there was an entirely new dimension I’d never experienced in any of my other work. These photos had so much meaning. The people I was photographing had stories to be told. They deserved to be represented. They exemplified so many qualities I was eager to capture and portray through my images. I had given up a lot to go back and do that work, and it just hit me that all that I’d given up was so worth what I was experiencing.
There was one photo in particular that caused such a surge of emotions; it was of a woman with her baby who had a cleft lip. I minored in Communication Disorders and definitely considered becoming a Speech-Language Pathologist. I could have chosen a lot of different routes, but something in me always knew I had to follow my heart. And in that moment, I was able to realize that I was doing something specifically without a doubt fit for me in every way. I was tasting purpose, and my goodness, was it sweet. That photo represented a culmination of the heart choices I had to make to get to where I was; the ones that were so hard to make and the times I had to say no to pressures and fears and conditioning. That night reassured me that it was all completely worth it, and it was one of the most memorable moments of my life.
There will never be words to describe what it feels like to do this type of work, but I’ll try: I chose to forgo a career in what I’d studied to become a photographer because when I bought my first DSLR right before graduating, I could not put that camera down. I love the challenge and reward of getting a good photo - it’s so exhilarating, and I completely come alive behind the camera.
Then you have this burden on your heart of who you want to help, and like I said, for me it’s always been babies. With my camera, I get the opportunity to tell stories, spread awareness and bridge gaps in order to help connect people to the needs that exist and what is being done to meet them.
There is so much purpose behind the photos I’m taking, and that means there is such a strong sense of purpose I feel when I take them. It’s not a generic role, and being that I care about the specific cause so much, I know this is work I was made to do.
It's helped me understand what purpose is in a much deeper way, and I want to make it possible for people to experience what I've experienced.
My biggest challenge in doing this work was twofold: I was doing the most fulfilling work I’d ever done, yet there was really no money to be made doing it. Non-profits are just trying to do as much good as they can do, and I didn’t feel right about getting paid when I know how many lives could be impacted by the money that would have gone to me. I fundraised to be able to go back and work, but it turned out that I didn’t fundraise enough and was living off of savings for awhile. It’s hard to do that for months on end, and for me, it was challenging to give up the financial security I know I could have at this age and stage in my life.
It was tough to think about how I would make thousands of dollars doing all other types of work back home, but it didn’t make an impact like this work was. Those images weren’t crucial for saving and transforming lives like these were. And all of that work never felt near as fulfilling as this work did. It was an indicator of where the world's priorities lie, and it all seemed so backwards and unfair.
I also wrestled with a lot of emotions I’d never felt before. To see the things I’d see and to really understand the stark differences between the realities of people living in extreme poverty and the realities of those living in extreme wealth back home was intense and quite heavy at times. I felt so torn between two completely different worlds. That can feel like a really lonely space, and I constantly feel that loneliness living back in the states.
I’m thankful that it’s been fuel for the fire that burns in my soul; it’s pushed me to find deeper meaning and purpose, and I’m committed to devoting my life to making as big of an impact on the world as I possibly can precisely because of all the turmoil and struggles I felt living abroad and doing this work.
I see a world where we're connected to impact in real time. I believe we’re on our way there.
There are many ways technology has widened the gap between the rich and poor, but I see us making strides towards harnessing the power that remains untapped within the systems that we’ve created to make our world more connected and bring us into balance. Potential is a single element, and we’re getting closer and closer to initiating seismic reactions with potential; we just have to figure other elements to add to it in order to make it change form.
We have to actively reverse engineer the utilization of tools, technology and media to help us all experience the lives we were created to live. Features like Instagram’s new donate option are ways we can drive the movement of not just taking social media back, but tools AND technology back. We’re starting to employ these resources to bridges gaps and connects us to people and projects all around the world so we become acutely aware of the most desperate needs and learn how to meet them or come together to innovate effective and sustainable ways to meet them.
I believe we can really start to harness this power and potential by rallying together a community and initiating a movement around taking social media back by intentionally committing to produce and consume more media that matters.
I so desperately want to encourage and inspire people, especially photographers and videographers, to consider using their skills for good; to travel with purpose and to give of themselves in that way. So often, we heavily focus on solely making money, and while we obviously need money to live (to feed our bodies and physical needs), we often neglect feeding our souls, which I believe comes from a deep sense of meaning and living outwardly focused lives.
High-quality media is extremely powerful for its ability to grab people's attention, and with such heavy usage of the internet and social media nowadays, we can make huge strides to impact the world for good. Many non-profits (especially small ones) do not have the resources to obtain good media of the work they do, and we need to come alongside them to support them in this way. You don't necessarily have to do it for months and months, but just go out there and use your tool to shine light and help bring our world more into balance.
The tool you possess in your hands and the skills you have to use it have exponential power to change the world. Do not waste that potential. Add something to it, and create a reaction for change; figure out a cause that you truly believe in with your whole heart, and then find a way to combine that with photography/videography. Because when you experience the fullness of purpose like that, I promise you, you’ll never be the same.

Maisha Matters and Forever Projects work together to empower Tanzanian families to care for their children and move out of poverty. They initially provide life saving formula milk to severely malnourished babies and then continue to support families with crisis items, training and empowerment through business startups.


Sarah has done non-profit photo and video work in Tanzania over the last couple years. Through this work, she has come to better understand purpose and realize the untapped power and potential we have in media, tools and technology to bridge gaps and spread awareness. She is the founder of Call to Creatives and will continue to do non-profit photo/video work as she builds the organization.