I recently returned from a photo trip to northeast India, and it was everything. I went to that little section between Myanmar, Bhutan, and Bangladesh.... wayyyy up there. It was remote, it was challenging,
and I'm so glad I was able to go. After the success of my holiday mini sessions in Vietnam, I knew I wanted to use part of my profits to book a photo trip with an organization or charity doing good work around the world. I looked into nonprofits I knew and contacts I had, and it came to me! I have always wanted to photograph for a nonprofit called Homes of Hope India based in my hometown in North Carolina that helps fund orphanages and schools for at-risk girls throughout India. I went to middle school with the son of the founders and have known them for a long time. Being based in Vietnam made the flights more manageable and cost-effective. So I reached out, and we started planning.
In that northeastern section of India are two places they help fund, and they needed updated photos for their fundraising and social media purposes. So I booked a trip that would take about two and a half weeks. I started off in the state of Nagaland, in the district of Dimapur. HIV is rampant here, so the orphanage they work with is for girls who either have HIV or who have lost parents to the disease. The orphanage is run by a group of Catholic nuns who are also trained nurses, there is a hospital on the grounds for people from the community who are sick, and there are about 35 girls living there year-round. The girls were so affectionate and desperate for love. I couldn't walk out the door without little hands grasping at my fingers and arms. Yes, the living conditions were new to me and a slight challenge to get used to, but the emotional difficulties were much harder for me. I definitely had a few moments in the privacy of my room where I just had to cry. These girls were dealt really rough hands and have effectively been shunned by their relatives and local community for something that they didn't ask for. But they are all on medication and going to school and doing the best they can. I absolutely loved getting to know them and cannot wait to visit them as frequently as possible over the years.
I also took a little two-day trip with one of the sisters throughout Nagaland visiting multiple cities. Khonoma Village was a highlight for me. On top one of the rugged hills, it had amazing views of the fields and farms below. The people live very simply and boast being the first green village in Asia. In addition to their traditional way of life that means caring for your environment and protecting what you have, they have also added more modern inventions like solar panels to their little shanty homes. It was a photographer's paradise, and I.LOVED.IT.
Then it was time for my final stop in India: the state of Assam in the district of Bongaigaon. I stayed at a school that is primarily for children with disabilities. Out of 150 students who attend, about 40 also live on the compound grounds full-time. Because it is an inclusion school, not all the kids have disabilities. Majority do, however, and their disabilities range from being hearing-impaired (about two-thirds of the students) to having autism or cerebral palsy. Some of the kids just have physical handicaps. Because so many of the kids are hearing-impaired, everyone there speaks through Indian Sign Language in addition to English and their local dialects. I loved learning how to sign the alphabet on the first day so I could communicate in some way with the kids, even if spelling everything out did take forever. The school was very remote and had a different vibe because the children aren't orphans, plus there were just so many more kids than at the first orphanage! I had a blast playing with all the kids and loved seeing how they are all individually overcoming their limitations and are growing up together.
It was an amazing experience, and I hope to spread awareness about this fantastic nonprofit, but more importantly, showcase these kids who are truly special little humans. If anyone would like to know more about the trip, the kids, the orphanage, the school, or the nonprofit, please do not hesitate to reach out.
Danielle Desnoyers Photography
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Danielle Desnoyers is a traveling freelance photographer with a focus on humanitarian, travel, and family photography. She currently splits her time between the United States and Vietnam with travels to other countries as well.