Eby hopes to make an impact overseas, one photo at a time

rebecca eby

By Correne Martin

Rebecca Eby has made it her life’s mission to make a difference.

As the director of the non-profit Prairie du Chien Downtown Revitalization Inc. (PDRI), she works with volunteers who generate change locally. She serves on the boards for the Crawford County Community Fund and Driftless Wisconsin Grown, and does what she can through those organizations to improve the region’s environment, communities and families. Through her experiences in the military and as a professional photographer for the past seven years, Rebecca has also served her country and tried to share the stories of those causes most important to her.

Recently, Rebecca came upon the opportunity to make a difference on a more global level. She was selected by Photographers Without Borders to travel to Nepal and spend two weeks photographing an orphanage there. She will leave the states Aug. 5, and return home (after a few days of sightseeing) Aug. 23. Her work will be used to promote and obtain funding for the Lotus Children’s Home in Balaju Kathmandu, Nepal.

“The idea started when I was talking with some of my photographer friends about what we do to make a difference. I’ve worked and volunteered for some wonderful organizations, but I wanted to go beyond and do something bigger,” she said. “Since I was little, I’ve always had a soft spot for orphans and, knowing my husband and I want to adopt, I decided to Google ‘photography opportunities at orphanages.’”

In her research, Rebecca came across Photographers Without Borders, a global service program based out of Toronto, Ontario, Canada. She found the Nepal project and learned that she must apply and interview before she could be accepted for the mission. She had to explain her experiences with non-profit work, photography and travel, as well as why she wanted to take on the assignment.

Within a couple days of interviewing by phone, the company informed her that she had been selected for the trip.

“I think what gave me the edge was that I had everything they were looking for: military experience, photography skills and a job with a non-profit organization,” Rebecca stated. “I’ve always known I’ve had a special skill to use my photography to tell a story and now I’m getting to use that skill to make the world a better place.”

According to the Lotus Children’s Home’s Facebook page, the small orphanage gives children of all ages a home, food, love, laughter and an education—all so they don’t succumb to child labor. The orphanage currently has 12 boys and girls ranging from 3 to 15 years old. Its most desperate funding needs are for food, running water, property hygiene facilities, school fees and uniforms.

For her mission, Rebecca is tasked with taking portraits of the orphans and also documenting their lives there—including everything from the details of their day-to-day routine to scenery around the orphanage and in the capital city of Kathmandu, where the population is 700,000.

“I have no guidelines. I’m free to interpret how I think the photos should be taken,” she stated.

She is expected to back up all her digital photographs and, upon returning to America, send them to Photographers Without Borders for marketing purposes. Rebecca will still have rights to her photos, although they will be watermarked by the company. (Photos taken during leisure time are not part of the contract.)

Just days before departing for her mission, Rebecca said she was excited yet apprehensive. She felt confident in the good safety level of Nepal however. She also noted that it’s currently monsoon season there, which means rainy, hot and humid conditions. Despite the heat, she packed very conservative clothing, since women must dress to hide their shoulders and knees.

She is living with a host family in Kathamandu. Though the family resides in the same city as the orphanage, Rebecca will walk 25 minutes to and from the orphanage each day.

While she is away from the PDRI office, the organization’s board and volunteers will take on some of her duties.

“I’m so happy this board has been so supportive,” she said. “I think they realize this is a great opportunity for me to help transform the lives of people across the world.”

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