Photo Start was founded by David Lehman in 2016 after he discovered an article on CNN describing another foundation’s work in the Mathare slums of Nairobi, Kenya. After learning about the struggles children living in the slums face, David moved to Nairobi to help the children escape poverty by teaching them life skills through photography workshops. Photo Start was born!

Photo Start is a 501(c)3 charitable organization created to teach life and business skills through photography to children living in destitute and underserved areas around the globe. The program began in the Mathare slums of Nairobi, and within the first year expanded to the Kibera slums, where 60% of Nairobi’s population lives on just 6% of the land. Since then, we have run two other successful programs in Kenya--one at Kibagare Academy in Kibagare Slums and the other at the Akili Dada girls organization in Jamhuri. Most recently, we began a pilot program in Cape Town, South Africa and we look forward to beginning full-time work there in early 2018!

Our goal is to educate children by teaching them marketable skills -- both tangible and intangible. Students learn everything from technology, to hygiene, collaboration, people skills, leadership and more. Students work their way through Basic, Intermediate, and Advanced curriculum courses at Photo Start. Once they complete all three they are given the opportunity to receive hands-on training to become teachers and mentors of the program. Photo Start has a way of introducing children to opportunities and sites that they may never get without our program. For example, last year we took our Kibera students on a field trip to Nairobi National Park so that they could practice wildlife photography. For many, this was the first time they had ever left the slums, leading one young student to say “I never knew my Nairobi was so beautiful.” On other occasions, our students have been given the opportunity to profit from the things they have learned. Many sell their Instax photos in the community for upwards of $5 each--a fortune in the area. This offers a means to not only feel a sense of accomplishment and pride in their work, but the potential to help themselves financially.

Photo Start also gives students a chance to grow and display their leadership abilities. Thirteen-year-old Abiut Wekesa, for example, has displayed incredible leadership abilities by helping to run and organize class. He was one of the quietest and most demure students when we started working together a year ago, but today he speaks up and takes charge. We are proud to watch him grow, and can’t wait to see all the things that he and our other students accomplish in the future. This #GivingTuesday, Photo Start is spreading awareness about our program and the wonderful students that we have the pleasure of working with every day. Check out our website at photostart.org, and we wish you all the best this holiday season!