Traveler and photographer Linda Steffens captures the face of a harsh reality in Africa
In Swaziland's Esitjeni community, where the population has been ravaged by HIV/AIDS, children are often forced to grow up much too soon—and for many of them, the Esitjeni Primary School and Orphanage is the only home they know.
"Visiting the orphanage was the most overwhelming single moment of any trip I've ever taken," says Linda Steffens, an eight-time traveler from Port Jefferson, New York. Linda will never forget the faces of the children she encountered at Esitjeni in 2008—and thanks to the beautiful photographs she took there, nor will hundreds of her fellow travelers and Grand Circle and OAT associates. Foundation Chair Harriet Lewis was so impressed by Linda's photos, she decided to share them in a gallery exhibit at company headquarters.
Founded in 1968, Esitjeni enrolls more than 400 students, the majority of whom have lost parents and other family members to HIV/AIDS. Since 2006, Grand Circle Foundation has pledged or donated $20,400 to Esitjeni, which has been used to help fund scholarships, supplies, and uniforms. Visiting the orphanage is always a profound experience for our travelers, who have the opportunity to do so as part of our Day in the Life program in South Africa.
As an artist, Linda was particularly inspired. "In each face I saw the universality of the human condition and hoped that my photography would highlight the similarities that exist in every people, race, gender, age, and nationality," she says. "With that hope is the wish that my photography will remind us that 'We are the World.'"
It's a message that naturally became prevalent in Linda's work when she combined her passion for photography with her love of travel. "As I continued traveling with my camera," says Linda, "I began to realize how much I loved meeting people from all over the world. I realized, too, that my favorite photos were the portraits of these wonderful human beings."
The haunting, evocative portraits of the children of Esitjeni are certainly no exception—and we thank Linda for raising awareness for the orphanage by sharing her special talent.
Give back to the children of Esitjeni, Swaziland: