‘A picture speaks a thousand words’ — a sentiment that holds true of international documentary photographer Juris Kornets’ work. Commissioned by the Christian Children’s Fund of Canada (CCFC), an international development organization that seeks to create a future of hope for children, families, and communities, Kornets travelled to six countries, documenting the children overcoming everyday hardships; exemplifying their struggles, their resilience, and their hope. The result: Children Believe, an absolutely moving, incredibly thought-provoking, and breathtakingly beautiful collection of images.
As you make your way through the exhibit, you’re transported from the walls of the gallery into the dry, dirt streets, schools, and homes of communities across the globe. You’re transported to the difficult, day-to-day conditions these individuals overcome—often even with a smile on their face.
These poignant images tell the very real stories of how children, when empowered, can overcome obstacles and thrive. They also illustrate how much more needs to be done to help children everywhere realize their potential and the fact that they have a voice.
“I photograph worldwide in many, many different situations. I guess the shock, the culture shock, you do get used to that. But, there are things you see that you simply never get used to,” recounts Kornets. “I remember in Ghana there was a pool of water, brown water. I could see worms swimming in it. And, I remember a father leaning over with a cup of water and giving it to his young 4-year-old daughter to drink.”
CEO of CCFC Patrick Canagasingham says his hope for this project is to show people that although there are still many obstacles, there is still hope; with every sadness, there is strength; with every hardship, there is perseverance; and with every challenge, there is opportunity to bring about change. “Together we have the ability to be change makers — to make a real difference in these individuals’ lives.” He recounts travelling to India where CCFC has a presence, “India has a bad history of child marriages; though illegal, it is still a reality for thousands of children there. That year we were able to stop 18 children from this, and for those 18 little girls, we changed the course of their lives. We made a positive difference to each one of those 18 girls.”
Canagasingham’s passion for being a positive influence exudes from his words—the tone of his voice echoing his personal ties. “I was born and grew up in Sri Lanka; my childhood there shaped my way of thinking. My experience witnessing poverty first hand influenced what I really wanted to do with my life, ultimately pushing me to want to get into a industry that would really impact people and allow me to make a difference for those living in poverty and conflict. My wife and I adopted our son from Sri Lanka.” the human-rights advocate tells me.
“I visited Ethiopia a couple years back and there was this girl,” he recounts when I ask him to share a memory from his work that continues to motivate him. “She was quiet, shy. After trying to talk with her, I took out my phone and showed her photos of my son. I told her I spoil him, and,” he pauses, “and, in that moment, she looked up at me with big eyes and said ‘can you spoil me?’. I remember her vividly.”
This project aims to tell these individuals’ stories—to illustrate the injustices in different communities around the world, making them something we can no longer ignore. The reality is that children, families and communities suffer through poverty and injustice every day, but through this suffering, they still have hope for a better tomorrow; and when empowered, they have the ability to achieve that better tomorrow and reach their potential.
“One of the things that I have learned is the resiliency—the resiliency of people,” says Juris Kornets.
Children Believe speaks to this; and, although it may seem like an impossible undertaking and never ending battle, through hard work, through kindness, through donations, through raising awareness and bringing these issues to the forefront of society, we can make a real, positive change in the world.
How can you make a difference? Visit the Christian Children’s Fund of Canada website for more information on the different countries they work with, donation options, how to sponsor a child, and more.