I have a Focus Congo calendar hanging on the wall in our hallway. This month is the picture above of Ombeni from my first trip to the DR Congo back in 2014. I was travelling around the Bukavu area with @pappyorion and Ombeni had come to our place to meet up with Pappy. I remember taking his photo as Ombeni and his friend joked around together, the joy and excitement that Ombeni showed in front of my camera was beautiful as he told us how he wanted to be a comedian.
Three years on, I was again back in Bukavu and got to go and see Ombeni again. The young boy I had met back in 2014 had been forced to grow up fast. Tragedy from the Congo conflict has hugely impacted Ombeni, loosing his parents during an attack on his village, there was definitely a seriousness to him now that I had not witnessed before. But what really stood out to me about this young man was his determination. Now, Ombeni is the sole carer for his younger siblings as well as other young children orphaned during the past year. Not only has he had to find a home for himself, but he has opened that home up to others in need. Spending the morning with Ombeni and his family, we got to visit his home and we met the 7 children he cares for, and got to see the joy in their faces as they told us how they can now go to school and get an education. ⠀
The second image shows one of the highlights of this trip for me. As I travel and photograph people like Ombeni, I want to be able to honestly share their stories with you, but also capture images that they are proud to have shown. I really want my images to empower and show the dignity of people like Ombeni.
This is an image of Ombeni in his small workspace where he charges phones and other electronic equipment. It was a humbling experience seeing the portrait of Ombeni I had taken back in 2014 for the Focus Congo calendar, being proudly displayed on the wall of his shop!