Three years ago, I met a girl named Grace at a beautiful wedding on a storybook island off the coast of Georgia. We met when we were seated next to each other at the dinner table and we were instant friends - this girl was full of light and laughter. That summer she moved to Africa and I returned to Los Angeles. We kept in touch.
In April of this year, after moving out of my apartment with no real plan to find another home in LA, she and I were catching up on facebook. "How's Rwanda?" I asked. I didn't know what I wanted to do next, but the idea of doing some work abroad, of going off on an adventure, was appealing (actually is and will always be appealing). I had been working as a photographer for a little while, and I knew a change of scenery, culture and comfort zone would be good for me and my art.
I was thinking maybe I would apply for one of those medium-term volunteer gigs with a small stipend (that's a thing, right?). I'd take photos in my free time. And it would all take some time to fall into place. 2014 would be a good year.
Grace sent me a list of people to contact, most of which were friends who ran (incredible) NGOs. The last was a restaurant, a social enterprise run by Josh & Alissa Ruxin. I shot Alissa an email: "I'm a food photographer with a communications degree and experience writing marketing materials. I'm also a server at a great restaurant and a supervisor at a cute little cafe. Is there anything I can help you with?"
Two weeks later I booked my flights with a plan to spend the summer immersed in Heaven Restaurant's community in Kigali, Rwanda. Together, Alissa and I are rebuilding their website, which will feature many of my photos. I can't wait.
Check back each day this week for more photos and stories from my trip.