Category Archives: Charity

Luca Love Colombia – La Esmeralda School, Rionegro

In my previous post about Luca Love in Colombia I described my experience of working with them at a documentary photo workshop. The small, family run business provides support in different ways to their local community in Rionegro near Medellin.  Momenta Workshops who run the workshops, offered Luca Love a chance to participate and I was given the opportunity to work with them to build a portfolio of images.

Luca Love’s mission is “… to provide those in need with the necessary tools to make a significant and positive change in their own lives and in the lives of those around them. By donating and distributing essential necessities, founding education projects in high poverty areas, and providing employment with a fair wage to those in need, Luca Love aims to expand social conscience and be a source of assistance and opportunity.”

Although not currently a non-profit organisation, Luca Love focuses on and is driven by giving back to the community. During the workshop Momenta identified this blossoming business as a candidate to benefit from their expertise. Momenta advised how to develop clear goals, get their message out to a wider audience, to build market share and increase profits. With guidance on state of the art business systems, media engagement and mentoring from the Momenta experts, Paulina and her team are slowly building their business and their capacity to fulfil their mission of providing opportunities and support to their community. I’m looking forward to watching their progress and visiting again.

The local school in La Esmeralda benefits with funding for an English teacher and provision of healthy snacks to the children after swimming classes. I was able to meet the children, attend one of the classes and go to the pool with them. Here are some of the images from last year.

The children from La Esmeralda school with me (taken by one of the parents).

The school is in a small village surrounded by beautiful scenery.

Marleny explaining to the parents why we are at the school to take photographs of the children and asking for written consent.

Isabel teaching at the after school English class. She works with children in a range of ages.

Marleny acting as class assistant!

Fun with the children after school.








Luca Love – a family run business full of heart


I was extremely excited to join another Momenta Workshops trip last October, travelling to Colombia to provide photographic services to Luca Love. This opportunity was long-awaited. A chance to visit South America again – Colombia in particular – and learn more from Momenta “guru” Chris Anderson. Irresistible! We comprised a small group of four students, our Colombian expert, Emanuel Echeverri and of course, Chris. We were based in Medellin, a city which has fortunately outgrown its reputation for being the drug capital of Colombia. There are still areas not safe to travel in as a tourist but it is increasingly visited by travellers from all over the world. There is a museum of work by the Colombia artist and sculptor Fernando Botero, whose work I have loved for years and it was a special treat to see the massive sculptures in Plaza Botero and his paintings and smaller sculptures inside the gallery.

But my main activity was working with local family-run buiness Luca Love, a fairly new organisation set up by Paulina Tobin (based in Houston) and her sister Daniela and mother Marleny in Rio Negro, Colombia. Marleny’s husband Jorge is also involved behind the scenes. Luca Love sells bracelets made by local women around Rio Negro, about an hour’s travel south of Medellin. Marleny designs the bracelets and teaches the artisans how to make them. By visiting the women to deliver materials and collect finished work she enables them to work from home and still look after their families. Luca Love currently funds an English teacher to work in the local school in La Esmeralda and have provided other local community support on an ad-hoc basis. Currently they are developing their product line and growing their small business to be able to put more of the profits back into the local community.

My task was to spend time with Marleny and her artisans and also visit the school benefiting from Luca Love’s support. I could then provide a portfolio of images to be used in marketing, blogging and on the Luca Love website. With regular technical and planning guidance from Chris, I built relationships locally with those involved and created lots (and lots) of images. I was able to see the process from design and selection of the beads through to seeing Marleny train the women in new designs and then watch them making the jewellery and gift bags. I spent time with the children in their English class and in the playground and local swimming pool and met many of the parents and teachers. The kids loved practising their English while teasing me about my funny Spanish! The final selection of images delivered to Luca Love are those that Paulina and her team can use to create visuals that tell the story of Luca Love. They illustrate its inception, its purpose and the direction they are headed in. It is a very exciting new venture for the family and the community.

Below are some of the images from this collaboration and I will blog again with more about this project. For me it was extremely rewarding; I met many fascinating and friendly people, I improved my Spanish, enjoyed excellent wines and delicious food and I improved my story-telling photography skills. I also made new amigos (!) among my fellow students and Marleny, her family and friends. It was a really wonderful trip.









These images were taken on the Momenta Project Colombia Workshop 2016 in Medellin, Colombia. Photo © Laura Morgan/Momenta Workshops 2016.

These images were taken on the Momenta Project Colombia Workshop 2016 in Medellin, Colombia. Photo © Laura Morgan/Momenta Workshops 2016.












Fund Raising Fotos – Fizz Friday and a Swoovathon

I really enjoy offering my photography services for charity events to assist with fund raising. Recently I photographed a fund raiser hosted by Esther Rose Featherstone of Swoove Fitness. The Swoovathon at the Clair Hall in Haywards Heath was in aid of Community Action Nepal, a charity whose aim is to help the mountain people of Nepal.

Esther and her instructors have raised over £10,000 for charity since Swoove launched in September 2015. The classes combine great music with funky dance moves and attract men, women and children to their fund raising sessions. Swoove expertise and being very fit are definitely optional when it comes to community fund raising – bring only your enthusiasm, money and a sense of humour!

Fund raising - Swoovathon for CANFund raising - Swoovathon for CANFund raising - Swoovathon for CANFund raising - Swoovathon for CAN

I was also fortunate to be invited to set up a Fizz Friday Foto Booth at Cornerstone’s “Fizz Friday” event at Aberdeen’s prestigious Trinity Hall. I’m always happy to assist with fund raising for this very worthwhile charity, whose CEO Edel Harris has recently been recognised as Aberdeen and Grampian Director of the Year.

The lovely ladies who attended raised a few (!) glasses of Prosecco, bought raffle tickets, browsed gift stalls and enjoyed a fashion show all the while psyching themselves up to grab some props and strike a pose! CEO Edel joined in the foto fun with many of her colleagues and the evening raised £7,500 for the charity. Cornerstone provides care and support services for adults, children and young people with disabilities and other support needs. Visit their Facebook Page for more information and to see my images from the Foto Booth and photographic event coverage by Brian Doyle.

Fund raising - CornerstoneFund raising - Cornerstone Fund raising - Cornerstone Fund raising - Cornerstone

Dementia UK: Art for Good works!

The Alex Wilson Memorial Exhibition on 19th September raised over £3,500 for Dementia UK. We sold more than thirty of Alex’s paintings ensuring his art lives on and will continue to be enjoyed – art for good! Our father would have been so happy to hear the favourable comments his work received; such a pity he’s no longer here to appreciate it. We still have some of the larger pieces available and plan another exhibition to continue raising funds for Dementia UK’s Admiral Nurses.


Alex’s gallery:

Photography by Steve McDonald

Art for good …

Catalog for exhibitionOur father, Alex Wilson, died earlier this year in a care home In Hailsham. He had Dementia with Lewy Bodies, a distressing form of the disease affecting mobility and muscle function as well as causing cognitive impairment and hallucinations. He was an artist but even in the early stages of his illness became unable to paint or draw. He had been prolific, creating a diverse portfolio of work and exhibiting in Sussex over the years. He leaves a large body of abstract paintings and to honour his talent and creativity we are exhibiting around fifty pieces of work and all proceeds from sales of his work, donations and a raffle will go to Dementia UK via our JustGiving page.

The exhibition is being hosted by Lindfield Arts Festival on 19th September 2015. LAF is a community arts festival celebrating music, art, crafts, drama, poetry and comedy. It’s an ideal family weekend with events for everyone. The exhibition of Alex’s work is at The Stables, All Saints Church, 122 High Street, Lindfield from 10am to 4pm.

Dementia UK provide Admiral Nurses with the vision of  ensuring “People living with and affected by dementia will receive compassionate expert care and support that is right for them, to live positive and fulfilling lives”.  Both Alex and his immediate family would have benefitted hugely by having this type of support and we hope to raise funds to help others in the same situation.

You can visit his online gallery to browse or even purchase his work or get more details on our event Facebook page if you’d like to come to the exhibition.

Artist’s Statement:

I am often asked about the sources of my ideas and there isn’t a simple answer. My work is primarily spontaneous and intuitive and I paint from the heart – letting the colours and texture do the talking. Of course I have been influenced (and who hasn’t!) by many of the great artists, and this rich store of imagery and ideas feeds my subconscious and inevitably contributes to my output. I use a variety of brushes and sculpture tools; some work features impasto whereas in others paint is applied very thinly to the surface. I love to experiment and this has resulted in work in many media, including pen and ink, watercolour, acrylic and oil.

The title of a piece frequently presents itself at a late stage or even after the work is complete. Abstract pieces tend to develop without any preconception on my part and much of my enjoyment comes from the different interpretations placed upon my paintings; people see a variety of shapes and designs that may be inconsistent with the “theme” or title. The finished painting is therefore only half the equation and it becomes whole only after the concept or idea communicates with the viewer.

Alex Wilson, 14th July 2005AGW - Poster - Final - smlSome examples of Alex’s work:

Acrylic On Canvas Pine Frame 61 x 61 cm 71 x 71 (framed) Memorial price £185 (List price £400)

Acrylic On Canvas
Pine Frame
61 x 61 cm
71 x 71 (framed)
Memorial price £185
(List price £400)

Acrylic On Board Painted Frame 76 x 61 cm 86 x 71 (framed) Memorial price £200 (under offer) (List price £400)

Acrylic On Board
Painted Frame
76 x 61 cm
86 x 71 (framed)
Memorial price £200 (under offer)
(List price £400)

Mixed Media On Board Pine Frame 61 x 92 cm 76 x 107 (framed) Memorial price £250 (List price £600)

Mixed Media On Board
Pine Frame
61 x 92 cm
76 x 107 (framed)
Memorial price £250
(List price £600)

Making the most of travel photography

The RPS (Royal Photographic Society) included an article I wrote in its Travel Group Travelogue Newsletter after I chatted to some members about my photography. While I haven’t made as many overseas trips to support non-profit organisations as I would like, I do have plans for more. It is an incredibly rewarding aspect of travel photography so I’ve reproduced the article here, with some different images.


Rewarding Travel Photography

When I retired early from a stressful career with an international energy company I decided to re-engage with my creative side, develop my photography and to travel in a way that allowed me to get to know other cultures. Although I enjoyed these photographic adventures I still felt a lack of purpose and I wondered: “why am I making these images” and more importantly, “why am I here at all”?

Life has a way of solving such dilemmas. When a friend contacted me in 2009 to talk about her charity Testigo Africa, a project to bring clean drinking water to a Masai village, I immediately said “If you need a photographer, just ask me”. She did and a month later I was in Arusha, Tanzania. Tracey wanted images to help her fundraising efforts; the area had suffered a terrible drought and water was scarce, livestock dying and food hard find. It was my first really close encounter with another culture and I was very inexperienced but the warm welcome and friendliness made it a pleasure. The warriors slaughtered and cooked a goat we had paid for and the women prepared vegetables. They sat apart to eat but we were treated as honorary men. We drank tea in mud huts, met Masai of all ages, enjoyed the Masai adumu (dance) and watched the women making beautiful beaded jewellery. Iwas able to capture it all.

Tracey started the charity to help the women who walked miles every day to collect water, leaving them little time to do anything else. I returned with Tracey in 2012 for the inauguration of the water supply and to photograph her wedding to Emanuel, a Masai who has become part of her team. They have since established a football academy and a perma-culture project in many villages. Women can now grow enough food to sell in addition to feeding their families.

One of the many rewarding aspects of my second visit was sharing prints from the first trip and noticing how much the women had blossomed with good nutrition and less stressful lives. My images were used in a variety of ways by Testigo: calendars, video presentations, exhibitions and greetings cards. It was a privilege to be involved.

My appetite whetted, I joined a volunteer trip in 2011 with a charity helping prevent human trafficking in the villages of Northern Thailand. We travelled with the director, essentially funding his journey, to isolated villages where he works with village heads to change ingrained attitudes and traditions. The hill tribes comprise immigrants from Myanmar, China and Laos who have for generations lived a frugal existence unacknowledged by Thai authorities. Life is hard and gangs offering loans to families are repaid by the children working in the fields, factories and brothels. The charity approaches the problem with re-education rather than disapproval as the practices have continued for generations. We stayed with families, often sleeping in their beds, ate with them and through our guide were able to get to know them a little. I found it a very difficult trip emotionally, but felt some satisfaction when the charity used many of my images on their website.

Later in 2012 I travelled to Cape Town with Momenta Workshops to work with non-profit organisation James House, which supports the township of Mandela Park. An introduction to photojournalism, I was put in touch with James House and had daily critiques of my plans and images from the Momenta expert. I had to develop my own resources, work independently and I learned a lot. Two hundred and fifty fully processed images, which were used in their annual report, had to be completed before I left. I also developed a personal project called the “Little Chair” involving clients and staff of James House.

Medellin in Colombia is next for me, to attend another Momenta Workshop. I hope to be paired with a non-profit supporting women, to improve my Spanish and further develop my skills. To enrich the experience I always include side trips; going on safari, attending festivals and finding additional opportunities for travel photography. I cannot recommend non-profit work highly enough. It’s humbling, rewarding, often challenging and a unique way to connect to the world through your camera lens.


Facebook Page:

Laura’s Advice:
• Find a cause you feel passionate about and be clear about your motives for volunteering.
• Research non-profit organisations carefully and either contact them directly or look for a company that supports such trips (see links below).
• Understand the organisation’s expectations, most likely they will want images that reflect their success in helping people, not heart-breaking images of illness or poverty.
• Be open, genuine and positive and really connect with the people you meet!

Momenta workshops: highly recommended.

Photographers Without Borders: No personal experience but has been recommended to me.

Kaya Volunteer: – helpful for a first time volunteer but doesn’t specialise in photography.

Project Exposure: – I do not have personal experience of this organisation.

Photovoice: – participatory photo projects.


Project South Africa 2013 Rural Life, Oltepesi, Longido (8)

Northern Thailand

Northern Thailand

Project South Africa 2013 Grid for blog _MG_3330 tarnished iron mod V2

Villagers in Oltepesi look at photos from 2009

Villagers in Oltepesi look at photos from 2009

The Little Chair is back!

A quiet few weeks photography-wise has led me into the backlog of images in my Lightroom Catalog. Images I’ve either previously processed and want to change or the many neglected images I didn’t have time to deal with. There are rather a lot of those, mainly because I am very bad at editing my images. (I’m trying to improve, really!)

I revisited my Little Chair Project, developed on my Cape Town trip with Momenta Workshops and created a selection of the images in B&W. The gist of the work involved having staff and local children pose for me with a small chair … a fun concept but for me it came to embody the mission of James House. It’s a nonprofit organisation providing a variety of community services to nearby Imizamo Yutha and Hangberg where poverty and unemployment can result in the breakdown of families and problems with drink, drugs and gang violence.

I am delighted that many of the images I offered to James House appear on their website and in the 2013 annual report.

litle chair 3 Little Chair 2 Little Chair 1 little chair 4 little chair 5

Charity begins at home!

Although I’ve experienced some really exciting opportunities to photograph for non-profit organisations overseas, I also help out here in the UK (which some of my friends have noted, I should do more of as charity begins at home!)  Recent work has been in support of friends who are fundraising or have charities dear to their hearts. So I’m sharing a selection from some of these events.

Climb Kili for Cornerstone involves four close friends who are bravely (madly!?) climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania for Cornerstone. It’s a charity that supports vulnerable children and adults throughout Scotland – broadening their opportunities and helping them live rewarding and meaningful lives. Fundraising for the trip has included tea parties, cocktails and gourmet dining, silent auctions, supper dances, pop-up shops and a myriad of other fun events. Ann and Antonia Chapman and Lisa and Steve Duthie have all committed to raise more than the minimum required to fund their trips and it’s hard work! Plus the training and preparation – phew, I really admire them. Helping with the fundraising is my contribution; I’m far too worried about freezing my toes off on a mountaintop to join in … but I wish them all the best of luck!

Ladies Tea Party at the Fourmile, Kingswells, Aberdeen

Ladies Tea Party at the Fourmile, Kingswells, Aberdeen

"Bag a Mountain" Supper Party at the Aberdeen Douglas (featuring the Scottish Cup!)

“Bag a Mountain” Supper Party at the Aberdeen Douglas (featuring the Scottish Cup!)

Motor Neurone Disease is a devastating diagnosis and the Motor Neurone Disease Association is the only national charity in England, Wales and Northern Ireland focused on MND care, research and campaigning. MNDA is a powerful national and local network that provides information and support alongside fighting for improved services. Volunteer Carol Reiley, working with fitness instructor Becky Stevens held an open “FitSteps” class in the Dolphin Leisure Centre in Haywards Heath to raise money for the charity. FitSteps is a dance orientated fitness class created by Ian Waite and Natalie Lowe of “Strictly Come Dancing” fame and Carol was fortunate to lure Ian to Mid-Sussex to co-lead the class. People of all shapes, sizes and ages Rumba’d, Salsa’d and generally had a marvellous time while raising money for this superb organisation.

Ian Waite and Becky Stevens lead the FitStep class.

Ian Waite and Becky Stevens lead the FitStep class.

Ian and Becky showing their slick moves!

Ian and Becky showing their slick moves!

Home-Start is a leading family support charity and Gette Cobban the Scheme Manager in Aberdeen asked if I would provide images the charity could use locally on their publicity material and to launch a new campaign. The photo session was carried out at the George Street charity shop which is so professional, well stocked and dressed that it belies the image that many people have of charity outlets. The Aberdeen branch was a finalist on the Grampian Award for Business Excellence this year and from what I saw, it is well deserved. Representatives from Aberdeen Football Club, volunteers, staff and trustees all played their part in a fun morning (as we dodged the sun and wind!)

The Home-Start shop in George Street, Aberdeen

The Home-Start shop in George Street, Aberdeen

The Home-Start shop in George Street, Aberdeen

The Home-Start shop in George Street, Aberdeen

The Little Chair …

I joined the Momenta Workshop Project South Africa 2013 to improve my understanding and practice of documentary photography and photojournalism. The workshop led by Jamie Rose was immersive and challenging in so many ways; not least of all the thorough and honest editing Jamie provided. I was assigned to James House to develop a photo profile and provide images for their website, annual report and promotional activities.

The Little Chair Project, for me, came to embody the mission of James House, a nonprofit organisation based in Hout Bay in Cape Town. James House* provides a variety of community services to nearby Imizamo Yutha and Hangberg where poverty and unemployment can result in the breakdown of families and problems with drink, drugs and gang violence. James House helps vulnerable, abused and abandoned children and teenagers from these communities, providing support, education and life skills. The ultimate goal is for ensure re-integration with their families and the wider community. It’s a serious business but my memories are of warmth, fun and compassion. There was lots of laughter and jokes from staff, kids – especially the kids – and in the wider community. People there are resilient because they have to be and a healthy dose of humor goes a long way to making life bearable.

When I saw this tiny child’s chair abandoned in the middle of the play area at James House it simply struck a chord. I realised I could show in a different way the care and love shown by the staff at James House and the joy they bring the people they support. The chair for me is symbolic – and although there was a certain look of “is she mad” about my request for people to pose with it, they were mostly willing as you can see from some of the images below!

*James House website is currently under construction.

Little Chair - BlogLittle Chair - Blog3

   Little Chair - Blog2Little Chair - Blog6Little Chair - Blog4Little Chair - Blog5

Water, water everywhere (well almost!)

Last year I attended the inauguration of one of the water supplies successfully developed by Testigo Africa in Oltapesi, Tanzania. It was a privilege and pleasure to be part of the celebration, having seen for myself the impact of the drought three years earlier.  I travelled with Tracey Sawyer (the Director of the charity), her soon-to-be husband Emanuel plus her family from Australia. We stayed at the simple but very hospitable Tembo Guesthouse in Longido and it was a fantastic opportunity to see the changes Testigo Africa had helped implement since my previous visit.

Impact of the drought in 2009

Impact of the drought in 2009

We travelled to the site in a four-wheel drive, packed to the gunnels with Masai villagers of all shapes, sizes and ages – I wasn’t sure we’d manage to navigate the rutted, dusty route loaded down as we were, but Tracey’s latest acquisition “Old Red” was more than equal to the task. As we drew up near the water tank, and what seemed like dozens of villagers piled out of the jeep, we realised that a group of warriors had gathered to dance (the Adumu) in celebration. It’s awe inspiring to watch these tall, slim and extremely fit men jump so high – each taking turns as the others chant, laugh and joke with each other. Everyone has a go – even Tracey’s dad, who gamely tries to emulate the height of the warriors. The women watch too, then later perform their own dance – equally energetic – full of giggles and shy glances to the audience.

There follows many (many!) speeches, each translated into English, Swahili and Masai to ensure that everyone understands. It’s mainly (of course) the men who talk … yet both charities involved in this project are led by women and one of the main drivers for providing the water supply is to help the women here. It is they who walk miles every day to ensure their families have water – they bear the brunt of drought and the lack of clean, fresh water – so I’m delighted to see two of the women come forward and express their gratitude to Testigo Africa. Namnyak speaks of the close friendship she has with Tracey, developed during her years of involvement with Longido, and explains how much the water supply means to her and the other women. It’s very moving.

Then, as no Masai celebration would be complete without the ritual slaughter and roasting of a goat or two, we follow the men to a clearing where various parts of goat are being roasted over open fires. Soft drinks are shared round and everyone tucks in, although the Masai women are not invited to this part of the ceremony. I manage to politely nibble at some of the offerings but freshly slaughtered meat is fairly tough and I’m not that sure what the pieces of offal are …!

As foreigners, we don’t count as women and are allowed to eat with the men. It’s a very different experience being a woman in this part of the world and not one I’d care for. The women however are strong and determined, the backbone of their families and it’s good to know that the fundraising efforts of charities like Testigo can ease their load, even a little.

Celebrations at Oltapesi, Tanzania.

Celebrations at Oltapesi, Tanzania. Clockwise from top: the women sit near the tank during the speeches; the warriors perform the Adumu, soft drinks all round; a view of the speeches; Tracey and Emanuel in front of the pump house.