This Photographer and Storyteller Bring to Life Meaning of Water in Peru
It’s really a perspective shifter.”
Morée Scofield and Benjamin Heath travel the world meeting with people who oftentimes are gaining access to clean water or improved sanitation for the first time.
Heath is a professional photographer with a sharp ability to capture the beauty of water, and a seriously adorable dog Indiana who enjoys waterfalls. He took his first trip with Water.org three years ago to Kenya, and has since assisted in documenting the stories of mothers, and children who can now play instead of spending countless hours fetching water.
“It’s really a perspective shifter — a kind of an amalgam of learning about lives and struggle,” Heath shared with Global Citizen, recalling his first trip with Water.org.
Scofield previously worked in communications and public relations and volunteered time in other countries like China and Haiti, before dedicating her career to telling the untold stories of those living with limited access to water. It was after realizing the power of social media to share stories that she came to see, as she jokes now, “you don’t have to write a book.” You can sometimes make more of an impact through shorter media forms.
Together, the two work for Water.org to spread awareness of the more than 663 million people who still need clean water.
They’ve met collectives of women in dense urban landscapes like in Hyderabad, India, where over 7 million residents struggle to find clean water. Scofield has documented dusty, dry regions in place like Ethiopia where half a century of severe drought has had dire consequences.
Most recently, Scofield and Heath traveled to Peru, where 4 million do have access to clean water. In Peru, they spent their days talking with and interviewing up to seven people per day.
Scofield interviews mothers, like Martina, or women like Nancy who would never have gotten a toilet without the loans provided by Water.org through their WaterCredit program. In Peru, women express how the trust and opportunity for getting this loan means so much more than the physical toilet or water in their home. It gives them the feeling that someone in the world cares for them.
While Scofield checks in with mothers, Heath photographs the members of the families they meet. It takes time to set up and find the right angle to tell the story of just how much water means to people living in Sullana, and Lacones — rural regions of Peru.
Images like that of Ana, who enjoys drawing (pictured below) are beautiful reminders of the potential that resides in these communities if allowed to thrive.
“It’s empowering, not sad,” said Heath. The people they met with in Peru have “hopeful spirits,” as Heath put it. The stories and images they assemble exude joy, even if it’s shadowed by daunting obstacles.
Though their days sound tiring, they say they slip into the cadences of the lives of the people they meet. While they already have a lot of perspective, insight and knowledge on water throughout the world, they still continue to learn new things too.
“We’re all a human family — I understand this more and more,” said Scofield. “We all need these [water and sanitation] for progress, and I continue to want these two basic needs for everyone.”
Hearing about the people discovering water in their homes or just a minute from their home for the first time, is a wonderful reminder of the magic water brings to those who have it. It can be easy to take clean water for granted when it flows freely in your life, but Scofield and Heath’s work reminds us that water should never be taken for granted.
In past years, the amount of people without access to clean water has decreased from 1 billion to nearly half that — 663 million. Yet water remains a precarious resource in far too many places.
Inspired by Heath’s and Scofield’s work, we must work together to protect the water sources available on the planet, and share them with those who’ve yet to experience the gift of clean water.
To see more of Benjamin Heath’s work visit http://www.benjaminheath.net/ or follow his Instagram @benjaminheath. To learn more about Water.org visit http://water.org/ or follow the organization on Instagram @water.