We are a nonprofit team of photographers, artists, and teachers, providing opportunities for impoverished youth who might otherwise get left behind.
We enhance the economic opportunities of disadvantaged children by teaching critical skills, improving community relations, and creating a self-perpetuating cycle of instruction. To date, over 600 students have participated in the Photo Start program.
We work in areas where children spend more time away from school than in school. We provide a safe place for them to learn new skills and be amongst friends, away from street gangs and abuse.
We teach our students how to use digital cameras, understand best practices for digital workflow/production, and digital asset management.
Many of our students have had their precious imaginations snubbed out by the harsh realities of their circumstances. By fostering creativity, we promote self-esteem, self-confidence and self-reliance.
We organize field trips and create unique experiences that would otherwise be unavailable. We encourage our students to tell a story with their photos and we exhibit their final work to be shared with the world.
Advancing students and graduates become mentors and certified trainers in the Photo Start program. This creates opportunities and encourages students to share their knowledge.
of children live in poverty.
Children aged 0-17 are the most affected by poverty. Many of our students live below the food poverty line, and with the constant anxiety of not knowing where they will get their next meal.
of children are malnourished.
Many of our students come from households that survive on less than a dollar a day. This often means they can only afford one meal, and it’s not necessarily a nutritious one.
of children are abused.
Child abuse is one of the biggest public health challenges facing impoverished countries. Many of our students, some as young as three, have faced verbal, physical or sexual abuse.
of students drop out of school.
Factors such as household income and unemployment force parents to choose between putting food on the table and paying for their child’s education. Many families cannot afford both.
Age at which some children become gangsters and prostitutes.
A dysfunctional home life and a lack of education and guidance force young children out onto the streets, where they become involved in criminal gangs, drug rings and prostitution.
In 2015, world leaders agreed to 17 goals to improve our world by 2030. These goals have the power to end poverty, fight inequality, and stop climate change. Through our efforts, we hope to educate and equip the next generation to build a better future – for everyone.
We are a group of people as passionate about making a difference as we are about child welfare. We are leaders, artists, and photographers all from different backgrounds, determined to use our unique talents to create change.
New York, NY
Board member of the American Montessori Society
Sandra M. Stevenson is an award-winning Assistant Editor in the photography department at The Times. She oversees digital photo editors on the news desk, and works on visual content for Race/Related and the Gender, in addition to special projects such as “Overlooked.” She’s originally from Albuquerque, NM and was raised in Cheyenne, WY. After receiving a BA in English from Syracuse University, Sandra spent four years working at NBC – first as a Page and then working on various news programs. From there, she became the program coordinator for the Black Filmmaker Foundation. During her time there, she held a deep commitment to helping people of color enter the film industry at various levels.
Sandra then returned to the news industry, by taking on a position at The Associated Press, where she spent eight years moving up from photo assistant to overseeing photo news coverage for Latin America and the Caribbean. She also took time to work on and an advanced degree in multimedia from L’Universite Toulouse in France.
Sandra was a contributing writer in the book “Unseen: Unpublished Black History from The New York Times Photo Archives.” Most recently, she was the picture editor and co-curator on the book “This Is 18.”
She joined The Times almost 15 years ago.
Product Manager, Engagement - Adobe Systems
Katrin Eismann specializes in interpretive travel, still life and portrait photography. She is an internationally respected artist, teacher, and author of Photoshop Restoration & Retouching, Photoshop Masking & Compositing, The Creative Digital Darkroom, and Real World Digital Photography – all of which have been translated into numerous languages. She received her BFA degree in Photographic Illustration from the Rochester Institute of Technology, her MFA degree in Design at the School of Visual Arts and in 2005 was inducted into the Photoshop Hall of Fame. Katrin founded and chaired the Masters in Digital Photography department at the School of Visual Arts in New York City for twelve years and she is currently working at Adobe Systems to help educate photographers worldwide!
Vice President, Photography – World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc.
Brad Smith is an award-winning photo editor with 35 years’ experience in visual storytelling. Brad was the Director of Photography for Time Inc., Sports Group, including Sports Illustrated and Golf Magazine and he was the Assistant Director of Photography for the White House during the Clinton administration. He’s the founder and director of Brad Smith Creative, a visual consulting group and the Vice President for Photography for the WWE.
Pulitzer Prize-winning Photographer
Brian Smith is an award-winning photographer and author. His first photograph appeared in LIFE Magazine when he was a 20-year-old student at the University of Missouri. Five years later, he won the Pulitzer Prize for Sport News Photography. He was a finalist for the Pulitzer for his photographs of Haiti in Turmoil and he won first place in both the World Press Photo and Pictures of the Year competitions. His work has taken him across six continents and has been exhibited at the Library of Congress and the American Museum of Natural History.
Founder and Partner, GreenOak Real Estate
Sonny Kalsi is a Founding Partner of GreenOak Real Estate, successful real estate management, and investment firm. Sonny is a graduate of Georgetown University with a degree in Business Administration and is a member of the Georgetown’s Board of Regents. He also serves on the board of several organizations including The Spence School, Teaching Matters, powerful Foundation and the AHRC New York City Foundation. He’s a member of the Young Presidents Organization and an Adjunct Professor at Columbia University in the Master’s of Real Estate Program.
Senior Vice President, Regional Executive Director – Northwell Health
Kevin Beiner has served various leadership roles at Northwell Health in Metropolitan New York. Currently, he is the Senior Vice President and Regional Executive Director for the Eastern Region, which includes six acute care hospitals and one inpatient behavioral health facility. Mr. Beiner holds a bachelor’s degree from Stony Brook University in New York and an MBA in health services management from Hofstra University in New York.
Chief Operating Officer – ZanaAfrica
Caroline Gitau is a cross functional leader who holds executive positions, manages million-dollar portfolios and fundraises for impactful initiatives. She is passionate about research and has co-authored two articles on Gender-based Violence prevention and Adolescent Health in the Journals of American Pediatrics’ and Journal of Adolescent Health. Caroline is currently working with ZanaAfrica as the Chief Programs and Operating Officer, in the field of menstrual health, facilitated health education, policy and advocacy.
Cape Town, South Africa
Grant Writer/Non-Profit Specialist
Margaret Roestorf works with non-profit organizations who get the job done at the grassroots level. She works primarily as a grant-writer and gently guides organizations, drawing on her experience as a former-CEO. Margaret’s work has taken her around the world, where she has raised funds and inspired people to support conservation, including the Obama family. She has been awarded the Eco-Logic Eco-Angel Award for her efforts towards conservation – her champions include Lewis Pugh the ice-swimmer and the Leiden Conservation Foundation.
Long Island, New York
Director at Advantage Testing of Long Island
Vairam has always had a personal and professional interest in teaching. At the University of Pennsylvania, he was a University Tutor and a University Liaison to the public-school system in Philadelphia. At the University of Illinois, he taught numerous classes at the engineering school and frequently lectured at the business school. He has also taught seminars and made presentations to several Fortune 500 senior executives. In addition to tutoring, Vairam enjoys taking interesting photographs and videos at dawn, writing poetry, and designing new healthful recipes.
Vice President of Clinical Strategy & Policy – CVSHealth
A practicing physician and a Fulbright scholar, Dr. Knecht has experience in health care entrepreneurship, strategy consulting, patient care and population health research. Dr. Knecht currently serves as Vice President of Clinical Strategy and Policy at CVSHealth-Aetna. His responsibilities include the creation and execution of the enterprise’s clinical strategy aimed at enhancing the value of care afforded to members, as well as identifying and implementing strategic initiatives focused on unmet health needs including chronic disease management and addiction.
Award Winning Photographer
Steffen Jahn takes pictures of things that are beautiful and fast. Whether it’s shooting electric SUVs in the Gobi Desert, legendary race cars on the Nürburgring, or Hypercars in the jungles of Thailand, Jahn delivers. He’s won top global competitions with a portfolio featuring high-end automotive brands like Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Porsche, Lamborghini, Aston Martin, Ferrari and Audi who all rely on Jahn to create images that breathe elegance, atmosphere, and character into what are, in essence, lifeless products.
Johannesburg, South Africa
Principal – Mzansi Creative Foundation
Having studied fine art and graphic design, Mohammed Jogie now works on numerous international brands. He’s head creative juicer at MSD and is also principal of Mzansi Creative Foundation. A design activist, he is an admin on AIGAfrica – a collaboration with AIGA New York and South African graphic designers. He has served as Vice President of Icograda and served on the boards Think, DSA and Café and is a project lead on the Mandela Poster Project Collective and MSDOpen design innovators initiative.
Cape Town, South Africa
CEO — Gondwana Alive
Dr. Tracey Phillips is the CEO of Gondwana Alive Non-Profit Company and highly experienced in implementing multi-disciplinary projects. She is also an ecologist, business women and mentor with 20+ years of experience the field of sustainable livelihood development, in areas where natural resources are under threat or livelihood opportunities are limited.
Stellenbosch, South Africa
Grant Writer/Non-Profit Specialist
Lisa Thompson-Smeddle has over 20 years’ experience working in the NGO sector in South Africa. She is the Director of the USA and RSA registered NGO called the Sustainable Development Network. She has acted as a sustainability consultant to Family Health International, an Umbrella Grants Mechanism managing a $90million USAID/PEPFAR grant in South Africa. This included developing sustainability strategies, organisational policies and more. She completed an Honours degree in Social Sciences at Chapman University in California, and both Honours and Master’s degrees in Sustainable Development at Stellenbosch University.
New York, NY
Chairman, Master's Digital Photography - School of Visual Arts
Tom P. Ashe is a photographer, educator, consultant, author, and the chair of the Master of Professional Studies (MPS) in Digital Photography program at the School of Visual Arts (SVA) in New York City, where he has been teaching photography, color management, and digital printmaking for over fifteen years.
Tom has been making pictures since he was in the seventh grade and has been working in photography and education for over thirty years, including positions with Polaroid and Eastman Kodak.
He received his BS in Imaging and Photographic Technology from Rochester Institute of Technology and his Master of Applied Science in Photography from RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia.
His consulting clients have included X-Rite, The MAC Group, AdoramaPix, and the photographers Arnold Newman and Andrew Eccles. He has been a guest lecturer at MIT, Yale University, Northeastern University, and for the Association of International Photographic Arts Dealers.
In 2007 he joined Katrin Eismann in starting the MPS in Digital Photography in Digital Photography program at SVA as the Associate Chair.
He is a longtime member of the Society for Photographic Education and has been a frequent speaker and session moderator at their annual national conferences.
Tom has written articles for Photo District News, Popular Photography, and in 2014 Focal Press released his book Color Management & Quality Output. His personal photography and research explore family history, immigration, and LGBTQ pride.
New York, NY
Partner, Firm Co-Chairman - Kramer Levin LLP
Thomas E. Constance is Partner and Co-Chairman of the law firm of Kramer Levin. Tom provides legal and transactional advice to a diverse group of clients, including banks, finance companies, hedge funds, investment banks, private banks and private equity sponsors, accounting firms and consultancies, and private and public companies.
In addition to his responsibilities as co-chair of Kramer Levin, Tom serves as a director of The SASS Foundation for Medical Research Inc., Siga Technologies Inc. and Florida Community Bank. He also serves on the Barington Capital Advisory Board and the Trust Advisory Committee of Bank of America/U.S. Trust.
Kenya Program Coordinator & Head Instructor
Jeri Muchura is an internationally recognized award-winning photographer specializing in luxury portraiture and documentary photography. Her passion for storytelling has taken her across Kenya and Africa telling stories of resilience and triumph. She has held several exhibitions and received 1st place honours in the prestigious Mo Ibrahim Foundation’s MyAfrica photography contest in 2016. Because of her work, Jeri has won a couple of photography awards, been profiled by Kenyan and international media and her work has been published in various coffee-table photo-books.
Jeri’s love for children and sharing knowledge led her to join Photo Start in a supportive role in 2017 and finally taking the reins as the Country Program Coordinator [Kenya] in 2019. She brings on board 10 years of experience in Business Administration and Management as well as photography, coupled with a passion and love of impacting and changing lives.
Communications & Marketing Officer
Elizabeth Mwathi is a certified Online Business Manager with demonstrated interpersonal and people skills. Her background is quite wide having worked with a hotel chain for +10 years in Client Service, Administration, and Human Resources roles where she grew to become the Assistant Group Human Resources and Administration Manager.
Elizabeth is also a certified Microsoft Suite expert, holds a Diploma in Human Resource Management and Administration, and has trained in a variety of other areas including MailChimp email marketing, bullet-proof sales, and client service. She is also an expert transcriber, translator, writer, and social media manager.
Elizabeth has a passion for people, especially those whose position in life seems to be lowly and overlooked. You will find her offering a helping hand whenever she can to elevate others and make for a better community for all.
Chief Operations Officer
Silvia is a passionate changemaker with over 24 years experience in the non-profit sector and former executive director of two Johannesburg based non-profit organizations.
She specialises in organizational strategy, personal leadership, governance, administration, operations, stakeholder and board management as well as organizational sustainability. Her focus areas over the years include health care, HIV/Aids, children, community development, food security, education and enterprise development. Dedicated to contributing to the impact made in the social development sector, Silvia is able to bring cross sector expertise and perspective to all work entrusted to her.
Project Manager and Volunteer Coordinator
Joanna has a passion for improving productivity through organizational and operational efficiencies. Her background includes developing best practices and process improvement efforts in program and project management, new business integrations, and other business functions. Joanna is based in California, an alumni of University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) previously worked for several management consultancies before her current employment with The Walt Disney Company. Joanna’s focus at Photo Start is to bring together Volunteers and Photo Start opportunities to continue expanding Photo Start’s impact to communities in need.
South Africa Program Coordinator
Gaireyah Fredericks is a single mother of three sons, Yaghya, Muhammad Uzair and Diyaa-Udeen. A local of Paarl and a member of the Paarl Muslim community.
She started writing in 2012 at the Breytenbach Center in Wellington. Since 2015, she has self-published seven poetry anthologies. Mientjies, Kaaps is Hollands, 40 stories, 40 worode op ‘40’, Ramadaan Chronicles 2017, H2O Poetry Calendar, Hanne innie lig, voete oppie grond and Mettie maan gepla.
She won “Best Supporting Actress” award for her diverse roles in the play, “Ons Komvandaan”. She won “Best script” in the Department of Arts and Culture’s drama competition for her play, Hanne innie lig, voete oppie grond and won Nalibali story bosso competition Provincial with her children’s story Elkeen hetta krakie. Her debut play received two nominations, namely ‘Best script’ and ‘Best upcoming actress’. She was just seen on DSTV’s Alles Malan on Kyknet in the role of the nurse last year.
The Wellington Station Festival presents an honorary award for her contribution to the promotion of Kaaps. She is often invited to various literary festivals such as the McGregore Poetry festival – also there she won the Patricia Schonstein for Mcgregor Festival poetry Award for her poem, “Dronk verdriet”. She also regularly reads at the Woordfees, Prins Albertfees, Adam Smallfees and Tuin van digtersfees, to name a few. In August 2019 she won 2nd place in the Avbob poetry competition national with her poem “Dood” and currently she has successfully obtained her BA Honors in Afrikaans at the University of the Western Cape.
She formulates and designs the Mothertongue project workshop series to educate emerging writers about self-publishing, the relationship between the author and his environment, as well as his work. The workshops are currently offered online.
Kenya Community Engagement Officer
Stephen Nzusa, aka Baba Yao, is a young lawyer, life coach, mentor, reformist, peace champion and human rights activist. Born and raised in Kibera, one of the biggest slum settlements in Kenya, Stephen is a believer in arbitration, alternative dispute resolutions and more active non-violence means to advocate for matters in the society. He has worked with a number of community organizations, like KUBUKA Kenya and Teen Pregnancy Awareness Kenya.
Stephen is the co-founder of a number of organizations and institutions, including Drop the Gun Initiative, Young Empowered Youth Group, Kibera Kenya Tulee Mayatima, and St Mary’s Education Centre, which is a program partner with Photo Start. He is currently the Director of Programs for HP Dawda Foundation that advocates for sustainability of local organizations from the urban poor settlements through the practice of urban farming and imparting of viable skills to single mothers and youths.
In Kibera, Stephen is well known for his courageous intervention during the 3 previous elections in Kenya. He was at the forefront championing for peace and a departure from post-election violence. He has been deeply involved in youth reforms, working with gangs to help them turn from a life of crime to productive and respectable members of the society.
His nick name, Baba Yao, meaning “their father” is coined from his passion and rescue of street families, orphans, vulnerable children, and widows from different slums, and through his network getting home placement for them.
Denise is a photo essayist who loves to tell musical stories of her settings in the San Francisco Bay Area and northern California. Armed with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Photography from Shepherd University (Shepherdstown, WV), she zig zagged across the U.S. and occasionally around the world pursuing other passions including nonprofit marketing and operations, corporate event design and logistics, advertising, marketing, communications, and television production.
Denise has worked for and with leading companies in New York City, Hollywood, and Silicon Valley, but her favorites are the nonprofits. Her personal and professional mission is to give more by giving back to those less fortunate.
Asset Management and Technology Systems Coordinator
Scott is a creative producer with a strong background in marketing technology. He has successfully led Fortune 100 companies to modernize technology and improve work efficiency. Scott is currently studying filmmaking at the London Film School. He has a passion for photography and video production and loves to see tomorrow’s youth learn skills that will change their future for the better.
Scott ensures Photo Start’s technology works smoothly for volunteers, staff, and students.
Robert is a Salesforce professional with over six years of experience designing, implementing, and training on Salesforce products. During his previous career in public administration, Robert worked at various nonprofits in the arts and veterans affairs space. Currently he leads the Salesforce team at Ivy Tech Community College in Indianapolis, IN.
Abigail (Abby) Lehman has a deep passion for advancing opportunity through access to education and technology. After graduating from Princeton University (B.A., Sociology) Abby began her career at L2 Inc., a digital innovation think-tank turned business intelligence firm, founded at New York University’s Stern School of Business. Later at Publicis Media, Abby proposed and developed a learning program for the Data, Technology, Analytics and Insights team.
Abby also serves on the Advisory Committee for the Olami Professional Circles, which connects young professionals across five countries to mentorship and networking opportunities.
Abby is honored to bring her digital experience, as well as her commitment to community, education and technology to the Photo Start family.
Junior Class Teacher & Field Assistant
Gillian Njeri is a double major student currently studying public relations & broadcasting at the Africa Nazarene University, graduating in 2020. Gillian has been providing crucial key-wording services as well as volunteering at the organization since 2016. Her love of social media has proven to be a valuable asset to the organization. She is a fun, compassionate and gentle-hearted person who loves working with kids. Her presence in the classes and centres brings joy to the children we work with and helps make learning fun.
Finance and Accounting
Jim Hourican currently provides accounting and bookkeeping services as principal of Somers Consultants LLC. He has been responsible for managing the accounting for a variety of entities, including nonprofits, real estate, property management, art production, retail, services, restaurant and venue operations. Jim has an MBA from the University of Chicago and a BS in Electrical Engineering from the University of Chicago. Having owned and operated his own businesses, he brings an entrepreneurial hands-on ownership mentality to all his endeavors. Jim has also consulted to small businesses in the areas of business plan development, operations, growth plans, capital investments, financing, and launch plans.
Staff Video Editor
Patricia is a well-rounded film producer, working with different brands and films. She has a background not only in producing, but in post-production as well. She has been part of the premiere student film organization in the Philippines, where she served in the Executive Board for one term. It is there that she accumulated experience in handling film events, including film literacy projects, holding film workshops in different local schools. As an advocate of film literacy, she continues to volunteer and give aid to these projects alongside her work, and helps produce films for film students long after she has left her alma mater.
Staff Video Editor
Kristopher is an editor that strives to materialize various visions into dynamic videos. He has experience in creating content for different films, brand advertisements, web series, and tv shows, utilizing his skills both in traditional and modern media. Being in the film scene, he knows the importance of getting messages across, especially for those that are struggling to be heard. He has volunteered for many Philippine non-profit organizations, that advocate environmental protection, media rights, and film literacy.
Mr. Wilson, as he’s fondly referred to, has been a driver since 2001 and joined the Photo Start family as the team driver in early 2018. Wilson is a father to two beautiful girls and he has the same heart for the Photo Start kids as he has for his own. He plays a vital role in the day-to-day running of the Kenyan programs by making sure everyone is on time and the equipment is safe as the team visits the various centres. He has a ready smile for everyone and his willingness to help is always a big plus in boosting morale.
CJ Meyer has a passion for building mission driven, self- sustaining teams and organizations. CJ graduated from the University of Delaware, where he majored in Information Systems with minors in Global Enterprise Technology and Entrepreneurship. He has created multiple successful ventures across several different industries from e-commerce stores to digital marketing agencies. CJ spent time as a Senior Management Consultant for KPMG, where he worked on data analytics and business intelligence projects. CJ has been a part of Photo Start since shortly after its inception in 2016.
Founder and Executive Director
David has a unique background in both photography (he is a professional photographer) and the law (he is an attorney with experience working with at-risk youth). David has degrees from Columbia University (BA, History; Political Science), the School of Visual Arts (Masters, Digital Photography), and Rutgers University School of Law (JD). After volunteering with an organization using photography in an after-school program, he founded Photo Start and developed the core program that has been adapted to each project and community. He has a strong and diverse network of supporters, funders and industry professionals.