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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Kenya Program Coordinator
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.
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.
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.
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.