Developed at the onset of the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic, our innovative digital program, known as Eric’s Circle of Light (ECOL), honors our dear friend, Eric Spencer Richenstein (1982-2020), who we tragically lost too soon. By providing access to education and opportunity to young people most in need, values Eric firmly believed in, we honor his spirit and his memory. Eric loved his family, friends, his Golden Retriever Luna, the great outdoors, and he was a friend to wildlife and children everywhere. He is with us always.

When schools were shut, we consulted with specialists in the fields of science, math, art therapy and special education to develop online photography lessons and activities that support creativity and emotional well-being for our students, who were inordinately impacted. The curricula includes theoretical and practical photography instruction, along with valuable life skills sessions. 

Too, we have created an all-new Storytelling curriculum, led by Gaireyah Fredericks, an award-winning author, poet and playwright in Paarl, Western Cape, South Africa. Gaireyah teaches our students how to write with lead, ink or light. 

Since its inception, Eric’s Circle of Light has provided nearly 5000 hours of instruction to more than 120 students. The program has been so successful that we have new students from partner programs across the United States, Kenya, South Africa, and Uganda joining us each week. And this fall we are expanding to Tel Aviv, Israel.

Portraits from our ECOL program in Kibagare, Kenya. Photos by (L-R) Esther, Haron, and Peter.

These classes have provided educational opportunities that otherwise may not have been available during this challenging time.  Students are learning vital digital literacy and social-emotional skills that will enable them to positively impact their communities now and for years to come. 

We are grateful to the Richenstein family, our partners and our supporters for helping us develop this new offering to keep our students engaged and on track. We are also thankful to our amazing students for their quick adaptation to the digital format and willingness to learn in new ways.

We are pleased with the progress we have made and know that there is still much more work to be done and more children to reach. 

We think he would be pleased, too.

Eric’s light is shining brightly, guiding our students to a future in focus.

Power up the light with a donation to ECOL.

Text ERIC39 to 44-321 or click:

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Today marks the one year anniversary of the tragic and untimely passing of our dear friend, Eric Spencer Richenstein (1982 – 2020). Eric was a lover of the great outdoors, nature, and a friend to wildlife and children everywhere. 

To honor his memory, and to keep our students engaged during these trying times, Photo Start developed a new digital program for our students around the world, which we fondly named, “Eric’s Circle of Light.”

Over the last several months, Photo Start has provided approximately 7500 cumulative hours of intensive instruction to over 180 students. The program has been so successful that we have new students from partner programs across the United States, Kenya, South Africa, Uganda, Israel, and beyond joining us each week.

Our E.C.O.L digital program is a modified, online version of our in-person curriculum, led by our Head Instructor and Programming Coordinator, Jeri Muchura, one of the top photographers and educators in Kenya. Too, we have created an all-new Storytelling curriculum, led by Gaireyah Fredericks, an award winning author, poet and playwright from Paarl, Western Cape, South Africa.

To sustain the rapid growth of these new programs, we have recruited new instructors so we can reach more students, more frequently. We are also training several young people to become mentors that will be able to teach and spread the program widely through their communities and elsewhere. 

The classes have provided families and their students with educational opportunities that otherwise may not have been available during this challenging time. We are grateful to our partners and supporters for helping us develop this new offering to keep our students engaged and on track. We are also thankful to our amazing students for their quick adaptation to the digital format and willingness to learn in new ways.

In 2021, we are developing a dedicated curriculum specifically for basic and advanced computer literacy that will run with our other programs. We are very excited to begin offering these technology classes where students will focus on the fundamentals of computing, how to use productivity software, creative software, navigating the Internet, and more. Further, we are developing an online portal platform where students can review prior lessons, access learning resources, share their work, and interact with each other around the world.

It is our goal to honor Eric’s memory by doing what we do best: providing access to education and opportunity to young people most in need. While we terribly miss our friend, who left us far too soon, we are excited with the progress we have made to help our students, and we are proud to honor him with our “Eric’s Circle of Light” program.

To all of those who have lost a friend or loved one during this time, we offer you our sincerest condolences; their light lives on as long as it lives within us.