Category Archives: Charity

TOUCH!

In 2012 I worked for Concordia Romania for the first time when I visited my love Lena who volunteered back then. Currently I am planning the fourth trip which is very exciting – can’t wait to finally get back again. I had a look through my archive and what struck me was one repeating element – a touch.

Here is a simple collection of images I have taken over the last 4 years – seems random but the beauty of a a hand touching a face, a foot touching another foot, hugs and support is forming a frame. Something worthy to appreciate. Beautiful moments.

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Nap after lunch.
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I have always admired Costin’s direct and loving approach.2012-029_100712_0021

What a moment in the chapel.
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Volunteers are an important part of the Concordia system. From the very beginning they are accepted by the children.2014-050_Pirita_1676
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Always a helping, soothing or strong hand.2015-025_1920 2015-025_2387

Most problems could be solved literally with a touch.
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Copyright: Benjamin Kaufmann Photography

Enterprise Bootcamp – 15 entrepreneurs. 12 weeks.

Enterprise Bootcamp is a program to support young people who develop their own business ideas. It’s a combination of a 3 months course and weekly mentoring sessions. When The Bootstrap Company looked for mentors last year I thought this might be a fantastic opportunity and I signed up.

I’ve met regularly with Mickel who is a young and talented photographer. He wants to run a practical photography workshop. The workshop is designed to support people with learning disabilities such as Asperger’s Autism and dyslexia of all ages.

This week Mickel finished his first exhibition project. He took portraits of all members of the program, selected them, printed them and finally framed and exhibited them. I can say that I am very proud as the photos are excellent and show each ones personality.

Here are the images as small JPGs – if you’re interested please come and visit the exhibition at http://www.bootstrapcompany.co.uk and see the full description of the project below the images.

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This exhibition showcases the work of young entrepreneur & photographer Mickel Adeyemi (@banxyphoto). The show has been put together with the support of his Bootstrap mentor, fashion photographer Ben Kaufmann (@kaufbenjamin).

This exhibition profiles the young entrepreneurs on the Bootstrap ‘Enterprise Bootcamp’ a pioneering project to equip 15 young entrepreneurs (18-24) with the tools, networks and skills to start-up their own enterprise.

The project is run in partnership between Bootstrap Company and Peabody Housing Association. The training is led by Bootstrap tenant Kofi Oppong, who delivers his pioneering ‘Urban MBA’ course in the masterclass workshops. The programme consists of:

  • Masterclasses – 4hr enterprise workshops with facilitators covering topics such as: Goal Setting, Personal finance, Business plan writing, Branding, Presentation skills.
  • Mentoring – Led by experienced entrepreneurs from the Bootstrap community in 1hr weekly 1-2-1 mentoring sessions.
  • Accredited learning – Participants complete an OCN Level 1 Business Management qualification.
  • Space to grow – Participants will have their own deskspace to work from, with computers provided.
  • Connections – Participants are invited to Bootstrap events and tenant networking events.
  • Finale – The programme ends with a ‘dragons den’ style pitching event with various awards, including small startup grants.

To find out more,
Email: henry@bootstrapcompany Twitter: @bootstrapcampus

 

 

Dorotcaia

One day we visited the old man in Dorotcaia, Romania. Over 90 years and he still lived on his own, no family to look after him. A few times a week people from Concordia visit him, check if everything is all right and also help him with food.

But most importantly they spend time with him. Conversations, old stories, recent developments – everything is being discussed. And a good laugh every now and then. It’s unbelievable how very important a simple conversation can be. Something I personally have always underestimated being surrounded by amazing friends and family.

Tragic circumstances and events led to his lonesomeness but he still didn’t give up. He kept fighting, every day. The whole house and yard were spotless. Simple but very clean. It might sound a bit silly and cliché when a German mentions that but he was very proud of the fact.

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A Concordia worker and a volunteer from Rumania visit him regularly and spend as much time as they can afford in their busy daily routines.

 

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This is probably the most genius washbasin I have seen. In his house he didn’t have a water connection or a shower but there is always a way. A bucket with a lid and a valve, a wooden support and a little box for the soap – ready to go. 

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Surrounded by his memories he lives in a small house with two rooms. The portrait on the back wall shows himself quite a few years ago. Next to it his wedding photograph. 2014-050_Dorotcaia_2292

Afterwards we were able to see his garden. Still working there every single day. A big portion of his food grows there. On that particular day it was extremely hot and humid but nevertheless he had to cultivate his vegetables. Deeply impressed by his strength and will power we left him after one hour.
2014-050_Dorotcaia_2332© Benjamin Kaufmann, Photographer

 

Streetlife

On the street we also visited the infamous area next to the central train station in Bucharest. It used to be the centre for all the homeless and drug addicts. A little hole in the earth in an adjacent park used to be the entrance to the underworld – the sewers of the city where thousands lived.

When I visited the canal was closed down, the entrance still visible but not accessible. Right next to the station a derelict building. A large group of heavily addicted people still lived there. It had a roof but no walls. It was summer and very hot. Carpets and blankets protected the community from the outside stares. But no one really cared. They were in the middle of everything but invisible.

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The inside was hot, steamy and dark. Just a few slits let some daylight in. The worst imagination became reality. The rumours of kids taking drugs at a very early age, sniffing glue. That’s a sight one never forgets. To be robbed of probably the most valuable time in your life – your childhood. Young bodies with old eyes. Not even desperation, just bland indifference towards the outside world. No desire, no joy just pure nothingness. And still there were kids. With a life ahead of them.

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The local community boss let me into his private chamber. He had his own little separated area and was very proud of it. Being very protective he kept always very close to me. Not in a mean way, not offending or threatening… just making sure everything was all right with his people.

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Author: Benjamin Kaufmann, #benjaminkaufmann

 

The Families

The project in Bucharest for Concordia continued. After we had visited the abandoned house we moved on and visited two families. Both struggling with daily life, both great fighters. The women had to cope with the situation as the men were either in prison or not really helpful. Despite the poverty both families we visited had one thing in common – dignity.

The shared room was nicely decorated and very tidy. The mother of four struggled to come by day by day but still managed to look after her children. One can only hope that her strength will eventually help them to become independent of any help, to manage their own life and hopefully raise their families in better conditions.

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The second family lived in similar circumstances with even less possessions. But yet again the will to survive, the will to keep things under control and the believe in a better future wasn’t yet broken. This all is Europe, literally on our doorstep. I have witnessed myself how much of a difference the caring Concordia street workers made. It’s not purely the financial help impoverished people need. It’s more the human touch, a conversation and the respect that every human being deserves.  My deepest respect towards all the employees and volunteers who dedicate their time.2012-029_090712_02062012-029_090712_0183 2012-029_090712_0200

 

Author: Benjamin Kaufmann, Photographer, Charity, Blog

The House

In a very good neighbourhood in Bucharest there is one special house. Being derelict it is the home to only a few heroine addicts. Together with a street worker of the charity Concordia we visited the guys. I was warned to watch out for needles and broken glass to avoid injury and also contagion. Unfortunately they all suffer from severe diseases.

After a long conversation, talking about their problems of daily life, after bringing them food and water and after we sat together they allowed me to take a few images. These two were so sweet with each other and incredibly beautiful people.

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The massive garden was one big skip.

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Entering the house was indeed an adventure and heartbreaking at the same time. Dropped out of society and their drug addiction forces them to live in non-human conditions. I was at the same time deeply moved by the way Concordia helped them. Mostly by giving them dignity and no pity.

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In the beginning it felt extremely weird to visit as I felt we were intruding into their private space. But they offered drinks and were very welcoming which even intensified the experience.

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Author: Benjamin Kaufmann, Photographer, Charity, Blog

Mysterious China

On my trip to China we had to travel long distances throughout the hinterland of the Yunnan province. Hours and hours over bumpy roads were rewarded with stunning landscapes. Luckily we encountered many mysterious situations in the early morning when the sun made the fog disappear. Here are some impressions – silent and beautiful.

All these images were shot on a Mamyia 7 camera and film – it’s been a while since I haven’t actually shot on film. Still miss the feeling of coming home from a long trip and the excitement picking up the rolls from the lap. The first moments going through the shots with a magnifier….

 

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Food!!!

It’s lunch time in one of the KangYun Foundation schools in rural China. All children are gathering in front of this tiny kitchen where the food is prepared and everyone is hungry. But before lunch is actually served the chef reads out what’s on the menu and asks them for discipline.

Kangyun FoundationFinally everyone gets to queue up, impatiently waiting for their bowl.

Kangyun Foundation Kangyun FoundationGo! Equipped with a meal ticket they almost storm the kitchen – still in a very controlled manner. Closely watched by their teachers and the local staff.

Kangyun FoundationKangyun Foundation Kangyun FoundationKangyun Foundation Kangyun FoundationFinally it’s time to actually enjoy lunch!

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The First Westerner

When I was working for the Kang Yun Foundation in rural China in 2006 we passed the small remote village called Baifu where we stopped to visit the local market. I was told to expect some sort of reaction as I might be the first western person ever. Despite the fact that I didn’t believe that and still don’t, it was quite an experience.

People stared at me, paused talking, pointed their fingers and stopped their business for a little while. Obviously my appearance didn’t have such a great impact to stop people from trading, bargaining, buying, selling and gambling. Being alien even for a few minutes and in the centre of everyone’s attention happens quite rarely though.

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Changing China

In 2006 I volunteered the first time for a charity, the Kang Yun Foundation in rural China. An international shipping company supported the organisation to build schools in the unaccessible hinterland of the Yunnan province.

Reading about the stock market crash, the financial and military power and the general influence of China made me remember what I experienced. The organisation literally built schools from scratch and brought education to remote places. In some places I was told to be the first western visitor ever.

Comparing this to the ever fast growing economy, to the images of polished cities like Shanghai or Beijing and the news on the impact Chinese economy has on the rest of the world it feels completely surreal and alien when I look at some of these images.

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Shanghai at night time when I arrived. I left to the province of Yunnan early next morning.

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A classroom in the Fangyan Primary School.

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Smaller children normally share one of those bunk beds.