Skip Baumhower knows what hope looks like. Hope is on the faces of the people he photographed during a recent mission trip to earthquake-devastated Haiti.
Baumhower spent a week in Haiti photographing the faces of the survivors and aid workers that have converged on the island after a 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck on January 12.
Baumhower, a wedding and portrait photographer, left his home in Tuscaloosa to document the work of Global Partners, the missionary arm of the Wesleyan Church.
“Global Partners is using my services to keep people connected to the need.” And right now Baumhower says the people of Haiti “need everything.”
According to the Haitian government the earthquake killed an estimated 230,000 people and has left thousands homeless.
“For thousands of people everything is gone. There are tent villages all over the place,” Baumhower said.
“And the fact that the rainy season has arrived, it could possibly bring on catastrophic health situations,” he said.
Baumhower says it’s a catastrophe of that nature that the aid workers and missionaries are hoping to avoid.
“They are assessing the damage and needs to report back first hand to churches in the United States.”
Baumhower says that right now the people of Haiti are flocking to churches for the stability and support they offer.
“It’s the closest, safest and healthiest thing that they have right now in their life,” he said.
The Haitian people’s devotion to the church became apparent to Baumhower during a Sunday morning service. Baumhower said that about 1,200 people were crowded under a make-shift church constructed of blue tarpaulins. As the 8 AM service began the temperature had already reached close to 100 degrees Fahrenheit. But the people stayed for the service he said.
“The church means that much to them.”
Baumhower says that he hopes his photography will not allow people in the United States to forget about the situation in Haiti.
“This photography will be an ongoing tool to communicate the needs of the survivors and the progress of the people coming forward to make a difference.”
Baumhower says that as the tragedy of the event wears off people begin to forget.
“The Haitians don’t want the world to forget about them,” he said.
This became apparent to Baumhower in a tragic way one day in Haiti as a hired driver showed Baumhower the devastated country side.
Baumhower said he saw a group of Haitian people excitedly gathered atop a pile of rubble.
“I asked the driver to turn back. The people on the rubble saw that I was a photographer and they waved to me and said ‘over here, over here.’ They had discovered in the rubble a young girl dead in her bed.”
That’s not what Baumhower was there to photograph.
“Maybe another photographer would have gone up there to take a picture. The photographs that I capture reveal the hope that the Haitian people possess and the reality and conditions in which they are living.”
“The most important thing for people is to not let themselves forget about Haiti,” Baumhower said.
“They have no power. People are reading Bibles by candlelight. Thousands of people are homeless. It’s going to take a lot of effort. The work is not done. It’s not finished. It’s just beginning. This could be a new beginning for Haiti.”
To see Skip Baumhower’s Haiti photography click here and here.
To donate to the ongoing relief effort in Haiti click here.