Archives For Elaine Watkins

Post by: Ryan Humm, Director / Cinematographer / Read Asia Advocate

When I travel to a new environment for film and photography work, I get aesthetically inspired. Architecture, markets, landscapes, and colors all bring a new challenge and a new way to capture an image.  But I have learned that what truly inspires me is photographing and filming people.

A few months ago, I was hired to film general b-roll footage in Nashville. The client wanted shots of buildings, city centers, nightlife, and parks. For the first time in years I was unsure of myself; I wasn’t filming people. I realized during this job that my passion and inspiration for capturing images comes from from faces, from laughter, from transparency, and from suffering.

Recently, I traveled to southern India with Read Asia. The population, the income disparity, and the religious tension were so vastly different than anywhere I have ever traveled before. I have seen and experienced abject poverty in multiple countries, but I’d never seen slums next to Google or Oracle office buildings. I thought I was there to tell a visual story of literacy, but really, I learned that the story of literacy is the story of empowerment. Literacy transforms every aspect of life. Street signs mean something, prices at the market mean something, ideas on paper mean something, a love letter means something, the letters H-I-V mean something. Literacy is a cure for cognitive blindness and I was able to see and capture that beautiful transformation.

This is the story I love to tell and the reason I travel all over the world to tell it. Regardless of the country or the project or the client, it’s the same story. It’s a poetic combination of suffering, healing, forgiveness, justice and community. I need to continually remind myself that my film and photography work probably won’t directly affect the person in front of my camera. Because I am not their savior or their caretaker. But my work can provide exponential opportunities for others in their shoes.  My job is to tell the stories of dreams that we all have. Not just those dreams of people in developing nations who long to be literate, but for people thousands of miles away with resources to dream about how they can bring change to an individual, tribe, city or nation.

My name is Ryan Humm, I am a Director / Cinematographer specializing in documentary short film. To see more of my work visit or


Source: The Guardian

Massive waste accumulation has become an environmental, health and aesthetic hazard for India’s cities. Urban India generates 188,500 tonnes of trash a day. In the absence of infrastructure to handle the issue, a large, informal waste-picking and recycling industry has developed among the urban poor. This unpaid, unprotected ‘army of green workers’ collects, sorts and recycles the city’s discards to trade for small returns.

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Empowered by India

Elaine Watkins —  June 19, 2014
Author: Kirsti Haverdink, Read Asia supporter

I don’t feel guilty. This is unusual for me.  Typically after a trip out of the country there is a gnawing inside me, a restless uneasiness.  I have such a full life. I have beautiful relationships, incredible opportunity, a lovely home, clean water and a freezer full of food.  To come home feeling somewhat bad for the life I have is not uncommon.

India.  My senses are immediately awakened and heightened as I take in all the vibrant colors, sounds and smells. The people.  So many people.  Where they are all going I have no idea, but the further away from the city we travel, the more curious I become. Continue Reading…

By: Jessie Emelander, Development Director for Read Asia

I was recently interviewing some women who were enrolled in the Adult Literacy Program. They came with incredible stories and shattered lives. Some of the stories were hard to believe.

I needed to understand where these women came from, so I asked if I could visit one of their neighborhoods. And I mean that loosely—because when I did, it was more like a city than a neighborhood, with one and a half million people living in one square mile. We drove down a few streets that were barely wide enough for the van to fit through, and stopped next to a small fruit stand.

So now I’m out of the car, standing next to a wall, and suddenly the wall moves. The wall is a door—a door to a shed, that could be a house, but it could just be a shed.

This girl is standing in the entrance, waving me in. I don’t know who she is, but my mother obviously didn’t teach me better, so I follow the stranger.

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I think it’s important that I preface this entry by admitting that social justice had, quite frankly, nothing to do with why I was in India.

I moved there with my family in 2009 after my dad, who works for a multi-billion dollar Fortune 50 company whose name isn’t important,was transferred to an office in Chennai, a city of roughly 8 million souls on the southeast coast of the country. There could not have been more social and economic disparity between my world and the world of so many Indians. My world had air-conditioned luxury cars, and chauffeurs who called me sir instead of my name. My world had security guards, maids, gardeners, cooks, paid vacations and 5-star restaurants; and if I wanted it to, existed primarily behind gates and tinted glass.

Most of my neighbors didn’t have shoes.

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I love kids. Who doesn’t? Some of the wittiest and most fabulous people I know… are children.

And I’ve always loved supporting different causes that benefit kids around the world—mostly education. Because education is one of those few things in my life that I know is real, and good, and life changing.

But it has recently come to my attention that when we talk about children’s education, the conversation feels a bit one-sided.

Because what happens when that kid comes home from school to a family that doesn’t value education? To a mother who can’t read or write? To a father who could care less?

Take it from Jaya. As you can see, she’s obviously awesome. Continue Reading…

United Nations
: India has recorded a decline in maternal mortality rates between 1990 and 2013 but along with Nigeria it accounted for one third of the global maternal deaths last year, according to a UN report.

An estimated 289,000 women died in 2013 from complications in pregnancy and childbirth, down from 523,000 in 1990, according to World Health Organisation’s trends in maternal mortality estimates from 1990 to 2013. The figure represents a decrease of 45 per cent. Continue Reading…

When I first started working in the nonprofit field, I was a lowly intern with big ideas of a world transformed in my lifetime. Literacy felt like a nice, fluffy topic. I knew education was important—but literacy felt like such a backseat issue compared to extreme poverty, slavery, and the other deep injustices of the world. So I thought, really, let’s prioritize.

Over the years, my perspective has obviously widened and developed and grown, but I’ll admit, it wasn’t until a recent trip to India that I totally changed my mind about literacy.

Because when we talk about literacy, we’re not talking about teaching people to read and write. We’re talking about giving them the opportunity of their lives… lives that they’ll live out with purpose… lives that will help end extreme poverty, slavery, and the other deep injustices of the world.

So there I was, in a decent-sized village called Yadagirigutta, in South India, where I met Kiran.

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Photographer Karolin Klüppel visits an Indian village where girls hold all the power

In the north-eastern Indian state of Meghalaya lies a small village where the girls hold all the power. Mawlynnong, which is home to just 95 houses and a population of around 500, runs a matrilineal society, meaning that the family’s lineage is traced through the wife’s surname, and the youngest daughter inherits her parents’ property. Continue Reading…


Nearly 400m people live in cities in India and during the next 40 years that number will more than double. Not only is the proportion of India’s total female population that is economically active among the lowest in the world, but urban areas do even worse.

New analysis of data from the 2011 census shows only half as many urban women work as their rural counterparts. Continue Reading…