Five photos and a fond farewell

Oct 26, 2016


Deborah Kidd
science writer

There’s something about a prime number. After 11 incredible years at PATH with a stint of 7 for DefeatDD, I’m headed to my next adventure. So along that prime theme, it feels right to close out with 5 favorite photos. I will not say goodbye, but instead “see you on the other side.” And to share what I’ll take with me, I’d like to show you a few of my most memorable sights along this amazing journey.

I have always felt fairly confident in eliciting a giggle or at the very least a sly smile from little ones. But Anh Thu in Nha Trang, Vietnam, was not having it. I showed her my camera, my biggest grin, and even her mother offered a smile for my cause. But no luck. And then the simplest of realizations broke through my thick skull. We were in the diarrhea ward of a hospital. This little girl was sick. She did not feel like smiling. Although she was on the mend, she had been through a rough few days. Her recovery made her mother and nurses smile, but her body had other priorities at the moment. It wasn’t about me or my ability to connect with her, I humbly remembered. It was about the care and comfort she needed to heal. She was getting that; and that made me smile.

We had only just met, and that was about all that we had in common. This mother in Bangladesh graciously shared with a stranger a few minutes of her day and her thoughts on the promise of the rotavirus vaccine her young son had just received. I don’t remember what made us laugh – probably the universal understanding that babies don’t care one bit whether your interview is underway or your photographer is searching for the perfect shot. And although its origin is lost to my memory, I have never forgotten this moment—when two women from opposite sides of the world shared a laugh on a very happy day.

The warm sunshine filtered through the trees, the community meeting had come to a close, we had a few spare minutes on our hands, and I had a sudden idea. We asked Elina Cheemauna and a handful of others from her community to sit for portraits. During the meeting, they had shared with us the fundamental ways they work to keep their children healthy. And I wanted to honor their generosity with a dignified image that mirrored their quiet persistence against the threat of diarrheal disease. “Take care to make your environment very clean, ” this grandmother told us. Simple, powerful, and lifesaving.

“You don’t have to write about poop anymore!” It’s one of the most common exclamations I have heard upon telling friends and family that I’m closing the door on this chapter of my career. But honestly, it has never really felt like a tough topic. I think my colleagues would (mostly) agree: It is actually pretty great to answer the seemingly innocuous question, “So what do you do?” when posed by an unsuspecting party. At DefeatDD, we know when the issue needs serious attention, but we also embrace the taboo. The way that we have managed to balance humor and sincerity has been so rewarding. At the end of the day, we all believe that we are doing good work – and we definitely have a good time doing it!

And finally: These guys. I can’t spend too long on my description here, because this lump in my throat is threatening to spill over into a waterfall of tears. I’ll leave you with a shot of the absolutely-most-magical team in the history of the world. I move forward knowing with full confidence that the DefeatDD movement is in very capable (not to mention hygienic) hands.

A final thought: Speaking of things in their prime, with a team like this and partners like you, I think the fight to defeat diarrhea is certainly in its prime! As a matter of fact, there are a few other prime numbers you should consider: For starters, there’s 3—as in the third iteration of our Poo Haiku contest. And you know the rules of haiku, I trust: 5-7-5.

It’s a prime time to join the conversation. Happy composing! I’ll see you on the other side.