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Dear Spotlight Readers:

Each month Spotlight brings you the best of SDN. More often than not, the dozen or so stories are about themes that are not headlines in the news. This month the featured story is about using smart phones to monitor the health of women giving birth in east Africa. Other stories are about a vanishing village in Belarus, an elephant preserve in Thailand, circus workers in Chile, and steel drum musicians in Flatbush, Brooklyn.

This past month the world has been shaken by the ISIS-inspired attacks in Paris and Beirut and the downing of a civilian Russian airliner. In the US, we had a home-grown terrorist attack against a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado. And we still don't know the motive for the horrific attacks yesterday in California. While photographs of any one of these situations are important to our understanding, they are not necessarily the only stuff of documentary.

The thousands of documentary exhibits that have appeared on the SDN website are thoughtful investigations of the nuances, complexity, and wonder of life around the world. Yes, ISIS poses an existential threat that is riveting the world's attention, but we must not forgot the other things and other struggles that effect our lives sometimes more directly than the headlines and are also the things that make us human.

Eric Smith, in this month's Spotlight, reminds us of the poverty, struggles, and redemption in Detroit. Craig Stennett brings us two stories. One is about Palestinians living in a cemetery in Gaza and the other about mahouts (elephant keepers) in a special preserve in Thailand that respects elephants more than a typical tourist preserve. These stories are about the stuff that matters in the world, particularly when the war against ISIS is over and the refugees can finally go home. At that time, there will still be elephants to care for, conflict in Gaza, and poverty in Detroit.

SDN is honored this month to feature the beautiful photographs by Kenyan photographer Kevin Ouma about smart phone technology being used to save the lives of mothers and infants in one of the most remote corners of Africa.

Glenn Ruga
SDN Founder and Director

December 2015 Spotlight
Kevin Ouma
December 2015 Featured Photographer of the Month
Using phones to help mothers in Samburu, Kenya

Samburu county in Kenya, East Africa, is one of the most remote and inaccessible parts of the country. Access to health care facilities is still limited for most people who live here, leading to high rates of death of mother and/or child during pregnancy. Safaricom, a leading Telecom in Kenya through its CSR arm, MPESA Foundation, together with the Ministry of Health Kenya, has provided nurses with smart phones that have an app which is used to get data from patients during prenatal checkups. 

View Exhibit >>

Kevin Ouma is a freelance documentary photographer based in Nairobi, Kenya with assignments in East Africa. Kevin works mostly with non-profits when not doing his personal projects.He is keen on pursuing themes around education, poverty, and maternal healthcare. When not traveling, he lives with his wife in Nairobi.

December 2015 Spotlight
Probal Rashid
by Probal Rashid/Bangladesh
Bangladesh is one of the countries most vulnerable to the effects of climate change. The regular and severe natural hazards that Bangladesh already suffers from -- tropical cyclones, river erosion, flood, landslides and drought -- are all set to increase in intensity and frequency as a ...
Yanina Shevchenko
by Yanina Shevchenko/Belarus
A vanishing village is a village that has, for some reason, been deserted. The problems of extinction of rural areas and over population of large cities are very important for almost every country in the world, and especially for Belarus. The disintegration of the traditional social and political...
Craig Stennett
by Craig Stennett/Thailand
On the outskirts of the sleepy village of Tambon Baan Tuek, near the ancient town and former Thai capital of Sukhothai, lies Boon Lotts Elephant Sanctuary (BLES). It is an elephant sanctuary with a difference. The Mahouts, elephant keepers or drivers, lead the way in welfare for these animals....
Eric Smith
by Eric Smith/United States
Within the city of Detroit it is conservatively estimated that over 50% of the residents live in poverty. At Cass Park, an inner-city park in downtown Detroit, volunteers bring food and clothing to help those residents who are in need. ...
by Craig Stennett/Palestine
The history of how these families found themselves living in a graveyard stretches back to 1948 and the establishment of the state of Israel. The majority of the families in El-Sheikh Shaban fled from the then named Palestinian town of Majdal after it came under bombardment during the first Arab-Israeli war...
by Manuel Meszarovits/Nepal
Child labor in Nepal has a long history as a regular source of income for many families across the country. Children start to work at tender ages to support economically poor families. In the brick kiln sector, children work for a meager hard-earned sum as parents prefer their children to work at a...
by Tony Savino/Haiti
Parc Kado Refugee Camp, Anse-a-Pitres, Haiti, October 2015. Hundreds of refugees live in squalor in refugee camps in the southern border town of Anse-a-Pitres, since the Dominican government started deporting Haitians and Dominicans of Haitian descent. The region is non-arable with no possibility ...
by Nejc Trpin/Slovenia
"Behind the fence" is a series of photographs taken in October 2015 on the peak of the migrant crisis on the so-called Balkan route, which leads from the Middle East to Greece, Macedonia, Serbia, Croatia and Slovenia towards Austria and Germany. The refugees and migrants had to travel in ...
by Dania Reichmuth/Chile
The role of the circus is both complex and simple, it is in itself a contradiction, but also shows how fragile human nature can be. The role of the circus folks is complicated in its simplicity. They are of course there to carry out the role that they are paid to perform as actors or performers as well...
by William Farrington/United States
The sounds of steelpan ringing out on hot summer nights over the bustle of Flatbush is a familiar sound. It came here with Trinidadian immigrants and established a hold in Flatbush and Crown Heights. The music's roots lie in resisting colonial laws banning drumming in Trinidad...

Advisory Committee
Kristen Bernard
Lori Grinker
Steve Horn
Ed Kashi
Jeffrey D. Smith
Stephen Walker
Frank Ward
Jamie Wellford

Glenn Ruga
Founder & Director

Barbara Ayotte
Communications Director

Paula Sokolska
ZEKE Writer & Editor 

Caterina Clerici

Special Issue Editor  

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About Social Documentary Network is a website for photographers, NGOs, journalists, editors, and students to create and explore documentary exhibits investigating critical issues facing the world today. Recent exhibits have explored oil workers in the Niger River Delta, male sex workers in India, Central American immigrant women during their journey north, and Iraqi and Afghan refugees in Greece.Click here to view all of the exhibits.