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Every Picture Tells A Story

Members of the Dawlish & Teignmouth Camera Club were delighted to meet humanitarian photographer, Tommy Hatwell, in person, even though it was his third presentation to the Club. Tommy’s previous talks – Around the World and Back Again and The Borehole and Beyond – were delivered through Zoom and illustrated his love for travel and adventure and subsequently, his strong connection to the people and communities in Uganda.

In his third instalment, Tommy shared how he has now set up the Think People, Think Story organisation to deliver all of his humanitarian projects using a trusted, local team in Uganda, comprising a few characters that we ‘met’ in his previous talks. Together they identify and then get to work on a variety of life-enhancing projects to benefit the local communities. And true to Tommy’s indomitable spirit, they use their creativity to tell the story through photographs and videos, which is key to raising awareness and funds for the projects.

The Sleepwell Project by Tommy Hatwell
The Sleepwell Project by Tommy Hatwell

One such venture is the Sleepwell Project, which was born out of a visit Tommy made to the Acholi Quarters Slum in Kampala where he saw the battered and dirty chunks of foam that people were using as mattresses. He originally thought about buying a few mattresses to create a studio backdrop for some portraits before gifting the mattresses to those taking part. However, he realised that this felt very limited and upon sharing the idea with his team, it became evident that they could evolve this into a larger, collaborative project with the community.

In October 2019, Tommy launched the Sleepwell Project which would enable people to sponsor a Dream Kit (mattress, mosquito net, sheet, blanket) for £45 – and, like his previous Postcard project, it would link the people who donated with the beneficiaries.

It was testament to the power of photography as we witnessed what happened over 3 days in February 2020 when the team came together to deliver the mattresses - the logistics involved; the eager anticipation of the gathering community; and the joyous culmination of the families receiving their mattresses. And not just any mattress! These were brightly coloured, stripey affairs, which were used to great effect as a pop-up studio in which to take the family portrait to send back to their supporter. Remarkably, the team delivered 60 mattresses, 45 treated mosquito nets, bed sheets and 31 blankets to 60 families in the Acholi Quarters Slum, directly benefitting over 300 people.

Tommy received a rousing round of applause at the end of his talk and members also showed their appreciation with generous donations to the Sleepwell Project.

Tommy Hatwell and his team in Uganda
Tommy Hatwell and his team in Uganda

If you have been inspired by Tommy and want to make a donation, please visit the website Think People, Think Story and go to the Sleepwell Project 2022 page.

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