Images by World Vision Photography Director Jon Warren

From his career documenting the work of World Vision around the globe, Jon Warren tells the stories behind some of his favorite photographs of health and healing.

Read an interview with Warren

Psychosocial health: Trust-building exercises for former child soldiers in Uganda.

“These were all former Lord's Resistance Army soldiers. A big part of the training and rehabilitation there is spiritual and psychological. This woman [leading the exercise] was a saint. She was just fabulous.

“These two little kids [in the foreground] are orphans from the battlefield. They were found on the battlefield, and they didn’t know who the parents were. One of the World Vision staff members actually adopted one of these kids.”

Two girls sleep under mosquito nets in Mozambique.

“I was working on [an assignment] where we were contrasting a family who had a mosquito net and a family who did not. The family that had the mosquito net was dramatically better off — in more than just their health. The dad was a much more successful farmer because he wasn’t having to spend time taking the kids to the clinic. In the contrasting story, a child died from malaria while we were there.”

In Bolivia, a mother rubs the hands of disabled child.

“World Vision is going to have a program working with mothers with disabled kids. There was a huge high rate of disability in this community, and the staff there said they’re quite sure that it’s because of cocaine production. There are a lot of mini-labs because of drug enforcement, so pollutants are put into the water sources. There were so many disabled kids there, but it was a really tender moment. The parents were very loving and kind.”

A father comforts his son, who has been suffering seizures from malaria, in a Democratic Republic of Congo hospital.

In Cambodia, a World Vision staff member treats the basic medical needs of street kids.

In World Vision’s program for Cambodian street children, aid workers bring the children in to a center for education, clothes, and good food. They provide basic services — bandaging cuts, clipping nails, teaching children to brush their teeth, and other basic hygiene practices. The staff then strives to work with the parents.

“This young woman who worked with this child was a former street child herself. She had some medical training, and she’s gone back.”

World Vision helps young women, like these teen mothers in Romania, avoid abortion and, if necessary, find foster parents.

“Worshippers at the Orthodox Church in this Romanian village stand and sing for long periods of time. One morning, the priest walked in and set a cardboard box on the floor. During pauses in the singing, the worshippers heard noises coming from the box. The priest revealed that the box contained a baby, one just born to a teen mother who could not take care of it. ‘What are we going to do about it?’ the priest asked the assembly. One woman volunteered to take and raise the child.

“A Romanian woman told me this story. She told me that, after witnessing this event, she went home to her husband, who hadn’t been in church that morning, and she told him that the volunteer’s husband had rejected the baby. Furious, the storyteller’s husband said, ‘How could that guy do that? That’s a helpless baby! How could he throw a baby out? What a heartless man!’ Then the woman said, ‘I’m glad you think that, because here is the baby.’ And so they raised the child themselves.”

In a rural medical clinic in Honduras, a father reaches for his daughter after a checkup.

“After Hurricane Mitch hit Honduras,,a lot of Americans — a lot of people from Seattle, actually — got involved in helping out. I went back a year later to see how the communities were doing. This was a sweet little moment.”

A funeral for an infant in Honduras.

“It is easy for Americans to assume that people who have seen so much death in the aftermath of a hurricane have become accustomed to death. Here, a lot of people had been killed. A lot of people had lost homes. But the people in those communities care just as much as we care when a child dies. It’s a horrible tragedy for them too.”

A portrait of boy in the throes of malaria attack in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

“I was at a clinic, and this 12-year-old boy was carried in on the back of his uncle. He was in the middle of having a malaria attack. He was a very articulate kid. As they were starting to treat him, I began asking him questions about what malaria is like. The translator said to me, ‘He says he feels bad. He says he feels like there are a whole bunch of tom-toms in his head, all going at once. He feels like his whole body is on fire.’ He was really sick, but he was getting treatment, so he will do OK.”

Relatives watch over a child in a rural hospital in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

“Almost all of these kids coming in were anemic. One of the first things they would ask for is blood. Very few people could afford blood or get blood. This family is a little better off, so that child has more hope.”

Parents bring children sick with malaria to a clinic in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

“I saw a girl on the clinic floor who was sick with malaria. I asked a health worker what it would cost for her treatment. The answer? About $5, which is equivalent to 7,500 [kwacha — Zambian currency]. But the girl’s mother was holding a 500 note in her hand — it was all of the money she had. A typical family earns about 15,000 kwacha a year. One malaria treatment would cost half of a typical family’s annual income.

“The health worker said that he cannot sustain the clinic if the people themselves are not able to contribute. When I offered the health worker about $15 dollars — enough to cover the patients in the clinic that day — the health worker refused to accept it. He was adamant. He said, ‘Don’t give me a penny. If you give me any money, no one will pay for any treatment for the next six months.’”

A child receives medical attention soon after the Haiti earthquake.

“These people had, in one minute, lost their homes, lost their livelihood. After the earthquake, this man from Costa Rica came as a volunteer with World Vision. He was a paramedic. His specialty was dealing with people after disasters. He was a good health worker, a kind man.”

A physical therapist helps a boy who lost a limb in the Haiti earthquake.

“After the Haiti earthquake, people were helicoptered or driven to the Dominican border, to a group of hospitals run mostly by missionaries and Christian groups. A flood of volunteers came down to help. World Vision’s involvement was to provide crutches and medical supplies. This physical therapist was from Texas, and the experience changed his life. He’s become involved in doing a lot of international work.”

In Haiti, a double amputee practices attaching her artificial limb.

“This is Demosi. She lost two limbs — an arm and a leg — during the Haiti earthquake. She was the most positive woman I have ever met. She said to me, ‘Here, let me show you. I can put on my leg by myself. I can do it all by myself.’ She was a member of the church choir. She said, ‘I can run a business. I’m a smart woman. I know how to do stuff, and now that I’ve got this leg I can walk around. I am not helpless.’”

A community health team meets to discuss the response to Chagas, a disease carried by beetles which causes heart failure, in Honduras.

Chagas is found in South and Central America, mostly, and transmitted by bugs. “You have to make sure there’s not a way for the bugs to get into your house. If you cement the sides of a building, plaster it smoothly, and put some kind of covering under it, the beetles can’t come into your house.”

A funeral for a toddler who died from malaria in Mozambique.

“The community rule is that you have to be quiet at the burial site. At the home, there is loud wailing and weeping by community members and the family. The mourners filled the child’s coffin with all of the belongings that a small child would have had. The girl’s father bought bolts of clothing that had been meant for her. They buried all that stuff with the child.”

A nutrition class in Guatemala.

“The classes are really fun. The women go through really basic nutrition — they have little three-dimensional cutouts of food, and they’re given a budget and told, ‘You’ve got this much money to buy food. Now, you’ve got to make meals for your family, and you’ve got to choose something from this group and something from this group.’ Then they go and make meals together. The kids are all there, and they get to try it. It’s a fun way to do health teaching.”

A former sponsored child who became a doctor returns to work in her own community in Bolivia.

“Lorena grew up in this community. She had eight brothers and sisters, and all of them became professionals. But she felt this really strong need to go back and be a doctor in her community. She was hired by World Vision. She does a lot of check-ups of kids, but her biggest job is nutrition training on a big scale.”

An AIDS caregiver (center) in Uganda prays with an HIV-positive woman and her family in Uganda.

“Some women, like this woman — they get no pay. They just devote their lives to helping other people. A lot of what the caregivers do is give spiritual and psychological support. Caregivers come to a family where someone is HIV-positive, and they say ‘How can we help out? We’ll cook for you today. We’ll sweep for you.’ People’s health can change dramatically just from the care of another group. It’s really remarkable.”

A U.S. volunteer of Haitian origin holds a child injured in the Haiti earthquake.

“World Vision was working with a bunch of other organizations to help after the Haiti earthquake. I went to this camp where they were distributing supplies, and this woman was holding this child. She was just weeping, holding this little kid. It turned out that she was a U.S. citizen of Haitian descent. She’d gone to the states, she’d become a nurse, and she’d come back to volunteer.”

An HIV-positive orphan in Zambia prays before eating.

“World Vision’s role here was just making sure they had good nutrition for the kids. Right after I left, I wrote back to the staff there and asked ‘Do you know that little boy I photographed praying? I didn’t really get a story about him. Can you give us some information on him?’ They told me that he’s not there anymore. His parents took him to try to get in to South Africa, to go in illegally. They had to swim across a river that had a lot of crocodiles in it. The boy would have to hold on to one of their backs. I don’t remember the whole story, but the boy’s parents died. He is going on to live with other relatives.”

A girl waits with her big sister at a medical clinic in Haiti.

“This girl’s sister, who was 14 or 15 years old, brought her in and said, ‘My little sister’s not feeling well.’ She sat with her while their parents went to work.”

In Ghana, a mother with her newborn baby in a hut built next to a newly installed water pump.

“World Vision’s initial program in this village had been to put in clean water pumps. The first thing the community wanted to do was build a birthing center next to the clean water. They said, ‘We’ve had such a huge problem when a woman delivers a child, because we don’t have clean water around. It’s so hard to try to carry water from so far away. We want to have the birthing right next to clean water.’ So, 50 yards away from the pump, the community built a birthing center.”

HIV-positive children and healthy children play together in Malawi.

“A woman in Malawi named Olivia came out publicly to say ‘My husband died from AIDS, and I’ve got AIDS. I’m HIV-positive. And I’m going to talk about it.’ So her church kicked her out, initially.

“The first year I was there, no one would talk about it. You could ask ‘How did this person die?’ and they would say ‘Well, they got malaria.’ No one would talk about it. Pastors in the churches wouldn’t talk about it, and if they did, they were condemning anyone who had it, especially the women, even though it was the husbands that were being promiscuous. And a lot of the spread of AIDS was happening in hospitals. People went into hospitals, they would have their blood drawn, and it was given to someone else.

“But this picture was taken during the week when the community took the woman back into the church officially. They had an official welcoming ceremony. These were her kids playing with neighbor kids. So it was such a huge leap forward for other kids to play with the kids of an HIV-positive woman. It was the first step in that experience of saying ‘Come out. Become open.’”