About this project

It all started with a photo notebook

foto trailerThe Rwandan government decided to close all orphanages in the country. Orphanages no longer suit Rwanda, which wants to be a middle-income country by 2020. It is stated in the UN guideline for vulnerable children as well: children are better off in households.

32 children from the L’Esperance Children’s Village followed a photography course in November of 2014, just several weeks before the orphanage was to be closed. The children of L’Esperance portrayed their lives. They grew up without mirrors, tap water and without electricity. During the course they learned to look at themselves and the world. The pictures of the children are brought together in a photo note book that gives a unique insight into their world. The photo note book is for sale – and with buying a book, you send these kids back to school, which often their relatives or adopted parents cannot afford.

Following two boys

We followed five children upon leaving the orphanage and made a short film about two of them: the brothers Hirwa and Jean-Cloude, who were re-united with their mother. The story also appeared on Narratively.

Of the 126 children who once lived in the eight single-family homes on the property, only 56 were left. Most of them were fourteen years of age or older; no family wanted to take them in. Although the government’s deadline for closure of the orphanages was postponed at the eleventh hour, the donors had by then already withdrawn their support. Many children ended up in poor families, with some now no longer being able go to school. L’Esperance is at the forefront; most of the country’s 34 orphanages are still in the process of closing.

Why this project?

foto Aais fotografeertOne of us, Paulien Bakker, has been visiting the orphanage since 2005. When she told photographer Anaïs López that the place would have to close, Anaïs immediately said: “But that’s a modern Cinderella story!” Things quickly developed from there. Over her lunch break, they asked Cuban filmmaker Anisleidy Martinez to join them, who immediately said yes. They first visited l’Esperance Childrens Village in December of 2014.

Just weeks before the orphanage closed, they gave 32 children a photo course and an assignment: to portray their own lives. By then, of the 126 kids who had once lived in the eight family houses, only some 56 remained. Most were fourteen years of age or older; no family would take them in. Though the government postponed the deadline for closing at the last minute, the orphanage had by then no funds left and sent the remaining children away. Many other orphanages in Rwanda are still in the process of closing.

Six months later Anisleidy, Anaïs and Paulien went back and extensively visited six children, making inquiries about the other 26 who attended our course and talking to all people involved in the process. The photos of the children have been collected in a photo notebook that is now out for sale. From the profits, five children will be sent back to school. In the coming weeks other parts of this project will be placed online here.

More about us

Anais aan het werk

Anaïs López published two books in 2013: “Only in Burundi” and “In the beginning no bird sang”. Both projects were nominated for the Dutch Doc Award. “Only Burundi” has been on display at the Stedelijk Museum as part of the exhibition “On the Move”. Her earlier work has been exhibited in the Tropenmuseum and Photo Ville New York. Her work has also appeared in numerous media, including and HP/De Tijd. Anais completed her Master’s Degree in 2010 in Photography at the AKV / St Joost, Breda. She followed a Magnum mentorship and was a member of the World Press Photo Workshop.
Interview Dutch Doc about Only in Burundi
Video of the book ‘Only in Burundi’



about us 1Anisleidy Martínez Fonseca grew up in Cuba and went to boarding school there. She studied communications at the University of Havana and received training as a professional video producer at the College of MultiMedia in Amsterdam, where she lives since 2009. She worked for ZoominTV. Her first project is shown on:




about us 3Paulien Bakker is author of the book “A romantic people”, about the people of the Iraqi city of Kirkuk. She also works as Director of the Initiative for Narrative Journalism in the Netherlands. As a freelance journalist, she writes mainly for Dutch media outlets like De Volkskrant and Vrij Nederland. Her work was also published on Narratively. Paulien studied Journalism and Psychology.
Video Hello Baghdad
Narrative pieces online: Correspondent and Narratively.

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