Today, exactly one year has passed since I got a plane to leave Nepal, after completing close to a month of volunteer work at SSDRC – Kathmandu’s Special School for Disabled and Rehabilitation Centre – one of the only specialist centres for autistic children which exists in the poverty stricken country. In truth, my time there was one of ups and downs – I found meeting and working with the children deeply rewarding, and their stories inspire me to this day. However, without any formal training in autism, I’m not sure how much good I was really doing.
On a couple of days, I brought my camera along, which had the sad effect of creating some kind of protective shield between the disorder around me – untethered from obligation, I floated freely throughout the environment, snapping the faces of these children I’d gotten to know over the proceeding days and weeks. Only when I looked back at the images months later did I realise how I could use them for good.
In April, at the start of Autism Awareness Month, I shared this series of portraits – documenting every child I met – for the first time, as part of a fundraising campaign to help SSDRC move from their current home in a couple of rented shanty structures, to a modern purpose-built school building on its own plot of land, guaranteeing the schools future for decades to come. The fundraising campaign is ongoing.