UTSA education alumna travels to Africa to do humanitarian photography

Sarah Brooke Lyons

UTSA alumna Sarah Brooke Lyons

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(Aug. 8, 2014) -- Sarah Brooke Lyons, a graduate of the UTSA College of Education and Human Development (COEHD), traveled abroad this summer to Burkina Faso, West Africa to continue her work in humanitarian photography.

For two weeks, Lyons traveled to Dano, Burkina Faso with Infants in Crisis, a program within the Streams in Burkina Faso organization. The program, which has a center established in Burkina Faso, provides local infants and their families with formula, baby bottles and other necessities for up to two years. Their goal is to reduce the numbers of infanticide.

"In this particular region, if the mother cannot produce milk or if she has passed away, the infant is wrapped in a blanket and left to die," said Lyons. "The Infants in Crisis program helps to meet the family's needs and save the lives of these babies."

During her time abroad, Lyons documented the work done by the Infants in Crisis program in addition to photographing the people and families living in the country. This was the second time she has traveled to Burkina Faso with the program, previously visiting in 2012.

For this trip, Lyons printed several of the portraits she took during her first trip to the country two years ago and brought them with her as gifts. Being able to give these portraits to the people in Burkina Faso was rewarding, she said.

"What I was most excited about was being be able to give people their portraits," she said. "This is an area where nobody has a picture of themselves."

Last August, Lyons traveled to Natal, Rio Grande do Norte, Brazil and documented the outreach happening in the favelas, or slums, in the region. This October, she plans to continue her humanitarian photography efforts in Haiti, where she will work with children and document the work being done in a local orphanage.

Lyons graduated from UTSA in 2009 with a Bachelor of Arts in Early Childhood and Elementary Education Degree and then started her photography business, Sarah Brooke Photography. Earlier this year, Lyons completed her 1005 Faces project, photographing 1,005 San Antonio residents to showcase diversity in the city. The portraits exhibited around the city included ex-Spurs player David Robinson, UTSA President Ricardo Romo and COEHD senior lecturer Carmen Tafolla.

Although she is not currently working in the education field, Lyons said she still uses what she learned at UTSA in her work as a photographer around the world.

"All of what I learned relating to education, like early childhood psychology, plays a role in human behavior in all kinds of environments," she said. "It has helped me to be able to relate to people better, to be able to approach people with more understanding and to be able to understand where people are coming from. So I think that I am very comfortable traveling in multiple environments and working with lots of different people. The UTSA Early Childhood Education program gave me a really broad view of people in general, and I really appreciate people because of the knowledge I have about the way we grow and develop. I think that knowledge will stick with me forever."

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