When Clifton Shipway, the deputy director of Good Shepherd Agricultural Mission – a school and orphanage in the foothills of the Himalayas – checked his email, he was surprised to see a message from a 17-year-old student in Hong Kong.
It probably came as an even bigger surprise to find that as part of his final project for his school, student Aman Lakhwani was creating a photo book of landscapes titled Hong Kong: A Place to Discover, and donating all the profits from its sale to the organisation in India.
“Due to the coronavirus, I knew a lot of places were in need of help. I wanted to give my profits to a place which was really affected by the pandemic,” said the Hong Kong-born student, who goes to Kellett School.
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His parents are of Indian descent, and his aunt and uncle live in India, and recommended the NGO, which is home to 65 children and a school to around 700. Founded in 1948 by Shipway’s grandfather, Maxton Davis Strong, the organisation has been running for more than 70 years. Shipway, born in Australia, moved to India when he was 18 years old and has been there for the past 17 years.
As with many NGOs around the world, donations to the organisation were hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, which has infected more than 34 million people and left more than 1 million dead around the world. India is one of the countries that has been particularly affected, with more than 6.3 million cases of coronavirus and 98,000 fatalities.
“It’s certainly been a struggle,” admits Shipway.
The orphanage, school and farm set on 24 hectares (60 acres) of land closed its doors to isolate in February.
“We’ve been operating with just a few key staff going out in the community for shopping, and we’ve been lucky to not have a single case. We knew if one case comes in, then everyone will get it,” Shipway said.
While the school has been fortunate not to have a case of Covid-19, due to parents in the local community losing jobs, funding for the school, including for teachers' wages, has been affected.
Lakhwani decided to combine his passion for photography with a desire to help those impacted by the global pandemic. After covering the cost of making the book, HK$100 (US$13) of the proceeds from each copy will go to the NGO in India. The photos, taken with a Canon camera and a drone, were captured between January and May this year, with the book divided into seven sections showcasing the city’s culture and landscape.
The 17-year-old captured the most iconic parts of the city, including Victoria Peak, the harbour, the airport and Mong Kok’s food stalls, where he shot his favourite street food: egg waffles and fish balls.
Lakhwani has been promoting the book through word of mouth and Instagram, but within a week of it going on sale via a website, it has sold just a handful of copies. While the amount is only in the hundreds of dollars, Shipway says it is donations like this that are keeping them afloat.
“To put in perspective, US$13 is roughly three days’ wages for one of our teachers … We are continually going back to scrape the bottom of the barrel, but every time we go back there is just enough to get by. It comes from the trickle donations: the little amounts which all add up.”