Campaign Title

This page was created in support of Photographers Without Borders® (PWB)


Create Change Through Storytelling

Support the parent-led NGO for Down Syndrome in Kyrgyzstan

Photographers Without Borders is looking to send documentary photographer Vanessa Tignanelli to Kyrgyzstan to capture the work being done by Sunterra Community Foundation for people with Down Syndrome.

People with Down Syndrome (DS) face social exclusion and deprivation in Kyrgyzstan. Due to the widespread stigma of DS, cultural attitudes of mother-blaming, and a Soviet precedent of institutionalization, many children with DS remain hidden at home or are encouraged by doctors to be abandoned at birth.

Currently, there are few educational opportunities for children with DS and even fewer employment opportunities for adults.

About the NGO

In January 2016, parents of children with Down Syndrome in Kyrgyzstan self-mobilized to form Sunterra, an organization that promotes awareness about DS, provides support for families, and pilots activity programs for people with DS.

The organization operates two resource centres in Bishkek and Osh cities, assisting over 200 children and their families. By 2021, Sunterra hopes to expand their number of resource centres into smaller communities, and become the primary provider of information and training support for public organizations working with people with Down Syndrome. Their mission is to see people with Down Syndrome socially adapted, accepted and integrated into society.

This NGO has asked Photographers Without Borders for help. With professional documentation of what they do, they can further access funding, educate the public, and save children who are born with DS, helping them to grow into the autonomous adults they can be.

A Message from the NGO:

Children with Down Syndrome are called "sunshine" and therefore we called our foundation Sunterra, meaning the territory of the sun. Our Mission is to protect the rights and interests of people with Down Syndrome, to enhance education and development resources for children with DS, and provide psychological and informational support for parents and families of loved ones with DS.

About Photographers Without Borders

PWB is registered as a charity in the United States with 501(c)(3) status and is registered as a not-for-profit organization in Canada.

We are a community of storytellers uniting to support community partners (NGOs, charities, community initiatives) by sending professional photographers and videographers on volunteer assignments through the PWB Program. Our mission is to make storytelling more accessible for communities around the world who are contributing to the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals and UNDRIP.

By honouring and witnessing humanity at its best, we hope to inspire and forge new narratives of what is possible. Documentation has proven to make a difference for organizations around the world. It allows them to reach wider audiences, build their professional platforms, and access funding.

A professional documentary photographer is trained to look for those special moments that will bring people in with care, empathy, and capture the essence of a story. Every year, our photographers donate hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of their time to document the work of grassroots NGOs, charities and community initiatives that are making real change in this world.

Learn more about PWB.

Where Your Money Goes

Your generous donations will directly help the NGO by sending a photographer who is passionate about their cause and is willing to volunteer their time and skills to support their mission. The photographer donates thousands of dollars in research, equipment, travel costs, photographing, editing, and providing strong images to the NGO to use for promotion. 

Your donations help to subsidize these necessary assignment-related expenses:

  • Airfare
  • Visa
  • Vaccinations
  • Assignment Costs (Guide, Translator, Accommodations, Producer)
  • Emergency Medical & Travel Insurance

The following expenses are the sole responsibility of the Photographer:

Privately-arranged travel / Camera Equipment / Travel & equipment insurance / Software / Extra baggage fees / Clothing / Postage / Prints / Food, Etc.

Any overage amounts raised will be donated and disbursed 50/50 between the NGO and PWB.

About the Photographer

Vanessa Tignanelli is a Canadian documentary photographer and videographer. Combining her training in conceptual art, journalism and filmmaking, her work moves beyond the typical snapshot to the more significant environmental portrait, encapsulating the essence of those who share their stories with her. She is interested in subjects that reconcile opposing ideas found in traditional society, working with themes confronting sexism, ageism and classicism. The work celebrates resiliency and individuality, looks for hope in tragedy, takes us to people living on the fringes of society, and calls for us to be comfortable there.

Vanessa's work has been recognized by the Royal Family, NPAC National Photographs of the Year Awards, Duke of Edinburgh Awards, and InFocus Photo Exhibit and Award. She is a graduate of the studio art program at University of Guelph and the photojournalism program at Loyalist College. Her work has appeared in publications such as The Globe and Mail, Bloomberg, VICE, Photographers Without Borders, CBC, National Post, Toronto Star, True North Photo Journal, PhotoEd Magazine, and more.

This is Vanessa Tignanelli's second volunteer assignment with PWB. In 2017, she photographed the Ageing With A Smile Initiative and glaucoma crisis in The Gambia, West Africa.

A Message from the Photographer: 

"This NGO was created by parents of children with Down Syndrome who have seen firsthand the need for further education and resources. Children are already our most vulnerable population; imagine being born into a society that does not yet know how easy it is to love you?

My personal relationship to this topic spans years of documenting people living with disabilities, but also my particular connection to people with Down Syndrome. These are some of the most special, happy, affectionate friends I have made, all living autonomous lives with Down Syndrome in Canada.

If I can help to show Kyrgyzstan and other countries who have not yet had the pleasure of getting to know someone with Down Syndrome the beauty and unlimited connections that can be made with them, I will have used my skills as a documentary photographer to aid and strengthen this NGO's mission. 

The more positive information we can circulate about Down Syndrome, the more we can begin to change the stigmas made about them in this country, and together provide them with the dignity and love that they deserve."

Please Donate!

Thank You for Your Support !

Together, we will help to integrate people with Down Syndrome into Kyrgyzstan society.

All donations are calculated in US Dollars and are tax-deductible for Americans and Canadians. You will receive a tax receipt for your donation.

Cindy Koeller $15.00
Mark Paoletti
Thank you for making a difference.
James Craig
Hi Vanessa, I hope this donation will help in some small way to support your brave and heartfelt journey... Cheers, Jim
Proud of the work you do $500.00
the Dunstans $75.00
So inspirational, I’m so glad that you’re doing what you do! ✨❤️
Tom Zink
Vanessa, The PWB project sounds exciting; happy to support it. Gateway Harmony member, Tom Zink
All the best
Mary Ann and Jack Jones
As someone who loves photography, I will be following this story with great interest. Best wishes as you work to increase awareness of children who are marginalized by society. Mary Ann Jones (and Jack)
Hariett madigan
You go girl!
Diane Valade
Congratulations Vanessa, you will do an awesome job, can't wait to read.
Molly Naber-Sykes
So proud of you Vanessa - you go!!! I went to university with your mom - and we only reconnected at retirement!!!
Anne Marie Lambert
You are an inspiration in your passion for this initiative. We would love to see the photographs some day. Bravo Vanessa.
Rosemary Klein $50.00
Marcel and Lynne Leduc
A wonderful initiative!!
Josie & Marcello Tignanelli
Good luck and can’t wait to see your work again!
Community Facebook Fundraiser $233.12
Lauren Tignanelli
Happy Birthday sister!
Daliah Hijazi Marsons
You are an incredible human being and I look forward to seeing the stories you continue to bring life to.
Jess $39.00
Good luck Vanessa! You will do amazing work
Rebecca $15.00
Julia Tignanelli
Proud of you always! xo
Good luck V! Keep kicking ass! ❤️
Pam Perkins
I am donating as a gift in honor of my favorite aunt and avid world-traveled photographer/storyteller, Pam Perkins. -- Karen Perkins
Such a great organization! Get these kids the support they deserve ♥️
Jeff Fournier
Good luck and stay safe
Susan Rendell DeMarco
Very proud of you, Vanessa. You will do great work.
Gina Burke
So proud of the important work you do!
Shelly Lacelle
Best wishes to you on this exciting journey.
Stacey Caverly $50.00
Brigitte Lebel
Proud of you and stand behind your work!
Jeff Reyce
Way to go! Good luck.
Alex Richardson
Hey Love! I'm sorry this isn't much as funds are tight, living the full-time artist life, but want you to know that I am proud of your work and Support You!!! Lots of Love!!!
James Palmer $100.00
Al Sovran
This project sounds incredible and I can't wait to see and hear about what comes out of it.
Carolinecyr $20.00
Samantha Polzin
This is such an important project, Vanessa. I know you will tell this story in such a profound and captivating way. xo
Joan Hale
Congratulations on being chosen as. He will do a wonderful job.
Anonymous $500.00

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