I got in touch with Faith by way of my Overlooked
New York project, which is a series of portraits and
interviews with quirky groups of New Yorkers. I had been interviewing
bike messengers, and one of them, Stacy, told me that she was trying
to raise funds to bring an all-girls bike messenger company of AIDS
orphans from Zimbabwe to New York for the bike messenger Olympics.
Women bicycle messengers are very rare in New York, so the idea
of an all-girls bike messenger company was pretty interesting, and
the fact that they were AIDS orphans and in Africa made it even
more intriguing. Here, I thought, was an inspiring story of how
young women were rising to the terrible challenges they were facing
in Africa. I wanted to pursue it.
I should admit here that I knew nothing about what life is like
in Africa, and had only the sketchiest notion about the AIDS epidemic
there. I had seen the statistics and the despairing quotes in the
media over the years, but the situation had never been made real
After contacting Faith, I started asking more and more questions
about what life is like there, and the whole thing shifted from
quirky to much deeper and more human. And the bike messenger company,
the Splashgirls, had fallen on hard times, and the whole political
situation there started deteriorating even more over the last months...
well, it became much more about trying to put a human face on the
suffering and poverty and desperate problems they are facing in
For years I've been reading serious history books about the Middle
Ages, and I've often wondered what it was like to live through the
Black Death, when a third of everyone living in Europe died ...
that's what they face in Africa, and I've been learning a little
about how they brave the ordeal.
while the world watches Africa slipping further into chaos, millions
of people like Faith try to pull themselves out of the maelstrom.