10 of our favorite photos from 2015

Boys wading in a body of water in DRC

Every year, Mercy Corps works to provide families in the hardest-to-reach corners of the world with the support they need the most to cope — and thrive — in the face of adversity.

We distribute supplies to help people survive emergencies, teach mothers how to keep their children healthy, provide farmers with tools and education to grow more food, and make sure young people have the resources they need to build strong, resilient futures for themselves and their communities.

Our programs span more than 40 countries, but each of our initiatives is rooted in one thing: Believing that our work is not actually about us, it’s about the people we serve. So when I commission photographers to capture Mercy Corps' projects in action, it means uncovering the strength, hope and determination of the people we champion every single day.

Each of the thousands of images I receive every year gives us a unique, intimate look inside the lives of these families. And the unadulterated, vulnerable moments they share with us — glimpses of joy, love, ambition, pain and sorrow — are why we remain steadfast day after day. The photos below are just a handful of my favorites from this year, vignettes of some of the people on whose behalf we've worked so hard in 2015.

Man piling full bags from his crop in colombia
Photo: Miguel Samper for Mercy Corps

A coffee farmer in Tolima, Colombia, loads fertilizer onto the back of a donkey. The camera lens flare and lovely sunlight add warmth to this image, and through the photographer’s slanted composition we feel the weight of the farmer’s haul.

A group of children in lebanon smiles and snickers in the background as one young girl approaches the camera inquisitively
Photo: Corinna Robbins/Mercy Corps

One little girl stands apart from the other children in an informal tent settlement where they live with their families, like many Syrians who have taken refuge in Lebanon. I like the deliberate focus on the girl, which emphasizes her dubious expression and helps her pop from the background. The key, though, is that the rest of the image is still clear enough to portray the entire scene. Mercy Corps delivers water and sanitation services to makeshift refugee settlements like the one pictured here.

Refugees coming to shore in greece on an inflatable raft
Photo: Karine Aigner for Mercy Corps

An overloaded inflatable dinghy carrying refugees across the Aegean Sea arrives at the shore of Lesbos Island, Greece. The photographer captured the moment just as one young man leaps from the bow to dry land. It’s such a vivid visual of anticipation — and relief.

A girl with her arm around a her younger sister in jordan. both are wearing winter coats and hats.
Photo: Sumaya Agha for Mercy Corps

Mercy Corps builds safe spaces and facilitates healing activities for thousands of Syrian children who live in Jordan’s Zaatari refugee camp, like 11-year-old Hadeel (right) and her sister. Here they’ve taken a break from playing at the Mercy Corps playground for an impromptu portrait in the open, shadowless light. I love Hadeel’s bright red coat and, especially, her “OK” hat.

Boys wading in a body of water in drc
Photo: Corinna Robbins/Mercy Corps

Children lightheartedly collect water, one of their daily chores, on the shores of Lake Kivu in Democratic Republic of Congo, reminding us once again that play can happen any time, anywhere. I'm drawn to the children’s arm and leg movements; it almost looks like a dance.

Woman in kenya holding up seeds
Photo: Corinna Robbins/Mercy Corps

This photograph of a woman sifting maize through her hands gives us a glimpse into the lovely details of daily life in the tiny village of Cheptuya, Kenya. The tight focus on the maize keeps this colorful image from seeming too busy.

Kumari holding a young baby outside her shelter made of metal siding
Photo: Tom van Cakenberghe for Mercy Corps

In the aftermath of the devastating April 2015 earthquake in Nepal, Kumari Tamang holds her months-old daughter, Santosh, in front of their temporary shelter. Kumari was six-months pregnant when the quake hit and demolished her home. Her resolute expression in this photo shows grit and determination to take care of her family under difficult circumstances. The photographer chose a low angle to emphasize the young mother’s strength — this approach is known as a “hero shot”.

A boy holds a container of blue paint in one hand and a small brush in the other as he works intently on a mural
Photo: Samantha Robison/aptART

This art therapy program in Gaza helped conflict-affected children express themselves through drawing and painting. The close crop and sweat beading on young Abdullah’s face emphasize how intently he worked on his mural, which was entitled “Solidarity.”

Olfa, 27, was able to start her fashion business thanks to a loan from mercy corps that helped her buy materials.
Photo: Corinna Robbins/Mercy Corps

After completing a Mercy Corps business training, Olfa Ezzine (left) was able to open her own business designing formal dresses in her hometown of Medenine, in rural southern Tunisia. I love the ornate sequins and bright colors we see inside her shop, pictured here, and how the flowing composition of this image guides the viewer’s eye to all the different details in the frame.

A grandmother standing beneath a curtain in a room with ornate floral wallpaper in ukraine
Photo: Brendan Hoffman for Mercy Corps

In the village of Triokhizbenka, in conflict-ridden eastern Ukraine, Tatiana Kalashnikova holds her 8-month-old granddaughter Polina. A shell explosion injured Polina’s mother and killed her older sister earlier this year, but the family continues to stick together in difficult circumstances. I’m drawn to this photo because the colors are gracefully muted to fit the tone of the situation, and the frame of the doorway seems to create a window into the family’s home life.